Waldorf Curriculum Homeschool Blog

Having tried unsucessfully to get Blogger.com to work for me, I suddenly realized that I can easily create journalling pages linked to my site without extra help. This is a very informal page with my personal notes as to how homeschooling is going for my family. Please feel free to email me with comments. Learn more about my preschool curriculum by visiting the Curriculum Packages page.

Other Waldorf-inspired homeschool blogs you may want to check out include:

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July 2006

  • Natalie is 4 years, 4 months
  • Leah is 2 years, 8 months
  • Rebecca is 1 year, 6 months

July 31 - Leah came up to me today and said "Who's there. Knock Knock." and then burst into laughter. I can't believe how big my kids are getting! Must be time to have another one ;-)

* * * * *

As it turns out, I'm not going to be able to afford to go to the Waldorf in the Home conference in September. The credit card I used to invest in my library of books for first grade -- I found out today -- is at 29.99% interest. I called them and they wouldn't reduce it. So that's definitely my top financial priority! Steve says he will pay to go to Colorado, since it doubles as a wedding anniversary getaway and parenting retreat, so I'll set my sights on that one.

For conference information, visit Waldorf in the Home or click on these links (conference brochures & registration - pdf files):
September 23-24, 2006
Sacramento Waldorf School ~ Fair Oaks, CA

October 21-22, 2006
Shining Mountain Waldorf School ~ Boulder, CO

July 30 - Today I got an email from the farm saying that they picked 1,200 pounds of tomatoes yesterday. Can you imagine? Summer is in full swing. I'll have to expand my repertoire of tomato recipes! Today was church and the pancake brunch at the Community House. The girls had a good time but they are very tired. We split them up in church today to see if it helped them stay quieter (Natalie and Leah take pencils and paper to draw -- I don't like the crayon and coloring book bags they hand out to children) instead of constantly quarreling over which pencil belongs to whom. Steve and Natalie and Rebecca sat up front so Natalie could watch the drummer (her favorite instrument). Leah and I sat in the back. It worked really well except that Becca hates being in church. I think she's just too little. But the older ones should be going... so I'm not sure what to do. I think that entire families should go to church but this one, even though people are very nice, is definitely of the opinion that children should be back in the daycare rooms with the plastic toys.

Today is knitting and curriculum writing. Just your average day. Too hot to play outside (although we did for a little bit at the CH) so we'll do naps (currently going on) and then lunch and inside play time. Maybe I'll give the girls their new fairy costumes which came a few days ago, and are GORGEOUS! One of the women from the waldorfhandmade-exchange list made them, so if you're looking for a fairy costume, let me know and I can give you her email. They include a net skirt (2 layers) with a wide satin ribbon sash and a big bow in front -- the skirt is filled with flowers -- a set of wings which are made completely of flowers (artificial), a wand which is wrapped in organdy ribbon and tipped with a matching flower, and a hair barrette with more organdy ribbon. They are so pretty! My girls will be beside themselves with joy. I wonder if there's a nice fairy book I can read to them before I give them out... something with really dainty illustrations. I have a ton of fairy books. Let's see.

Although I have a lot of fairy books, I think Good Night, Fairies is the best for this occasion. Not only are the illustrations marvelous, but it gives them lots of things to play at doing. I'm compiling a list of favorite fairy books -- if you have one to share, please email me. Here's the list so far: favorite books about fairies.

* * * * *

You know we are in the market for a new set of queen-size sheets. I've been going back and forth between linen and cotton. Linen is by far my preference (my husband won't stop complaining about how damp the cotton sheets feel) but the expense! I just discovered that you can find lots of good deals on pure Irish linen sheets on eBay so I'll get one sheet and try it out, see what all the fuss is about. Wicking moisture away and so on. If it's not all it's cracked up to be, we can use the linen for something else, like make a tablecloth and a set of napkins. I'm buying a top sheet (88 inches x 100 inches) so it can easily become something else if need be. I'd hate to take a pair of scissors to it, though! Especially with a vintage piece. But if my husband hates it, at least I'm not out 500 bucks. Maybe it could become the bottom of a quilt -- that way, it is still treasured as a family heirloom. Anyway, the vintage and antique linens store I found on eBay is called fifies antique linen lace. They ship out of the UK so it's a little pricier than buying US but they seem much more likely to carry authentic vintage Irish linens. Garnet Hill has their pure linen sheets all on clearance, if you're looking for colored sheets instead of just plain white (my preference). Still pricy but oh so gorgeous.

July 29 - Washingtonian Magazine has a lead article called "Have More Fun: 50 activities to put excitement in your life." I saw it on the newstands but didn't buy it because I figured the article would be online. It's not! So I'm going to go get one and then check and see how much fun I'm having in my life. :-)

Before I head back out, I need to choose a recipe to take to the potluck dinner tonight. I have a ton of tomatoes and yellow squash and I vaguely remember a delicious stew recipe from The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two which had both ingredients plus some kind of cornmeal dumplings. I sold the cookbook because that was the only recipe I liked out of it. Did I have the sense to write that one down first??? No, I can't find it. Darn it! Looking around online, I see that The Vegetarian Epicure apparently sends out a newsletter because here is the archive with lots of recipe links. It's been going on since 1999 so there are quite a few. Not the one I'm looking for, though. Here's a recipe from the first Vegetarian Epicure in 1972 which someone posted on their favorite farm recipes page. It is called Polish Tomatoes, which would be good since we are going to an International themed potluck. Here's what it says

    Polish Tomatoes

    (from 'The Vegetarian Epicure'
    Anna Thomas, 1972, Vintage Books)

    about 6 firm, ripe tomatoes
    1 small onion, minced
    some sweet basil, some dill, a little parsley
    salt & pepper
    4 Tbs. Olive oil
    4 Tbs. wine vinegar

    Thickly slice the tomatoes. Put them in a bowl with the onion, herbs, and salt & pepper. Toss until slices are evenly coated with herbs. Now add oil & vinegar, and toss again. Serve well-chilled. (Excellent with hot, creamed dishes, with quiche, or with omelettes.)

Sounds like a winner! Inexpensive (I have most of the ingredients on hand), I can make it in advance (always good), and I have some lovely Black Prince tomatoes from the farm that I'd like to showcase. I'll have to buy the The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two again, though, because I really want to remember that stew recipe. Maybe someone has it? Can you please send it to me? I'd be very appreciative.

Now I just have to dash back out to the store for some ingredients and the Washingtonian Magazine, and make a little card to identify my recipe. I think it's always nice when you give the name of your dish. Very festive. I wish I had a tomato rubber stamp to add that little bit of extra flair. I do love rubber stamping. You can just keep all the supplies on a shelf and forget about them but when you need a little something, it's so quick and easy. Keep your stamps out of direct sun and away from heat (so the rubber doesn't crack), clean them religiously (with some water and then dry them thoroughly) after each use, and they'll last a good long time. The only stamp pad you usually need is black, and then you can use watercolors to fill in your colors. In this case, though, a red stamp pad would be good. Can't you just see it? Cream colored card stock, the name of the recipe in a nice script across the front, and a cheery red tomato for an accent. Maybe I'll be stopping by the craft store as well. [wink]

* * * * *

Okay, I'm back. I stopped at a yard sale on the way home and picked up this incredible marble slab (beveled edge and everything) for $80. So there goes part of my decorating budget. I'm so excited about it. The perfect surface for making pastry. And butter! I actually haggled, too, for the first time in my life because they wanted $100. I used to be so afraid of haggling that when I was social chair (who made me social chair?) of my dorm at Smith and was responsible for throwing a party, I made my friend (who had spent a year abroad in India where, she told me, it is de rigeur to haggle with every merchant and you'll actually risk offending someone if you refuse to) make the deal with the band because I figured they would want to haggle and I was just petrified. Anyway, here are the 50 fun activities recommended by Washingtonian Magazine and I'm going to set it up as a little quiz. Let's make each one worth 2 points.
  • 2 points if you do something regularly
  • 1 point if you have only done it once or it was a long time ago
  • 0 points if you've never tried it

That means your maximum score can be 100 -- and you will officially have a life which is 100% fun! I'd love to talk to someone with a life like that. The rest of us will fall somewhere below that. You all get to see my score :-)

    Kayaking - 1
    Surfing - 0
    Golfing - 0
    Fishing - 1
    Boxing - 0
    Hiking - 1
    Siwmming - 1
    Shooting - 0
    Tennis - 1
    Rowing - 0
    Wine Appreciation - 0
    Creative Writing - 2
    Acting - 1
    Blogging - 2
    Guitar - 0
    Photography - 1
    Genealogy - 0
    Singing - 1
    Spiritual Retreats - 1
    Yoga - 1
    Meditation - 1
    Pilates - 1
    Poker - 1
    Puzzles - 1
    Chess - 1
    Jewelry Making - 1
    Cooking - 2
    Knitting - 2
    Woodworking - 1
    Pottery - 1
    Astronomy - 1
    Learning a Language - 1
    College Classes - 1
    Mentoring - 0
    Helping Animals - 0
    Teaching Reading - 0
    Volunteering - 1
    Dancing - 1
    Book Collecting - 1
    Bowling - 1
    Tarot Reading - 0
    Standup Comedy - 0
    Polo - 0
    Join a Band - 0
    Ice Skating - 1
    Playing Piano - 1
    Learning Magic Tricks - 1
    Collecting Something - 1
    Running - 1

I only count 49. They put knitting in twice by mistake. So, anyway, what's my score? 38. My life is 38% fun. (See, you never knew I was so boring!) Seriously, though, I'm a little sad. I don't feel all that interesting anymore. :-( Guess it's time to pick up a new hobby. Or renew an old one. There are a lot of 1's in there. The things I do, I do a lot. I think the problem here is a lack of variety.

Too bad I didn't get a point for dickering on a price at a yard sale. :-) That was my new skill for the day. I'm still very proud of myself.

HA! I told my husband I was only 38% of my potential capacity for being fun and he mocked me. He said (first he said I had probably cheated on the test to get such a high score, which was mean) that he would definitely have a higher score. So we did it and guess what? He only got 40. So there, Mr. Big Shot. Of course, then he starts saying the categories are stupid and he'd kayak more often if he had the time but that doesn't matter. It may be an arbitrary listing of activities but since he and I took the same test, our scores can be compared. And on this scale, we are barely as much fun as one really fun person -- combined! A sobering thought.

* * * * *

Back to writing about homeschool. I don't know why I get so distracted! I just saw in Rebecca's blog that I missed Chiron, a Waldorf conference in Toronto. I am really upset. Because Toronto is SOOO much closer for me than California or Colorado. I could have driven in a heartbeat! Anyway, if you went, tell me how it went. And maybe I'll make it next year!

July 28 - Today the men from the electrical company are coming to install a load-management switch on our heat and hot water systems. They do all the installation -- we save money on our electical bill each month. Groovy. Steve is also planning on getting an insta-hot hot water system this year. Apparently, Bush just approved a tax credit for any family that gets one of these in 2006 and the tax credit is $300 and the cost of the hot water heater is like $385. So that's pretty cool, too. And I'll be able to take a shower right after my husband. Even better! More new stuff. Rebecca is finally moving to a forward-facing car seat (at 18 months! she's really tiny) so we got Natalie a new booster seat and put Becca in Natalie's old car seat. Today is our tea party with my grandparents at 3 pm and I'm taking Natalie to see the Golden Dragon Chinese acrobats at 7 pm. For school we are going to scrub the kitchen floor. I also am going to try to teach Natalie the new game I bought for her, pick up sticks. I loved this game when I was a child. She may be too young for it, though; I'm not sure. We'll see! I think we'll also try to make shakers Milkshake-style (our favorite kids' band). We've saved six of the Stonyfield Farm smoothie bottles (the exact same ones Milkshake passes out at their performances) and we're going to fill each one with something different to make a unique sound. The only problem is finding some sort of glue that will securely fasten the lid to the bottle so that Rebecca doesn't open one and eat the contents. I'll get back to you with what we decide. The lightbulb question, by the way, my husband answered last night. Apparently there's a standard nightlight bulb and you can get it at the grocery store.

August 1st I get my decorating budget -- my husband loves to give me little chunks of money with names attached to them -- and I will be getting a new set of sheets (Natalie having taken my sewing shears and cut a big piece out of our only set that fits the new bed, and the rip has been getting looonger and loonger... I can't deal with it; I made my husband sleep on that side of the bed) from Garnet Hill and with the remainder (about $70), I'll be putting some paint on the walls. Finally! All this white is making me feel like I'm in a hospital. It will be only in a little section, to be sure, but it will help me feel we are making the house our own. We decided to keep Rebecca's crib downstairs (moved during the great sickness) and got a second crib for upstairs. Now we can have her nap in Natalie's room so downstairs is free for school and playtime during the day but she sleeps downstairs at night so that Natalie is not keeping her awake. We believe a big reason why she's not growing is that she's not getting enough sleep. So there's a little niche in the playroom with Becca's crib and I'm going to paint it an accent color (the entire room will be Cinnamon Whip and the niche will be Victorian Mauve; carpet [yuck!] is Pebbled Courtyard). I also want to hang a painting above her crib, like the Sistine Madonna, traditionally found in Waldorf kindergartens. You know, the one with the adorable putti that you see everywhere. Overstock.com has a nice framed print of the putti detail on sale for $39.99. I think it will go well with the colors of the room. A quart of paint and a print. I think I can do that. I may even paint the niche myself! :-)

The carpet is a problem for me but we can't afford to tear it out just yet. I have looked into other floor covering options. InterfaceFlor makes wonderful modular carpet tiles so you can just pick up one and wash it individually (or replace it as need be) and they have natural fiber options. Face only, the bottoms are made of I-don't-know-what. Oh, here we go. Here's their blurb:

    WHAT IS FLOR MADE OF?
    Most face constructions are nylon; others are natural fibers like hemp or wool. Our backings are a composite, made up of some recycled materials. All FLOR products recycle like a champ and all have the lowest VOC (new carpet smell) in the industry. If you are interested in recycling old FLOR, call our customer service at 866.281.3567 to find out how.

Natural fiber options include Terra, made with corn fiber, Coir, made of a coir/sisal blend, and Hearfelt, my favorite, made of wool and kenaf (a fibrous African plant). The other great thing about this company is that you can order samples very inexpensively and they make handy coasters! I had a whole bunch of samples from when I was keen on decorating our old house and the last time I got a Flor catalog, lo and behold, there was a picture of someone using a sample under their cup of coffee. And I thought, that's it! I have a big bag of them and we had been looking for coasters but I couldn't find anything I really liked. So I dumped the bag of samples into a basket and put it in the living room. Not only do people enjoy picking a color and pattern (and each one is different) but the kids love to play with them. So it doubles as a toy!

I was watching a decorating show a few days ago and they mentioned cork flooring. (Apparently there's a surplus of cork now that wine bottle stoppers are being made of plastic). Very durable, bouncy, and renewable. So that's definitely something to look into. If they recommend it for kitchens, it can certainly stand up to the playroom! You can get cool cork furniture too. Wouldn't that be nifty for a playroom? Lightweight, easy to move. Stackable. Very modern but very natural at the same time.

* * * * *

A powerful (but short-lived) storm kicked up while we were at Grammy & Papa's. We weren't hurt but there were a lot of fallen branches in the yard. One fell on our car and it was from an oak tree, complete with immature green acorns. So that was neat to see. Usually they are so high up in the air, you don't really get to watch them develop. I wonder if everything is always green first. I mean, the stem, the leaves, the fruit? Is it always green first or are there exceptions? A 5th grader would be able to tell me. :-) On the way home there were several downed trees across the roads and power lines. Emergency equipment was everywhere. Our house was unharmed, though.

My husband did some research and we found out that the signs up all around Huntingtown High School were incorrect -- the acrobat show is not tonight. It is sometime in August (while we'll be in CT) so that's a bummer. I was really looking forward to that! Actually, I was going to make Steve take her (but I was still totally excited for her, that she'd have the experience) so I can watch Get Color! on HGTV at 8 o'clock. No, I'm not a television fiend. I'm researching some color wheel assignments for a new unit I'm writing called "Foundation Skills in Art". I'm hoping to have it ready when the 1st grade curriculum comes out so that parents who don't feel certain that they can do art the "Waldorf-way" can use the unit to teach themselves. It covers crayon drawing, pencil sketching, watercolor painting, and clay and beeswax modeling. If you're interested in an art correspondence course for homeschooling parents, Awakening Arts offers them. There are so many resources out there!

July 27 - Yesterday was kind of a dud. They had to change the show at the last minute so we got "Beauty and the Beast". It was pretty close to the Marianna Mayer version (my favorite), not Disney, so at least there's that. We have that book and I couldn't find it last night but I'll search for it today so that I can share it with her. The illustrations are amazing!

Other projects for me for today are to continue to work on the knitted Mermaid Dress-Up for Natalie, and to write a new page for the website about parenting the will-driven child. I'll be watching the Watercolor Painting DVD from Waldorf in the Home to review it for the first grade curriculum and Steve and I tonight will be listening to How to Get Your Child to Do What You Want Without Talking Yourself to Death, another Waldorf in the Home resource, this one a CD directed especially to parents of children under 7. For school, we'll be doing

I am on pins and needles waiting for about 6 boxes to arrive. Our Waldorf dolls from Australia, a bunch of books, some toys, some handwork supplies (I've bought lots of things lately from the waldorfcurriculum-supplies group), and two fairy costumes that a friend has made for my older girls. I can't wait to see it all!

* * * * *

Well, two packages arrived today. One of them had a Kinderkram wooden night light base so I went online to search for a scene to put in it. I was stunned to find out that practically no one is carrying them anymore! I checked my entire list of Waldorf toy stores (see Waldorf Play for websites) and finally Googled it and found a new one called ToyMobile - Natural European Toys. They have two nightlights and also offer the base. Before I choose between "Girl with Deer" or "Snow White and Rose Red", does anyone know of any other sources for these? And where do I find a bulb?

Oh, here's a batch of nightlights from Solspejlet, a Danish Waldorf website. I don't really know if it's worth placing a special order from Denmark. They have a nice selection, though.

We're headed to the beach soon. I don't think we'll be out the door before 4:30. Leah took an incredibly long nap today, 4 hours! I always wonder about waking them up to stay "on schedule" or letting them rest because their body obviously needed it. When I was first a parent I'd wake them up. Now I'm more inclined to let them sleep. One thing I do need to buy with my homeschool money this week is this UV Natural Sunscreen (from Australia -- Chinaberry carries it). Did you know that skin cancer is on the rise despite widespread use of sunscreen because there are cancer-causing ingredients in many sunscreen formulations? Young children are especially at risk because they have less well-developed processes of elimination and a larger surface area per body weight than adults. That scared me to death. This is sun protection you can feel good about putting on your family. I know that Alan Whitehead has a section in his health book (House of 3 Froggies) about sun "protection" but I don't think there's much argument that we've done so much damage to the environment that the rays of the sun are now more harmful than they once were. Anyway, if you do use sunscreen, this stuff is the way to go.

In surfing around I also saw that Nova Natural has a nice selection of stuff on sale -- if you're doing the Rhythms unit, especially check out the beautiful stable (but save one for me!) and the waterwheel kit. Oh, my gosh, I'm completely doing a double-take. I can't believe this. They have a nightlight silhouette for my base on sale. I didn't even see it before! On sale for just $8.80. Beautiful and on sale. Wow! Now I don't have to order it from Denmark! Just nobody snap it up between today and tomorrow when I get my homeschool money. :-) That's amazing. It didn't come up when I searched under Kinderkram or nightlight or night light. Or when I looked through the decorations category. But I guess the key word there is silhouette. And always check the sale section!

* * * * *

ToyMobile just contacted me to say that they were placing a Kinderkram order in August -- I wrote to ask about a special order -- so if you're interested and want to get in on it contact her (Andrea).

We came back from the beach with a nice shell collection (once the schoolroom is done, I think that will be the first topic we study in earnest, maybe have each child make a shadow box of their favorite beach treasures. I'd like to redo the kids' bathroom in a beach theme so they can help me paint and make the decorations) and took a bath with our Aloe Bath Friend, very soothing to the skin. While putting the link in here I see that DHC is selling their remaining stock on clearance and then aren't going to produce any more, which is a shame. I really like it. Anyway, a big bottle is $12.99. It would make a nice addition to a gift basket for a new mom. My sister-in-law is having another baby so maybe I'll get her a bottle. Christmas is coming up! August 1st I'm sitting down and making a list of all the Christmas presents I'm buying or making... and getting myself organized. No late nights knitting this year! There is a thunderstorm coming up so I have to turn my computer off. I'll try to get that parenting advice page written soon, though. Also, while I'm on the topic of new babies, maybe I'll add a section to the For Babies page with my favorite baby gift ideas. That way, when someone has a baby, I've already done some brainstorming about presents. We made the beautiful Silk Fairies Mobile for Rebecca before she was born (Natalie and I made it) and it's lovely but I wouldn't give it as a gift because the strings get so tangled whenever you lay it down. So it wouldn't pack well. I'd really love to make the baby a handmade item but usually when you're having baby #3 you have all the toys you can handle. Consumable products are usually a better bet. What else... Oh, thunder! Gotta go.

July 26 - Today we'll be going to the puppet show "The Wizard of Oz" and then, if I can find my book from when I was a child, I will start reading it to Natalie for her bedtime story. Tomorrow is bread-baking day and I think we will also go to the beach and swim. I say swim but I really mean play in the sand, collect shells and other magical things, and dance and splash in the waves. (A good book for that, by the way, is My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray.)

Friday is tea party with my grandparents at 3 pm and then I'll be taking Natalie to see an acrobat act (the Golden Dragon Acrobats -- the link includes a teacher's guide about the history of acrobatics in China) at 7 pm at our local high school auditorium. We just got a new book, a present from my Aunt Carol, which is Mirette on the High Wire so this is perfect timing! There are some other great books about acrobats, too. Try Harold's Circus by Crockett Johnson and The Saint and the Circus by Roberto R. Piumini.

Saturday is our field trip and we'll do the wind chime art project at Annmarie Garden. Saturday night is a potluck and Sunday morning is a pancake breakfast, both at the Community House. Looks like it will be a fun week!

Yesterday we went up the farm and took my Aunt Janet, who is visiting. They had such a nice selection. We got garlic, lots of tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, sweet potato greens (also called morning glory in some parts of the world -- click here for a photo and recipe), fresh herbs including mint, thyme, and rosemary, edible flowers including nasturtiums and anise hyssop, and a big armful of sunflowers which I would like to hang to dry so that we can harvest and eat the seeds. I wrote a newsletter topic on sunflowers last year called Sunshine... if you're looking for more sunflower ideas.

* * * * *

A WC member just emailed me to remind me about The Man Who Walked Between the Towers written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, another book about walking a tightrope. This book is based on a true story of a tightrope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City in 1974. The illustrations are incredible, especially the arial views of the city. Did you know that these buildings were a quarter of a mile high? The book was written in 2003, after the towers were destroyed, so it is a memorial both to them and to this amazing feat.

As always, thanks to everyone who shares their suggestions!

July 24 - We had a great weekend! The kids are still pretty tired from the square dancing Saturday night (we didn't get home until after 9 o'clock) and then the excitement of N going to a birthday party and then my Aunt Janet coming over last night to babysit so Steve and I could go out on a date. So we'll be keeping it low-key today. I was going to try to take them swimming (we weren't able to swim on Saturday because of ominous weather) but I don't think it's a good idea. Maybe Thursday. Today for school we'll rebuild our straw bale playhouse, which Steve dismantled and moved in order to mow the lawn, also some inside play time of course, and make the Raspberry Buckle with the very last of our wild raspberries here. I think there are enough to make a pint. The kids love berry picking and this may be the last of the summer. I think they are too little to pick blackberries (BIG thorns!) but we'll see. Maybe someone around here is growing the Navajo blackberry which is thornless. Blackberries and peaches should be coming up in August and then in September it will be time to pick apples and pears. If you don't have Christopher's Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow, now is the time to buy it. It takes place in September but a lot of the "people" are relevant now, like Mrs. Cabbage. We have been getting cabbages in our farm share each week. The illustrations are wonderful (of course) and if you want to find some postcard sized images for your Nature table, Elsa Beskow prints are available from Waldorf Treasures (US), Bear Dance Crafts (Canada), Hjelm Forlag (Sweden), and Floris Books (Scotland). If you live in another country and know of some websites for shops which sell Waldorf things, please let me know so that I can add them to the site.

The Flylady mission for today is to set your timer for 15 minutes and throw away all the trash that has piled up in your master bedroom. Your kids can each set a timer for 15 minutes and do the same thing in their own bedrooms. I think her system is very doable for kids and a good thing to model and I always encourage everybody to sign up. Put 15 minutes of daily chores in your homeschool schedule (Monday - Friday) and use the emails she sends out to work on a little bit each day. They actually assign you a 15 minute task, moving all around the different zones of your home as you go through each month. Just do what the email tells you to each day. It literally couldn't be easier! The other rule is that you have to stop when the timer stops so you can't get sidetracked and pull out everything in every kitchen cabinet, thinking that you're going to line them all with new contact paper and then a kids calls you and at the end of the day your S.O. comes home to a kitchen which is a disaster and you are completely overwhelmed with the mess you've made. 15 minutes at a time. That's her method. And it works too!

And, finally, my personal task for today is to mend Natalie's Waldorf doll who has been losing some hair. I also need to check her sweater to make sure none of the buttons have come loose. (Do this! Natalie pulled a button off the sweater last year and stuck it up her nose. We had to go to the ER. Just because a toy is child-safe when it is brand new doesn't mean it stays that way after hours of enthusiastic love and play. So always check your kids' toys regularly). I am going to buy the classic dollmaking book, Making Waldorf Dolls, with my Amazon Associates income from last quarter. I'm excited about that! Knowing how the dolls are made (or any other toy) is a big help in mending them. If you are looking for more Waldorf dollmaking resources, you can also get a Waldorf Doll Making DVD by Sarah Kous, which walks you through step by step. If you are a more visual learner, this would be a good resource for you. I'm going to start with the book and then go from there.

July 22 - I just spoke with Meag from Fairy Cove and she says they have all their dress-up cape styles (I had made a list of the ones I planned to buy and then I went back and several were gone); they are in the process of moving their website in a few days so there are some errors in the current page which will be corrected in the move. But in case you were looking around and wondering, yes, they still carry all the styles.

For our ribbon "handwork" project, Serendipity played a hand. It was hilarious, actually. Natalie and I set out all the spools and carefully rolled each one up neatly. We discovered at the end that there were three long pieces (of different lengths) of a color ribbon for which there was no spool. So I was carrying them out to the kitchen to get a ziploc bag when... poof! Here's a cat on my tail. Jazz (our male cat) was chasing them and having such a good time! So instead of packing them away, we tied all three pieces together with a simple knot at one end and Jazz and Natalie played together for like 40 minutes. So easy... and so much fun.

Speaking of freecycle, Steve sent me another post today. You are not going to believe this one. Here is what it says:

    OFFER: 1930'S ARMOIRE

    > I USED IT FOR STORING BABY TOYS,AND DON'T NEED IT ANYMORE.
    > ITS A BIG ARMOIRE, AND QUITE HEAVY. ITS IN GOOD CONDITION,COULD USE SOME
    > REFINISHING WORK, BUT NOT UGLY BY NO MEANS....LOL. THE LEFT SIDE IS JUST
    > A CLOSET TYPE AREA, WITH POLE FOR HANGING CLOTHES, AND THE RIGHT SIDE
    > HAS 4 BIG DEEEP DRAWERS, GREAT FOR STORING CLOTHING OR
    > LINENS....WHATEVER....
    > I NEED THIS OFF MY FRONT PORCH ASAP, OTHERWISE I AM DONATING
    > IT.

So I have a call in to her and I am so excited! Vintage furniture is wonderful for kids, as long as it not too valuable. It is warm, well made, real wood, and you don't have to worry about them banging it around because it usually comes with a few scratches and dents. I'd love to have this for my homeschool room!

* * * * *

Oh, I just got through to her and she said it's already gone. :-( Maybe next time. Now I am kicking myself. I should check my email more often! I am almost always the first person to get things... but I turned my machine off last night because of the thunderstorm. Actually, the problem is that when I got the email I emailed Steve right back to say yes, I want it and he emailed her. Neither of us noticed that her phone number is right at the bottom of the ad and if we'd been paying more attention, we would likely have been the first ones to call. By the time I read the whole thing through (which was when I was coying and pasting it here) it was too late.

Today's big project is wrapping the birthday present. Natalie and I went out shopping this morning for decorations. We got two pieces of decorative paper (scrapbook size, 12 x 12). One is for the card and the other is for the bottle of bubble solution. We got a small blank gift card which we will cover with the scrapbook paper to make our own themed card and N found a little pack of card embellishments which contained two dolphins. So we'll make the little card with the ocean waves paper (it's very highly stylized, muted colors, matches the little dolphins perfectly) with the two dolphins jumping out of the water. We also got some of those little tags with the string on them so I can write "Magic Bubble Solution" and attach it to the bottle but then, if Pattie wants to, she can reuse the bottle for something else because I didn't actually write on it. For the bottle, we debated for a while but finally chose a bottle of grapeseed oil (we walked through the grocery store looking for an attractive bottle) because it's not glass so it can't be broken, and the label comes right off so it is a plain silver canister. It will be easy to glue our other piece of paper around it, making a new label, and we have the perfect decorative paper for that which is an underwater scene with sparkly (glitter) white bubbles riding through the depths. So wonderful for a bottle of bubbles and ties in with the dolphin thing too. I love grapeseed oil, we use it all the time (as a massage oil AND for cooking, it is very lightweight and practically tasteless. I use it whenever a recipe calls for vegetable oil. It's good in baked goods, for salad dressings, you can even use it for frying!) So I don't mind buying another bottle -- I'll just transfer the extra oil to a jar and wash the bottle thoroughly, then make up the bubble solution, pour it in and if there's any leftover solution (it's a pint size jar and the recipe looks like it makes over a quart) we can keep it for our own bubble making fun.

* * * * *

You know, I just checked and it says here that Blackberry Lily really is poisonous. So I'm glad we got rid of it. In case you are curious, here is the list of poisonous plants maintained by the National Capital Poison Center. If you have young children, always double-check what you have around the house (cut flowers or houseplants, especially when you receive plants as gifts) as well as what is growing in your yard. If you need to call poision control, the number is 1-800-222-1222. We have called them several times, once when Leah ate a bunch of pieces of a daylily plant (the seed pods which form after the flower drops). Those are not poisonous. The National Capital Poison Center also has a preschool education program called "Quills Up – Stay Away! A Poison Awareness Program", featuring Spike, the porcupine puppet. You can access all of the program online for free, including the video (an 11 minute puppet show), teacher's guide, and your own Spike paper puppet. Consider adding this to your preschool curriculum with your kids; I'm going to go add it right now to the Preschool Resources page.

July 21 - Today's plan is outside playtime in the morning, Bow-Tie Pasta with Escarole for lunch, naps, and errands. We have to go to the post office, the bank, and the grocery store. I also have to pot up our Blackberry Lily (one of the plants given to us at our housewarming party) because my Grammy says that it gets very tempting black berries on it and she's afraid the children will eat them. She doesn't think it's poisonous but just in case... we are doing a swap and she'll give me another plant to replace it. Tomorrow morning we'll go swimming at the beach (Moonsnail Song and Houses from the Sea are the books for that), read Big-Stamp Two-Toes the Barefoot Giant up to the chapter where we first meet the dolphin (in preparation for the dolphin-themed birthday party the following day), wrap the dolphin wand for Patti and make the bubble solution and a gift card, and go Square Dancing at the Community House Saturday night. Sunday morning is church and Sunday afternoon is the birthday party. We have to take our bathing suits for the birthday party because it's also a pool party.

Next week we'll be going to a puppet show of "The Wizard of Oz" on Wednesday, our library day:

    Summer fun — The Stevens Puppets will present ‘‘The Wizard of Oz” with Old World-style marionettes in a free program great for all ages. Performances will be at 10 a.m. July 26 at the Southern Community Center, 20 Appeal Way, Lusby, 410-326-5289; and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Prince Frederick Rescue Squad, 755 Solomons Island Road, Prince Frederick, 410-535-0291.

I think we'll go to the 10 am show but I'm making a note of the other times here, just in case. Next week I'd also like to go to Annmarie Garden to be a part of their big windchime project, which ends August 31st:

    Make a Windchime at Annmarie Garden All summer — Artists of all ages and abilities stop by the Garden any day between 9am -5pm to paint a disk to be used to build the Great Windchime at AMG. Decorate a recycled metal jar lid to hang among thousands in Loblolly Forest, creating one of the largest windchime displays in the world. Paint thru Aug. 31. Installation is in early Sept. 9am -5pm daily @ Annmarie Garden, off Dowell Rd., Solomons. free: 410-326-4640.

Lots of good stuff on the horizon! The windchime activity counts as part of the Rhythms unit, as one of the rhythms is wind. Another one is waves, so our beach visit this Saturday will be a part of that. Should be a fun week. Also for the Rhythms unit, we've made a plan to go up to Connecticut and visit one of my friends from college -- who happens to live on a dairy farm. It's family-owned and they live in the family farmhouse right across the street from the milking barn. She and her husband live in the top part of the house and her mother-in-law and father-in-law live in the bottom part of the house. Very old school. Natalie will absolutely love it. They also have chickens and a horse and so on. We'll be staying for a week. I'm really excited about that.

* * * * *

Today on Mr. Rogers we got to see how marbles are made. So I thought when Natalie woke up, I'd give her a little box of marbles to play with. They'd have to be a special toy just for her, obviously, because the other two are too young to play with marbles. I happen to have a bag of them I've been saving. When Steve's mom was cleaning out her old board game collection, Steve saved me the marbles from a game called Hungry, Hungry Hippos, a really tacky game (although it has a following). We saved the marbles and ditched the game. I'm glad I have the marbles on hand but I wish there was some way for me to be a little more ahead of the game, to know what they'll talk about in the show before it airs so I can be prepared to follow up. Is there any way to do that? Actually, I had also saved the little box from my soap because it looked like just the thing for some little treasure. The 20 marbles fit inside it perfectly. It's a really cute sturdy little box. She is going to love this!

Aha! Here we go. This is the website for PBS kids and you can click on a button which says Next Week's Theme. This week's theme was "When Things Get Broken." The theme for next week will be "Brave and Strong." When I click on the link for "Brave and Strong", I get a summary of the week as well as episode highlights (including factory tours and special visits). Perfect!

  • Episode 1706 - Monday
    Factory Tour: Cereal
  • Episode 1707 - Tuesday
    Factory Tour: Socks
  • Episode 1708 - Wednesday
    Special Visit: Sheep Shearing and Wool Spinning
  • Episode 1709 - Thursday
    Special Visit: Mr. Rogers Gets an Immunization
  • Episode 1710 - Friday
    Factory Tour: Yogurt
    Special Visit: Blind Jazz Saxophonist

Already I'm thinking of picture books and activities that would go along with this list. How wonderful!

I love taking some time at the end of the week to prepare for next week. It really helps a lot. Even with preschoolers, where you don't need a formal planbook, just taking the time to brainstorm a little bit helps a lot. Or, put it this way: It can't hurt! :-)

Of course, I don't mean to imply that the only way to do school with your children is to base it around the TV schedule. Lots of people don't watch TV with their children, especially Waldorf families! So don't get all upset with me and say, "Rhoda has started planning her curriculum around a TV show." I'm just happy to have found some additional extra information about what to expect for next week, so I can feel more organized. You can find all sorts of things to inspire you for what to do with your kids. You can read your local paper (we love our Bay Weekly) for events near you that your child would enjoy. You can plan a whole "curriculum" around the Family Funday calendar, you can vist the library and get out 10 books or so and just plan activities and field trips inspired by what you're reading. You can do almost anything. I've even planned an entire month from an issue of Martha Stewart Living. Each one has tons of recipes, handwork projects (in fact, she's about the only person left who is really promoting the idea of handwork to the general American public; her projects actually call for making things from scratch instead of gluing premade wooden pieces onto a flower pot), gardening ideas, etc. It was August 2005. Check out the Table of Contents and you'll see what I mean. It was a very nice issue. Their "good things" ideas are often very doable with a small child -- I loved the silk flower garland -- and nearly every idea in the magazine turns out well. (You can also use an issue with a one-room schoolhouse approach, you'll find plenty of research topics and projects for older children as well. In this issue she had an article on restoring antique quilts.)

So I'm just saying, you can get ideas from anywhere. Just try to keep the basic Waldorf principles intact and have fun!

July 20 - Wow, this month is flying by! I guess that happens when you spend 50% of it flat on your back. I'm happy to be up and about again. Happy to be back at work! I love when people write to say they enjoy my blog. Hang onto your hats, folks, because I'm working overtime on my new projects and whenever I need to clear out my head so that I can focus and write, I switch over to my blog screen and let it rip. By the way, I was right about it being tomato season on the farm. But what I didn't know was that they have a huge sunflower patch that we can explore and cut as many flowers as we want! I think that tomorrow I'll take the kids back up there so that we can play. Hopefully I'll remember to take my camera -- I'm sure I'll get some cute shots. The sunflowers tower over your head and they planted them in little paths, it is so neat. Sunflower houses are such a classic kids activity -- I put it in my Rhythms unit which has Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children as one of its main books. The woman who wrote it also did an earlier one called Sunflower Houses: Inspiration from the Garden. That one has some neat projects, too, like a flower clock (that would be cool for 3rd grade -- I'll have to add it to the Community Bulletin Board page -- okay, done!). So we'll do a trip to the farm; we can read In the Garden with Van Gogh when we get back. Dinner will be chicken and Stuffed Zucchini, a great use for both zucchini and cherry tomatoes.

* * * * *

Today has been a nice day. I had a bunch of packages arrive -- one new book which I love is Simply Felt. I didn't think there was a lot of new information in it at first (if you have the other felting books I recommend in the Preschool curriculum: The Art of Feltmaking and Exploring Textile Arts); I was somewhat disappointed (although the diagrams are good and the directions are clear) but at the very end of the book -- ta da! -- I suddenly became inspired. That was what I wanted... something new and inspirational. In the section called Decorative Flat Felt, she suggests adding small amounts of wool to to a fabric base, such as chiffon, silk, cheesecloth, or voile to make "a marvelously light and airy but durable fabric, which is ideal for scarves." I love the idea of combining cheesecloth with felt. Very inexpensive and easy to try. She gives a lot of suggestions using silk fibers, many of which are gorgeous. I like the Silk Inlaid Lampshade (page 67) -- an idea which was completely new to me. The Inlaid Containers (shown on the cover) are brilliant -- so easy to do, so useful! But my two favorite projects, by far, are the last two: Child's Silk-Lined Jacket (page 111) and the Pictoral Pillow (page 115). The jacket is drop-dead gorgeous and looks really fun to make, which is more important than being gorgeous because otherwise you won't bother to make it. The pillow section is full of good ideas and these projects are more about already having the skill to make the basic structure and letting your imagination run wild when it comes to the embellishments. I purchased several pieces of feltwork which I received and wasn't happy with -- they were too plain, really boring and uninspired and I was thinking, these need something and I can certainly try to add it but I don't know what to do. I was a little intimidated at the idea of completely redesigning them on my own. But I have the time and the determination and now I have some sample pictures and the directions I need -- and now I feel ready! There's plenty of time from now to Christmas to add more details, embroidery, and what-not. I'm very excited! Sometimes a little structure is more liberating than complete creative freedom. Like if I'm reading a book full of teaching ideas and I'm like, no, I don't like any of those. But one thing I read leads me off in a different direction and now I have a new idea of my own... which I wouldn't have come to without reading the book. That's how I feel about this one. If you already know about felt and you're pretty comfortable with what you're doing, you don't need it... but if you're ready to move into doing more glamorous and artsy things with your felt projects, Simply Felt is a good buy.

Another new book which just arrived (I don't have a ton of money, I have an Amazon line of credit for my business... so don't get mad at me!) is Moonsnail Song by Sheryl McFarlane, recommended by a WC member. I absolutely love it! It is perfect for the Rhythms unit because it is all about a child who has taken a shell home from the beach and everytime she looks at it she is transported back to that ocean world with the steady beat of the waves repeated over and over:

    In and out.
    Out and in.

The illustrations are gorgeous and they really make you feel like you are right there at the seashore. Looks like we'll be going to the beach Saturday morning to pick up shells. The book is also very soothing and ends with the little girl going to bed, so it makes a good bedtime book as well. Enjoy!

* * * * *

This afternoon, after lunch, we'll head up to the farm to explore the sunflower patch (yes, I know I wrote "tomorrow" earlier but I really meant today, working in the middle of the night again!) and we can listen to our new Hap Palmer CDs in the car, which also came today (the CDs, not a new car). What a nice day!

Steve brought home the ribbon for me so, since tomorrow is Handwork day (we haven't been keeping to our preschool schedule much lately but I'd like to get back to it):

    Monday - watercolor painting
    Tuesday - visit the farm
    Wednesday - visit the library
    Thursday - bread baking
    Friday - handwork
    Saturday - field trip
    Sunday - housekeeping
I'll have to start looking around for some good ribbon projects. I'll also have to purchase a new basket to keep all our ribbon in. K-Mart has some nice baskets by Martha Stewart, they are square (cube-shaped, actually), pretty sturdy, with handles and a cotton canvas lining. They are the perfect depth for my homeschool supply closet shelves. At 10 bucks a pop they are not expensive, but I still have to spread it out, buying one a week for the school material which I am organizing at that time. This week it will be ribbon! She'll be very excited. I purchased a book on making hairbows but that won't, of course, get here by tomorrow. Still, hairbows are a very practical handwork project. I wonder what else you can do with ribbon? If nothing else, we can just organize it, wind it back up on the spools properly, and look at all the colors. Maybe Natalie will have an idea of something to do with it. Ribbon is a very common art material in Reggio, so I can just take a few spools of it and add them to our atelier when I get the homeschool room set up. I don't always have to be the one who controls what we do with it! :-) Hard for me to remember that sometimes. I get so caught up in the planning... Moving some of it over from Handwork material to Art material is a very good idea.

Here's a link you might like. A family "Every day is Funday" calendar. Every day is Funday. Is that true for you? Think about it. I especially like the one for tomorrow: "Buy a Christmas gift and wrap it. Now you are ahead." :-) It is a little reminder each day to do something that you will enjoy, to make yourself feel better. Set your printer to landscape and print it out for your kitchen wall. How can it hurt?

July 19 - I love it when I get things right! I updated the 3rd grade curriculum overview a few weeks ago with two specific handwork suggestions: spinning and weaving. Now I'm reading the brochure for the Waldorf in the Home conference in September and I see here "Spinning with a Drop Spindle - This is a central experience for third grade and a metaphor for Waldorf education - starting with unformed, fluffy wool and making strong and useful yarn. Ways to introduce this archetypal craft will be presented, along with stories from many cultures and historical periods." Hurrah! Elizabeth Seward is doing that one; I'd love to meet her. I'm going to try to go to the Sacramento one by myself, and stay at the college (they have rooms for people), and talk Steve into doing the Colorado one with me since it's a parenting workshop weekend. We could use a little of that! So now I'm online looking at cheap flights so I can get a ballpark idea of what this would cost me. I don't know... I'm on Travelocity now. It's $155 for the conference (if I make it in time for the early registration) and $265 for the flight so that's $400 right there without any food or lodging. In order to get the cheap flight, I'd be leaving Wednesday September 20th and returning Tuesday September 26th so Steve would have to take a week off from work, that doesn't seem fair. It's crazy to think of spending 650 dollars and making my husband take off a week of work so that I can go to two days -- five workshops -- no matter how great it is! On the other hand, spending my $155 on workshops from the Store, which is what I did last year as a compromise, was fun (and you get to listen to them over and over again) but not the same as actually meeting a group of Waldorf people and feeling the vibe. I really want to be at a very Waldorf-y event and just soak it all in... I need to visit my local Waldorf schools more. They have events but you have to be "in the loop" to know about them which I'm not, not being a parent of a child at the school. Anyway, what I'm saying is maybe I can get my Waldorf fix a cheaper way.

* * * * *

Okay, I wrote that at 1:30 this morning!!!! I don't know why I stay up late worrying about these things! It's now 10 am and I'm much more relaxed. I definitely will find some way to get out to Sacramento -- I've always wanted to visit CA -- and what I really want is to take Natalie with me (Steve says, why drive all the way across the country to put her in daycare? but he just doesn't get it) because $35 a day is really cheap for a real Waldorf kindergarten experience and she won't add anything to my gas or lodging costs, just a little food. Am I insane to want to drive cross-country for a 2 day workshop? I don't know. I really really want to do the drive -- I loved driving to New Mexico after I graduated from college. Just seeing the scenery change as you go through the country is worth it. You don't get that experience flying. The train works, too, but I think N would get really restless and stir crazy. Anyway, I love the spontenaeity of driving, stopping at the world's largest pig feet store, etc. Local culture! I did a road trip from Maryland down to Florida taking only back roads once, completely avoiding the interstate. That was great. I saw all the little roadside stands, all the things that make you feel like you really went to those states. So that's always been my modus operandi.

We had a totally delicious breakfast this morning. Natalie and I made a Blueberry Sauce (from Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook) with the last of our fresh blueberries and we had pancakes with blueberry sauce and sliced strawberries. Yummy! Steve played Dwarves and Dice with her this morning during their one-on-one time. Also, I was planning on teaching her how to use the Knitting Nancy today. So, some cooking, some playing, some handwork. That's our school plan for the day.

* * * * *

Yogurt and Cinnamon Tostada for lunch, another big hit. Rebecca ate so much I thought she would burst! Careful, though, if you make these because I burned my first batch. You really have to pay attention. I'm downstairs in my office mending a book, Gypsy Girl's Best Shoes by Anne Rockwell. I'm glad I picked a book about dancing this week because I just found out there's going to be a square dance at the Community House Saturday night. That plus a birthday party on Sunday will be a very busy weekend. I'm glad we're getting out of the house more. I remember going to the square dances when I was a little girl and sometimes my dad would be the caller. Square dancing is recommended by Alan Whitehead in the dance curriculum for 4th grade. If you've never tried it, you should. Very high energy and a lot of fun! I don't know what I would wear... I don't have the patchwork skirt collection and peasant tops I used to in the old days. I'm sure I can find a twirly skirt. Natalie really enjoyed her Knitting Nancy lesson and spent some time talking to the doll. Whenever she would make a mistake she would say, Nancy isn't teaching me and when she got it right she would say, Nancy is teaching me! With a happy face. It was cute to see. Steve just emailed me to say that he got a bag of free ribbon (21 spools) for me from freecycle. If you're not a freecycle person, you should check it out. Here's the blurb from their website:
    The Freecycle Network™ is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by clicking on the region on the left. You may then go directly to your local group by clicking on "Go To" or you may immediately joining by clicking on "Join." It will generate an automatic e-mail which, when sent, will sign you up for the local group and send you a response with instructions on how it works. Can't find a group near you? You might want to consider starting one (click on "Start a Group" for instructions). Have fun!

    The Freecycle Network was started in May 2003 to promote waste reduction in Tucson's downtown and help save desert landscape from being taken over by landfills. The Network provides individuals and non-profits an electronic forum to "recycle" unwanted items. One person's trash can truly be another's treasure!

We're cleaning out our house (it's amazing how many things you pack when you move that you realize, on the other side, you truly don't need) and Steve has been spending a lot of time of freecycle giving things away. They have (at the time that I'm writing this) 2,454,759 members. It's a pretty big thing. I'm excited about the ribbon, we can use it in so many projects. I tried to make a whole series of handmade ribbon Christmas tree ornaments the year Rebecca was born but I ran out of steam, go figure. I still have all the directions; maybe we can try it again. The December 2004 issue of Martha Stewart Living was all about ribbon -- it looks like they don't have many of the projects online though. You can get back issues on eBay. I actually prefer to get the back issues instead of having a current subscription. I think the back issues are nicer, they are cheaper, and if you just get one (or a few) a month it is less expensive than a subscription but you still have new ideas coming to your door.

July 18 - Busy this morning adding new items to the Store. Today is supposed to be another incredibly hot day (over 100 degrees) so, although Natalie is begging to go to the playground, I'm not sure. There are a bunch of ancient magnolia trees by the swings, and we can also take bottles of water but I still think we wouldn't go for all that long if we did go. For the rest of the day, we are making a dessert (Crunchy Ice Cream Loaf, from this month's issue of Everyday Food -- the recipe is not online yet) and this evening is our farm pickup. Whether I'm ready for new vegetables or not, here they come! The fridge gets pretty full... luckily I think we're mostly getting into tomato season now and it's easy enough to make pasta sauce and freeze it. I have a couple of favorite recipes which I alternate between for variety. I'm online this morning because today is Steve's late day at work (he's working the late shift all this week) and he doesn't go in until 10 am and comes home at 10 pm. He has quite a commute! But it's worth it to live out here. Anyway, so all this week I get some early morning time to work on my business and do other computer-related stuff like shopping. I'm just ordering some of my favorite toothpaste -- Tom's of Maine Fennel (tastes like licorice, yum!) -- which is not available anywhere in my area but you can find it online at Amazon.com. Actually, every Tom's of Maine flavor I've ever seen is available from Amazon (they have quite a few). I used to be a big fan of Gingermint, also, but Fennel is the absolute favorite here. The kids love it. They hate sweet things! Natalie even likes the purple packaging since it matches her toothbrush. And I like that it's fluoride free so I don't have to worry about someone swallowing too much.

* * * * *

Purchased some new Steiner books for my library. They are:

I'm thrilled to find out Steiner has a book about colour. This came up in our lazure discussion on the Group a while ago and I wasn't really able to suggest any good resources. Now, I have something to read. This batch of books will be shipped July 24th. I can't wait!

* * * * *

We just finished a highly-successful lunch of biscuits and Sesame Carrot Salad. All the kids loved it. This morning went really well (all the days when I get a calm uninterrupted shower and breakfast seem to go really well, go figure). The kids spent some time with their father (who was busy childproofing all our outlets by replacing the coverplates with child-safe coverplates since the little things you plug in just tempt Leah and she's been feeding them to the baby -- some are actually a choking hazard!) and then played on their own. When the younger two went down for naps, Natalie and I made the crunchy ice cream loaf, a version of Mexican fried ice cream, which was a lot of fun. Unlike some recipes, she could participate with almost all of it and she loved taking the ziploc bag of cornflakes out onto the deck to stomp on it. She also got to shake up the bag to mix the cornflakes and cinnamon, lick the spoon after I did the honey part, and scoop the melted (half gallon of Breyers vanilla which I stuck in the microwave for 1 minute) ice cream into the loaf pan. It looks yummy. So that's our special dessert for tonight. Then we watched Mr. Rogers which, today, was about all the great things you can do when you're not watching TV. So I thank him for that! We have had some problem with her begging for "movies" all day long, which is completely my fault since when I had my sinus infection she saw me in bed for several days in a row, mostly watching television. That's me being a bad role model. I didn't really know what to do but we had already determined that we weren't going to take Mr. Rogers away becuase when you constantly take things away -- sometimes she has had something new for less than 5 minutes and it's been taken away -- you end up with a kid which has stopped even becoming invested in things because she knows she will lose them. We found this out at Natalie's birthday when we made a big deal about her getting her first Waldorf doll and how to take care of it and the next day she had pulled the embroidery on one eye loose and I swooped down (didn't think it through) and said, you're not taking good care of her. You lost her. And then I remembered that she needed the doll to play mommy with so I gave it back but she had lost all of her connection with the doll and never got it back. I interrupted the bonding process. Steve says I should only give the kids things that I can stand to see ruined, that I don't have a strong emotional attachment to. Like DON'T give them any of my picture books from when I was a little girl because I'll just be upset that they aren't revering them. How can they! In short, if you punish too much, the punishments all blur together and it's like you aren't punishing at all. How did I get on this? Oh, the TV question. Mr. Rogers is a special half hour for her and we didn't want to take it away. But I was still feeling conflicted. So we sit down to watch it and lo and behold. The entire episode was centered around a book called When the TV Broke. It's an easy reader book. At the end the TV is fixed but the little boy is so happy playing with his cardboard box village that he doesn't even care. Mr. Rogers went to the library to visit some children building their own cardboard box houses and, as always, he talked the whole time about using your imagination. I love that show!

The kids are playing now and we are getting ready to head out the door to the farm for our veggie pick up. I've decided that we will go to the playground, after dinner when it is cooler, so the plan is CSA, come home for dinner, go to the playground, come back for our special dessert, bedtime. That is a full afternoon but I am feeling up for it. It's amazing what breakfast and a shower will do for you. Steve and I talked a lot last night about parenting the will-driven child and we are going to be listening to some more of the parenting workshops from Waldorf in the Home so I'll let you know which ones I find most helpful. They have two new workshop weekends coming up. Both look really good. Here's the info for the September 23-24 (Fair Oaks, CA) and the October 21-22 (Boulder, CO) dates. Our wedding anniversary is in October so we were talking about going to that one as a special trip but I think the first one is better. We'll see. I have to start saving up my money. Hopefully the first grade curriculum will do well and I'll be able to start having the bank account balance to do further training.

July 17 - Monday, and time for us to get back in the swing of things as far as school is concerned. Everyone is feeling better and I'm ready to get focused. This morning we went out and built a playhouse with our bales of straw (three walls, one with a window, a door, and a blanket for the floor -- no roof). Natalie really enjoyed that. She didn't go near it when I just had them out for a climbing structure but we make a house and she is right there in it immediately. Today we also have to sort and put away the laundry (it's all clean but folding and putting away didn't get done, we have about five baskets full) and our recipe for snack will be Zucchini Parmesan Loaf. I like to make it using mini loaf pans. It's a great use for your zucchini crop (and I always found zucchini chocolate chip cookies and things of that nature to be a little scary). I'd like to start looking at the decaying logs in our yard (I love the book A Log's Life by Wendy Pfeffer) and using that as part of our Rhythms unit but I'm not sure how to introduce it really. I don't want to make it too academic, where I trot her out there and say, see this log and how it decaying. I want her to discover it first. So I have to give some thought to that.

* * * * *

It's time for a book exchange! We have a basket under the coffee table in the living room with picture books for the children to choose from... and I like to switch them out pretty often to keep it fresh. Here's the new batch:

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So DetailsArt was all sold out but I found the dolphin bubble wand I wanted (not the one I first picked, actually, a different style but still great for a present and it's actually the least pricy of the three) at a local art gallery; however it is, believe it or not, cheaper for them to mail it to me than for me to drive to Falls Church VA, considering the price of gas. So it's going to be delivered to our door. How posh! I called the nice lady at Impulsive and they are sending it out today; it will arrive in plenty of time for the party. And I had juuust enough money in my PayPal account so it worked out perfectly. We can make the homemade bubble solution as our made-it-ourselves part of the gift (N will like that, super quick and easy, and who doesn't like playing with a whisk?) and include the recipe for how to make more with the package. Here's the one we'll do:
    Magic Bubble Formula
    4 cups water
    1 cup dish soap
    1/4 cup corn syrup

Maybe we can find some dolphin rubber stamps to decorate the wrapping paper and the card...

July 16 - Well what do you know. I just found out that the waterless vaporizer we've had on day and night in the baby's room was discontinued and recalled because of a risk of fire. SCARY! I was just thinking how it was time to buy more refill tabs and went downstairs to the computer to add them to my Amazon shopping cart when I noticed that they were reviewed at just 2 stars. So I read the reviews and found out about the recall. In case you have one of these, it is the Vapor-Eze Waterless Vaporizer and here's a picture. So I guess it's time to buy a new one! These had gotten perfect reviews at the time we got ours and I like that there's no water (you don't have to decide between hot steam burning your child or cold water brewing bacteria) -- now Vicks has one that they sell at every supermarket so I guess we'll switch to that. They even have mini waterless vaporizer nightlights for your sick child's room. A good idea, if a little expensive. So that's my good deed for today, alerting people about the recall. I promise I will try my best to finish and publish the Rhythms unit today (I am really feeling guilty and frustrated about that one, since I've been asked when it will be done and I hate disappointing people). I wonder what makes people insecure? I mean, no one really knows, do they? Worrying all the time that someone might get mad at you -- although I have such a public profile, I guess I can hardly keep from annoying someone, somewhere so I should just get over it! -- is so stressful. Where does it come from? We all do the best we can to parent in a way that makes our children feel loved and secure... unfortunately I don't know of any research that clearly says, here! This is the way to do it! We've looked at twelve generations of several thousand people and here you go: perfect parenting strategies. Anyway, if you wonder why I get online every day and fret about how I'm unable to finish the Rhythms unit (yes, I know my children are 1 1/2, 2 1/2, and 4 years old -- not to mention being sick), it's because I worry that someone will get angry with me for not being done sooner. Silly, huh? Back to bed. I am going to go relax and try to feel better. I've been diagnosed with a chronic sinus infection and given a horrible sounding combination of Zithromax and Mucinex to take. And I hate prescription drugs! I really disagree with the entire concept of antibiotics but when you feel lousy you just go with whatever someone tells you to do. Can't think clearly enough to defend yourself. Next time I'll be more organized and find a doctor which I approve of in advance. But I just don't know where to find a homeopathic doctor. Does anyone know of a website which helps you find alternative doctors by zip code? There must be some in the Washington DC area...

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Thrilled to find out that there are -- actually -- several chapters about dolphins in Big-Stamp Two-Toes the Barefoot Giant, our current chapter book bedtime story. How perfect! In fact, the first mention of a dolphin (and illustration, I don't think Natalie has ever seen one) occurs the night before we'll go to Pattie's dolphin-themed birthday party. I am still thinking of a visit to the Aquarium as a gift -- they have lots of cool exhibits other than the dolphins, too. Here's some information about this neat museum, although it's a little out of date (prices have doubled since then). They have great exhibits! The problem is the price and while we always take out of town visitors, I'm not sure I can afford to do it as a playdate. Well, I could but it would have to be all of my homeschool money for the week. I don't have a problem with that, actually, because N would get a lot out of it, but you always have to consider that it makes people uncomfortable when you give them a too-expensive gift. A hundred dollar present for a 5 year old who we barely know is too much. On the other hand, it's a great gift. We've always talked about getting together to do a playdate... so how perfect... but I can't suggest to meet there and put her in the position of having to pay for her entire family when maybe she can't afford it! Awkward. I'm not sure what to do. I wish you could just get tickets to the dolphin show separately, that would be much better. You can adopt a dolphin for $50 but that's still a little expensive and isn't a really good gift for a five year old. Although, I don't know, you do get a picture of your dolphin to frame and put on your wall. Kids love that. I don't know... I don't really know her and I don't want to show up with a very snooty and posh totally inappropriate gift. Aaargh.

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Okay, let's see. Magic Cabin has the mini mermaids by Kathe Kruse for just $29.95 (although Sand Castles By the Sea offers more colors, they are also more expensive) OR you can get a kit to make your own mermaid doll for just $19.95. 20 bucks is a more reasonable price and I can offer to make the doll with her when she comes over to play with us. How would that be? She gets to watch the doll being made, can help with it, and it does meet the criteria of spreading out the birthday celebration and having the gift be more meaningful... it is a handmade gift which she will value because she was a part of making it... and it's not too pricy. Am I repeating myself? I'm pondering. Another option would be to post to the waldorfhandmadeexchange group to see if someone there makes mermaids (I am quite sure someone does) but I really like the idea of us making the gift together. The only problem is that it is supposed to be the most challenging dollmaking kit and requires some experience, which I don't have. How much of a problem is this?

Maybe I can get two and make one for Pattie and one for Natalie -- they can play with them together and I KNOW Natalie will want one, especially to go along with her mermaid costume which I am still in the process of knitting.

By the way, you can also buy only the pattern for $6.95 if you're really feeling ambitious, or have a lot of dollmaking stuff already on hand, which I don't.

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Ooh here we go (okay, how distracted am I!), how about a dolphin bubble wand? Matches the theme more than a mermaid does, also inexpensive, and we can bring bubble solution so everyone can take a turn playing with it. It's an outdoor pool party, so summertime, pooltime, and bubbles go together perfectly! Here's a beautiful gemstone one which, unfortunately is sold out. What else? Here is one from DetailsArt.com which is $21.00 and comes with a recipe for magic bubble solution. We can make up some solution and also include the recipe for making more, that's always a nice touch.

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Alright, I know I've already put several links here for bubble wands but I just HAVE to share this one more... because you will not believe how many bubble wand styles these people offer! Look at this... amazing! They look nice, too. Shall I count them? No, I'll pass. Maybe someone else will. Anyway, it's a lot! So there you have it, all your bubble wand dreams fulfilled. Ah, guess what. I just figured it out. The people from DetailsArt carry the BlueHill products. So the looong list that I gave you, that's basically the source for most of the bubble wands in these other shops. So just get it directly from the source! The people at BlueHill make several styles so for most of the subjects you can choose whether you want "natural", "elegant", or "ornate". There's a price difference, of course, based on how complicated they are. I really like W223-DL, the ornate dolphin bubble wand. By the way, if you have pop-up blocker enabled on your computer, you won't be able to see the styles because the photo pops up in a little box on your screen (if you have Firefox you can choose to see what they're blocking but I don't know if this is an option with other browsers) or you can set it to Photo View instead of List View which makes it easier to compare styles side by side. BlueHill even has a little blurb about the philosophy behind their work and their use of the spiral which you may find interesting. Actually, this would be a nice place to shop for nearly any kind of birthday party theme. Bubble wands are pretty gender neutral (at least up to a certain age) and they have dragons and other cool stuff.

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What is it about blogging? I actually found someone's blog when I was searching for bubble wands -- and keep reading through the posts -- where she talks about responding to someone who wanted to know why there is this penchant for self-revelation among bloggers. In other words, you start blogging about a topic and you get more and more personal. Not just details about your life but introspection, why you do the things you do. Her response was that our entire post-modernist world has been about self-revelation and thus is moving us closer to understanding what it means to be human beings. She (Rachel Dangermond, an author who lives in New Orleans, and writes some interesting things about what it is like to live in the bayou post-Katrina) responded
    "I have read fiction such as MiddleMarch, The Dead, On Human Bondage, Things Fall Apart, and The Rabbit Series that helped me understand myself, I’ve read autobiographies by Katherine Graham, Bill Clinton and Maya Angelou that moved me closer to understanding other people’s motivations, I’ve read poetry by Jane Hirschfield, William Wordsworth and Wislawa Szymborska, which helped me grasp the multi dimensions of humanity, and I read and write a blog to both learn more about myself and others - to know what it means to be alive and living in full technicolor in this day and age.

    Self revelation isn’t meant for everyone - but as a writer it is do or die."

Personally, I myself wonder and worry about the tone of my blog. Does it wander? Is it whiny? But I really like doing it in part because I am always encouraging people to do journalling about their homeschooling experiences (which quickly becomes doing journalling about your children, your life, and yourself) and so I think it is good for me to model that. Also, as I wrote before, it was one of my New Year's resolutions to do more documentation of my childrens' lives so that I don't forget later on. And, finally, since the Waldorf philosophy is so much about soul searching and spirituality and self improvement, to make us better teachers, better parents, better people... I think that doing this is all part of the path. I embarass myself sometimes, like my earlier medicine-induced giddy ramble about dolls and mini-lecture about how we all have to make a doll or life just isn't complete (which I apparently took quite to heart, to write that and then the very next day be considering making a doll as a birthday present), but I think that -- overall -- sharing about your life helps encourage other people to know that no one is doing anything perfectly, so you may as well jump in and give it a try! It is a source of support. After all, to quote The Remains of the Day, "We read to know we are not alone."

July 15 - Has anyone read yesterday's post yet? Notice how it rambles on and on and on... That just proves to you that I'm taking my medicine (they make it non-drowsy but that doesn't mean it doesn't make you loopy) -- and, yes, I am trying to rest and get better -- but Steve has finally convinced me to go to a doctor today while I have a babysitter. I'm really bummed; I was hoping to finish the Rhythms unit since I am only about an hour and a half away from being done... so close! I promise, I am trying to work! It's just that no one here will let me! I'm also adding some new items to the Store soon which go along with the Rhythms unit and which I hope you will find helpful, so keep an eye out for those. Of course, I can't get anything done while I'm at the doctor's office. I hate being so close to the end of a project and having endless annoying distractions, like coughing up a lung. By the way, how do people like the new homepage? I tried to keep all the old elements, just make it easier to use.

July 14 - I'm baaack! As you may have guessed, I also fell sick. But I am spending a little bit of time at the computer now (mostly working on my website) and then I'll go away -- gotta sleep while the children sleep! If there's one lesson you learn from being a mom, that's it. We haven't gone anywhere for the longest time, since 4th of July weekend, because of all the sickness. Getting a little crazy being cooped up! I can't even take the kids outside to play in case Becca starts having a croup attack. And they can't play in the playroom because we moved her crib down there (we tried to isolate her when the older two got sick, to keep her from getting sick, but it didn't work -- now her crib is down there so she can sleep all day and get the rest she needs). Natalie has been invited to a birthday party, which is nice, for the little girl with whom we have planned endless playdates, all of which have fallen through. But we'll try to go to the party. It's not for a while. It is a dolphin theme, which is cool, and I have a great gift idea. You know how Waldorf families always struggle with the gift thing. You don't want to impose your lifestyle on someone else by giving them a wooden or wool toy which their child may hate -- plus it makes you look pretentious -- and you know that no child needs more toys, or if they do, they don't need them in a big gift-giving frenzy of a party, but you want to do something. Family Fun had a brilliant article a few months back about coupons. But not just any coupon (like the Mother's Day breakfast in bed kind) -- play date coupons. One on one time with your child and the birthday child, and a memorable excursion. Since it's a dolphin party, we'll give a coupon to all go together to the National Aquarium in Baltimore to see the dolphin show. It's also nice because it helps spread out the fun of the birthday, having another special event. And you don't have to worry that your toy will just get tossed aside and forgotten, you are making memories here! I love it.

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My current favorite book by Steiner (which, cooincidentally, is always whatever thing it is I'm currently reading -- I just love how he puts things. No one explains Steiner like Steiner, so when you know a little bit about the theory but you have questions, it is wonderful to read such a clear interesting explanation. And it is so thought-provoking!) is The Child's Changing Consciousness as the Basis of Pedagogical Practice. The link is to a free online version -- this book is out of print -- courtesy of the SteinerBooks Spiritual Research Center. It is somewhat akin to Practical Advice to Teachers, very specific about different parts of the child's development and what this means in practical terms. Anyway, I am including the link in case anyone wants to read along. Feel free to post your thoughts to the Group. Today I purchased two wonderful new Waldorf dolls for Natalie from Over the Rainbow - Waldorf Toys, a Waldorf dollmaker based in Australia. I am very eager to receive them. So far, I have a doll from Bamboletta Dolls (which I received as a donation for Natalie's 4th birthday -- thank you!), a wonderful new company based in Canada, and several storyteller puppets made by Sharon Jennings, of Mon Ange Dolls in California. Dolls are so important in the Waldorf philosophy -- it can hardly be overstated just how important they are, so buying quality dolls is important. I hope to find some online patterns for making a doll cradle. Does anyone know of a nice one? We have a crochet doll hammock (also donated by someone -- thanks! There's a pattern in Toymaking with Children if you're looking for one) but a cradle would be nice too. We have more dolls that will fit in just the one hammock. I think the nicest explanation of the importance of doll play is in Children at Play: Using Waldorf Principles to Foster Child Development by Heidi Britz-Crecelius. There are also a lot of online articles about it. The most important aspects of a Waldorf doll are that they are made of natural fibers, have undefined facial features, and are handmade. Try if you can to make a doll for your child -- I say this, but I have never done it... I promise it is on my list... Although I make a lot of my childrens' toys, I have never ventured into the world of dollmaking. But it is important to do so. We should all try it, at least once. It is a real act of love and your child will treasure it so much.
    "What a gift we give to our children when we involve them in the making of things, even if their involvement is no more than that of curious onlooker. Not only do they see where something "came from", but they can gain a sense of security in the knowledge that something can be made, that indeed they themselves can make it..."

    from the Waldorf Dolls article at waldorfhomeschoolers.com

I have not yet made a Waldorf doll for my children but, if I do, I promise I will make a new page for it (like my learning to knit page) detailing how it went and the resources I found most helpful. If you've made one, please write in to the Group and let us know your thoughts! Making a Waldorf doll for your child is recommended in one of my preschool units, Sound, but we haven't done it yet. It is in the second year of the curriculum, so if you are new to Waldorf and feeling overwhelmed that there's so much to do, don't worry. You can take your time. Doing it in the second year of the curriculum is fine. You can't do it all at once! I mean, you can, but you will spend thousands of dollars, be completely overwhelmed, and you won't enjoy it. Acquiring things slowly is the key to truly valuing them. I really recommend that people not get stressed out that their home isn't "Waldorf-enough" and just take your time. Nothing burns you out faster than throwing yourself into something new without moderation. That happens to me every time I try to start a garden. I have all these ambitious plans that I'll keep it beautiful and weed-free, and then I completely forget to take care of it. It gets to be so messy that once I remember about it, I am discouraged -- I feel like I have no hope of being able to do it properly and I just give up. Perfectionism is the enemy of happiness. Don't let that happen to you! Take your time and just make a Waldorf doll when you can. Christmas is a long way away... :-) The standard book in the industry is Making Waldorf Dolls by Maricristin Sealey (an updated version of her older book, Kinder Dolls) but you can also find free online directions and even Waldorf doll making kits, available from Magic Cabin. I think when I do it, I will start with a kit. It is nice to have all the supplies in one place, and I have found their products to be very good overall. Who else? Weir Dolls has dollmaking kits and patterns. I haven't tried many of their products but they have very high quality wool roving and they've been in business for a long time. I made one of their knitted doll kits over the winter. If I find more resources, I'll post them. Someday I will add a new page to the website about the importance of dolls and I will put it all in one place. I love how the website keeps me organized but, at the same time, there's still so much information I want to add! When my business starts to make more money, I hope to be able to have a babysitter in here regularly so that I can work for longer periods of time without interruption. Right now, it's like catch as catch can. Although I love my work, it would be nice to be able to devote more focused time -- give 100% when it's work time and give my kids 100% when it's their time, instead of flipping back and forth throughout the day. I guess all work-at-home small business owners struggle with that one! If we could find a babysitter that lives near us (other than my mother and MIL) that would be nice too. I'm glad we moved, though. I found out a few days ago that there was another murder in our old neighborhood (the reason we moved out). Although last year was hard, with so much upheaval, we are definitely blessed to be where we are now.

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So I just won my online auction for the doll I was waiting for -- now I have to get off the computer and make dinner -- and I am totally excited! That's another thing; I list a ton of Waldorf toymakers under the Waldorf Play section of my website but there are also a lot of eBay auctions for handmade things from people who are just starting out or who are less well known. If you like auction shoppping (I got a really great deal on both my dolls), check out Waldorf Auctions, an AMAZING service which puts all Waldorf-related eBay auctions in one place! No more setting up search algorithms for eBay. It's all done for you. Gotta love that! Good luck and have fun shopping!!!

July 11 - Rebecca's virus developed into croup. So it goes. Another day, another doctor's visit. We had a nice meeting tonight though; I'll post some notes after I get some sleep.

July 10 - Do you want to hear this? All three kids are sick, plus my husband. We spent last night (from 9:30 pm to 3 am) at the emergency room. Natalie has the mildest case, just the fever. Leah has the worst case, with the highest and most persistent fever, a rash, and a cough. Rebecca has the fever and the cough. She is the one we went to the ER for -- doctor's orders -- since we couldn't get it below 102 for six hours. They were not helpful! I don't mind waiting forever in Triage but they just gave her the same meds I was giving her at home. And they didn't work there either. So, duh. Finally we got it down to 99.9 and came home. My MIL and my mother were here last night to help out. Oh, did I say Rebecca and her dad were both throwing up? tra la la

On a more positive note, I have found some really nice new bedtime books to help soothe my kids to sleep. The current favorite (both for Natalie and myself) is A Child's Book of Lullabies. It has the lyrics and printed music to lots of traditional lullabies and I found myself able to sing almost all of them from memory. Not being able to read music at all didn't keep me from enjoying this book. I really like singing to my kids at bedtime and have been looking for more ways to incorporate singing into our daily lives. This book is perfect because then the kids bring it to me and I remember to sing. It is sumptuously illustrated with Mary Cassatt paintings on every two-page spread (lyrics and music on the left, painting on the right). The paintings are all of mothers cuddling their children. It's really quite lovely. Leah's favorite bedtime story right now is Going for a Walk by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers (one of my favorite authors of all time). In this simple little story, a young girl goes for a walk and meets a variety of animals, all of whom she greets with "Hi" and the animals reply by making their sounds. The text is extremely repetitious (but not in an annoying way) and toddlers soon learn to read along with the book, making the animal sounds. The last person she meets is a little boy who says "Hi" back to her and it ends like this:

    So the little girl walks on
    and the little boy walks with her
    and they find a sandbox...
    And the little girl and the little boy
    play together
    all the day long.
It's a really sweet little book, very soothing. The version I have is illustrated with torn paper collage but I see that there is a new one which is apparently pretty gaudy. So try to find the older one if you can. That happened with another favorite animal book of mine: The Baby Beebee Bird. In fact, in putting the link for it here, I see that the longest review for this book deals, in fact, with the touchy subject of re-illustration. It's hard when you remember a book fondly and then it doesn't look right when you see it again. Anyway, back to Fever Town. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

July 8 - Rebecca and I just came back from the farm, the other two kiddos being sick. Yes, Natalie came down with it too! Luckily it looks like Leah's illness is almost over. We got baby turnips (so cute!), zucchini, tomatoes, and green cabbage. So I'll be looking around for some recipes. I love recipe hunting, trying to save money by finding that perfect recipe which only requires that I buy one or two ingredients and otherwise uses up what I already have on hand. This afternoon for lunch I made the kids Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup but no one felt up to eating it. This month's issue (July/August) of Everyday Food has lots of tomato recipes, so I'm sure I'll find plenty of ways to use them up. Now, about the zucchini...

July 7 - We are getting a 14 foot weeping fig (ficus) tree today! A lady in our area is giving it away, can you imagine????? And here we are with a big house and not much to fill it, having sold most of our furniture a few years ago so that we would fit comfortably in with our relatives during our moving frenzy. The sound bounces around our living room like crazy, it is soooo loud in here. I am excited to get this tree, both for the sound absorption and the fact that it will fill up the large empty wall here by the front door. The kids will love it. It will make the house seem more home-y -- houseplants always do -- and I can trust my husband to keep it alive. He is good with plants. This tree is 23 years old, can you believe it? No wonder it is so huge. Houseplants are also renowned for cleaning the air (see "Pretty Plants Filter Nasty Pollutants" for some research), so that's another benefit. How my husband will get it home in the truck, I'm sure I don't know, but not my problem. A free tree is coming our way! Yippee! :-)

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I just purchased a couple of Hap Palmer CDs; he is an awesome children's singer. I found out about his work from our children's librarians who used his songs during storytime. I didn't like the storytime program but I loved Hap! So I got Peek-a-Boo: Songs for Young Children and Learning Basic Skills through Music, Volume 1. Yes, I know what you are thinking... doesn't that teach the alphabet and counting and what-not? Yes, but you can always skip the songs you feel aren't appropriate. And focus on some of the other truly great ones. I picked Learning Basic Skills through Music because of the song "Put Your Hands Up in the Air" and the album Peek-a-Boo for the song "What a Miracle". I know Natalie will love these because they were real favorites during storytime and we can start to incorporate them into our Music & Movement time as soon as they arrive! These are actually the two recordings I picked for our unit last Winter, Water in the World, but I wasn't able to get them until now. So that's exciting. More changes are afoot here as well. I've decided that our yoga mats and art supplies and so on are spending way too much time in the closet, because of having the whole downstairs room consumed by the playspace and we don't have a school room set apart. That will all change soon. I just have to save up my homeschool money for a week or two. My husband and I have decided that, instead of building a permanent wall to divide the room into two parts, we will put up 4 x 8 sheets of plywood on tracks. Tracks are not expensive and plywood already comes in 4 x 8 sheets, so that's easy. (We thought about shoji screens but the kids would just destroy them. Maybe later...) They can be pulled across to cover the school room, and the littler kids can't get into all our stuff (having to keep all the art supplies and things child-proof is what is causing it to all just pile up in a messy heap in this closet, and when Natalie and I are together I forget all about our music collection and board games, etc. It's very frustrating. Not to mention the wasted space in the house, having the playroom be way too big), and when we are ready for school we can simply open the panels and have access to my teaching desk, our stored school supplies, plus the entire playroom space to spread out. Why not just make a fully separate room, like we were first first planning? Well, for one thing, cost. It's less expensive to do it this way, easy to change it if it looks bad, and easy to rip it out when we go to sell the house, without throwing away a lot of hard-earned money to put in a room and then tear it out. But the main reason for this new plan is that there is no natural light in the back part of the room (it's underground), where school will be set up, and I was campaigning for a complicated half-wall and dutch-door set up which Steve thought would look really tacky. I was just trying to bring as much light as possible into the space. This way, the whole wall will pull back and we'll get tons of light in there! The plywood sheets are inexpensive and we can set them up with the first round of money and then paint or wallpaper or whatever later on. The idea is get that room functional as soon as possible. I even thought that we could hang some things on the plywood panels, like pegs for dress-up costumes (something that's not too heavy), instead of just keeping them plain. Or we can cover them with batting and fabric to make nice fabric panels, maybe a woodsy scene. Usually Waldorf classrooms are not very busy, so we'll probably just go with paint and some simple pegs for toy storage. I can't wait! We haven't solved the problem of a class pet, though. There may be no solution for that. Something which can do without sunlight for the majority of the day and is resistant to being killed by cats... any ideas? Maybe a dragon? :-)

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I am just writing to say that I am completely in love with my new tree. Love, love, love it. It already seems like a member of the family, really warm and welcoming. Its branches bend over the arch to the hallway so it is like going under a forest bower everytime you walk through the room on your way to somewhere else. Smells great too. I really hope it does well with the transition and doesn't go into shock or anything. I've been cooing at it and being very friendly. I know plants are very sensitive to good vibes. I hope that works! I'm going to go sit upstairs and talk with it for a while, then go to bed.

July 6 - Today was doctor day. Tomorrow will also be doctor day, as it turns out, because Leah had a fever of 104.0 when I got home. She picked up this bug either from her father, who just got over being sick, or her cousin Tommy, who was sick at our party. The babysitter thought she felt fine so didn't check her temperature, although she had had a fever in the morning and gotten some Tylenol for it then. I'm just glad I checked her! So we are working on getting it back down with some Advil (usually Tylenol works best for low fevers and Advil or Motrin for higher fevers -- infant or children's versions, of course) and the doctor will see her tomorrow morning. One good thing did come out of today, though, which is that I have a book to recommend if you have a thumbsucking child. Our dentist, who I talked to about Natalie (didn't suck her thumb as an infant or toddler but picked it up during our hectic year of moving from house to house), recommended a book called David Decides. It's a story (meant to be read to kids aged 5 and up) with a parent guide in the back. David, the child in the book, tells his story about deciding to stop sucking his thumb, talking directly to your child, it's a nice conversational tone. I thought it was quite good. Not preachy. Anyway, I wanted to pass that along. Wish me luck with Leah!

July 5 - Did you know that today is the aphelion, which is Earth's farthest point from the Sun? 94.84 million miles. In January we are the closest to the Sun (perihelion)... in July we are the farthest away. Which just goes to prove that being near the Sun is not what causes the seasons. So what does? Make your kids look it up :-)

So, happy July 4th to everybody. I came down here last night to blog all about our weekend and there was a thunderstorm so I had to turn the computer off. So now I have to cast my mind back and backtrack. Saturday was the Community House Games -- Natalie and Leah's favorite was the turtle race, they were both fascinated by the box turtles -- and Ice Cream Night. Sunday was the Pool Races (which we did not attend) and our party. Several people could not come to our party because of deaths in the family so that was a sad time. Monday was the Sand Sculpting Contest and the Boat Races. We went down for the sand sculpting but the tide was so high there was no beach. So we came back at low tide and sat in the tide pools and played. The kids had never seen me hang out in the water with them before, because I only just found my bathing suit, so they were ecstatic about that. We took down four bottles of water which quickly became scoop and pour toys and Leah had a good time trying to figure out which shells would fit though the mouth of the bottle and which ones wouldn't. Natalie found a shell with a perfect hole in it (that's from the moon snail, which uses its acidic tongue to bore a hole through the shell, then turns its tongue into a straw and sucks out the poor animal inside -- I didn't tell her that) so I took it home and strung a beautiful green ribbon through it and she's wearing it as a necklace. Yesterday was the Fourth of July itself and we went up to watch the Horseshoe Throwing Contest which totally bored the kids so we played on the playground equipment and then went into the shade and built little gnome houses for the gnomes I had in my purse. We also went into the Community House (a great building, built in the 50s as a square dance hall and now used for all the big gatherings) and Natalie discovered the piano and happily plunked out tunes for about twenty minutes. She loves music! Music and animals, those are her two big things. Leah, on the other hand, is all about trying to fly. (You wouldn't believe the number of things she falls off of! Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up being a pilot.) Last night I took Natalie out for our "something special" -- my key word for an event, but it doesn't actually say what the event is (this leaves me flexibility in case plans change, which they did in this case) -- which was supposed to be playing on the playground and then going down to the beach to try to spot some fireworks. Instead, we sat on a bench and watched a storm kick up and then, just as I was about to put her back in the car, having not thought of anything else to do and it was obvious all the fireworks were going to be rained out, my brother and his wife drove by, taking their kids out to dinner. So we went along with them and had a special dessert. It was a lot of fun and just goes to show that being flexible is not all that bad.

Today's homeschool plan is to introduce Natalie to her new drum (which I did this morning -- and it was great, totally a two-person project since one person hits it and one person holds it in between their knees and squeezes it to change the pitch -- we did this for a while until she became comfortable with hitting it and squeezing it at the same time. We also played a talking drum game (which I invented all by myself, although it does come with some simple directions) where I laid it on its side, we beat both ends with our hands, and rolled it back and forth. I would play a tune and then roll it to her and she would respond musically and then roll it back. We had a blast!) and this afternoon we will sand and finish our salad bowl which needs a little rejuvination. Other than that, I think we'll head down to the beach this evening and do some swimming. It is nice that it stays light so late and we can do after dinner things, then the kids sleep better. Also, because Steve comes home, I can sort out which kids can come and which need to go to sleep early and I'm not committed to taking all three. Tomorrow is the first Thursday of the month which makes it doctor visit day so we are doing physicals at the pediatrician in the morning and N is visiting the dentist in the afternoon. Monday we have a playdate with Pattie, so we'll be starting school back up in earnest then. I promise I am writing the Rhythms unit and will have it out soon! I also have a TON of links and thoughts for the blog that I need to get down. It's a nice place for me to make notes on things, like what I want to do with my homeschool money (this week, pay the minimum on my credit card bill -- jeepers, I have to PAY for all those books I bought???!!! ;-) -- and buy 9 more bales of straw at 5 bucks each, get David Darcy's flute book and CD ($20 plus $4.00 S&H) -- the link is to his blog, by the way, lots of great teaching ideas there, but if you want to buy his book & CD set you have to email him directly, there's no website -- and get some more ribbon in case we make flower crowns on the playdate) and articles I read that I really liked (like Colorful Fireworks Display's Dirty Secret -- who knew fireworks caused so much pollution?). I also have a long list of notes from this month's Family Fun magazine issue for projects that I liked and thought we would do. So, I'll be back at the computer soon!

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Well, our salad bowl project went great -- and Natalie realized the connection between sand and sandpaper, so that was cool -- but the beach excursion got rained out. It is storming now, in fact, so I'm turning my computer off. So much rain lately! We have a tornado warning for this area too so we'll just stay inside and play until dinner. Good night.


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