Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Light for the New Year

"You may not think the world needs you, but it does. For you are unique, like no one that has ever been before or will come after. No one can speak your voice, say your piece, smile your smile or shine your light. No one can take your place for it is yours alone to fill. If you are not there to shine your light who knows how many travelers will lose their way as they try to pass by your empty place in the darkness."

Inspired by an old poem

(I first read this at Kripalu in 1991)

Happy New Year
to my loved ones
especially to you, Joe, my amazing husband
and to Zack and Adam, my spirited boys
....and to those who
have landed here on my blog intentionally,
while searching,
through serendipity

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another great dog poem

I lie belly-up
In the sunshine, happier than
You ever will be.

Today I sniffed
Many dog butts — I celebrate
By kissing your face.

I sound the alarm!
Paperboy — come to kill us all —
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

I sound the alarm!
Garbage man — come to kill us all —
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

I lift my leg and
Whiz on each bush. Hello, Spot —
Sniff this and weep.

I Hate my choke chain —
Look, world, they strangle me! Ack
Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack!

Sleeping here, my chin
On your foot — no greater bliss — well,
Maybe catching cats.

Look in my eyes and
Deny it. No human could
Love you as much I do.


Puppy Poem.. Author Unknown

Dog Poetry

The Life of a Puppy

This morning, I woke up & kissed my dad's head.
I peed on the carpet, then went back to bed.
"The life of a puppy, oh my, this is great."
Then I thought about breakfast," I hope it's not late."

Mom took me outside, we walked for a while.
This never fails to make Mama smile.
I sniffed of everything, that we did pass,
I ate something weird - it gave me gas.

I'm sure God loves me, I know that is true.
He gave me so many great things to chew.
Rugs, plants or rocks, I really don't care.
What I truly like best, is Dad's underwear.

That obedience book, was sort of yummy.
Though it didn't sit well on my poor puppy tummy.
I threw up a bit, but that was all right,
When Mom found it later, I was well out of sight.

I made streamers of T. P., while running at full speed.
Mom is pretty quick -- but I was still in the lead.
I flew under the bed, and Mom flew past,
She stopped-shook her head, and breathed,
"You're too fast."

Mama later phoned Daddy, and said, "It was frightening!"
That afternoon, she was sure I'd pooped lightning.
She'd sat at the computer, while I chewed the cord,
She thought I was mad, but I was just bored.

When Mama had enough, couldn't take anymore,
That's when my tushy got shoved out the door.
I love it inside, but outside is best.
Lay in the cool grass, and had a good rest.

That didn't last long, there was too much to do--
Can't quite remember where I hid Daddy's shoe.
I found an old bone, and scratched at a flea,
I watched the dumb squirrels as they jumped in a tree.

I barked at the kids, when they got off the bus.
I can't figure out why this makes Mama fuss.
I barked at the neighbor, I barked at the wind.
I barked and barked, till Mom yelled, "COME IN."

The sun dipped in the west-soon Daddy would come!
I sure love my daddy: we always have fun.
I barked at my daddy, then turned on my charms,
I woo-wooed, "Hello," then jumped in his arms.

Sitting under the table -- it's sooo hard to wait.
Daddy slipped me a goodie right off his plate.
I raced through the house, and scattered my toys,
Ricocheted off the furniture, and made lots of noise.

Mom found her purse - the one I abused.
Daddy let loose a chuckle. Mom asked "Amused??"
I cowered down low, I must be in trouble.
Dad said, "Wasn't MY boy, it must be his double!"

Mom turned off the TV, and said,"Time for bed."
Dad said "Let's go boy," and patted my head.
I got in my spot, between Mom and Dad,
I thought 'bout my day and what fun I had.

Mama kicked out my bone from the covers below,
Then let loose a sigh -- a sigh deep and low.
She gave me a kiss, and snuggled me tight,
And whispered so softly, 'My darling goodnight'.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chickens and Stars

How Cool! Chicken prints in their first snow! The girls seem fine. They are scratching and ranging as usual. I did notice them hanging out up on our front fence which is something they do not normally do. Maybe their feet are cold. Was 24 degrees today. We got five eggs!

Scroll way down for stars

Keep scrolling down...

Look down here for stars....

Even more.....

Finally! The pond had beautiful star patterns today. I hope they show up in the photo. I wonder what they are!
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Friday, December 5, 2008

Once a Year

Each year our local Chamber of Commerce holds a Christmas Festival. They close down our road for three wonderful hours and have wagon rides past our house. The wagon is pulled, not by a tractor, but by a team of tawny draft horses. This is a treat for us as the traffic normally speeds past our home, and our house is set very close to the street.

Ever since we first moved into our Killingworth home almost ten years ago I have been petrified by the traffic on our 25mph road. My worries have been for my two young sons, dogs and cats, and anyone trying to back out of our driveway. Also anyone trying to pull front ways from our driveway. We’ve had more near misses than I can count. I remember my husband losing his temper one day as we tried to take our older son, then about two, for walk in his stroller. Most drivers were doing 45mph and up. Over and over we had to jump up into the poison ivy to avoid being run down. Joe would put out a hand and make a slow down gesture for each car. It made no difference. Some of the drivers never saw us at all. Finally, he scared me silly and embarrassed me more by walking out into the road in front of an oncoming speeder waving his arms like a crazy man and yelling at the top of his lungs “SLOW DOWN.” The woman, who was driving a blue minivan, almost came to a stop, and yelled something nasty, or made a rude gesture at him, I can’t remember which. Actually she may have called him an idiot. Anyway, I never walked on our country road with the stroller again. Or with my husband either. Now the only time I go near the road is in the spring when I pick up trash people have hurled from their windows. I got a bottle of pee one time. We even moved our mailbox to our side of the street so I never have to cross. Never mind letting our kids ride on the road. It’ll never happen.

OK, I’ll admit to almost anyone except my husband that I am a bit extreme and somewhat of a throwback. Possible even a tad idealistic. Misplaced in time. I would, in many ways, be more comfortable living in Sturbridge times. I do not fit in to Connecticut’s suburban culture. I am turned off by crowds, overstimulation, malls, and obnoxious rude people who drive past my house as if human beings do not matter. I like the idea of bread rising and keeping the home fires burning. Noticing the small things and living as if they matter. Keeping poisons off my lawn. Gathering eggs. While I’m certain that in 1830 there were rude, obnoxious folks who lived as if other people did not matter, they could not go about that sort of life almost anonymously. I would not want to go back to that time and give up antibiotics and hot running water . Or my laptop. But back then they had something I have discovered I really need: Life on a human scale and slowed way down.

So the night of the wagon rides is a huge deal for me. Those three hours are delicious. No engines, no speeders, no trash being thrown, no headlights. Only a slight possibility of being run over. No noise of acceleration as cars gather speed past our home. Nobody in a hurry. Just cold night air, jingle bells and the delicious sound of the draft pair clip clopping up and down the road. For a few sweet hours I am exactly where I am meant to be.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

silly me

My post from today can be found dated September 4th, 2008.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008


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New Puppy and Pneumonia

Welcome Okemo!!! A picture of our new puppy at seven weeks will be posted as soon as I get the blasted pc out of crashing constipation.

Is it possible to homeschool with seven chickens, a bunny, a new puppy, a cat, and two kids sick with pneumonia? Like some multi species remake of Cheaper by the Dozen? YES! Is it possible to clean up pee puddles while you cradle a phone, monitor a thermometer and prepare supper? YES! How about feed chickens while holding a pup AND cradling a phone on the way to the compost. Yup. Mostly possible. How about follow an election (obsessively) while picking up poo and measuring antibiotics and purelling and comforting and mopping and getting chickens out of the road and making cupcakes and helping with math and.....and paying attention to the fact that my twelfth anniversary is approaching? Yes... would be a lie. I've been doing it... except for the anniversary part. Not doing it well. But doing well enough. I have found that is is nearly impossible for me to take time to write during all of this. In my sleep deprived state there are two things I know for sure. I need to find out why new is spelled new and pneu is spelled pneu . And gnu gnu. And after eating a handful of puppy chow instead of the popcorn which was in the other hand, I know I am not quite as functional as I want to believe. Yes, I spit it out but it really wasn't bad!

Of course if I come down with this dreadful pneumonia I expect the whole household will come apart. I suspect that my immune system is working extra hard to make sure I stay well because listening to my husband deal with the household while I lie sick in bed knowing what he is doing WRONG is excruciating. NO I croak from the bedroom. Adam doesn't eat the orange kind. Only the kind with the shells. It is NO WAY to be sick. Gosh I am so controlling! Before marriage I got sick in peace. It was lonesome and pathetic, but quiet and not annoying.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Take It Outside

It was a Monday morning and things were not going too smoothly in the homeschool department. Mondays are often tough around here. We were muddling through various subjects and activities, making progress, but without much enthusiasm. There was some bickering. My face felt tense. At one point I stepped over to the kitchen to freshen my coffee and happened to look outside. Suddenly, it struck me. We homeschool. We don't have to stay inside!

Good grief. We've been doing this for nearly five years now and I still get stuck this way, forgetting the obvious opportunities to step out of the box. Well, we took a big comforter and spread it out under a tree. What a gorgeous September day it was. A real sparkler with much lower humidity. We lounged on the ground and I read aloud. Math got done. The tire swing inspired a drawing and the writing of a silly poem. The chickens wandered by. My five year old took bouncing breaks on the mini trampoline between work on pages of his beloved math workbook. Yes, I said beloved. Now maybe these boys will grow into men whose workdays will entail hours under fluorescent lights in windowless workspaces. But for now they are boys experiencing an educational alternative which allows them breezes and the sunshine. They know that learning can take place anywhere they are.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Boredom as Fertile Ground

Boredom and Homeschooling

“You kids were never bored until you learned the word from Sesame Street!” My mom has always said this. The fact is we kids were often involved in child directed projects or plays, puppet shows or elaborate make believe games. When we were not busy with these activities we were involved in solitary…do not read that lonesome… pursuits like reading and writing, knitting, sewing, day dreaming. The introduction of the word BOREDOM into our lives was most unwelcome. We began to use the word BORED! “Mom. We’re BORED!”

I believe we had, in fact, experienced boredom, but just had never named the feeling. Perhaps Sesame Street helped us label something we felt and maybe that is a positive thing. However, the words BORING BORED BOREDOM do have a sour ring to them, an inherently negative taste. They are tough for parents to hear. Boredom, like itchy skin, seems to cry out for remediation. Make it stop, Mommy!

But should we parents try to make boredom stop?

Many parents have tapped into their inner cruise director. We believe that the balm to ease the child’s discomfort (and to stop that horrible word) is activity or entertainment . It is annoying to hear kids whining that they’re bored. Why don’t you go play with your_________ (fill in the blank) rolls off our tongues. Or, How about you go and work on your__________(fill in.) For many parents, homeschoolers or not, the appearance of our kids “doing nothing” is just too anxiety producing. Idle hands and all that.

Imagine for a moment how different it would be to treat boredom as an opportunity!

As a culture, we seem to have a mistrust of children and their impulses. Not only do we feel we need to protect kids (which is totally appropriate), we feel their time needs to be managed so they do not “go bad” and “get in trouble.” Keeping kids, especially teens, occupied and supervised at all times might reduce the chances of getting into trouble. I don’t have teens so really I have no idea if my ideas apply. But fear of allowing kids, no matter what their age, to experience boredom, robs children of the opportunity to know them selves. It minimizes the opportunity for introspection. We parents are participating in a system of busymaking, which looks good on the outside, but actually leads, I believe, to stunted adults who expect to be spoon-fed and entertained and have any discomfort they feel fixed by something or someone outside themselves.

What if we were to welcome and even celebrate periods of boredom? Protected boredom. Not kids loose on the street boredom but boredom under an umbrella of parental care?

It can ease a homeschool parent’s mind to see busy children packing learning into every moment. I know it eases mine. For one thing busy kids working at easily observable projects is good PR…for people who are skeptical about home education. (It is an unhappy reality that, in spite of many positive reactions to what we do, some folks feel entitled to point out, sometimes right in front of our kids, that they believe we are ruining our children’s lives through our choice of home education.) For another, those happy busy kids make me feel like a success as a “teacher.” Obviously I am doing it right because my kids are NOT bored But wait a minute! We have an amazing opportunity here to see what happens when we trust our children as natural, creative learners and to respect their unfolding as people.

At the risk of sounding too hallmarky, within each child…each person…my children… are nuggets of potential, over-wintering, waiting to be discovered and tended. Waiting for their time. Nobody, not even so-called experts, can say what these seeds contain, whether or when they will germinate or what they will become. Children who never practice being with boredom may never know how powerful this uncomfortable, temporary state can be. They may never feel what it is like to conceptualize and then bring THEIR OWN creations into the world. Kids in most traditional school settings are rarely allowed to harness the power of their own inner lives. In fact, many never realize that they have or have a right to become acquainted with an inner life. They are busy taking information in. In a homeschool situation we are well positioned to reframe the concept of boredom and practice a different reaction to it.

In homeschooling our sons I am learning to welcome the pronouncement of boredom. I have discovered that within days or hours or even minutes of boredom's onset, one of my kids is likely to enter into a creative, self-initiated project of some kind. Examples include Zack, at six or seven, imagining a character, Fat Chipmunk, and then creating many dozens of pages of comics with drawings and captions over a period of several months. Or Adam, five, becoming Batman and creating an elaborate Batmobile out of an old box. Or Zack, eight, making a catapult out of boards and bricks and using it in various configurations to send balls into the air. Zack, five, developing a cursive signature on his own. Adam, four, imagining and then making a book, and then a poster, of numerous Pokemon he had colored. Adam, six, insisting on a doing a woodworking project which resulted in nesting boxes made from scrap lumber. Adam, six, realizing he could patiently out wait a hen and get a warm egg as soon as it was laid. Adam, bored while I cleaned the house for a party, realizing he could read Hop on Pop to himself. Zack, 7 , making his own cooking show and having me record it.

All these self- initiated projects will both nourish the children and provide true expression of their inner selves. I have no doubt that the ownership my boys feel for their own work...projects that have germinated in the fertile ground of more important to their development than a hundred assignments I might dream up and make them do.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Can you spot the mystery (heirloom?) tomatoes in the Rokenbok setup?Posted by Picasa

This Rokenbok setup is made up of many sets that were handed down to us by dear friends. The pieces we have are all at least five years old, probably closer to ten, and have held up extremely well. Every time we bring this out the boys construct it differently and work on it for hours and hours. Rokenbok, along with Lego blocks, has turned out to be one of our favorite toys and a great addition to our homeschool.

As for the tomatoes they came from plants my younger son grew. They had their beginnings as part of a spring circle time activity with other homeschoolers. He hates tomatoes but he loved planting the seeds and watching his plants grow. Part of the fun was that we really did not know what kind of tomato was growing! I'm still not sure but they are definitely not your average supermarket tomato variety.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Battling Perfectionism

Is there anybody else out there battling perfectionism? Perfectionism has dogged me all my life. Now that I have lived with it for more than forty years it is probably one of the most important elements of my personality to let wither and die. From where did it come? I really don't know. It has been with me forever like the mole on my neck. It is there, along with fear, in some of my earliest memories. There I was in modern dance class for tots, petrified that my turn was coming to move across the floor...down, down, up, up, down, down, up, up...Was I going to go up at the time to go down??? Or worse, would I trip and stumble? Nothing else has limited me more, or more often, than the fear of screwing up. Nothing else has so often kept me from even trying.

Sure, perfectionism can help with some things. I have a really great looking college transcript that nobody ever sees and has not improved my quality of life one iota. Yes, I am possibly a more well rounded person than I would have been without doing well in college though as the years go by and the student loans are still not paid I am less and less sure of this. I missed out on a lot of real life to work those grades. I became obsessed with getting it all right on exams with content irelevent to my life today. Perhaps perfectionism would have been just the thing if I had pursued certain careers. Air traffic controller maybe? Or surgeon? Olympic diver? I do wonder about that. But those paths are not mine.

Today the perfectionism takes on other non academic flavors. As a mother it is part of the job description that there is no way to be perfect yet my desire to be "perfect" is still there. This fact has led me to try to do my very best all the time. The problem with this is that living this way is utterly exhausting. Like running an endless marathon. For me, living with perfectionism is unworkable and unsustainable and a really, really bad example for my kids. It also keeps me from being truly present with them. From being real with them. Trying to be perfect has become an imperfect choice. Perfection has ceased to have meaningful meaning in my life.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Adam's Raccoon

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project from Hand-Print Animal Art by Carolyn Carreiro

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Homeschooling is Messy

Maybe I'm just getting old. Or maybe my hormones are shifting! Maybe all the years of wiping (hands, floors, bottoms) have just caught up with me. Lately, as much as I hate to admit it, I struggle with the mess.

One of the biggest challenges I have here at Green Hill Homeschool is messes. Goopy art supplies. Papers and projects and eraser crumbles spread across the table, paint drips leading to and from the bathroom sink, black fingerprint dust from the cool forensic science kit on my pretty, white table. Wire cutters, duct tape and all the paper airplanes that did not fly that well. Thirty foot straw tunnels that go from room to room. Legos. All that stuff. This is not an issue confined to homeschooling families like ours of course. The difference is that with homeschooling the home tends to be more fully utilized more often and for more hours than it would be if the kids went off to school all day. Sure we go out for groups and classes as the vast majority of homeschooling families do. Opportunities for socialization are abundant. But the center of our lives is our home and it and the dining room table get a lot of hard use!

The funny thing is I used to feel pretty darned proud of myself for all the crafty stuff I did with the kids. Now I am overwhelmed by the desire to maintain a clean, organized, low clutter home that helps bring me a sense of peace and, yes, control. Sometimes I notice that I feel negative about even beginning any messy project that the kids propose. Not good. I know I need to attend to my mess aversion or this desire for control will hamper learning and creative opportunities for my kids. Truth is, I really do not know how to resolve this without living with some level of discomfort. Maybe it is like having a trick knee but playing tennis anyway.

I suspect I will deal with mess aversion as I might handle a challenging yoga posture. I will try very hard to remember to breathe into the discomfort,to not freak out,to notice the tight places and try to remember what this is all about. I will trust that practicing the posture brings a bit more flexibility to my life and my personality. My kids challenge me every day to become a better, more fully rounded human being. Life is just messy sometimes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cat with Hens

Magic and the Girls


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