Adventuring

Some days, if you want a nice moment to remember you have to create it yourself. I’m not sure where I got this idea, it may be a pearl from Ma Ingalls, but it seems to hold true. If I’m having a bad day, consciously choosing to step aside from whatever crap is getting me down so I can create a positive moment helps. Even if the moment is doing something nice for someone else. Just taking that moment, putting on some emotional blinders if you will, improves my mood. It brightens my outlook on the rest of day, sometimes it alters the course for those around me as well, and if nothing else – at the end of the day I can hold on to that happy little moment and let the rest go.

We have been having some – lets say less than fun – days lately. Just getting caught up in the endless round of chores and errands and cooking and naptimes. It can be too easy to lose sight of the rest of the world, or to focus on getting a thing done rather than the doing of it. So Sunday morning when we got a late start and we were all feeling kind of hurried and grumpy, I decided to step aside from the to-do list and create a positive memory for the day.

trimet bus

We went on what we call an “adventure”, which is really just a grand name for an unplanned outing. For the first time in a year I went further than a couple blocks from home with the kids, and without Matt. And it was great. This sounds like a little thing, but I can’t drive and we don’t live in a very walkable neighborhood anymore so it’s a bit more of an effort than it otherwise might be.

Ronan's first bus ride

Ronan had his first (and second) bus ride, Elena got to choose our direction, and I got some much needed practice saying “yes.” It was so nice for all of us. And we didn’t really do anything special. We took the bus downtown, visited Pioneer Courthouse Square, grabbed a deli sandwich and had a picnic at Shemanski Park, windowshopped, checked out the statues and Benson Bubblers that are dotted here & there, visited the central branch of Multnomah County Library, and bussed it back home. Simple. And yet, with no plan and no time table, wonderful.

Elena with bears

My favorite part may have been the cavalier feeling of deciding to go, then tossing a few things in the diaper bag and just going. (hooray for grab & go snacks!) Or maybe it was being able to really listen to Elena, to watch Ronan delight in new faces and places, without distractions. No screens, no undone chores, nothing to stop me from just being present in that moment with them. For less than $20 (bus fare, a sandwich, some juice, and some postcards just because) I had a great afternoon and so did the kids. The dishes may get washed a little later, the weeds may be a bit taller before I yank them, but it was so worth it.

kiddos picnicking

Not only did it make the day better, it was good practice for me. I can go out with the kids by myself. And I really should. So now I know, and I will be planning accordingly. Or maybe just adventuring.

Ronan eating Elena at the library Elena reading skyline Mama and Ronan await the bus

 

How do you perk up an otherwise crummy day?

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Around the House

Around the house this week;

I found the first tiny green tomatoes

tiny tomatoes

The hydrangea started blooming

hydrangea

The zucchini tripled in size, seemingly overnight

zukes growing

The kids played in the back yard while I (finally) got a little weeding done

kiddos in the sun

I organized Ronan’s toys to make room for his birthday loot

organized toys

We lowered the mattress in his crib, to prevent him falling out and cut down on the jabs to Mama’s face during the night

Ronan sleeping

We got cherries in our farm share, but ate them all before I could get a picture. And Elena spent most of her time in her room, reading. She’s soaking up as much free time as she can before we get back to school next week.

 

What’s happening around your house this week?

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Elena’s Breakfast Cookies

I’m sure I’m not the only mom who needs to keep quick, easy, healthy snacks on hand. Preferably easy enough that the kiddo can get them  without making a mess of the kitchen. I prefer not to buy packaged foods, especially snacks, if I can make them myself. It took a while for me to figure them out, but these have become our go to snack food for Elena. She has an iffy appetite and can’t eat gluten or sugar, so finding a snack she can eat happily and often has been so nice.

I got the idea for these from Smitten Kitchen, but decided to come up with my own recipe rather than tweaking hers. These are only sort of cookies, and could certainly be breakfast, we like them best for snacking. They are kind of chewy and just slightly sweet. I like them because they have protein, whole grain, fruit, no processed sugar, endless variations, and unlike store bought breakfast or snack bars I know exactly what’s in them. Elena likes them because they are nutty and sweet, and because they’re “good for you” she can have them whenever. They lend themselves well to grabbing on your way out the door or kiddo getting their own breakfast while Mama is lazy in bed. (not that that ever happens around here)

Breakfast cookie ingredients

Elena’s Breakfast Cookies

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup honey (for a sweeter cookie double this or sub regular sugar)

2 eggs

1 cup oats (I use quick oats, but whole rolled should work just fine)

2 1/2 cups almond flour *

1 cup inclusions (this is any nuts, seeds or dried fruit you like, chopped small. This batch has 1/4 cup each of almonds, walnuts, raisins and black currants)

Optional; 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and/or a dash of cinnamon

 

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together honey (or sugar) and melted butter. Beat in eggs.

Whisking

Stir in oats and almond flour one cup at a time. Add the vanilla and cinnamon if using.

Mixing cookie dough

Mix in the inclusions of your choice.

Cookie inclusions

Using a soup spoon, drop balls of cookie dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Then flatten them slightly with the back of your spoon.

Cookie squishing

Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, until the edges are starting to brown. Cool on a rack for 10-20 minutes then store in a airtight container. These will keep at room temperature for a few days, to keep them longer store them in the fridge.

Breakfast cookies

 

What is the go to snack at your house?

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Lesson Planning: Ancient History

One of the subjects Elena most wants to study next year is ancient history. She is currently fascinated by ancient Greek & Egyptian history and mythology, and also the Roman Empire. This is helped in no small part by Rick Riordan’s books that modernize traditional Greek, Roman & Egyptian myths for young audiences. (I think they’re fab) It also doesn’t hurt that one of our favorite tv shows to watch as a family is a documentary style archaeology program from the UK. They talk a lot about Roman and pre-roman history.

I think it’s great that she is so interested in these subjects and I want to encourage her to continue learning about them. (she’s already teaching herself to read hieroglyphs) I’m wary though of the tendency we have of taking a really Eurocentric view of history. There is a big world out there. Most of it has been influenced by European and American colonialism. But much more pre-colonial history survives than I was ever taught in school.

school on floor

I want Elena’s understanding of world history and human culture to be broad and well rounded. Euro-American history may be “ours” genetically and culturally but the history of other peoples, and other places, is just as important. If not more so.

I’m thinking of including study units on the history and culture of ancient China, ancient India, the Mayas and Incas, Persia, and an assortment of pre-colonial north american groups. I’d like to include some African history as well, beyond Egypt, but honestly I don’t even know where to start looking. That will take quite a bit of research.

As much as I want to include cultures from all over, I need to be careful not to try to cover too much. This is one of the areas I continually need to seek balance when planning lessons. Trying to include enough material, but not too much. Trying to encourage Elena’s interests, and also introduce new material. It can be a difficult tightrope to walk especially as her interests change.

Last year we focused on US history, mostly 1600-1800, and it was a lot of fun putting lessons together. Elena and I both particularly enjoy thematic lessons, ones that combine different subject areas along the same subject matter. For instance, one of our Handwork lessons was planning and cooking a four course meal. We found and used recipes from the American colonies circa 1750. The research was almost as fun as the cooking. The resulting meal was tasty and also a good springboard for conversations imagining what life would have been like in colonial North America.

Greens with eggs & oranges

That is one part of my reluctance to buy a ready made curriculum. Now that Elena is eager to take more control of her education, we might really enjoy putting together activities for the different lessons. It is undoubtedly more work to do it that way though. We have had less opportunity to dig into the subjects we’ve covered this year, for various reasons, and I miss it. It will take some serious family discussion to sort out where our priorities around this are for the coming year.

 

How do you decide which subjects to cover? What areas do you seek balance in your homeschool?

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A Letter to My Son

A Letter to Ronan on his First Birthday

My darling boy,

Here you are, at one year old, in the midst of so many changes. In the last year you have utterly transformed both yourself and our family. All for the better my dear.

You adore your sister, and she is completely smitten with you. The two of you can nearly always entertain each other. You love it when she reads to you, or chases you across the living room, or holds you and dances around. She likes to share her toys with you, make you laugh and comfort you when you cry.

Elena and Ronan dancing

You have a special bond with your daddy – based on reading books, enjoying time outdoors, and being very silly together. You miss him when he’s away at work, and always ask for him when you wake up. You have an unfortunate tendency to yank on his beard. He loves you anyway.

Matt and Ronan reading

You called me “Mama” for the first time just a couple months ago, and it made my heart melt. It still does, every time. You want me to hold you when you are sleepy, or hurt, or scared, or hungry, or sometimes just because. You like it when I sing to you, when I kiss your round little tummy, when I let you “help” in the kitchen. I love it when you nestle your sleepy head on my shoulder and wrap your arm around my neck.

Mama and Ronan playing

You’ve been getting more comfortable eating solid food lately, and drinking water from your own little cup. Your favorite foods right now are sugar snap peas, cherries and plain yogurt. It used to be avocado and strawberries.

You’re also getting steadier on your feet. You like to walk as much as you can while holding on, but you will only take a couple of steps after letting go.

You love to watch trucks go by and sniff the flowers in the yard. Every day you want to walk down to see the neighbors chickens, you call them “caca”. You just learned how to dance, and have started wordlessly singing along when music plays.

It is so fun to see you learning, growing, discovering every day. Every day you make me laugh, tug my heart, show me the world anew through your eyes. Thank you for bringing such joy to my life. My dear little boy, I love you so.

– Mama

Ronan opens presents

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Gratitudes

This week I am grateful for;

 

Someone to lean on

Leaning in labor

Lovely friends

DeMara with Ronan

 

Supportive and empowering midwives

Carrie and Kristen

The joy of watching my daughter become a sister

Elena holds Ronan

This first year with my precious, stubborn, silly, mischievous, sweet little Ronan

Ronan's first bday cake

 

* These pictures (except the last) are from a year ago, when Ronan was born. I’m feeling again the love and gratitude that swamped me then. He is a lucky boy to be surrounded by so many loving people, and we are blessed to have him here.

 

What are you grateful for this week?

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Simplicity

We are celebrating the Summer Solstice today. I had some grand ideas of ways to celebrate. Special foods, craft activities, hand made gifts. Much of that did not happen. The kids each got a few gifts. We ate a delicious (though fairly normal for us) breakfast. We’ll have a little crafting and outdoor play later. Simple.

The best part about this is the kids are enjoying it – and so am I. Each year I let go of a little more of my expectations for perfect pinterest-worthy holidays. And each time I do, we all enjoy ourselves a little more. It doesn’t take much to make a day special. For kids who aren’t accustomed to a big pile of stuff at each holiday, a few new things chosen or made with love is just as exciting and fun. (and possibly appreciated even more)

It may be that the most important aspect of celebrating simply is this – when I am less stressed, we are all more relaxed. We are more able to enjoy ourselves and each other. More able to be present in the moment, to appreciate the little things. We all have a better time.

splashy pool1

splashy pool2

splashy pool3

So this solstice I am celebrating the sun, the cycle of the seasons, and also simplicity.

 

How do you like to celebrate summer?

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