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.

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November 2006

  • Natalie is 4 years, 8 months
  • Leah is turning 3 years old
  • Rebecca is 1 year, 10 months

November 30 - got up this morning and double-checked all the addresses in my Christmas card list, then printed out a fresh copy. went to the church to get a pack of 3x5 index cards and now I'm setting up our December tasklist. I also got a regular style advent calendar from NN, which arrived yesterday, along with several presents for the children and a ton of wool felt for classroom activities. when I was at the church I found out that the people in charge of S.S. have purchased premade wooden figures which the children will paint on Sunday and these will be used for the Heifer fundraiser. I had been under the impression that each Sunday School teacher made a set of ornaments with their own class and I have been working sooo hard planning this. But I misunderstood. Also, I found out that the pageant isn't at all what I expected. Instead of lines to learn, the children silently parade by, dressed in their costumes, as an adult narrates the Christmas story. This is because, according to my supervisor, kids don't want to have to speak any lines. I completely disagree... in my mind, learning a part for a play is the highlight of the year for many children, and proudly speaking the lines you've rehearsed, in front of a real live audience, gives you a thrill... but I'm not in charge. So maybe I can volunteer to coordinate some of these things next year. If I rock the boat too much I won't be asked back, so going along with the flow and earning the trust and respect of the church community seems the best plan for now. I'm severely disappointed, though, that we won't be making animals out of magic wool. It seemed the perfect lead-in to teaching the children to knit in January. Maybe instead we can focus on creating our classroom nativity scene and the children can help create animals for that. I was almost completely done with my planning for Dec/Jan/Feb Sunday School but I'll have to reopen that file and work on it some more this afternoon while the kids are sleeping. When it's completed I'll add it to the Sunday School page on the site.

My mom took Becca to her final session of music class this morning. They were the only two people there so she got lots of one-on-one attention and mom said she really blossomed. I wonder if a class isn't the best fit for her, since she's already part of a social group 24x7 at home, and I need to find some activity for her where it is just one adult and one child. Like me.... hey, I can do that at home! :-) Maybe I'll set up a baby art class to do with her. That would be a blast. Baby Art Class, here we come! I can set it up to start next month on Monday, January 8th (which gives me time to plan) and, as always, if I come up with some formal plans I will post them. MaryAnn Kohl has a wonderful series of art books for children -- I also really like Susan Striker's Please Touch and Young at Art. Those will probably be my two inspirations. She's too young to try to paint a specific thing, like a flower or sunset, so it would just be messing around and exploring materials. Sounds like a lot of fun! I'm thinking Mondays from 9 - 9:30 am. Okay, writing it in my planner...

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Having run out of money for Christmas, and looking at my spreadsheet, I see that I'll have to make some gift substitutions. I have a line of credit through Amazon so it's easy for me to order gifts now and pay for them later (I don't have a credit card, this is the closest thing). I've picked two nice-looking books from Jane Cowen-Fletcher: Nell's Elf for Leah and Farmer Will for Rebecca. Both encourage imaginative play. Natalie's book for Christmas this year I have already purchased; it is A Friend is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund. I'm giving several copies of An Inconvenient Truth this year; also Who Killed the Electric Car?, another environmental documentary. Sometimes I think I should send a copy of An Inconvenient Truth this year; to George W. Bush for Christmas. But I'm sure that all the gifts sent to the White House are X-rayed and the suspicious ones burned. I don't think it would make any impact on that man, anyway -- what you need to do is contact the presidential candidates to be and encourage them to come up with a more meaningful platform. I wish Gore would run again. With this video as his campaign advertisement, I think he would win hands-down. I wonder who is running for president next year? I'll have to look into that. Let's see... Presidency 2008. We have here only a list of possible Democratic candidates. I'm not sure who the Republican crowd is. Actually, I believe that in presidential races throughout this country's history, the incumbent has always been re-elected (I've actually looked this up president by president in response to a debate with my husband and it is true) and then the country always switches political parties (that one I'm not as sure about, it's just a gut feeling). In that case, we can all focus on trying to get a Democrat take global warming seriously. I voted Libertarian last time because I thought they had a great candidate but I think this time I'll be focused on the Democratic party since they are most likely to win.

So, anyway, back to the serious Christmas giftgiving, I have two things left to buy (not counting all the craft supplies for the handmade gifts and the ingredients for the recipes). They are The Tingler from Isabella (for my hubby) and the rocking horse for Rebecca from Babystyle. I think I'll go with the rattan one. I hope putting a link to it here doesn't mean it's all sold out before I'm ready to order! I don't know how many people visit my site (my hosting provider publishes website traffic statistics but I don't look at them, I don't want to stress myself out) but sometimes I feel it is a lot. Steve is making Leah's block stilts (available from Nova Natural) himself so that will be fun. This is one of the essential outside play toys recommended in Toymaking with Children. Especially for her -- she really needs practice with balance, both physically and emotionally (in the Waldorf method they are believed to be linked). For this reason, and in hopes of getting them to stop climbing the furniture, my mother is giving the children the Balance Beam from Back to Basics Toys. I know that will be a very popular gift! I always work so hard to plan Christmas presents and then at the last minute I get very stressed out and go through another rash of spending money and getting people different things. I worry that I give bad gifts. But I'm trying to not go through that this year and to be super-duper organized... not to mention that if I've already spent my entire Christmas budget I can't possibly head out to the stores to do some impulse shopping. Of course, there's always Amazon... did you know you can get Amazon gift certificates in any denomination from $5 to $500? That's what I'm getting for our babysitter. Who knows what she wants. But with Amazon she can get beauty products, movies, whatever. Gift certificates are supposed to be the perfect gift but I always feel they are a bit of a cheat. Like, I don't really know you that well so I'm not going to bother. Maybe I'm not a terrible gift giver, actually -- I found out today that my nephew loved his fireman's hat and wants to wear it all the time. So that made me happy :-) That pattern is the first one in New Knits on the Block and boy is it a winner. If you're looking to try knitting with circular needles, or knitting and then felting something in the washing machine, I recommend it. I had a great time making it.

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Some little doodads and geegaws to share. Neat websites I've come across while getting ready to send these Christmas cards. For one, WhitePages.com is the absolute best at finding addresses for people. Includes phone numbers, too, which is a little scary. Who knows how much personal information about each of us is out there on the Internet? Anyway, for those relatives who you have asked seven or eight times what their address is, this is a great way to save face and pretend you didn't lose it again... also found a neat site while Googling "how much does a first class stamp cost?" I still have no idea, by the way, but I'm sure I'll find out tomorrow morning at the post office. However, I did find this article on the Forever Stamp. If you have a middle or high school aged child, researching the feasibility of this idea might be a fun project.

November 29 - Back from vacation. My husband stayed home from work the past two days (we ended up getting in Sunday at midnight but he had already applied for leave Monday & Tuesday, expecting to get in super-late Monday evening -- since he had the leave already he just took off the extra days which was really nice of him) to help me get on top of things once we got back home. Organized a lot of things, unpacked, did all the laundry... and I finally feel ready for Christmas! I'm currently working on my spreadsheet for Christmas presents and updating my Christmas card list, also a spreadsheet. When I have the details of all the homemade presents hashed out and directions for the projects I'll put them here. I also have a lot to write about what we did in CT! Yesterday while I was on the phone setting up my physical therapy appointments Steve did school with Natalie. They started the Kitty Vita-Greens kit which I got from the grocery store a few months ago as sort of an impulse buy. It's been sitting on the homeschool bookcase, ready to fill a gap. They soaked the seeds and got them started and now the container is in the pantry (a dark warm place) waiting to sprout. They read a cat book to go along with the project -- I picked My Cat Has Eyes of Sapphire Blue by Aileen Lucia Fisher. It is a book of cat poems. You could really do anything to go along with this... you could do a Happy Cat Day and start the seeds plus make a few cat toys. Or you could pick a book about seeds sprouting. I think Sprouts might be the unofficial topic for these final few days of November, since this morning (while making our breakfast recipe, Tofu Egg Scramble with Avocado, from the November 2006 issue of Everyday Food) we sliced into an avocado and found its seed, then set it in a jar of water to soak. My husband is a bit of an expert at starting these seeds and he likes to soak them for a day and then plant them. He's grown quite a few avocado and mango trees. Some people set the avocado pit slightly in a jar of water, suspended by a few toothpicks, so you can see the roots come out as it happens. Here's some info on how to Grow an Avocado Tree. Like I wrote before, we are basically flying without lesson plans and doing a sort of serendipity thing... picking topics as they arise. I believe this is called unschooling. I think it's fine for preschool but don't completely agree with it at the higher levels since it seems to me that the resulting education might have some gaps. However, I can't say for sure since I've never met an unschooling family in person. Anyway, December is usually time off from school anyway since we are full-on into preparing for Christmas. I like to set up an Advent calendar which is a wall hanging with 24 numbered pockets. Into each pocket I put a 3x5 index card with the project for the day written on it. Here's our countdown:

    December

    1 - send out Christmas cards

    2 - Gram, Grammy & Papa - handprint stepping stone (this is a great gift for relatives who live nearby)

    3 - Grandma, Jenn & Glen - giant hug (simply trace each child - this is a great gift for people who live far away)

    Grandma is also getting a set of coasters made with a kit she purchased for me to do with the children

    4 - Grandpa - Chocolate-Covered Cherries (recipe from Taste of Home Annual Recipes 2004 page 128)

    5 - Jay & Kate - oatmeal honey soap - finish & wrap cotton dishcloths knitted by RNM

    6 - Grandmommy & Granddaddy - laundry powder (recipe from Wholesome Home Book of Recipes and Household Formulas)

    7 - bake cookies for Jessica (my hairdresser) - Raspberry Pastries, Oatmeal-Apricot Cookies, Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies

    8 - drop off wedding picture negatives for reprints (I owe pictures of my wedding to several relatives, this is a very belated gift but still necessary, since I gave them all mini albums for precisely this purpose the Christmas after we got married)

    plus, make gifts for R. & E. H. (which I'm not going to post here, so they'll be a surprise) :-)

    9 - set up Christmas tree! (I can't bear the idea of cutting down a live tree and can't stand plastic ones so this beautiful metal tree is my compromise)

    also, kids will make cookies with Steve (Basic Sugar Cookies) at his request! :-)

    10 - begin paper chain (add a link every time a family member does a kind thing)

    S make walking blocks for Leah

    11 - Joe & Tommy, Carey (babysitter) - gourd birdfeeder

    12 - Leah & Rebecca from Natalie - play kitchen food (I am knitting these, she will help me stuff them with wool)

    13 - Natalie & Rebecca from Leah - Cinnamon Dough Ornaments - make extra to decorate other Christmas gifts

    14 - Natalie & Leah from Rebecca - Felt Balls

    make Green Tea Sugar Cookies for children to take to CMM Christmas party w/Gram tomorrow

    15 - bake cookies for Pastor Dan, Sunday School superintendents - Gingerbread Cookies, Black Forest Cookies, Carrot-Cake Cookies

    16 - make winter hats for Natalie & Leah using the GREAT Felted Hat Kit from A Toy Garden (this is an activity for the kids to do with Grandma since Steve & I will be out shopping for Leah's new bed)

    17 - RNM finish Jenn & Glen's quilted Christmas scrapbook album cover (this is a handmade gift I started last year...)

    gather books, toys, and clothes to donate to charity

    make hot chocolate mix for Carey

    18 - bake biscotti assortment for Sandy (family friend) - Pistachio-Raisin Biscotti, Almond-Ginger Biscotti

    drop biscotti off at Sandy's house, mail presents for Grandmommy & Grandaddy and Jenn & Glen

    19 - make felt mice for cats (pattern from Feltcraft), roll them in catnip

    20 - bake cookies for mail lady - Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps, Cornmeal-Cherry Cookies, Lemon-Currant Cookies

    21 - bake cookies for neighbors - Lime-Glazed Cookies, Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies, Date-Pecan Bars

    22 - Patty (Natalie's best friend from Sunday School) - Hardware Jewelry

    23 - make dog biscuits for Toby (Garlic-Cheese Dog Biscuits, also from ToH Annual Recipes 2004)

    24 - make cookies for Santa (Steve's picks are Outrageous Chocolate Cookies, Toffee Blondies, Chocolate-Chunk Cookies)

    hang stockings, leave out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa plus carrots for reindeer

I bought a bunch of tins and holiday boxes at Michaels in CT while I was in there stocking up on yarn for play kitchen food. So now I'm ready to regale my neighbors with Christmas cookies! (By the way, because of all the food allergies people have now, it's a good idea to include a recipe card for each type of cookie you make.) We just moved onto the street in April and haven't really met anyone. So the holidays are the perfect opportunity. I bought a cookie publication from Everyday Food at the grocery store last week -- here's the link -- and now I am good to go. I picked 18 recipes to try, ha ha. We'll see how that goes. I linked to all the ones above that you can find right on her website but you'd have to get the publication if you were looking for the rest. It's still on newstands. Or, just email me and I'll be happy to write it out for you.

And, yes, I'm ready to send out my cards on Friday! All I have to do is buy stamps. We got the portrait of the children taken the first week of November and I purchased the cards online. I got two assortments from the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- their secular assortment as well as their religious assortment. Since we have church friends now, it seemed like a good idea to have both. I've never done this before, I always get just one card and then I never know what to do with the leftovers at the end of the year. I don't want someone to be offended if they get last year's card. But this way Natalie and I can do the cards together and she can choose which scene she thinks each person will like best. It is a great deal, too, since you get 36 cards in each box. The set of two boxes is $29.90. Since some of the secular cards are blank inside they can double as thank-you notes. Spiffy!

* * * * *

Up, down. Up, down. I've just gone from happy to glum since my mother called to say that Jay and Kate want a membership to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum for Christmas. We were going to give them a felt ball kit, some knitted cotton dishcloths, and a gourd birdfeeder. I can't afford to also add in a $75 museum membership but now I feel bad giving them all these handmade gifts when I know they want something else. Bleagh.

* * * * *

School notes for today: In addition to Cooking (breakfast) and Nature (soaking our avocado pit, checking on the seeds from the cat grass kit) today featured Play, Helping, and Stories. Play , of course, is every day! For Helping we did two projects. In the morning Natalie sorted all the socks out of the clean laundry so I could mark them with our new system. This is brilliant, by the way. I read it in a parenting magazine. We already have all white socks for all three children (makes it easy to find a matching pair) with the age of the child printed on the bottom (they are from Old Navy). But since the children cannot read and do not know their numbers, every time we get ready to go outside they have to bring me the sock basket and I hunt through and dole out the pairs. I wanted some way for the children to know which socks belonged to which person without having to read. If I mark it with their symbols (N - heart, L - fish, B - butterfly) that won't work for long because their feet will grow and then the proper socks for them will have the wrong symbol. But I read about a simple dot system. One dot for the oldest child, two dots for the second oldest, and so on. That way, when the socks get moved down to a younger child, you just add another dot. Ta da! So I got out a sharpie and marked up the bottom of all our socks. The other Helping project all three kids were in on. That was washing the dog. He hasn't had a bath in... well, I'm ashamed to tell you. But today was the day! The book we read to introduce the activity was To Bathe a Boa by Imbior Kudrna. In the past, I have used What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best since dog washing is one of the activities in it. But the kids really enjoyed the adventures of a small boy chasing down his snake. The dog was bathed in the childrens' tub with Dr. Bronners eucalyptus soap (repels fleas). N and L hopped right in the tub with him. I had one washcloth and people took turns washing the dog. Becca wanted to get in but I wouldn't let her since I knew she'd start screaming the minute the dog licked her. So she stood outside of the tub and happily babbled and petted him. I know this soap is safe for the kids to have on their skin since plenty of families use the stuff as shampoo. It was recommended to me by another dachshund owner and we've had good luck with it. He's sitting on the living room floor now licking his paws. The kids are all down in the playroom having some free playtime while I cook dinner. Today is Chicken and Bulgur Salad. Monday we had Penne with Broccoli and yesterday I got into the holiday spirit and cooked a pseudo-Thanksgiving dinner. There were just too many good recipes in that issue not to try them! We had turkey plus Cranberry-Grape Compote, Chestnut and Apple Stuffing, and Fennel and Orange Salad. I even roasted the chestnuts myself since I couldn't find the jarred vacuum-packed cooked ones. Chestnuts can be found in huge barrels in the produce department this time of year. Grab some for your child's playroom -- they're a standard Waldorf toy -- or cook them. Here were the directions I followed:

    Cut an x in the round side of each chestnut.
    Spread in one layer in a jelly roll pan. Add 1/4 cup water.
    Bake in a preheated 450 degrees F oven for 10 minutes or until shells open.
    Shell and peel while they are still hot.

I wouldn't say they were delicious, since I discovered that I don't really like chestnuts, but I'm glad I had the experience. And I can understand why you always read in old books about people burning their fingers opening hot chestnuts -- they are full of steam! Happy Holidays :-)

* * * * *

By the way (and, yes, I'm still online planning for Christmas!) if you're looking for a rocking horse and discovered -- as I did -- that Magic Cabin's one is all out of stock, I recommend hitting the Babystyle website. They have an adorable lamb rocker, with a removable washable cover, as well as this Heirloom Rattan Rocking Horse, which is on sale for $59 and if you use the code "FSHIP2" you get both free shipping and $10 off (which covers the shipping surcharge for oversized items).

November 20 - This morning for "school" time we did Happy Thanksgiving cards and Leah's thank you notes for her birthday presents. Natalie did the three Thanksgiving cards -- I think Leah's a little too young to understand a question like "What are you thankful for?" Natalie's three were

    "I'm thankful for toys."
    "I'm thankful for turkey."
    "I'm thankful for my house."

We are sending them to my mom, my MIL, and Grammy since we won't see any of them for Thanksgiving this year. It's cute to see what they are thankful for at this age (this is the first year we've done it). Apparently my nephew Joe, almost four, dictated to his teacher: "I thank God for Daddy and Mommy, beer can chicken, and chips."

That anecdote was the hit of the birthday party; I think it's the cutest thing I've ever heard. :-)

Leah had five thank you notes to write and did a good job decorating the cards with stickers and dictating her thank you's. We decided to take her birthday money and buy her new pajamas so we're heading out to the mall to do that now as well as to pick up her portraits. Tomorrow we'll mail all the cards on our way out of town. This afternoon's school time ("Helping") will be packing for our trip! The kids love to choose their own clothes, books, and toys to take with them. I reduce the options first by setting out a pile of suitable stuff (no warm weather clothes... no toys which are fragile, have small pieces, or are too difficult to share) and they go to town packing their own tote bags. Natalie is very excited about the trip because she remembers the last one. In fact, I think I may let her help me pack the car. She was telling me all about it, everything that stuck out in her mind... "and the medicine chest goes under my feet, and then after dinner we change into our pajamas and watch a movie (our 30 minute Sesame Street DVD which they get as a special treat on road trips) and then it will be dark and time to go to sleep," and so on. I'm glad they're looking forward to it. I am too. Last time, I missed milking a cow by hand because I forgot to pack appropriate shoes for the cow parlor so I'm taking my mucky boots this time and plan to get right in the thick of it!

November 19 - It is early early in the morning -- 3:40 am. I can't sleep. :-) Leah's party went well and I completely crashed after making dinner and putting the kids to bed... now I'm wide awake. The birthday girl got to wear her butterfly wings and birthday crown, she looked so cute. My sister-in-law and two nephews made her a butterfly necklace out of pipe cleaners so she wore that too. Then later she changed into her princess dress-up that Grandma got her and we took plenty of pictures of that as well. So the day was well documented. My 24 cupcake caterpillar went over very well and was easier than cutting and serving cake. I ended up not doing feet, just one Twizzler cut in half for the two antennae and two M&Ms (M-side down) for the eyes. It was long too, took up the entire table runner length. I wasn't expecting it to be so large! The frozen fruit salad was good, and a hit with the kids, but it had to thaw a bit first before people could eat it. The directions said to serve it straight out of the freezer so I did. But directions aren't always right, you know.

I just finished writing the lesson plans for next week -- I'm getting a sub for my S.S. class. We're going to CT! So tomorrow is Sunday School, Monday we have to drive and get Leah's birthday portraits (Steve went all the way to the portrait studio this morning to get them so we could pass them out at the party and they sent him home with the wrong batch, I had a total meltdown. Pre-party is not a good time for me to deal with disappointment. But I got over it and we'll just send them tucked in the thank you cards which is just fine) so we can write and send out thank you notes. Then pack for CT. Tuesday clean out the fridge, drop off the dog, and hit the road. By the way, I had a hostess epiphany this morning (when my husband and I were arguing over whether $2 worth of ice for the cooler is a waste of money). Instead of buying ice and popping all the drinks for the party in the cooler, I moved all the extra food out of the fridge into our cooler (filled it up so no ice was necessary), scrubbed down the inside of the fridge (always a good idea) and put the drinks in it. Then I put a drink list on the front of the fridge and told people as they entered to help themselves. At the end of the day I am left with a super-clean fridge and no money was spent. You always clean things more thoroughly when company is coming and you're so exhausted at the end but hey... you have a clean house! I try to entertain once a month for exactly that reason.

I did finish Joe's knitted & felted firefighter hat before the party and was able to wrap it and sneak it off to his parents behind his back so that he can open it next week at his 4 year birthday party. We'll miss it unfortunately... the first one of my nephews' birthdays we have missed. But I'm very excited about our trip, even though I found out at my back appt. that I have a bulging spinal disk (in addition to the arthritis, ha ha) and should take better care of my back. So I have to get out of the car and move around once an hour. I guess we'll be stopping on the side of the road for that. Steve is upset but what can you do. It's already a long drive and he doesn't want to make it any longer. I can understand that, but I've been treating my back like garbage for many years and now it's catching up with me. I can't fix the bulge but I can keep it from deteriorating further too quickly. The doctor wants me to do physical therapy twice a week but I have no idea how I'm going to find a babysitter for that. My mom and MIL are already tapped to the max plus it will be Christmas time soon and everyone's calendar is full in December. I really have no idea how I'm going to work it out.

I'm going to try to go back to bed. I partly want to start making the December 1-24 schedule of giftmaking but I know if I do that I'll be up for too long and get too tired. I do know that our TY notes list has to be made and shouldn't take too long, so I'll indulge myself. :-) A card for everyone invited, with a portrait and either "we're glad you came" or "sorry you could not attend" plus thank you's to

  • my mom for the Pull-Along Zoo Animals toy
  • Betty for the princess dress-up costume (skirt, crown, boa, jewelry, the whole works! It's really cute)
  • GM & GD for the two books (Four Friends in Summer and K is for Kitten)
  • Jay and Kate for the butterfly necklace and a set of really cute little finger puppets, two fairies and a mermaid
  • Grammy for a cash gift, always appreciated. For that type of TY note you're supposed to say what you will spend it on, so I guess I'll have to give that some thought. Maybe a winter hat and a set of mittens.

We gave her the butterfly mobile from NN but no thank you note is required for that! :-) I'm excited to get her portraits on Monday and see how they turned out. All photographs are all still packed and in the garage so if we can manage to frame that one and the Christmas one and set them out somewhere, I'll at least begin to feel like a real family lives here. 4 am. I'd better get myself to bed.

* * * * *

Back again, later in the day. 12 1/2 hours later, actually. I wanted to quickly write something about yesterday's party. We had done the birthday ring and candles with Leah on her actual birthday, Nov. 14th, and I didn't want to confuse her by doing candles again at her party. I think each ceremony should have its own special place. And candles seem to work best for the actual rite of passage. But I know that people at a party want to sing so we borrowed an idea that they do a the Sunday School at my church which is a little song you sing to the child and then he or she drops pennies (one penny for each year of his age) into a jar. I thought this would be great for home use. We can have a huge jar of pennies and if every child does this at every birthday we can eventually do some great math activities with this! Like, how many pennies are in the jar altogether? How many have you put in the jar? When will you and your sisters alll together reach a hundred pennies? How old would you have to be before you had put a hundred pennies in the jar? How many pennies do you think the jar will hold? How old will everyone be when the jar is full? And so on. Here are the words to the song (sorry I have no way to transcribe the tune):

    [Child's name] has a birthday, we're so glad,
    We will see how many s/he has had,
    As we count the pennies we are told...
    Child drops pennies one at a time, audience counts one... two... three... four, etc.
    Yes, the pennies say s/he's [ ] years old.

    Then sing traditional "Happy Birthday to You" song.

I just used a big apple cider jar. It's a really cute little routine & Steve and I stood on either side of her and each held a hand while we sang to her. It made it special because none of the other guests knew the song, so it was a very personal moment. Then they all joined in for the big finish. It was also a good way for Leah to practice before we did it in church this morning. She just stood in front of all the kids and beamed, it was so cute! I was a proud mama, watching her drop those pennies into the jar. How time flies....

Ah, I found more information by Googling the text of the song. This song is called “Count the Birthday Money” (Little Voices Praise Him, No. 37) and is purportedly by Johnie B. Wood. Still can't find any online music though.

November 17 - Yesterday for school Leah and I made Cranberry-Oat Cereal Bars. They are like rice krispies treats but with cheerios and dried fruit. We used half a cup each of dried cranberries and golden raisins. Heaven knows how much sugar is in those things. The kids didn't like them... too sweet. So I'll pawn them off on my husband.

Last night I finally started complaining to my husband that we haven't yet painted a single room in this house and we moved in in April (with painting as my first priority). That's life, you know? But still, it is evident that nothing will get painted without a game plan. So we decided on one room a month, with me taking all three children to my grandparent's weekend cabin at the beach so Steve can work uninterrupted. I'm not sure yet how Sunday School would work, I guess I'd have to get a babysitter. It's next door to my mom's house so she's the most logical choice (sorry mom). She's a real trooper -- she's also taking our dog when we go away next week to CT. So the plan is November the small kid bedroom and Natalie getting a new bed for Christmas and getting her own room. December the large kid bedroom and Rebecca getting a toddler bed for her birthday in January and moving in with Leah. She can't room with L right now because there is no way to keep Leah from climbing into a crib. That child is three parts monkey. So a 2 year old and a 3 year old sharing a room???? I'll keep you posted! Probably one of them would fall asleep with us and then transfer after it gets dark. I think Natalie deserves her own room, though, without one of her sisters constantly getting into her "big girl" things.

So I pinned down a month for Steve to finish and paint the schoolroom... stunned to realize that we're not looking at finishing this thing until February. Started in September. It's just one room, not an addition (carved out from within a smaller room) with no closets or anything. Studs, sheetrock, paint... right? Wrong. Takes so long to do anything when you're a parent 24/7. It's not his fault. But I have been feeling so guilty that I'm not doing school properly, no designated space, all my supplies packed up, pretty much winging it, and here I'm supposed to be a good example to my Group members, but it looks like school will continue in a la-de-da manner until the room is completed and painted in February. So what I'll do (since I didn't really have a strong curriculum plan for these months anyway -- N is finished with the preschool series and I was originally going to have her overlap with L starting the First Year but L is still too young, N is left with the option of repeating units or going out on her own so we've been going out on our own) is not worry too much about it (ha ha) until March 10th at which point Natalie will get a schoolroom for her birthday and we'll jump into the Kindergarten series of units "Around the World". Making school start up again in earnest on her 5th birthday makes me feel better because it's a definite plan for one and because it's a logical date for two. And when the state comes nosing around to see what I'm doing, I'll be prepared with a space.

The next few days will be hectic hectic so I'm going to make some notes here to get organized. Today

  • tea party with Grammy 9:30 am
  • finish Joe's fireman hat & wrap it
  • doctor appt. 2:30 pm

Tomorrow

  • Steve pick up Leah's birthday portraits before her party, frame one
  • Steve buy additional drinks for the party, set up cooler and ice
  • RNM bake and frost 2 dozen cupcakes
  • RNM clean house!!!!!
  • Leah birthday party 2 pm, give Joe his present
  • write substitute lesson plans for S.S. 11/26

Sunday

  • teach Sunday School 9:45 am, turn in substitute lesson plans
  • mail Thanksgiving cards -- Mom, Betty, Grammy & Papa
  • grocery shopping
  • finish S.S. curric 1:2

Monday

  • make master list of Christmas gifts, plan online orders, organize craft supplies for RNM homemade presents
  • pack for trip (take projects to work on)

Tuesday

  • empty out and scrub fridge
  • take perishable food & Toby to mom's house
  • leave for CT 10 am

I've already made my grocery list and planned the recipes for before we leave (and something to have on hand for the day we get back). I have a cookbook called Cooking from the Cupboard which isn't fresh and healthy but it sure is handy! The recipes tend to be super cheap, too. So I chose three recipes (dinner Sunday, dinner Monday and Tuesday when we get back -- before I've had a chance to do grocery shopping); they are

    Dilled Tuna and Pasta Shell Salad
    Ham and Pineapple with Spiced Couscous
    Hawaiian-Style Chicken Curry with rice noodles

My complete grocery list for next week is, therefore:

    2 20 oz. cans crushed pineapple in juice
    ground cloves
    10 oz. box couscous
    2 5 oz. cans ham
    8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts
    2 9 3/4 oz. chicken
    2 6 oz. cans tuna
    2 2 oz. jars pimientos
    dried tarragon

Pretty groovy, huh? Steve is being really generous and giving me a complete week's worth of grocery money instead of prorating it so I expect to spend about $30 on groceries, a bit on food to pack for the trip, and the remainder to stock up the pantry in case of a winter storm or other emergency. I'm very pleased. Usually I get pretty stressed out about money (you should see the long lists I'm making to try to figure out Christmas presents) but, at least for next week, I'm A-OK in the grocery dept.

* * * * *

We just got back from visiting Grammy and the kids are down for a quick nap before lunch. I'm working on endless listmaking about Christmas, kid clothing for the winter, decorating budgets, etc. I was thinking when we pulled up to Grammy's house and the kids went running down a driveway covered with fallen leaves, laughing and playing, and getting warmed through in spite of the cold, that this is pretty fun. I have lots of great Mom-moments. But most of the time I worry. I worry that I'm not Waldorf enough. Lots of people experience this -- it's called "Waldorf guilt." You decide to get on board with the philosophy and you read all the books and each time you put a book down you feel refreshed and renewed and you have a vision in your mind of dry felting characters from fairy tales and having wonderful puppet shows, of grinding your own grains and cooking a different one each morning as a hot breakfast cereal, of having a day full of wonderful songs and verses to transition in and out of activities, of always remembering that your child picked you to be her parent and that you have a duty to do the very best you can to nurture this wonderful little soul that still has one foot on the doorstep of Heaven, to parent with love and let their will forces be... instead of micro-managing, nagging, and wondering what other people think about how your kids are behaving. Oh, I give myself a glorious full-on guilt trip about once an hour. And since I have this website and Waldorf newbies are checking out some ideas about how to implement the philosophy in their own home, I shouldn't even be writing about a book like Cooking from the Cupboard because using canned corn isn't Waldorf... unless you canned it yourself from corn you and your child picked together from the vegetable garden you have in your own back yard... then would it be Waldorf? I'm being a little bit tongue in cheek here. I mean, can't a can of corn still be Waldorf? Why are we always so hard on ourselves? I know, looking back, that my preschool program could be more Waldorf-y. I didn't know that at the time and I was doing my best. I try to make sure people understand that I left the units the way they were so they could encourage other people, that you don't have to be perfect, the goal is to just start and grow and learn from there. I have high hopes for my Kindy program, that it will be as Waldorf as I can make it. Fairy tales and songs and verses and puppets and recipes and so on. I'd really love to be the perfect Waldorf parent. I just wish I had taken the time before having kids to do all the teacher training. But now I have to work within the amounts of free time that I have to learn more. I am trying to do a ton of inner work on my anger (which comes mostly from being a very controlling person and it's hard for me to let my children go off and try things when I can see they won't succeed) and I do a TON of work on my marriage so my kids can grow up with two responsible loving adults who model a good relationship to them. I am still somehow in this place that I spend money each week buying more Waldorf books or toys, thinking that that will get me somewhere... when really it's a mental adjustment and I can make all the changes I need to make to be a better Waldorf parent for free. Starting with my daily schedule. I have a hard time remembering to do housework alongside my kids, and to let go of the housework sometimes (I already have a pretty messy house) to just play with them. I try to do school but planning school activities, unless I do it the night before, can end up being me off in another room trying to get organized for a "fun" activity while the kids sit down in the playroom, bored and lonely, waiting for me to spend some time with them. I'm in a different part of the house! Doesn't it seem to you that if I didn't worry about planning an activity and just went downstairs to play with them that that would be better? But I want to do everything perfectly and so I worry and worry and make all these lists of activities and games we could do and recipes to cook and really, if I just hung out with them more and relaxed, it would all be so much better.

My goals for 2006 were to do more journaling (which I am) and to make a quilt (which I did not do). This upcoming year I think I am going to work much harder on just spending time with my kids. I'd like us to do Art every day and we don't. I'd like there to be more singing and dancing. I'd like us to go outside every day and play or take a Nature walk. These are things I put in my schedule but don't do because of the number of hours it takes to just get them dressed, change diapers, feed them, and so on, so when the maintenance is done I tend to pop them downstairs in the playroom and I go sit down, exhausted. I think I will decide to not take on any custom unit design work next year (2007-2008 school year). I'd like to have more free time to relax. My husband says I am the most stressed out person he has ever seen. That's gotta affect the energy of this house! Not very Waldof of me...

So, here's my new daily schedule.

    RNM wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast with Steve

    7:30 am - kids wake up, get dressed

    8 am - kid breakfast, load and run DW (dinner & breakfast)

    8:30 am - kids play downstairs, RNM personal time to put my feet up (1/2 hour)

    9 am - play with kids and/or housework (kid friendly) 1 hour

    10 am - L/B nap (1 1/2 hr) - N schooltime (1 hour)

    11 am - make lunch

    11:30 am - lunch

    noon - outside play time, Nature walk (1 hour)
    remember, Madeline went outside each day, rain or shine

    1 pm - N/L/B nap (2 1/2 hr) - RNM housework (non kid-friendly) 1 hour

    2 pm - RNM personal time to put my feet up (1/2 hour)

    2:30 pm - RNM to-do list (1 hour)
    phone calls, mending kid toys, planning the grocery list, etc.

    3:30 pm - kids up, snack, load and run DW (lunch & snack)

    4 pm - family activity N/L/B
    (preferably an Art project. Or this could be Cooking, Helping, etc) 1/2 hour

    4:30 pm - independent play, RNM check email, write blog (journaling about the day)

    5 pm - make dinner

    5:30 pm - dinner

    6 pm - jammies, lay out clothes for tomorrow, brush teeth, stories

    6:30 pm - kid bedtime

    7 pm - start dinner

    7:30 pm - grown-up dinner

    8 pm - RNM personal time to put my feet up (1 hour)

    9 pm - shower, plan school/kid activity/to-do list for tomorrow
    to-do list activity can not be more than 1 hour

    Bedtime

That still includes two whole hours where I can sit and relax! I always thought people who used the phrase "me-time" were a little self centered and obnoxious, but now that I have three kids I can see where they are coming from. Also two hours of housework, which isn't bad. One with and one without the children.

Notice there is no time on here when I'm doing laundry. I still haven't figured that one out. I know I should do a load a day but when to put it in, transfer to dryer, take out of the dryer and fold and put away... I can't figure it out.

I also came up with a groovy housework schedule where I will go through each room of the house on its designated day and clean it thoroughly as well as organize, rearrange furniture, decorate, and so on. Flylady has you do zones (larger areas of the house) and work on them for a week at a time but I think a daily thing makes more sense to me because then I know that no area of the house is ever being forgotten. I have 14 areas (including parts of the outside) so it's a rotating two week schedule. Today is day number 12 which means I have to tidy up the downstairs hallway. It used to be that making detailed schedules stressed me out because I always felt behind but I have since decided that it's the only possible solution so I just have to keep making the damn things until I find one that works for me.

Anyway, those who know me know that I make endless schedules, plans, and lists to try to do a better job. I tried to reduce the housework and the amount of time I am on the computer or doing my own personal to-do things and just hang out with the kids more. We have a vacation coming up so that will be easy then... and hopefully I can continue it when we get back. Although I tend to get pretty stressed out at Christmas, making gifts. I'll just have to work on them in the evening when the kids are in bed. It is not healthy for them to be around an adult who is totally stressed out -- they can feel that energy. And, knowing kids, they probably think that it is their fault and that they did something to make me angry! I have to remind myself of that and just suck it up and get my act together. Speaking of which, it is time to go make lunch and play outdoors. Perfect parenting, here I come! (I'm kidding... I really did think that and that's why I typed it in... but that attitude is the very thing I'm trying to get out of my head... where does it come from? A question for my analyst. Good luck to everyone out there that is trying to get over perfectionism and Waldorf guilt -- I feel your pain!)

* * * * *

P.S. I just want to say that I've had several people email me lately and say that they enjoy reading my blog and find lots of great ideas in it. I really appreciate people taking the time to write. Thank you. :-)

* * * * *

Okay, I just went to get my kids up for lunch and found out that they are all asleep... so I'm going to take the extra time to transcribe some of my thoughts about Christmas and birthday presents.

I am placing three catalog orders for Christmas this year. The first is Nova Natural -- 11/25.

The second is Magic Cabin -- 12/01.

The third is A Toy Garden, which I was going to place with my homeschool money for 12/2 but Steve is letting me place early because Sonya just sent out a coupon code for $10 off any order of $100 or more. The code is good from Friday, November 17th to Sunday, November 26th at midnight. To receive the discount type in coupon code "Treasure" at checkout.

One of the things I saw at A Toy Garden which I loved is their Gnome Hideaway (one of their new items). When she turns five Natalie will be old enough for a dollhouse so this is on my list for her birthday gift next March (with the adorable Over the Rainbow gnomes). I previously was looking at the wonderful dollhouse at Nova Natural, which has a similar open design for pudgy little hands, but the NN one is much more expensive and I'd probably get sucked in to buying a bunch of the furniture and accessories. I'd like to save that for a large schoolroom expense once all of the children are older. This little gnome home would be something Natalie could just keep in her bedroom as a special toy.

I also have ideas about Rebecca's birthday, which follows shortly after Christmas. However, as my husband reminds me, that's no reason to give her fewer things at either occasion. That would just be unfair, considering that her other sisters who have gift occasions which are more spread out, get x number of gifts. So, keeping B in mind, I'm looking at Nova Natural's Small Rainbow Bowl Set and a Poppy Doll (which are basically the last of their oh-this-is-so-adorable, I-must-buy-this-for-my-baby things. I have nearly everything else. Gotta buy them now, she won't be a baby for long!) While I'm ordering that I'll probably also get a set of the Rainbow Step Blocks to have on hand in the school room for early math concepts.

That's all for now. Gotta get off the computer! When I have the list of handmade Christmas presents I'm going to have my kids make I'll post them and directions, in case people out there are looking for kid-friendly projects to do with their little ones.

November 16 - I get to take a break and drink some hot chocolate -- hurray! My mom has the kids at a family party since many of my relatives who flew in for the funeral are flying out today. She asked if she could take them instead of staying here with them to have lunch (she was lined up to watch the kids while I went to the back doctor) but with all the discussion and moving car seats, I ended up being late to my appt. and the staff all went to lunch. It's weird weather today -- unbelievably warm, very windy and rainy, tornado and flood warnings. I overheard at the grocery store that they are closing school early. So in addition to running late because of the babysitter thing, the weather caused me to drive slowly. So my appt. was a no-go. So I thought I could get some errands done with the extra time. I went to buy a gift bag and card for Joe, my nephew -- I hope to finish up his firefighter hat today. I did all the knitting and the felting and the shaping. Now it's just the embroidery to finish it off. I came home and they're not here yet so I get to relax.

I'm having a hard time relaxing, though, I have to say... because this weather has me completely creeped out. I keep feeling like I need a list of phone numbers to call or email addresses to write to so I can start saying to people "What are you doing about global warming????" My MIL works for the state of MD and she says that they don't even recycle at her building. Oh, they sort paper. But it all goes in the same dumpster! How can something like that be happening? Can I convince the people at church to switch to Seventh Generation toilet paper? Can't somebody do something? Can't I do something? I am watching CNN right now and the democrats are in charge, you know, now of the Senate... does that mean something is finally going to happen about this issue? Who do I call? Who do I write to? I wish I had more time to sit down and research this and find some answers.

For people who don't have it, the website that goes along with Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" is http://www.climatecrisis.net/. Did you know this movie is required viewing in schools in Sweden and Norway. And how much do you think those countries contribute to global warming??? Not half as much as we do!

Here's the website that helps you identify your representative in the House of Representatives. Enter your state and zip code and click "contact my representative." Mine is Steny Hoyer -- the guy who was just elected Majority Leader of the House (second in command) a few hours ago. Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House.

Email Nancy Pelosi

Email Steny Hoyer


Uncle Wally's memorial service was yesterday. He had stipulated in his will that there be no memorial or gathering of any kind, but the family felt it was important, I guess, so they did it anyway. There must have been 200 people there. They held it at the Community House and all my family plus lots of community members were there. There was some poetry reading and people stood up to tell Wally stories and share their memories. I found out a lot about his life that I had never known. I hate how that only happens after someone has died. He was an especially humble person, too. As someone said, it would be nice to celebrate someone's life like this while they are still alive... but if we had done it, Wally wouldn't have come. :-) He voted by absentee ballot in this past election even though he was in the hospital and almost too weak to write. Such a strong sense of civic duty. Makes me feel like a real jerk for not voting. I kept thinking I was going to somehow figure out how to contact the right people and get a new voter card, updated with my address, and then one day I looked at the calendar and realized Election Day was the previous day. We moved so many times in the past two years that I guess they lost track of me and I never got one of those little cards you are supposed to take to the poles. Still, it's my responsibility to follow up on it. And I didn't. So that's my I-feel-like-a-shmuck moment for yesterday. Plus I realized that I hardly even knew him and we lived half a mile away from him for most of my life. I guess you just take people for granted when they live near you, but you make a tremendous effort to visit people who you care about that live far away. Anyway, I guess I'm pretty bummed out about the whole thing. Especially because we didn't get to visit him in the hospital. He was in for about a month but I kept asking people if we should visit and they kept saying, well, he's pretty weak. It wears him out to have visitors. But I knew in my heart that I should go. Asking people and having them tell me no just pushes the responsibility off onto them. Now I can say, well, I asked Janet and she told me not to visit. But that's ridiculous -- when you have a relative in the hospital you visit them. Period. So I feel like a real jerk. I was scared to take my kids in, what if they act up? What if it scared them? What if I go visit him and he looks really awful? What if I don't know what to say? I don't want to stand there in awkward silence, looking a sick person I hardly know, wondering how long I have to stay before it's okay for me to go... but all that is just excuses. I should have gone and now I never can. And it's my own fault.

November 13 - The plan this morning was to wait for the eye doctor to call to say that my new glasses were in, go and pick them up, and continue on with some other errands such as checking the mail (in case Gateways has arrived) and buying paper goods for the party (I'd love to do real dishes and silverware but we've invited a ton of people so there's no way... we only have five plates! One for each member of the family. What more do you need? But sometimes at times like this, I wish I had more dishes). So I called the nice people at Doctors on Sight and the glasses aren't here yet so we did morning playtime instead (Natalie helped me make the Frozen Fruit Salad for Leah's party so that's done and tucked away neatly in the freezer), had lunch the kids are down for a nap and everything errand-wise is on hold. I've been cooking all morning to get some recipes taken care of. I always panic that ingredients are going to go bad. Finalized the menu for tomorrow's birthday dinner. It will be Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Apples and Onions, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, baby turnips (from the farm) and turnip greens (frozen) with Impossibly Easy One-Bowl Pantry Chocolate Cake. That's the recipe I always turn to when I have to conjure up a dessert out of nothing. I had picked a Plum Upside-Down Cake but no plums at the store. That's the problem with using recipes out of season. So, anyway, I'll put this recipe here and you can tuck it away for similar occasions.

    Impossibly Easy One-Bowl Pantry Chocolate Cake
    **no milk, no eggs**

    In a large bowl, combine 3 c. all-purpose flour, 2 c. granulated sugar, 6 T baking cocoa (unsweetened), 2 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. salt. Mix dry ingredients well.

    Add 2 c. water, 2/3 c. vegetable oil, 2 tsp. white vinegar and 2 tsp. vanilla extract.

    Beat on low speed 1 minute. Beat on medium speed 1 minute. (That's what the directions say -- we just mix it by hand.) Pour into greased 9 x 13 baking pan.

    Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean.

Ta da!

* * * * *

I just ordered Cat in the Manger by Michael Foreman and The Last Straw by Frederick Thury to beef up my collection of Christmas books. I'm working hard on my notes for the second quarter S.S. curric. Hope to have that done soon. However my MIL and my maternal grandparents will be here tomorrow for Leah's birthday dinner so I'm probably in for about 25 hours of intensive house cleaning! GM & GD have not seen our new house yet; this will be their first visit. So there's a lot of pressure there. By the way, if you're a bit fan of The Last Straw (which we are reading for Epiphany) Bas Bleu also offers a Hoshmakaka Toy (a stuffed camel, the character from the book). So cute! It's in their clearance section so grab one now. $6.90.

Eye doctor called to say my glasses are here so it's errand time. 1) pick up my new glasses. 2) mail photocopies to custom unit design customer. 3) check for my package from Bella Luna Toys. 4) buy paper party goods. 5) optional: grocery store to pick up some more milk. I don't think we can actually run that many errands -- the kids and I tend to tire after a while. Maybe I'll have Steve stop on the way home to get some milk. My package from Nova Natural just arrived with the candles and birthday ring ornaments for Leah's birthday celebration tomorrow night. All I have to do is make final decisions on stories and/or verses for the special day and I'm all set. Every time one of my kids has a birthday I always wish I had a page on my website where I put together all the birthday ideas and resources... maybe this year I'll get it together and create one. I'd love to have one for each holiday/festival. P>

* * * * *

So, my Gateways book from Wynstone Press arrived and I'm pretty disppointed in it. Oh, it's a fine book of lullabies and fairy tales, but the Birthday section, which I was most interested in, is pretty thin. It has the same Birthday Anticipation poem you can find in A Child's Seasonal Treasury and Festivals Family and Food. There are a few birthday stories but I prefer the one in Beyond the Rainbow Bridge. Beyond the Rainbow Bridge is also my favorite because it includes a birthday story for an adopted child, which I think it an important thing for teachers or parents to have. So, in short, we are doing the Birthday Anticipation poem tonight when I tuck her into bed and the birthday story from Beyond the Rainbow Bridge (p.146) when she wakes up. I'll have the birthday ring on the table with fresh flowers in the little white vases and we can look at how beautiful it is all day and then when our guests come for the birthday dinner we can light the candles. It can glow all through dinner and then Leah can make a wish and blow out the candles before we eat our cake.

We did all the errands -- ended up being out of the house from 3 pm to 7 pm. Instead of going to Factory Card Outlet for party goods I picked Target because they have paper stuff, real dishes, and gallons of milk... all of which we needed. Even though I had planned to buy paper cups, plates, and napkins for the party day, I realized that I also need real dishes for the birthday dinner. My mother, my mother in law, and my grandparents are all coming tommorrow night. Thus the need for four more dinner plates and four more dessert plates. I get all white china so that everything matches even if the shapes and things aren't the same. Kind of like a diner. :-) That makes it much less stressful when a kid drops something on the floor and it smashes. Plus I can pick up extra pieces at any store, even WalMart. I do augment it with handmade pieces from art shows when I can afford them. I like plain white dishes but colored serving pieces. It's easier to store a variety of serving pieces for the different seasons for the year then to get out all new dishes every few months. Anyway, so we got some white dishes and pale pink plates, cups, and napkins plus white cutlery for the party. I found a table runner on which to display our glorious cupcake caterpillar (light green with a pink velvet ribbon border and embroidered flowers -- I had wanted something green so it looked like he was walking on grass). That was at Target too. So all in all, a successful trip except for the fact that the birthday girl is totally tired out. We've been putting them to bed at 6:30 pm lately with the time change.

By the way, here is the Birthday Anticipation poem:

      When I have said my evening prayer
      And my clothes are folded on the chair
      And Mother [or Father] switches off the light,
      I'll still be ____ years old tonight.
      But from the very break of day,
      Before the children rise and play,
      Before the darkness turns to gold,
      Tomorrow I'll be ____ years old,
      ____ kisses when I wake,
      ____ candles on my cake.

      author unknown

A Child's Seasonal Treasury also has a lovely birthday song on page 5 but unfortunately I can't read music so I have no idea how it goes. My grandfather and grandmother both can read music and sing in their church choir, so maybe I can pull the book out tomorrow and have them teach it to us. That would be a nice birthday gift -- teaching the children a new song.

November 12 - Well, I have some sad news to report. My Great-Uncle Wally died at about 2 am this morning. We didn't get a chance to say good-bye; Steve and I were going to go over in the afternoon after church. He just went so quickly, much sooner than expected. So that's a bit of a shock. He donated his body to science -- he was part of a gerontology study at Johns Hopkins University -- so there will be no funeral, just a memorial service to offer condolences to the family. Sometime Tuesday or Wednesday, it hasn't been decided yet. I'll take the kids. I don't think anything there will be scary. I haven't told Natalie yet. I don't even think she knows who he is. He was at the party Janet had in October, for my mom and grandmothers' birthdays, but overall the children rarely see him. However, I do have to say something to her at some point since we'll be going to the service.

* * * * *

On an unrelated note, while researching books for the Sunday School curriculum, I searched for "Roy Wilkinson" (one of my favorite Waldorf curriculum writers) on Amazon and found some hits! What really caught my eye, though, was a So You'd Like to List on the left-hand sidebar: So you'd like to... Understand Unicorns as an Archetype. Fascinating. I'm including the link in case anyone is a unicorn fanatic and would like to check it out. Gotta go. The dishwasher just finished running so I have to go make dinner. Stuffed Chicken Cutlets and baby turnips (from the farm). Next week is our last farm pickup for the year, by the way. Growing season is over. It makes me sad; it was a nice weekly routine even if it was an incredibly long drive.

* * * * *

Now I'm on eBay searching for mohair yarn (an entire category on eBay, which is lovely -- find it here) to make little yellow ducklings for the Heifer International project. Magic Cabin made a really nice knitting kit for Easter with a duckling pattern and some really cute fuzzy yarn. Unfortunately it's no longer available so I'll have to find another supply for the yarn. Not that it's necessary to buy the entire kit just to get the yarn, of course, I'm just saying that it's my job to find more. So let's see what we have... 890 items found in Mohair Yarn today! 29 when I put "yellow" as my search term. 61 additional listings in eBay Stores, though, so I'm sure I'll find what I need. Store listings are put in order by price, too, which is really handy.

Well, I'm having a hard time knowing if it's the weight and texture I want. Maybe I'll start checking some local stores first. I guess buying yarn online should be a last resort. I'm really excited about teaching the children to knit, though. I'm going to knit some ducklings myself for our Heifer project, while the kids make their animals out of other materials, and then tell them I am going to teach them to knit just like I do. It makes it more interesting than, hey, does anyone's grandmother here make them sweaters that they hate to wear. :-) I always try to avoid making clothing for other people becuase it always is so hard to get the fit right. So anyway, I'm going to head over to Microsoft Word now and try to knock out the rest of this Sunday School curriculum. It drives me nuts when my head is spinning full of ideas and I just want to get them down on paper and organized!

November 11 - Today is Saturday so no school as such. Steve takes Saturday to knock off the things on his to-do list and has different children help when he can. This morning Natalie and Leah helped install a new baby gate downstairs. Now he is taking N to his mother's house for some projects there. She is selling her house so we get a bunch of stuff. Including some new living room furniture, hurrah! This evening we are all going as a family to the Italian Dinner at our church. I'll stay after to work on the bulletin board display so some of the Sunday School work can be seen in the rest of the church. I'm so pleased with how the days of creation paintings turned out and can't wait to share them! I had a bunch of stuff I wanted to write... can't remember it now. Oh, I know!!!!

I had one good "mommy moment" yesterday that I wanted to talk about. I have been having a T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E time eating breakfast in the mornings. Ever since I had my first child, which was 4 years and 234 days ago, I have never eaten breakfast first thing in the morning. Usually it's between 11 am and 2 pm. So this has been driving my husband crazy because he wants me to take better care of myself. I get up, the kids need stuff, and I just go into Mom mode, you know? When I get up earlier, they get up earlier. For the past two weeks I have been getting up at 6 am. I figured I would be tired but it would be worth it because I would have protected personal time in the morning. Maybe I could even learn to take a daily shower. Ha ha. But no dice. The kids just began to wake up at 6. I am not sure why. I think it is just like what happens with the dog. My husband wakes up and moves around getting ready for work and the dog doesn't whine at him. Steve does not equal food in Toby's mind. But as soon as he hears my voice, Toby pitches a fit. The children also sleep through Steve getting ready for work but wake up when I stir. Anyway, for the past two weeks I have been low on sleep and still not getting breakfast in the morning. Yesterday I had a brilliant thought. I remembered a lecture by Penni Sparks where she said you should make things into great ceremonial rewards. Like, her example was a child who is constantly irritating her mother by trying to hand her her empty sippy cup while mom is trying to keep both hands on the wheel and drive. So Penni's suggestion was to get one of those pockets that hangs over the back of the seat in front of you but instead of saying in an irritated voice, "just put it in the pocket will you?" to make a big to-do about it by having a special ceremony (before getting into the car the next time) and say with a grand voice

"Now that you are two and a half...
you get to use the special carseat pocket...
and when you are done with your juice...
you may place your cup in the special pocket."

And so on. I wish there was a way I could let you hear her voice when she says that. I love that advice and it has totally stayed with me. My husband and I listened to the CD together (it is one of the ones from Waldorf in the Home) and we both can just call that parenting strategy back up by saying "Remember what Penni said?" and adding in a magestic voice "Now that you are two and a half... " She is the best! I really recommend all of her stuff. She says that human beings love ceremony. Kids really respond to it and it makes the parenting strategy one of reward not punishment. You can even light a candle on behalf of the occasion. So anyway, I remembered that I had an old clock radio with an alarm setting where, when the alarm went off, it turned on the radio. Instead of an annoying beeping sound. so I put it in Natalie's room (I was initially going to put it high on a shelf but I know they'll just climb the dresser again to reach the top closet shelf so I may as well put it where they can look at it up close and satisfy their curiosity) for naptime and set it to some quiet classical music and just told her it would help her fall asleep, just like when she was a baby. Then about two hours before bedtime I called her in and set the alarm and told her that it was a special radio and it would come on in the morning all by itself and play music to let her know that it was morning and time to wake up. This way, I explained, she wouldn't get in trouble for coming out of her room too early. Then I told Leah that Natalie's special radio (which is only for big girls) was going to come on in the morning to let them know it was time to get up and Natalie would come and get her. So if she wakes up and Natalie hasn't come in yet to say that the music is playing, she needs to lie in her bed and wait. And I got this idea from a parenting magazine where a mom gave her four year old an alarm clock which lit up (I think it was a plastic cat or something) so she would know it was time to get up. Anyway, this morning Leah got up and went potty and then went back into her room to wait for the music. Natalie didn't come out at all except to call out to Leah that it hadn't come on yet. And then all of a sudden, right at 7:30 Natalie calls out all joyfully, the music came on all by itself! She ran to get Leah to show her. And I went in and we looked out the window and said our morning verse with this wonderful soft classical music in the background... it really made the moment special. I don't know why it is so hard for me in the mornings to get up, get dressed, and eat. But partly I wake up and I'm already stressed out that they are going to come leaping out of their rooms to ask for food as soon as they hear me so I'm tiptoeing around in my own house and I know I have no chance of getting to eat a quiet breakfast... they are kids, you know? And I need to realize that if I want quiet time to eat it is my own responsibility to make that happen, not to blame them. But always being on edge that someone is going to start yelling at me to feed them (they don't really yell at me, but I feel like it, I feel like I just never get a moment to myself first thing in the morning) has made it that I can't sit and relax and have some cereal. So now that I can predict when they will get up, instead of being on edge, I have a spot of time reserved for me. And if you're wondering why I don't just eat breakfast with them, I'll tell you. Somehow when I try to eat with my children, I never get anything to eat. I'm always hopping up to pour milk, or to get someone a napkin, or feeding the baby by hand (depending on the food) and then I'm helping people get their clothes on, changing diapers, and going down to the playroom with them to get them set up with a safe playspace -- I always have to make sure the laundry room door is locked as well as the backdoor -- and somehow I just never get to eat until they are done with their morning routine and all downstairs playing in the playroom. So trying to carve out a niche of time in the morning, when I can predictably anticipate that no one will be calling on me to do anything, seems to be the solution. I have to say, if anyone out there is a first time mom, or expecting, that it is important to do this from the get-go. Because if I had learned how to have breakfast four years ago when I only had one child, I wouldn't be struggling to much now to train myself to take time for myself.

Anyway, that's my shining moment of parenting glory for today. :-)

Tomorrow is my grocery shopping day. Leah's party is the 18th and we will have it at 2 pm so just simple cupcakes, fruit salad, and drinks (apple cider, milk, water, and sodas. I love the Izze sodas which are sparkling fruit juice -- good for the kids but still a special treat). All the recipes I'm doing this week are from a back issue of Everyday Food, the September 2006 issue. It has a recipe for basic Yellow Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting. We'll also decorate them with sprinkles so it looks more caterpillar-y. I'm getting string licorice for the feet and antenna and an M&M for the eye. 24 cupcakes will make quite a long caterpillar so I have to get some kind of decorative table runner to display them on. I have no platter long enough. The other recipe I'm serving with the cupcakes is Frozen Fruit Salad. I see that most of the recipes are online, not that one though. For the 10 recipes for the week we will do

  • Stuffed Chicken Cutlets
  • Roasted Cod with Potatoes and Olives
  • Buttermilk Baked Chicken with Spinach Salad
  • Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Apples and Onions
  • Shrimp and Tomatoes over Soft Polenta
  • Broiled Polenta with Mushroom Ragout
  • Tortellini with Peas
  • Cranberry-Oat Cereal Bars
  • Peanut-Butter Apple Muffin
  • Plum Upside-Down Cake

I have never yet been able to master polenta but I'm determined to try. I also still have the ingredients from several of last week's recipes, most notably the Apricot-Pecan Scones which I definitely want to make.

For Leah's actual birthdate (November 14) I still have to make definite plans. I ordered the birthday ring candles, and the ornament for this year, from Nova Natural. But special stories, songs, etc. I still have to put together. I purchased the "Gateways"book from the Wynstone Kindergarten series, which is their special birthday book, but haven't yet received it. Maybe I should go check the mail this afternoon. Anyway, I'll post verses and such when I pick them in case other people don't have this book. With Natalie's last birthday I told her the birthday story in Beyond the Rainbow Bridge at bedtime (the night before she turned four) so maybe I will get that out and see if I want to use it again.

* * * * *

Well, I'm sorry to have to say that my family just got some bad news. My grandparents drove from Illinois out to Maryland to visit for a short time but have stayed on because my grandfather's brother got sick... he has been in the hospital for several weeks. He was moved out of intensive care and up to the 4th floor of the hospital which is transition and there have been family meetings about whether he can go back home with live-in care, or needs to move to a nursing home, etc. I called Grandmommy today to see if they expected to still be here Tuesday, which is Leah's birthday, and to invite her to the birthday dinner. She told me that Uncle Wally has been given one week to live. I'm stunned. I can't believe it. Now, I do have a book about death in the children's pile of books for this week because I try to throw one into the mix every other month or so. My mother never talked to me about death at all and the first relative to go was when I was 17. I didn't go to a funeral until I was 25
(I was out of the country when Nonny died. She was 104). And that was Steve's dad. Then my Aunty died three days after Rebecca was born and that was the first hard one for me. I didn't want my kids to have death come as a sudden shock for them so I've carefully collected a list of books to have on hand about death, which show it as a matter-of-fact circle of life kind of thing. It's an Amazon list called "books for the grieving child". I add to it whenever I find a new one. Now, the latest addition to this list, and our library, is called Blow Me a Kiss, Miss Lilly by Nancy White Carlstrom. It is about a little girl who is best friends with the old lady across the street. They spend all their time together and always say good bye by blowing kisses, their special way of saying they will always be friends. When she dies, the little girl is sad at first. Then she goes to visit Miss Lilly's garden the following spring and sees all the flowers blooming and it is so beautiful and she is just so happy, she calls out "blow me a kiss, Miss Lily." The final page of the book says simply "and I know she did." Now, this is a very nice book but doesn't make much sense unless you believe that people you love go up to Heaven when they die and live with the angels who watch over you and take care of you. But I have read this book to Natalie several times and she never asked me about it. She did today. So I took a deep breath and, knowing that Uncle Wally is about to pass and we'll likely go to the funeral, told her about people going up to Heaven when they die. Now I feel like I should bring out some angel books and take that one away so we can just read a few books about, basically, the next step in the process. So it looks like I'll be spending some time compiling a list of books about angels. Here are the ones which come to mind so far. I'd be very grateful for additional suggestions.

Also, Guardian Angels by Rudolf Steiner (that's for me to read).

* * * * *

I just thought of something else, too. When Rebecca was about to be born we made a present for her, which was an angel mobile (listed here as a silk fairy mobile). I had the angels hung up over the baby's crib (which is in Natalie's bedroom) but we took them down because we were talking about painting. But maybe this is a good time to nix the painting -- not that it looked like it was going to happen any time soon -- and hang the angels back up. Natalie and Leah are both old enough to potentially be freaked out by this, but N is much more of a sensitive child and I think will have a harder time dealing with it. She's a melancholic. Wish me luck -- I just really want to handle this well!

November 10 - Well, Wednesday's school went just as I had planned and N loved the globe but I think I made it too academic because she was really confused. I mean, the story about how the earth rotates and that causes sunrise and sunset was too much. That was my error. I could have simply taken her on a Nature walk and then said, "Look down at the ground. See how the earth looks flat under your feet? But did you know that it is so so big that, actually, the earth is round like a ball? I have a picture of it. Come inside and see." and then just shown her the globe. Anyway, we didn't do the food or anything yesterday, because Steve stayed home from work so I could get my MRI for my back and to get new glasses (purple!) and there was no school. Natalie did go with him to the airport to pick up my mom last night which she really enjoyed although they got back late (10 pm) and she was exhausted. I like that she got to see some real airplanes though and she was thrilled at all the luggage. Apparently my mom got a fuschia travel set, so she could tell which suitcases were hers, and that just made Natalie's day. This morning we went to tea party (moved the time up to 9:30 am because 3 pm kept ending up in the middle of someone's nap time and I always had to wake up a child to go... plus when I gently suggested it I found out that 3 pm was in the middle of their naptime too so it wasn't working out all round). We'll definitely go play outside this afternoon -- it is supposed to be over 70! It was warm in the morning so we parked at the end of Grammy and Papa's driveway and walked (it's a long winding path through the woods) which was cool. Becca found an acorn with a root starting to grow out the bottom of it and that was really neat. As we watched, a tiny worm burrowed its way out of the center of the acorn, making a perfect round hole in it, and then dropped off onto the ground. Off to eat another acorn, I guess. I suppose this means that acorn has the meat eaten out of it and can't, in fact, grow into a plant. I'll still take it in to Sunday School for my kids to see, since we read a book about an acorn's life (In a Nutshell). This week I am finally ready to give my S.S. kids their book box for independent reading so when I get the booklist worked out I will post it. Since none of them had read any of the Little House in the Big Woods series, I thought I'd put those in there. I also got up this morning and planned the menu for Leah's party Saturday and the grocery list for next week so I'll add that here in a little bit. All the recipes are from Everyday Food so I can usually link to their online versions so people can try them. I don't know how many people click through to all these links but I love creating them so hey, why not. Got to go for now... I have to go help Natalie clean up the playroom before lunch.

November 7 - The theme for today's lists is presents. Christmas present suggestions, plus what to get Leah for her birthday. I have two theme-related ideas. One is the Threading Caterpillar from Rosie Hippo's. Age 3+. $29.95. The other idea is the Butterfly Mobile from Nova Natural. That would be a nice decoration for her bedroom but would hang from the ceiling so she wouldn't really be able to play with it. It is $26.90. I do have to place a NN order anyway, to choose a new birthday ring ornament. I have been trying to get a set of plain white vases and then several which represent each child's specific birthday year, which means an ornament which corresponds to the theme of the party. Turning 1 is the same for all of them (the angel) but then the kids start to get into their themes and remember them. Luckily NN has a butterfly standing ornament. I just lucked out with that one. So I'll definitely be ordering from them. I'd also like to get some Window Crayons to be a party game/favor (there is only one other family with kids coming, that is my brother and his two sons, so I'd only need to buy two sets of crayons). I nixed the idea of a large butterfly collage and a stringing caterpillar bead toy. The collage will be messy and there are too many under-3s attending to do a project with wooden beads -- a definite choking hazard. Might get some of the felt beads from Magic Cabin, though, anyway, and do some kind of project with my own kids using them. They are super-cute!

Today was a pretty laid-back school day. You remember how I was in a turmoil about whether to do a theme on my mom's trip to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia? If it would be too academic... yet it is so timely, how can I not do something? Anyway, I skipped it and then yesterday she sent a postcard from Luang Prabang in Laos. So this morning I decided to follow up on it a bit and looked for a book about flying in an airplane. The only one I could find on my shelves was The Race by Caroline Repchuk, which is a bit lacking in the text department (it will basically make no sense at all to a child who doesn't already know the story of The Tortoise and the Hare) but does an excellent job of illustrating nearly every mode of transportation known to man. So we read that and then I showed them the postcard she sent and read them what she wrote on the back of it. Leah is too young to understand anything other than Gram is far away, but I think with Natalie I may at least introduce the concept that the earth is round like a ball. Tomorrow I will read her (not L) The Day We Saw the Sun Come Up by Alice E. Goudey (an excellent book about the beauty of the sun rising, very poetic, and also has a science component where it covers the earth turning at the end of the book, they talk to their mom about the sun coming up and she gives a scientific explanation -- I've never read her the part at the end before -- it talks about sticking a pin in a tennis ball and turning it around and around in front of a lamp). Then I'll show her a globe. I think we'll talk about the globe for a bit and leave it at that. My mom will be home Thursday and Steve is picking her up from the airport. I wonder if I can have him take Natalie with him -- she'd be really excited to see the planes and to see Gram with all her luggage, etc. I know my mom has presents, too, because she wrote that she purchased some silks for the children. I'll have to check with Steve about whether he is willing to take N Thursday evening. Her plane gets in at 8:20 pm so it's a bit late.

After our "lesson" the children helped me make lunch. They both worked together to set the table and then washed the cherry tomatoes in the sink and added them to the plates. Great fun! I always forget to include them in the housework -- I mean, I try, but I still fall short -- but when I remember it is always so rewarding both for them and me.

* * * * *

I'm sitting here thinking about Leah's birthday party and planning my NN order so I know the total in advance and can save up for it and lo and behold, when I unpacked the box with the birthday ornaments in it, I found an elephant figure that my Aunt Janet brought back for me from Cambodia. We actually have a lot of Cambodian stuff because she has lived there for many years. Since that is one of the countries my mom is visiting, lucky for me! It is a highly decorated wooden elephant figure with joints and puppet strings. So now I am doing some homeschool planning in advance (sometimes I come on to dry spells so I just pick a book off the shelf and then follow up on it, or try to observe the kids to see what they are interested in, and sometimes I'm full of ideas and you can't stop them from flowing out. Funny) which backfires on me sometimes because I don't keep to my planned schedule and then I get depressed. Like a few weeks ago. Right after I wrote Hibernation and Migration I slipped into a deep funk because I had all these great ideas but didn't do very many of them and I get really mad at myself when I don't live up to my own expectations. I am writing this in case there is someone out there being mad at themselves because I do all these great things with my kids and they feel like a slacker. Believe me, I plan more than I do. But the planning pays off because when I suddenly have a bunch of energetic kids on my hands, I've got some ideas in my head. However, I do sometimes really get depressed that I'm not doing a good enough job. So I am a bit leery of planning homeschool too far in advance these days. (This will not be the case for the academic years, where you have to be more highly organized, but I AM trying to be more laid back for the preschool years.) That being said, I think we'll cover the world being round on Wednesday and do something about elephants on Thursday. Then Thursday PM we'll get my mom from the airport. My elephant ideas for Thurs. are running something like this:

I'm not sure about The Elephant's Child for Leah, as it's a bit old for her, but I don't have many elephant books. I have a TON of books on my shelves but never am satisfied! I could use the library a lot more but 1) my kids chew on books and constantly destroy them and 2) I usually want a book about 4 1/2 seconds before school time starts and I have to have it here. I can't drive up to the library to look for books every time something dashes into my mind. Plus I have a terrible time finding books at the library because they are organized by author as opposed to how I think of them which is like, books about cooking food, books about a mommy loving her child, etc. Also there are a lot of absolutely terrible books flooding the shelves right now (at least by my snobby and antique standards) and most of what I pick up is garbage. It takes me 20 minutes to find ten books I'd like to read to my children. Have more luck at used book stores. Anyway, the other elephant book I know and love is Bashi, Elephant Baby but that one takes place in Africa which I think would be too confusing for her. I guess The Elephant's Child does too but it is not so obvious. If I can think of any stories I have which are set in Indo-China I might substitute them. I'd just like them to get the feeling of another place. Hmm...

The travel agency sent a lot of information about the area Mom is visiting, including about the cuisine from the region and when I was planning on going into it more I was thinking about trying to cook some authentic recipes, or at least to experiment with the tastes. Let me go upstairs and see if I can find it.

* * * * *

Okay, distraction. While on my way out of the room, my eyes fell on Favorite Folktales from Around the World, edited by Jane Yolen (a recent purchase -- one I'm quite happy with) and I'm flipping through the Table of Contents. I see here one story only from that region. It is called "The Fly", from Vietnam. So that's a definite possibility. I'm thinking now, too, about some kind of elephant toy I could make, a pattern shomewhere, something we could do together and then they could play with to act out stories with elephants in them... the thing Janet gave us is not really a toy, it is more decorative. I wouldn't let them play with it unsupervised. Here's a knitted elephant pattern somewhat badly translated from Japanese, but still worth it for fun. I can't possibly take on another knitting project right now though. Oh well. I have to focus on making Christmas and birthday presents. Okay, what was I doing?

Oh, looking for the cultural information papers.

* * * * *

Okay, here we go. I didn't write this folks, this is from the nice people at Travel Designs Associates.

  • Cambodia -- a typical Cambodia meal consists of a bowl of steamed or fried rice mixed with bits of fish and seasoned with chilies, mint leaves, and garleic, and will be accompanied by a soup. There are also cold salads, such as phlea sach ko, which is a beef and vegetable dish flavored with coriander, mint leaves and lemon grass -- the three main herbs in Cambodian dishes. Other dishes which they mention by name here are sam la, tuk trey, an sam chruk, khao phonne, trey aing, trey noueng phkea, trey chorm hoy, trey chean noeung spei. I see from this (and the description of the dishes) that trey must be the word for fish! It says the fish likely will be from the Tonle Sap -- Great Lake. French gastronomic influence is still in evidence, particularly in the form of fresh French bread in Phnom Penh and other towns.
  • Laos -- Lao cuisine is distinguished by the use of such herbs and spices as lemon grass, chilies, ginger, and tamarind. The staples in Lao cuisine are sticky rice (kao niao) and fermented fish (pa dek), often laced with a fish sauce. Since refrigeration is less widely available, beef (water buffalo) and pork tend to be rather expensive and do not show up as often on restaurant menus. As in Cambodia, Lao bakers are well able to produce delicious French bread. Also available here, as in Cambodia, are such distinctive fruits as: custard apples, durian, jack fruit, mango, mangosteen, papaya, pomelo, rumbutan, salak, tamarind.
  • Viet Nam -- Vietnamise cuisine is light and is based on rice, fish, and fresh vegetables, using subtle seasonings, raw herbs, and unique flavor combinations. Little oil is used in cooking, except for deep frying. healthy soups such as the tasty canh chua thom ca loc (tamarind mullet soup) are featured on restaurant menus, fresh fruit and delicious home-made yogurt are often served for dessert, and drinks like freshly squeezed sugar cane juice are widely available. Other specific dishes listed are cha gio, chao tom, pho, cha dum, ban zeo, nem ranh, bi cuon, goi cuon. It says here tea is the de facto national drink in all three countries, usually without sugar or milk.

So there you go! I have already spent every dollar of my grocery money for this week but I do have some rice noodles and coconut milk on hand... I wonder if I can conjure up one of these recipes? Let's search for a bit.

Okay, not so far, but I did find some information from worldsurface.com about the food and drink in Cambodia which includes (and I quote): "More elaborate meals include barbecued shrimp, roasted sunflower seeds and such delicacies as pong tea kon (duck eggs, which are eaten just before they hatch) and chong roet (crunchy cicadas)." Yoiks. I don't know that I could eat a cicada, at least not knowingly. Perhaps we can simply have some steamed rice and tea. I'm sure I can scrounge up a few quarters to buy a mango to go alongside. It doesn't have to be fancy. If the kids were in third grade or so then, yes, we should prepare an entire authentic meal. But it doesn't need to be that complicated at this point. Here are some Thai recipes. But she didn't go to Thailand. You can also find a bunch of Thai stuff on the supermarket shelves because I got a lot, thinking that was one of her destinations (which is why I have rice noodles and coconut milk). However, I don't think as a teacher I should just blur over and knowingly feed them something from a different country because "it's all the same"... that's not okay with me. If the foods do overlap, that's fine, but being sloppy is not to be tolerated. Goldmine! Cambodian Cooking Class Recipe Links. Lots of links to online recipes, plus they recommend The Elephant Walk Cookbook, which is available from Amazon. Hmm... I might get it. I got better luck googling "traditional Cambodian recipes" than the actual names of the dishes. So there's a little tip for you if you're planning a unit on a foreign country. I actually will be starting a series with Natalie when she turns five which is more specific about different countries around the world. I'll be doing a ton of online research for that. I think it will focus on the foods of the country, some regional folk and fairy tales, holidays and festivals, the animals which live in the area, and maybe a bit of the language. Also, of course, the games that children play there. And handwork projects. Should be fun!

So the plan is, for lunch on Wednesday, some simple rice noodles cooked with coconut milk... also we will have mango pieces, yogurt, and tea.

November 6 - Looks like my old list-making gene finally kicked back in. This morning was a great session of school -- we cleaned the playroom first, then played bean bag games, read the book for the day which was On the Day You Were Born, and then headed upstairs to make birthday party invitations. I had already planned the wording and written the inside of each card while the kids were having their playtime. Since we were sending out 8 invitations, Natalie and Leah each got to make four cards. Two butterfly stickers on the outside and one small one on the inside placed where it wouldn't cover up the writing. They both did really well following the directions. Each child got one sheet of stickers and there were 13 on each sheet, so they could put the last butterfly sticker on their sticker boards for doing such a great job. Leah has a sticker board going right now for staying dry (success in potty training at last!) and Natalie has one for not sucking her thumb. These high-falutin' boards are nothing more than the large pieces of cardboard you get inside each box with your Amazon order. Works like a charm, though. My mom donates the stickers. Each girl knows which board is hers because we have them labeled with the same symbols we use to distinguish which water bottle is which... N has a heart and L has a fish. This is the way Waldorf preschools identify napkins and things for pre-readers. After school I sat down and made my weekly menu and grocery list and after lunch we will head out to mail and/or hand deliver various invitations and do a bit of grocery shopping. I have found that I can do 10 recipes from scratch in a week. Anything more and I just get way too behind on the dishes. This week's batch is

  • Tacos (not that that's really a recipe)
  • Chicken Broccoli Divan
  • Corn Bread Squares
  • Prune Pudding
  • Cocoa Mochi
  • Parsnip, Eggplant and Cashew Biryani
  • Apricot-Pecan Scones
  • Cold Spiced Peach Soup
  • Black Bean Salad
  • Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Off to have lunch! N helped me make Glazed Squash today... looks yummy. I hope the kids like it.

November 5 - Today is Sunday. I had a great Sunday school class -- we read Exodus 20 (The Ten Commandments) and it seemed to me that the commandments really hit home more when the kids each had to read one word for word out of the Bible. I guess hearing people talk about them and seeing them on posters isn't really the same thing as reading them for yourself. These kids are from pretty religious families but sometimes I get the impression they've never been asked to read their Bibles before. It seems to mean quite a lot to them. They were all completely silent when I read the story of Noah and the Flood, although I know perfectly well they all have been told it. But seeing it in the Bible gives it a different kind of feeling. Then we talked about what each one meant and I read them a chapter from Little House in the Big Woods called "Sunday", about how strict social rules used to be about observing the Sabbath. No work of any kind meant walking everywhere (can't hitch up the horses) and eating cold food (can't cook). The children weren't even allowed to smile or laugh. I always loved that story, though, about Laura's Grandpa and the pig getting stuck on the sled and squealing all the way down the hill. It's hard to sneak out and secretly play on the Sabbath when something like that happens. And of course it lent a little humor to the seriousness of the long list of rules I was reading them about how children had to behave. I sometimes feel like I live on a different planet from modern children -- perhaps I do -- none of them had ever heard of the book although they knew about the television series. They didn't know they were memoirs of a real person and that she wrote several books about her adventures of a child. So that added a different dimension to it, I think, for them. Reading about how Sunday used to be through the eyes of another child. We also worked more on our figures for the Ark. Last week I gave them clay to practice the animal they wanted to make. Today and next week is modeling beeswax. They absolutely loved it. Even my ADD kid, who made moose roadkill with his clay last week, buckled down and make a figure. Something in beeswax speaks to children, I think. It's lovely to see them hard at work. We also talked about meeting or exceeding our personal goals for the aluminum can drive since November is the last month for it. December will be the start of a new quarter (I've got to finish writing the curriculum for that) and it will be Heifer International in December and teaching the children to knit in Jan & Feb.

I had been meaning to write about what our family did for Halloween. We don't do the trick-or-treating part (no costumes, no candy, no walking around the neighborhood) but I've tried to come up with some things we can do to celebrate the season that are less materialistic. I found a lot of great ideas in The American Girls Handy Book. If you're a homeschooler I really recommend getting this book -- it is from the Victorian era and packed with directions for projects and crafts. There is also The American Boys Handy Book, which would be good for third grade since it talks about building shelters, setting traps, and so on. Anyway, we painted pumpkins and bobbed for apples for our family's Halloween activities. I'd love to drop some molten lead in water to tell our fortunes when the kids are older. I just think that sounds so cool. Lead being toxic notwithstanding, my husband assures me that nearly every handyman has some around the house. I guess you use it for something still? Not my area of expertise. So, back to the subject at hand, the pumpkins (my husband stopped on the way home from the farm pickup to get pumpkins and since it was Oct. 31 they were all marked down to $5. We got some huge ones!) were done with tempera paint. I had some powdered paint so I mixed up a bit of blue and a bit of red and gave the children each some cotton balls instead of brushes and they slabbed the paint on. N and L mixed their paints but Becca just did her whole pumpkin in red. Steve and I each did a pumpkin too. Then we set them outside and had dinner; afterwards Steve demonstrated bobbing for apples and then the kids tried it. He got dripping wet but they didn't because they are too little to have the water so deep that they can put their head under it. So I had two apple bobbing stations. Theirs was a shallow bowl with some water in it -- trying to grab an apple with your teeth and not using your hands was challenging enough -- and ours was the inset from my crockpot which is deep and black, with quite a lot of water in it and just two apples floating. Steve and I both got pretty wet. It was a lot of wholesome family fun and I filled my camera up with pictures... if I can just get them off the camera and onto the computer I will post some. The camera and the camera bag are both sitting here on the desk right now. It's just a question of getting organized. Ha ha.

Speaking of getting organized, it's starting to be crunch time for my personal list of homemade Christmas presents. I need to get all my projects done in Nov. so that in December I can focus on helping the children make theirs. I made a list of draft present ideas but I need to go back now and make some final decisions. I have a pad of graph paper here right beside me so I can get started on that. I have a closet full of potential Christmas presents that have been piling up (I like to grab things when they are on sale) so between that and my ideas for handmade gifts, I really have a lot of listmaking to do.

Tomorrow for homeschool with N & L will be a bit of a mixed bag. I got a lovely set of flaxseed stuffed beanbags from Kelly of Sunshower Kisses so I think we'll do some M&M activities with those. Then we have to make the invitations for Leah's birthday party and drive to the post office to buy stamps and mail them out. I went to the craft store today and found a box of 50 decorative cards with envelopes which are specifically meant for cardmaking. I mean, they are made of a stiff and patterned paper, so they already have color and look pretty, but you can keep going and add your own embellishments if you want. I found some butterfly stickers in the clearance section and did the math... each card will get three buttterfly stickers on it. Which is perfect since L will be three. So tomorrow I will write the invitation wording on the inside of each and the girls can wallop them with stickers. I know they will really enjoy that! For a total of $11.50, I got a really good deal. We only need 8 for invitations and there are plenty leftover for thank you notes and invitations and notecards for other occasions. I even checked to make sure the color palette of the stickers would coordinate with the card fronts. So I think we are good to go! :-)

November 3 - Back again. Just finishing up a custom unit for somebody. It is nice to be on the computer without pain. I did break my glasses today, though, so I do feel a little seasick as one lense is off-kilter (they are temporarily taped back together). It has been slanty and wobbly for a while but just snapped in half this morning. I guess now I'm firmly in the realm of nerdy chic. Anyway, I wanted to get on here quickly to say that we had a super great school lesson today. It was Natalie and Leah together and lasted about an hour. 40 minutes of which was cleaning up the playroom so we'd have a calm space for school. Then we read The Wiggler by Lisl Weil which is unfortunately out of print but a great book if you can get it. About a frog which falls into a vat of cream (while trying to find a princess to kiss him so he can live the cushy life of a prince) and frantically swims and wiggles all night long, waking up in the morning to find that he is sitting pretty on a pat of butter. It's a great book for introducing butter making and you can put a small pebble in your jar to be the "frog" as you shake it all around. Anyway, we opened the lesson with that story, then (expansion) hopped and wiggled all around the schoolroom. Then (contraction) I passed out watercolor paper (small sheets) and colored pencils (my favorite twig pencils from a Toy Garden) and they drew their frog hopping and a-wiggling. Lovely large arm movements, lots of circles and squiggles. Natalie drew a square to be her frog but L didn't imitate her. I think N was inspired by one of the small tiles inset into the table. Then I passed out the watercolor paints (the homemade ones, find the recipe in the Preschool Color unit) and N chose purple and L chose green and they painted the cream all around their wiggling frog. N painted her entire page but Leah wasn't that coordinated. She had a great time though. The paintings came out really nicely. Natalie's is a blue squiggle with a purple background. Leah's is an orange squiggle with a green background. Then we had snack and I hopped Leah into bed and Natalie and I walked the dog. We did a lot of housework today as a family since I am catching up, due to my back being out of commission, and my MIL came tonight to babysit so hubby and I could have date night. So N & L and I Swiffered the living room, dining room, kitchen and hallway. Loaded and unloaded the dishwasher twice. Sorted and put away all the clothes -- both sofas were stacked with clean unfolded laundry. We walked the dog several times as well. It was a nice day, very slow paced and relaxing. I have a highly detailed and ambitious new daily schedule which I will post here in a bit. Right now I have to go to bed since it is 11 pm and my new schedule has me getting up at 6 am! That's a new thing because, I'll be completely honest, I love to sleep in and the kids always woke up before I did. Steve felt that I was starting the day "behind" instead of "ahead" since I'd have to get up and take care of them first thing, not myself, and didn't get a regular shower and NEVER got breakfast until about 11 am. So now I am forcing myself to get up before they do and I've never been so tired... but it's amazing how many hours there are in the day! Anyway, I'll put my schedule here for anyone who might be curious. Good night!

November 1 - I have been off the computer for a long long time due to a back injury. Things seem to be getting better though. I hadn't been able to drive anywhere or really do anything with the kids so there has not, in fact, been much to report. Today is the peak of the fall foliage here in Southern MD (in my opinion) so we did enjoy seeing some leaves as I drove Natalie to her final session of Kids in the Kitchen, her cooking class. In the afternoon we went outside and played which the kids loved. Becca walked around finding things to put in her pail. Leah climbed up on a stump and jumped off of it, endlessly. Natalie found a log which reminded her of a horse (even with a knothole at one end that looked like a mouth) so she rode that and fed it grass and things. Tomorrow is Leah's portrait appointment for her 3 year birthday, which isn't until November 14th but the appointment was scheduled around when I could get a babysitter. She is very excited about her upcoming birthday. Janet left town yesterday on a 6 month long consultancy position in Thailand so no more dance class for Natalie. I guess soon the Winter calendar of events for Parks & Rec will arrive so I can decide if we want to do another quarter of classes and activities or just stay home and keep a low profile. There will be a lot of handmade gifts to make when December rolls around, and with a birthday in November and one in January, we already have a lot on our plate. Then again, it's good for them to get out of the house. My back is starting to twinge so it's off the computer and out the door to do some grocery shopping. Hopefully I'll be back more regularly to start blogging again. I do so hate being injured. It's frustrating to me when I can't do the things on my to-do list. And, as everyone knows, making lists of things is practically my life! Guess it's time to slow down and smell the roses. :-)


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