Sunday, December 28, 2008

Time Space Continuum or How Come It's Only Sunday?

As free-flowy as our days are, as unscheduled and non-demanding as we keep our time, I still almost always know what day it is and kind of what time it is. Part of that is the things the girls have going on throughout the week - on Monday, Bekka gets together with some friends, on Tuesday, Steffi plays with music with Suz and Bekka tries to go dance at the Celtic Session, on Wednesday we have GS and Bekka teaches private lessons, on Thursday we have Irish Dance classes and Bekka goes to Out & About, on Friday we go to Homeschool Central at the Boys & Girls Club, Saturday is Teams day in Portland, and on Sunday Steffi goes to RE.

These steady activities form the framework of our week and would help me to remember that today is, in fact, Sunday. But a couple of weeks ago everything just stopped (well, except Bekka getting together with friends). I'm sure it is a welcome change for those who are always running around trying to fit in work and school and more activities than we would ever want to try to do in a week. I'm sure they want a total break from all the craziness for just a few weeks. But I don't like it! We like our regular activities - that's why we do them! We like seeing the people we see at these activities - that's another reason we do them. I miss our friends we see through these activities - and it seems like most of them have gone out of town. Sigh.

So sometime about halfway through the day yesterday, I started believing that it was Sunday, not Saturday. Last night I asked Bekka where her friends were meeting "tomorrow" and she said, "you mean the day after tomorrow". "No, today is Sunday," I reply. Both Bekka and Steffi tell me that no, it is Saturday. I had to look at the date on my computer before I could believe them.

Then, as I was waking this morning, I was thinking of the things I need to do today, as if it were Monday. It wasn't until after my shower that I remembered that today is Sunday, not Monday. I guess I just don't do well without the framework! I feel as if I am just floating through time with no grounding. I'm sure I will need more reminders throughout the day to stay in Sunday and not float off to Monday. It is almost an out of body experience.

I guess I'm not as free-flowy as I thought I was. I thought I had come so far from the CPA I once was who kept track of time in six minute increments. Okay, yeah, I have, but I guess I still need the framework to know where, in time, I am.

Friday, December 26, 2008

“What you remember is not what they think you will remember”

I am currently reading “Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral” by Kris Radish. I’m about three quarters of the way through it. I almost didn’t make it past the first chapter – some crazy banter about a woman morning the loss of her favorite bra – but I’m oh so glad I did. Every couple of pages there is an amazing line, or paragraph, or thought, or reflection. It will make for some interesting blogging, I think.

So for today, I’d like to share this from page 14:
Katherine thinks then for just a moment about her mother and she has the same pangs of regret, of missing, of loss, of suffocating sorrow. She allows herself to slip an inch down the wall, humbled even now, all the months, eight of them, following her mother’s death. The grieving, she knows, never ends, and all that will remain is the miracle of love. And she holds on to that miracle as if to save her life for the time it takes her to steady herself, to smell, without the reality of it, her mother’s scent – a fine mix of Dial soap, some ancient Avon product, garlic and Tide – her mother always used Tide.

“What you remember,” Katherine reminds herself, “is not what they think you will remember. It is often not.”

What memories are we making with the people we know right now, today? We usually think about making memories with the big things – the trips to Disneyland or the monumental Thanksgiving feast each year. But when you think about someone close to you, who you’ve lost, what is it you remember about them?

When I think about my mom, who has been dead for over 14 years, it is all the little things that I think about. Bits and pieces of the woman she was.

When we lived in Germany and we would go to church every Sunday, I remember her smelling of White Shoulders when we would get in the car. She would be dressed in some amazing suit and high heels and smell absolutely heavenly. I remember nothing of church itself, can’t even picture it, but I remember what my mom smelled like.

She was my Brownie Girl Scout leader and when I was in third grade we had a sleepover at the scout camp on base. We got to make French toast in the morning. And I remember her teaching us the songs, Annie May and Sweetly Sings the Donkey – getting down on her hands and kicking her feet up behind her like a donkey. She always did all the motions to all the songs – and we sang a lot of them.

When we moved back to the states and went back to the small town she had grown up in, we went into a store and a few minutes later we hear from the back room, “I’d know that laugh anywhere – that has to be Lois!” She was known for her huge smile and hearty laugh. My friends were always saying that I had the nicest mom, and she was. I attribute my evolution in parenting to her excellent example – I didn’t have much to overcome.

I remember eating green grapes together at the lake house while watching the impeachment of Richard Nixon. And I remember Santa bringing me things that my parents couldn’t afford and wouldn’t buy for me. I fully believed until I was 13 and my sisters finally couldn’t stand it anymore and told me. I still believe.

When my sisters went off to college I remember one time when they came home and we were playing charades. My mom got SO embarrassed because while she was pantomiming, my sister yelled “Boobs”. My mom was red for what seemed like hours!

I remember waking to the sound of her sewing machine, the always full of homemade cookies cookie jar, her playing the organ, and singing or humming hymns all the rest of the day on Sunday. Oh, and the amazing craft closet, full of wonderful supplies.

Bekka & Gramma feed the ducks

When I was much older and had Bekka, my mom moved to Spokane and worked as a live in care giver for a woman with MS so she could be closer to Bekka. She LOVED being a Gramma. She would watch Bekka as often as possible, and we would go visit her several times a week. She made Bekka the cutest clothes. She had had her own business custom sewing since she had retired from the bank, and she especially loved making clothes for toddler girls. They were always comfortable (never anything scratchy), and completely easy care. Cute dresses with matching diaper covers and hats were her specialty. Bekka’s first word was “hat” because she always had one, and it always matched what she was wearing.

We moved to Houston three months before she died of ovarian cancer. My sister called to let me know that mom wasn’t doing well and that we should come early for our visit we were planning. She died while Bekka and I were in baggage claim at the Spokane Airport, and I fully believe that she didn’t want us to see her at the end - that she wanted especially Bekka to remember her alive, not dying. When we got to the hospital the nurse was completely distraught. We ended up comforting HER, because she had lost a favored patient. She kept saying, “I can’t believe she’s gone, she was joking with the attendant on the way down to radiation.” Well, I could have told her ahead of time that my mom would go out joking. It was just not in her to be all solemn and depressed. To her way of thinking there was just no point in it. I don’t really remember her memorial service, but I do remember part of her burial, the part where all the little ones were running around laughing and playing. They were the first to throw dirt in the hole and were so happy to do so. It was exactly what she would have wanted and there is no way we could have planned it, it just happened. Joyful children celebrating life.

Other than maybe Santa and the sewing, I don’t think my mom anticipated me remembering any of these things, but they are the things I remember about her most readily. This makes me wonder, “What do I do that my kids will remember most?”

I invite you to list some of the things you remember about your mom in the comments section.

Oh, and I hope you read this post as a joyful post! We do not morn death, rather we celebrate life on this Journey of Joy.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

So Many Thoughts...

I have so many thoughts swirling around that aren't quite coming together.

Some how, some time, I'd like to develop the following ideas:
Women's relationships with one another
How we in our society deal with the end of life
People who are such loud voices for certain values, but don't actually follow those values themselves
How unschooling affects all aspects of my life and all of my relationships
What does it really mean to support our children when they are in conflict?
Is it me, or is it them?
Is it reality that I see, or just an illusion?
The Five Love Languages and what difference does it make?
Can I be the person I want to be?
Confidence and courage
Am I enough?
How to build community that effectively supports its members
Inclusion, exclusion and is there any way to avoid the trouble these can cause
What really is "in the best interest of our kids"?
And many more...

So far, the ideas just swirl, not really coming together in the way I want. I'm hopeful that sometime in the new year I will be in a place to develop them well.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You Draw?

Once again, it’s all Caren’s fault. She linked to Draw My Thing in her blog, and now Bekka and I are hooked! I’ve already wasted over 9 hours on the game – conveniently, the website tells you how much time you’ve wasted if you log in, not that you have to log in. I prefer to enter through I’m in Like with You because it gives you a larger screen and more options than the link from Caren’s blog.

In Draw My Thing, you are given a word to draw and the other people try to guess what you’re drawing, like Pictionary. There is also Jigsawce where you collaborate/compete with other players to complete a puzzle, Blockles, which is a competitive Tetris game and several others.

There seem to be no restrictions, so you get a lot of crudity in some of the matches of Draw. When I find a match that has a)people who actually draw (instead of spelling their words out), b)people who are polite, c)people who are smart, and d)people who are not crude and swearing unnecessarily the entire match, I find it very hard to leave. It’s especially fun to go into the same match as Bekka and play. We do not give each other hints or cheat in anyway, nor do we let on that we are in the same actual room. It’s surprising how many of each other’s words we get quickly just from knowing each other so well. The best one so far was "Kermit" - she drew a kind of a frog man and was just about to erase it when I got it.

If you are into these games, let me know so we can play together!

Birthday Celebration on a small scale

For those of you who are following along, Steve and Steffi drove up the coast yesterday and made it home in time for dinner and birthday cake...

They left Sacramento at 6am and got home about 8:30pm. A quick unloading of the car, dinner, cake and ice cream, and presents and that was the end of Steve's very long, very tiring 47th birthday.

We are very glad they made it home safely with all the crazy, crazy weather.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Frozen Morning

We live in Oregon's Central Willamette Valley where it rarely gets below 35 degrees in the winter - at night. Our weather is very moderate, which is one of the reasons we live here. But the entire country seems to be having severe winter weather this week, including us.

Growing up in eastern Washington, I know how to drive in the snow. But, living here we don't have snow tires, the streets aren't plowed and the other drivers aren't experienced in snow driving, so EVERYTHING in canceled for the third time this week. And Steve and Steffi are stuck in Sacramento waiting for a break in the weather so they can continue their trip home from South Texas.

When I woke up this morning the view from the same window as last night was this

Our front yard this morning

Beautiful, isn't it?

Night Wonder

Last night around 1am as I was going to bed, the view out our front window was just so beautiful I decided to try to capture the image... using my tripod and just the available light.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SNOW in the Valley

We got SNOW! We got snow on top of ice, but still, we got snow on Monday.

We didn't have to take Zane and Logan to the train station until Tuesday, so on Monday we went to Phillip's house for an Epic Snowball Fight. I took pictures until I was completely frozen and then stayed inside talking with my friend, Anne the rest of the time...

I love the girls cowering in the middle!

Phillip ready to get Zane with Kayleigh, Bekka and Logan in the background


Monday, December 15, 2008

Going Sustainable on a, um, monthly basis

I know for most people this will definitely be TMI (too much information). But for others, you will either be saying "YES!" or "how come I never heard of this before?"

This post is about menstrual cups and cloth pads. Up until August, I had never heard of menstrual cups before. My oldest sent me a link for the Diva Cup and I was fascinated. Since buying my cup - they sell Diva at our local co-op, so I purchase one on our member appreciation day - I've found so much information. One place to start if you are interested is here. I won't go into a lot of detail, since there is so much better info out there. There is a forum where women from all over the world share all kinds of (very personal) information about using cups and I've learned a lot from them.

I just want to share that I love my cup and I especially love it combined with my new cloth pads. I really like the Lotus Pads, which are made locally in Beaverton. They have pads with fun colors, or organic cotton pads and excellent customer service. These pads are SO much more comfortable than disposables! I used to be just a tiny little bit grossed out by the thought of washable menstrual pads (and in awe of the environmental dedication of the women who wear them), but I'm a total convert now. Of course, anyone with a sewing machine could make their own pads, but I just wasn't feeling industrious and I love how the Lotus pad felt, so I ordered a bunch more. Lots more info on cloth pads can be found here with links for purchasing the different brands.

So there you have it - just one more way to help the environment in an oh-so-personal way!

Great Transgender Site

If you read here often you'll know that I'm not the most active blogger in the blogosphere, so it always surprises me when I get a new follower. When I logged in the other day I happened to notice that my followers number had increased (really - from 1 to 2 - it was noticeable!) and tonight I got curious (as unschoolers often do).

My new follower, Michael has the most incredible website with just about anything you'd like to know about transitioning. He includes tons of links for everything related. I especially love the links for people who have problems with trans people. You just have to go check it out - and if you know any kids who feel they were born into the wrong body, please, please, please send them to his site. Edited to add: Michael mentioned that people should visit T-Vox, it's the resource on the web for all things trans (well, he said it's the trans equivalent to wiki).

Since my blog really is my personal soapbox, I'll step up right now! I have no idea why this issue strikes me so, but it does. This, along with unschooling, peaceful parenting, breastfeeding, and natural childbirth are my "hot-button" issues, and yes, I think they are all tied together with a great big parenting bow. It all comes down to excellent parenting. I believe that no one can be an excellent parent if they do not respect who their child is as they are. And I believe that so many parents do their kids so much harm in the name of "their best interest". How can it possibly be in the child's best interest for their parents to think they should be someone they aren't? How can it be in the child's best interest to have their parents believe they are (insert adjective here - the most common ones for GLBT kids are sinners, an abomination, sick, going through a phase, brainwashed, etc.)? When their kid feels like the whole world is against them, shouldn't it be their parents who are in their corner, assuring them that they are perfect the way they are right now?

One day, about twelve years ago I heard a radio show - a call-in show. They were talking to people who were gay, but for whatever reason were living a straight lifestyle. Most of the stories were the same. There was so much pressure from parents, church, school as they were growing up to be straight (gay bashing is certainly still alive and well in our schools, and these were people who would have been in school at least twenty years ago), that they just never felt they could come out. These are people who are married with kids of their own. Every day of their adult life is a lie that they just don't feel they can straighten out. They said things like, "it would kill my wife to know the truth", "I would never do that to my kids", "my father would have a heart attack"... They feel completely trapped in their life because our straight culture is just so strong. It was one of the most moving things I've ever heard and I never, ever want one of my kids to think any of those thoughts. I don't ever want to push them to date guys. They know they have our complete support for a happy love life no matter what that looks like.

Steve used to have a male to female transgendered woman working for him (she no longer works for him because he is retired). When she transitioned, some of the women coworkers made a fuss about her using the woman's restroom. Ah - come on! What in the world did they think she would be doing in the restroom that they weren't doing??? It has to be hard enough to transition without stupid stuff like that! I was a little mortified when Steffi, all of about five years old looked at our friend, Jennifer and said, "you have daddy hands"! But an innocent observation from a five year old is just so different than a totally biased, knowledgeable complaint about bathrooms from an adult. I imagine it doesn't really sting any less, and if I could have prevented it, I would have, but that is why we need to be sensitive, because not everyone is able to be (like small children).

From what I have heard and read, it is easier, physically to transition from female to male, mostly because the testosterone hormones give people such physical changes - it deepens the voice, makes hair grow in places nobody wants hair, builds muscle, to name just a few. People transitioning from male to female usually are unable to afford the extensive surgeries and therapies that would be required to really pass as female - the voice, hands, hair, etc. don't change just because you are on hormone therapy. And if she started adult life as a somewhat large man, it makes it all the more difficult.

We as a society need to broaden our definitions of normal so that we can all accept everyone for who they are. Currently, most people think of sexual orientation as either gay, straight or bi. But sexual orientation (who you are sexually attracted to) is a full spectrum, from completely gay to completely straight with everything (and almost every one) somewhere in between. Gender Identity (what gender you perceive yourself to be) is also a full spectrum that can be completely unrelated to the genitalia you are born with, and is completely unrelated to sexual orientation. We need to open our minds so that we can accept everyone on both spectra, no matter where they fall on those spectra. This is vital to our children growing up sexually healthy and whole.

And by the way, if you don't think our culture pushes being straight, you haven't listened to music, watched a movie or read a book.

I now return you to my regularly tranquil blog...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chronicling vs Reflecting or Feeding the Masses

I just took some time to read a lot of my earlier blog posts and realized that I've lost my substance somewhere along the way. My intention for this blog is to be my reflections on my authentic journey through personal growth and unschooling. However, it seems I've gotten caught up in reporting (badly) what we've been DOing instead of what I've been BEing.

My nephews Zane (15) and Logan (14 in a few days) have been here since Thanksgiving - we brought them home with us. It's been wonderful to have them here, and as a bonus, Bekka's friend Sophie has been over almost every day. They will all puddle together just hanging out. I've mostly tried to just stay out of their way - I finished watching the entire West Wing since they've been here, and I was on season 3 when they arrived!

The challenge for me has been food, and I just want to vent about it a minute! I'm just not great at figuring out food for everyone all the time. My family fends more often than not - finding something to heat up from the fridge or the cupboard. My nephews just aren't used to finding themselves something to eat. I've been making lots of food so we have lots of leftovers around, but I don't really feed people. When I have gone over the options of things to grab, everyone's like, "yeah, yeah, we know". It's here, they can have it when they're hungry. The problem is they won't do that - they will take some bread and put it in the toaster. Their mom mentioned that they said they were sick of bread the last time they returned from our house - so I don't understand why they are still just eating bread when I have real, honest to goodness, just-as-easy-as-toast food available? The fruit is just left sitting on the counter unless I cut it up for them, the roasted veggies and salmon that they wanted still in the fridge. I know I could cut stuff up and heat stuff up for them and serve them, but whenever I ask if they're hungry they usually say, "no", so what's an aunt to do? (Yes, you unschooling readers know that I have just gone ahead and cut and heated - remember, I said I wanted to vent!)

Tonight I made dinner - a real dinner, spending about an hour and a half in the kitchen. I made everything from real, whole foods - no shortcuts. Beans from the bulk food section of the co-op, brown rice, and a broccoli cauliflower bake. Similar food to what their mom makes. Zane ate his in about three minutes, and I don't think Logan ever did eat. I heard them talking about toast and cereal about two hours after dinner with Logan. I know I don't need to worry about this - I just want it out on the record that I'm providing real food. The fact that they are choosing not to eat it is not my problem! The ole' "you can lead a horse to water..."

Oh - that broccoli cauliflower bake - THE BEST! Cut up the veggies and steam for about 10 minutes. Mix 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar, 1 teaspoon of stoneground mustard, salt and pepper. Stir into the veggies in a baking dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake at 375 until golden. Serves four.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


On our way home from the Oireachtas in Phoenix we stopped by Nevada City to celebrate Thanksgiving in a beautiful handmade house. Steve's sister, Marie her husband, Royce and their three kids, Zane, Logan & Andria built their strawbale house over a period of five years. It's not entirely done yet, but it is certainly way cool!

Between Bekka and myself, we managed to get some great photos of the house and all the family this year, at least everyone who was there:

The house - well really two buildings. The one on the left is the active house with the kitchen and living area, and the one on the right is the quiet house for sleeping. The two are connected by a lovely tile patio with laundry and outdoor kitchen (covered up for the weather).

Through the garden is their first "house" on the property - a handmade house attached to a yurt that they rent out to some friends.




And another of Zane



Del (Grandpa)

Berta (Grandma)

Steffi - check out the black hair! She and Andria both dyed their hair black while we were at the Oireachtas.

Bekka (I love the chicken feather in her hair!)

Me - leaning against their gorgeous pantry wall


Kim & Vern (Steve's brother and his friend) standing in front of the shower which overlooks the valley

Steffi & Andria in the active house - Steffi is on the stairs with the pantry wall and dining area in the background. This shot gives a really good idea of the interior of the house.

The evening light hitting the kitchen wall - I couldn't resist!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oireachtas 2008

Well, we made it through our first Oireachtas (which is the regional championships, Western Regionals in our case). It was great that Bekka was able to go and see it all, while only dancing the figure choreography. This enabled her to scope it out and see what she may be in for next year when she will, hopefully, be qualified to compete in the solo competition. I'll tell ya' what - three days of accordion music is a LOT of accordion music!

All our teams danced really, really well. Our under 15 Figure danced better than two of the other teams they competed against, even though those two teams placed higher than they did. Our over 15 Figure (Bekka's team) did not place (missed by one), but also danced better than they placed. The music and choreography for our teams was so great - so full of energy - that many of the other teachers commented. The teams are excited to take it to Worlds in April in Philadelphia!

Sock On (her head)

Hair Up


Ready to Dance

2008 An Daire Over 15 Oireachtas Figure Choreography Team (for the record, the teacher on the far left is not wearing a wig - she is an Irish Goddess and that is her real hair!)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Visit, a Feis, Grades, Kittens, and a Root Canal

It's been busy and I had intended to write this up a while ago - now I'm hardly remembering what was so exciting!

Portland is an hour and a half north of us. We've been driving up there a LOT! And it's all good.

Back on Oct. 22 Steffi and I bopped up to Portland to pick up her friend from L&L. We had gone all the way to North Caroline to meet a girl from Washington State! Olivia and Steffi spent a good deal of the conference together - attracted by their mutual love of singing. Olivia's mom, Beth comes down to Portland about once a month, so we decided that Olivia would come to Corvallis for a good visit. I feel especially honored by the fact that Olivia has never gone off on her own overnight without one of her adults.

The girls had the whole visit planned out - including watching High School Musical 3 on opening day. We threw in a trip to the Haunted Corn Maize and gave that a good shot, but only made it to the first scary guy before turning around and heading to the car. The owner practically chased us down to give us our money back and we enjoyed Gelato instead. Olivia was so sweet to let me know how comfortable she was, staying with us - I think she really liked spending time with another consensual living family. Her dad is also a parenting coach - you may have heard of him - Scott Noelle.

On Saturday, Oct. 25 we all headed back up to Portland for Feile Samhain - the Feis our Irish Dance School hosts. This was SO MUCH FUN! While there were many technical and logistical problems with the Feis, there is such a party atmosphere. There were three costume reels - 16 bars of anything goes. The musician was amazing during the one we watched - adapting the music to the costumes (like playing the Snow White theme music when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came on). Even the judges were in costume the whole weekend, which I'm sure helps the kids feel more comfortable. In addition to all the fun, Bekka moved her Treble Jig up to Prize Winner!

The day after the Feis, Bekka took 6 of her Grades exams in Irish Dance. Dr. John Cullinane (go ahead and click on it - it's quite a treat!) from County Cork was the adjudicator for the grades - it was great to see him dance in person - and he was so personable. It gave us a whole 'nother view of judges. Bekka passed grades one through six (half of all the grades).

During grades Steve and Steffi called to see if we could foster a litter of orange kittens. They are so adorable. Five orange tabbies. We named them Eenie, Meanie, Miney, Minnie, and Moe because we can't really tell them apart!

Back in mid October I got a cold. Yuck - but it was short lived with my super-duper cold treatment of Head Cold Relief (a homeopathic remedy), Emergen-C, extreme rest (doing almost nothing for a couple of days), and my Neti Pot. Oh, and no sweets - which, for those who know me know that that is extreme in itself. This is the second year in a row that I managed to rid myself of a cold in four (yes, four) days! As soon as my cold went away, my tooth started to ache. It started out small and ended up keeping me from sleeping three nights in a row. I ended up pretty desperate at 2:30am - I tried ground cloves (I didn't have clove oil), peppermint oil, salt water rinses, hydrogen peroxide rinses, clove oil the second night (don't EVER put clove oil on your gums - it eats them up - it's horrible!!!). My tooth was sensitive to cold, so I was really averse to using an ice pack, but after nothing else would work, I finally tried it and it was almost heaven on earth! I ended up sleeping on an ice pack, then spending an entire day attached to an ice pack, then sleeping with it for another night.

After four days of Penicillin, it was MUCH better just in time to spend the night with my friend Dominique up in Vancouver so Bekka could take the grades prep workshop. The day after grades I had a root canal - it is a MIRACLE treatment - I tell ya! Don't let anyone tell you root canals are horrible - I couldn't believe how great it was! I am completely pain-free.

So there you have it, our end of October excitement.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

30 Days to Peaceful Partnership

From Beth Fuller at Peaceful Partnerships (an amended version of a challenge Maisha issued last night):

1) Treat your partner with respect, kindness, compassion, and love. Assume that their issues are not about you, but are instead about their own pain.

2) Greet them and speak to them as though they are the most wonderful person on Earth (because they are). If you are able, recharge your sex life.

3) Say absolutely nothing negative about them for 30 days. Find your own way of keeping track all of the positive things that they do each day. If you feel a negative criticism going on, perhaps you could try writing it down. After the 30 days, review the positive things and release the negative ones.

4) Offer them lots of love in their own primary love language. For good measure, offer them an abundance of ALL the love languages.

5) If your partner rages or retreats be compassionate and offer them what they need-- a hug, for you to be a mountain (quiet, strong, present with him), etc. Just hold them in your heart even if they do not melt.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Voting in Oregon

The state of Oregon uses a 100% Vote by Mail system. We do not have polling stations at all. What happens is two weeks before the election we receive our ballot in the mail.

Personally I love this (although I do miss serving as a poll worker and experiencing the party atmosphere of a polling station). It takes me a lot of time to vote, so I love going through my ballot one item at a time and doing the research I need to do to make a decision as I go.

Since this is a Presidential election year, there are more measures on the ballot than usual - everyone wants to get their issue in front of a bunch of voters who will just pick yes or no without really caring. A lot of our measures are poorly written, somewhat ambiguous measures placed on the ballot by a guy named Skidmore. I figure it will take me a couple more days to finish filling out my ballot and get it dropped in the ballot box.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Displays of Responsibility

For all you unschoolers out there, this will be no big deal, but for any who question how unschooling could ever work, I give you yet another example:

I'm sick - I didn't get the post conference cold until the other day, so it's not really a post conference cold, except that it is, well, post conference. Yesterday was the day I was hit hardest - didn't change out of my PJs and really had NO energy. I was up with a nose that wouldn't stop running until 2:30am and was just a bit miserable.

Bekka took it upon herself to clean up the kitchen, take my dirty dishes to the kitchen for me, run the dishwasher, empty the dishwasher, etc. all day. It was SO NICE! I felt so cared for and loved.

Saturdays are her marathon dancing days in Portland. Her ride comes for her before 7:30 am! (We are NOT morning people - well, Steve is, but the rest of us are NOT!) Last night I checked in with her to see if she needed me to wake her and help her get off in the morning (she has always wanted me to) and she said she had it covered. She set out breakfast, got all her stuff gathered (did her laundry) and as I lay in bed this morning I noticed that she was actually ready early (a first).

So, for anyone who thinks kids have to have 12 to 16 years of practice getting up early every morning so they can get up for a job - Phewy! It's just not true - they do it when it's important to THEM!

Oh, BTW - she placed in all of her dances at the Portland Feis last weekend - this was great considering this was her first Feis dancing Novice. And some of the team members performed at the Thirsty Lion and put on a fantastic show!

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Better Explanation

Have you heard the concept of the Law of Attraction (LoA)and feel that it's just too out there? Too steeped in magic, voodoo, new age weirdness?

The basic idea of LoA is that what you think is what you get (kind of). The popular book, "Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires" by Esther and Jerry Hicks is just one of the many books out there about this concept. The movie "The Secret" is just more of the same. The basic idea is a good one - a kind of be careful what you wish for and that our mind is a powerful tool, but all the LoA gurus out there seem to be focusing too much on material desires and not reaching the core of truth.

Sandra Dodd mentioned the concept in amongst a lot of other faith based beliefs over on FamilyRUN.ning and it really made me chuckle because she pointed out the fallacy of LoA - that so many people seem to believe that you can concentrate on getting anything and get it through LoA. The actual line she used was, "The other group wants desperately to believe in Ester Hicks and her imaginary friend, because if they believe those things they can be rich and happy." I love how silly she makes it sound because this really is how LoA is perceived by most people, thanks to the LoA gurus who make it seem so.

I believe in many aspects of the Law of Attraction, but I wasn't able to really, fully explain why I think it can be true, but not always true for everyone. It isn't a get rich quick scheme, get everything you say you want system, but that's what it often sounds like.

This morning I read an article by Martha Beck over on that explains it all so perfectly. In this article, she talks about "magic lists" and how they work and don't work. It all depends upon the place inside you that you are writing the list from. If you are listing out all the things you think you need to be happy, you may as well be spending that time digging for gold, because it would probably be time better spent. If, however, you are in that place of peace deep inside where you have already given up material desires and really visualizing an amazing future, you are well on your way to achieving your dreams.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Here's something you don't hear every day. Last week Bekka asked for a DECREASE in her allowance!

About a year ago Steve, Bekka and I tried to figure out how much Bekka needs on a monthly basis to cover her clothes and activities. Since we really didn't know how much she needed, we just kind of guessed (an educated guess, but a guess none the less). Well, apparently we guessed too high, so Bekka came to us and asked if she could receive less allowance. We wanted to make sure she had enough - and she certainly felt like she did!

Unschoolers handle the money/allowance issue lots of different ways. Many unschoolers have an open budget - meaning that everyone in the family gets together and decides how their monetary resources will be used. Others just make sure their kids have the money they need when they need it. What felt right to Steve was to actually give Bekka her chunk of the budget on a monthly basis - and this was agreeable to me and Bekka as well. She's been managing her money very responsibly - obviously!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Live & Learn 2008

Live and Learn was so great this year! Steffi and I came away with new friends, new ideas, and a deep sense of Peace, Love, Free!

One of Steffi's (and my) favorite artists is Amy Steinberg and she kicked off the conference with an incredible concert. After the concert we got to hang out with Amy and some of our favorite unschoolers. Steffi sat side by side with Amy for about an hour, eating M&M and chatting with one of her favorite artists. She was so excited!

A month or so ago I had contacted Amy to ask permission for Steffi to sing her song, Always, at the talent show. By the time we got to L&L, Steffi was seriously doubting herself and was thinking she wouldn't sing after all. I mentioned that to Amy and they had a great conversation about doing things that are scary and how amazing it feels to do it anyway. After Amy's pep-talk and Scott Noelle's "Unschooling Your Voice" funshop, Steffi got up the courage to do it - but only if she got to do it really early in the show. Luckily, I had the inside track to the MC (Steve locked him out of our house in May, so I have a lot of pull with Broc! HA) and got her set up to be sixth. She got up there and belted it out - a capella! She was so confident, you would never know it was her first time on stage.

Aside from seeing my baby take her first major step toward realizing her dream of being a pop star, I had several other highlights. The first, learning to take my digital SLR off "auto" (and actually getting some great shots) thanks to super grandpa, TJ from Louisiana. Second, learning what I need to do to move from a stuck relationship to a rich, loving relationship with my DH - thanks to Beth Fuller and her Peaceful Partnerships presentation. Third, thanks to Cameron Lovejoy and Brenna McBroom, coming to the big unschooling ah-ha that our kids who are younger than about 12-13 seem so much younger than their mainstream peers, but our kids who are over about 13 seem so much more mature than their mainstream peers. I believe that, because we help them have a true, free childhood, they are able to truly know themselves and develop a sense of self that is hard to develop when you are rushed to grow up.

Of course, the main highlight of L&L is the people. This year was both better and worse in that the relationships were deeper, but there is this sense of not knowing when we'll see each other again. I feel an ache in my gut from missing these amazing, respectful, honest, authentic people. They are family to me. Better than family - they are the people I would choose as family if I could choose. They fill me with love and peace and joy so deep, it carries me for months. Unfortunately they live in FL, SC, TN, CA, MA... I want to thank Kelly for bringing all these incredible people together! My life would not be as rich or centered without my L&L experiences.

This was my third L&L and each one has made me a better parent, a better advocate, and a much better person. I will miss this annual filling of my tank more than I can say.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

L&L Here We Come!!!

Steffi and I are SO excited to be going to Live and Learn one last time! We dyed our hair today - she has streaks of Vampire Red (again) and I mixed the V. Red with Violet to get a great plum color - which I used to streak my hair and paint my ankles and the second toe of my left foot. HA!

We leave in about a day - which is good, because I don't think either one of us could wait one more second!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Time for an update post

We have been SO busy, I've not had the chance to post like I would like to! It's kind of funny, when there's interesting stuff happening, I don't have the time to blog, and when it's a really slow period in our lives, I have time, but nothing really to say...

So here's a brief update on what's happened since my last blog post:

Coming of Age:
We had a wonderful Coming of Age celebration for Bekka at a rented beach house in Lincoln City. We had treasured friends and loving family surrounding her with the wisdom they wish to pass on to her to help her through her teen years and on into adulthood.

Steffi's 12th Birthday:
On the 31st Steffi turned 12. We took her and her dear friend, Aspen, to the AC Gilbert Discovery Village in Salem for the day, and spent a bit of time shopping at the nearby mall as well.

Bekka Made the Team!
On the way out to the coast for the Coming of Age, we stopped in Portland for Bekka to try out for the Irish Dance Team. We just found out on Thursday that she made the team! (This team has many of the same dancers that placed 6th in Ireland last year at Worlds.) She's very excited to be on the team. This will give her lots more dance experience than she is currently getting, allowing her a second solo class each week in Portland in addition to the team class. They will most likely be going to the All Ireland competition in February and worlds in Philadelphia in March.

Live & Learn!
Originally, Bekka, Steffi and I were going to go to the Live and Learn Conference in NC in September, but we weren't able to get our frequent flier miles converted to tickets. So Bekka switched from session 1 to session 2 of Not Back to School Camp (NBTSC). Well, after hearing about all the people we missed at LiG in Vancouver, Steffi and I both decided that we weren't going to miss another unschooling conference. Well, guess what? It's much easier to get two tickets than it is to get three! We were prepared to pay for the airfare, we missed conferencing so much, but we happily didn't have to. We'll see everyone in September for the big Last L&L Bash!

Girl Scouts:
Our Girl Scouts are working hard to earn their Bronze Award (the highest award a girl can earn at the Jr. level). They are collecting supplies to deliver 400 Hope Kits to Medical Teams International by the end of the summer. They've been calling service organizations in town to present their project (surprisingly with little response from the organizations) and they presented to all the local GS leaders at the service unit meeting.

At the last leader meeting, they held a Brownie Try-It Workshop to earn their Jr. Aide Award. They had so much fun doing this, they've decided to take it on the road and bring their workshop to Brownie troop meetings around our area.

They have also been invited to speak at the upcoming Fund Raising Breakfast. They are so excited.

Feisiana (pronounced fesh-na):
In just the last month the girls have competed at both the Seattle Feis and the Portland Feis. They are both doing really well! Bekka has moved two of her dances up to Novice and Steffi has moved one to Adv. Beginner (would have been two, but there weren't enough competitors in one of them). We aren't allowed to take pictures, so the Feisiana reports will always be sans photos.

Homeschool Central:
For the last five months or so a few local homeschooling parents have been working with the Boys & Girls Club to start a homeschool program during school hours. Well, about a week ago we had our first Open House and it was a huge success! We had somewhere between 125 and 150 homeschoolers attend. It was completely joyous! Our vision was to bring the diversity of homeschoolers together and we definitely succeeded - we had all different types of homeschoolers attend, and play together.

Unschooling United:
I started the Oregon State Unschooling United group here in Corvallis. We had our first meeting last Tuesday night and it was so GREAT! It was wonderful to talk with other local unschoolers in a focused manner. We talked about connecting with our kids through their interests (as our "topic") and of course, morphed into all kinds of other unschooling ideas. This is the first time, in all my years of unschooling where I've been to something specifically to talk about the details of unschooling. It was like going to one of the great unschooling emails lists - live! It has already enriched my life so much, and we've hardly begun! I loved that Bekka participated in the meeting and Steffi came in at the end and talked with the parents who were still there - about unschooling!

In addition to all that, I've been working again. I just completed a custom "thank you" album for our folk dance teacher, I'm working on a large custom heritage album project, and I'm working on two super secret surprise projects! I'm just loving the Storybook Creator Plus Software and can't recommend it highly enough - everyone NEEDS this software! I've done so many projects with it in the last month or so and they've all turned out so great. I've made 8.5 x 11 certificates for the girls' birthdays, 12x12 page prints for Bekka's Coming of Age gift (that I framed with a CM Page Frame), I easily formatted our passport photos (which have to be precisely formatted), I made 4x6 invitations for Bekka's celebration in addition to the album projects!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Getting into my Heart by using my Hands

Tonight I listened to a recorded GUTS call called Getting into Your Heart by Using Your Hands. We used the solar system as a metaphor for our lives. (My scanner isn't quite large enough to see the entire picture, but most of it is here.)

Here's what mine represents:

I am the sun with my light shining brightly out to others and touches everything around me. I am passionate and compassionate. I am yellow, red, and orange.

Bekka and Steffi are shooting stars, blazing their own shining paths out to their own universes supported by my light and warmth (in the upper right corner, mostly off the scan).

Steve is a nearby planet - reliable and always there basking in my light.

My friends are the blue-green earth, grounding me and benefiting from my light.

My past is represented by grey asteroids falling away from my universe.

Lyra is a large star and Tamwyn is saturn surrounded by my light and warmth.

My life's work swirls purple and my home swirls blue throughout my entire universe.

My future spirals red out from my center touching all.

My hobbies are small, pink, distant stars on the other side of my friends.

My spirituality is my dark purple center.

All the negative stuff is an ugly, drab asteroid falling away from me and everything I value.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bekka is 16

My little girl is now 16. I'm not sure why that seems so big, but it does.

What really thrills me is who she is. She has such a good read on people and seems to be able to navigate all her social interactions in a way that my former 16 year old self really envies. She is so sure of herself and, while she doesn't quite know where she is headed, she does know that it will be her own journey navigated with her own decisions.

Enlightened Bekka

Sunday, April 27, 2008


We picked up a new litter of kittens this afternoon at the humane society. There are five kittens, all male, all tabby, two long-haired, three short, all very cute!

This litter came in with their mom, but she stayed at the shelter. The shelter vet thought she had done enough and would be ready to be rid of the kittens. We wanted to take her home with them, but since they are eating on their own, she stays to try to get adopted. They are already a pound and a half, so we should only be fostering them for two or three weeks.

If you live in the area and want to come play with them, let us know!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Beautiful Day in the Willamette Valley

Today my GS co-leader and I loaded up the gas guzzler and took the girls to the Jackson Frazer Wetlands and walked around the board walk. It was just such a beautiful day and we all thoroughly enjoyed being out and exploring the critters.

The Gang of Gregarious Girls at the Jackson Frazer Wetlands


All the girls caught caterpillers

And Cierra stuck one on her nose

Bekka caught a baby snake


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bekka has a Job!

Bekka stayed after at Irish dance tonight to show the instructor her novice reel and ended up with a JOB! She'll be helping teach the New Beginner class. She'll get a lovely green "Staff" shirt to wear and will be paid a real pay-check.

So, for all those people out there who question us unschoolers for "letting our kids just do what they want all the time" and don't think they'll ever be able to get a job because of it, I say "Ha! Encourage them to do what they love to do all the time, and they'll figure out a way to turn it into a living" (or it may just end up falling in their lap!).

It's possible that I'm more excited than she is - but she's pretty excited.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Dose of Compassion in the Morning

This is my desktop picture. I took my favorite Vista Desktop Image and wrote out a morning affirmation to read each morning before I start my day. The morning affirmation is adapted from A Guide to Cultivating Compassion in Your Life, With 7 Practices. My desktop is practice #1: Morning Ritual.

It reads:

Today I woke up!
I have a precious human life and I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use all of my energies to develop myself.
I will open my heart to others.
I will be light and love for the benefit of all beings.
I am going to have kind thoughts toward all others.
I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.


I like to think it is helping me to be my best. I still get impatient, judgemental, and frustrated with people, but I am getting better at identifying these things and changing my thoughts surrounding people.

I am a work in process, getting better every day.