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


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.


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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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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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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Around The House

Around the house this week;

A thunderstorm made a small lake at the bottom of the driveway

Lake Driveway

Ronan figured out how to carry something while walking

Ronan Walking

The kids had a picnic in space

Space Picnic

We picked up our first CSA share of the season


The strawberries ripened en masse


And I mixed up a bottle of my “all purpose” cleaner. I don’t really use it for all purposes, but it’s really good for just about any hard surface. I use it in the bathroom for counters, sinks, mirrors, and the outside of the toilet. In the kitchen for pretty much everything. In the rest of the house for wiping tables, washing windows, mopping floors and spot cleaning as needed. I guess that is pretty darn all purpose. And it couldn’t be simpler.


All Purpose Cleaner

1 cup white vinegar

2 cups water

5-10 drops tea tree essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a container of your choice and mix well. I use a squirt bottle and mix it directly in there. (in all honesty, I don’t really measure anymore, I just eyeball it with the right ratio)


What’s happening around your house this week?

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Lesson Planning

As we head in to summer I am trying to get a jump on planning for next school year. We school year round, 9-10 week terms with 2-4 week breaks in between, so 4th grade will resume in a couple weeks. We likely won’t start 5th grade until the end of September.

I’d like to use this space to reflect weekly on what worked well for us this year, changes we need to make, and what we might try for next year. For instance, we are considering purchasing a curriculum for the first time. Up until now I have created our lesson plans and activities myself, with some input from my dad, based on the subjects Elena is interested in.

Each year we tackle a science and a historical period, in addition to writing, math, art, and handwork (sort of like crafty home-ec time). This year we also added French, and had planned on studying piano as well but that sort of fizzled out.

Elena chemistry 1

Elena’s 4th grade studies have been nothing like mine were (anyone else remember that Oregon Trail video game?) with the possible exception of times tables. Ugh. I still don’t like them, and I already know them. Fortunately for both of us, Elena picks up math more easily than I ever did. For our math studies we use worksheets from the same curriculum that the public schools here are using (they’re available for free online) combined with math games and “real life” math. The real life math involves any area of life where math is useful and/or necessary. Scaling recipes up or down. Budgeting for a toy or activity. Creating a quilt pattern.

So for us 4th grade has been these areas;

Math: multiplication, division, place values and decimals, geometry

Science: chemistry (not my strong suit, but she’s enjoying it)

History: Rennaissance Europe, we’ll be looking at Tudor England also

Writing: essays and reports, calligraphy

French: focusing on vocabulary and basic phrases

Handwork: mostly cooking and embroidery, but other stuff too

We made some changes part way through the year in how we structure our lessons/days. Elena asked for more control over her studies, so in many areas she is doing more independent work. Which fits nicely with having a new baby in the house, I’ve been pretty distracted. But I feel also runs the risk of schoolwork not getting done or mama getting out of touch with what she’s working on.

Elena will be completing her final project for chemistry over the summer. She’s working on it with her daddy. Their assignment is to build some sort of vehicle that is powered by a chemical reaction. They’ve started by testing how energetic different chemical reactions are, we may do some graphing with that data, and will be moving on to design when we finish our summer break.

One of my struggles as a teacher-parent has been how to teach a subject that I am not personally familiar with. It hasn’t been as much of an issue when she was little, I can cover the basics easily or pick them up quickly enough to pass them on. Now that she’s older though, and interested in all the details, it becomes more of a challenge. Which is one of the reasons I’m thinking of purchasing a curriculum for next year. On the other hand, she is intellectually able to understand quite advanced material (high school/college) so maybe I can let her teach herself from textbooks and such. Sort of point her in the right direction, and then try to keep up. It’s something I think will evolve as she grows and her interests change.


Are you a homeschooling parent? What works well for you?


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In January my sweet baby girl turned 10. Ten! How did that happen? We celebrated with a kind of over-the-top Harry Potter themed party. It was not at all pinterest worthy, but still quite fun.

casting incendio

This week Ronan will be one year old. Our celebration will be much more low key, but no less heartfelt.

Ronan's first present

Each one is a celebration of the milestones of the past year, the possibilities of the year ahead and the continued joy of their presence in our lives. I’m also celebrating myself a tiny bit – I made that! I got through another year of this heartwrenching awe-inspiring thing called parenting!

I’ve noticed that these celebrations have become the mileposts of my own history as much as theirs. I tell time by the years of their lives. BC – before children, AM – after motherhood. And more specifically – the house we had when Elena was 5, the job I started when she was 3, our wedding when she was 8.

It fascinates me to think of them doing the same someday. How will they mark the passage of time? What associations will endure? What birthday traditions will they cherish and carry forward?

I tell Elena the story of her birth every year on her birthday. This will be the first time I do so for Ronan, and I wonder what will be different? Elena and Matt were both there when he was born, and their memories of it are perhaps clearer than mine. Maybe it will be a family affair – we can each tell him of the night he came into the world and we first held him. I think I’d like that.

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

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