Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guest Posting: PenPals for Children as a Teaching Tool

Hello! This is Marie from Natural Mama. Ruth was so kind as to ask me to guest blog here for her this week! I am excited to get to know everyone, and share some thoughts with you!

Both Ruth and I are fierce advocates of Homeschooling. I was homeschooled myself as a child, and spent some of my best years as a kid, learning at home. It is no wonder that we want to give that same sense of fulfillment to our own children. And one of the things that I want to pass on to my daughter when she is older, and to as many children as possible in the meantime, is the wonder of having penpals.

I have been a Nanny for the past 10 years, before becoming a mother myself, and I have spent countless hours working with different children on projects that would be educative and fun for them.
One of my greatest tool when homeschooling a child, has always been getting them a penpal (...or 3, or 10).
The wonder of opening your mailbox when you are young and finding a letter penned to your name when you are still establishing yourself as an individual is absolutely amazing. And then discovering another person through diverse questions and stories in letters is terribly fun.

As a parent, you can be comforted in knowing that your child is practicing their handwriting, is learning the etiquette necessary for snail mail exchanges, and is having fun!
But you can go so much further with the use of penpals as a teaching tool. We have a map on the wall where we can pin and mark where our new penpals live, which covers geography. We also find books at the library about the country that our penpals come from. We study their folk and fairy tales, stories from children in that country, customs for different holidays and such. What a wealth of information having a penpal uncovers for us!
And it is learning that is fun because the kids actually want to learn all this in order to get a closer relationship with their penpal.

Here is the website that I have been using to find penpals. There are many, but so far this is the one that I have found has the most updates:

Penpals of The World

I hope I was able to convince you in looking into such an oldish notion as having penpals! Good luck in your writing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Guest Posting

This week I will be away from my computer doing some work for my clothes business' new Spring/Summer gear (more about that later) and will not be around to post and commune with all of you lovely friends out there. As a wonderful favor to me my gifted and sweet girlfriend Marie from Natural Mama will be guest posting here this week. Enjoy each other and I will be back soon. Love from here!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment}- A Friday ritual. A single photo- no words -capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


A close friend of the family and his coworkers have created a new series concept that has been developed and produced by Ronin Media House. In my humble opinion, I think this would be an amazing show. It would show people to see their trees and tree houses in a new, playful, creative light. I know they will succeed in this venture and I can't wait for more shows like this; then I might actually watch some television!

(if the video fails to play this is the link...http://vimeo.com/35247373)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Butting Out of Childhood Play

As parents we are constantly concerned about our children; their development, their happiness, their interaction with the outside world, their interaction with their own internal world. We read books, pore over games, enroll them in activities and set up the endless line of play dates and fun group times. Through these actions we are showing our offspring how much we love them. We adore them so much that we want them to have all of the things, do all of the things, see all of the things, experience all of the things that we never did but swore that we wanted to. And through this constant hum of movement and agitation generated by our overwhelming display of love and concern we are stressing our kids out, smothering them and their innate abilities to lead themselves, and sometimes creating the vicious cycle of a child's inability to play without adult assistance or interference.

How is a parent to prevent this from happening you might ask?!

Well the first and easiest way to do this is to back off. It is really that simple. Let them guide themselves. Think back to when you were young. Remember the outdoor games that you used to play filled with imaginary imagery and wild adventures. Now remember what would happen the minute an adult would even enter the vicinity...how suddenly all of the imaginary things would disappear as the adult started inquiring what you were doing more an interrogation than play, how maybe the game even ended here because a grown up had messed up the fun. Our children are built to entertain themselves. They are hard wired for imagination, fun, joy, play and all of those sweet and lovely pieces of childhood. They can see a house or a submarine in a laundry basket even if all we can see is that the basket might tip over or break. They know the value of dirt and pine cones and cardboard boxes and blankets strewn over chairs to create a cavern kingdom. We need to allow them the privacy to enjoy these places without our constant interference.

Well how do I know if they getting what they need mentally, emotionally, and /or socially if I don't structure their free time?!

Good question. By simply existing in a happy, healthy, and supportive environment children have everything they need to be be mentally stimulated, emotionally challenged, and socially functional. Children do some of their most important work in the quiet spaces of life. When you find them alone in their rooms talking to themselves, even sometimes arguing alone, don't fret. They are practicing how to deal with uncomfortable or stressful interactions in a safe environment. They are trying on behaviors, attitudes and resolutions to problems in a way that allows them to absorb the information and put it away in themselves for when it might  be needed.  These quiet spaces are when they might be really understanding the nuances of reading, might be creating a spectacular piece of art, might be righting a song to go along with their unstructured guitar strumming, might even be creating a world that might one day populate the pages of a best selling book! These quiet spaces where we leave our children alone are the places where they are discovering who they are as individuals, who they are in relation to their siblings and parents, who they are in relation to the world at large.

So does this mean I shouldn't play with my child?!

Gracious no! Play with them joyfully and unabashedly. But allow them to have private time too. Instead of following children around asking what they want to do or trying to force games on them when they would rather be alone try some of the following...
1. Have a family game time set up; and each week a different family member gets to pick the game. This way everyone feels like an equal and they are more likely to be excited about playing.
2. Leave games (like checkers, decks of cards, musical instruments, even basic art supplies) out in neat but accessible spaces that are frequented by all people in the house. This way children, and parents, are more likely to stop and play a game, draw a picture, build a house of cards, or do an impromptu drum circle. Out of site is really out of mind and when stuff has to be hunted down the moment of spontaneity  often escapes us.
3. Follow your children's cues. If they seem lonely, sad, bored...sidle up to them and sit quietly without asking what is wrong. I have found that if I do this my children either ask me what I need, which then leads to my response of, "Oh nothing, just checking in with you", which then leads to either me being told that they are happily playing or them asking me if I wish to join them, or they say mom go away you are messing up the game.
4. Most importantly play with them when they ask you to play. I know this is not always possible, we parents can be very easily overwhelmed with life stuff. However, when we are unable to play we should explain why and try to set a date such as, "Right now mom is on a business call. Can we play when I am finished with my call?" Usually the child is happy to compromise and mom can continue her call. Be a parent of your word though. If you get off the phone and go do more work instead of playing with your child they will begin to not trust your words and they will be hurt and cease to ask you to play.

In short let's let our children be children and let's remember to join them as often as we can to be big children ourselves!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

sweetly growing...

It is when we least expect it that our children shift into newer aspects of themselves. It is not that they don't grow when we are watching, when we are teaching and learning. It's simply that some of the largest jumps of growth seem to need privacy to bloom. 

It is exciting to bear witness to the new comical bent of my 19 month old. His new found sense of abilities that don't require (and do not want) momma or daddy help. He has suddenly taken a keen interest in dressing up, he likes to roar at all of us like a lion or a dragon (and yes each one has a different growl and body language to go with it). He speaks in these crazy 1/2 baby talk sentences that sound so sweet I wish I could translate or speak his tongue. He loves his music and will sing along to himself strumming a guitar or playing (with adult like rhythm) on one of the many drums in our house. He is brilliant!

This weird plastic raspberry thing was found in our yard after the storm...it's person came and claimed it but what a weird thing to find in the yard.

It is when my 7 year old comes to me asking questions on physics that I look at him and wonder where my cuddle bug baby has gone. Always a supremely intelligent child, he still manages to bring me to a place of awe and wonder. As science, for his chosen homeschool work, he is studying my college astronomy and dad's books on solar panel installation. He is fascinated by electronics theory and is a man of many business ventures. He has his own business name "Lazure Inc (a combination of his and his sister's names) under which he creates t-shirt logos, invents new types of smart phones, designs cars that won't harm the planet and much more I am sure that I am even unaware of. He is still my avid cuddler and I love to sit down with him and just be...something he loves to do when the others are sleeping. He is a boy existing in genius and loveliness!

We must not forget my sweet little girl. At 4.5 she is gentle and kind. A bit on the shy side she none the less is friendly and willing to play with anyone who needs a playmate. She adores her animals and love books on being a veternarian. For her to own a farm one day is one of her dreams and it is a goal I know she will reach. 

So sweetly they grow. Learning, changing and yet remaining somehow the same. It is beautiful to be a part of this dance into adulthood. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment}- A Friday ritual. A single photo -no words- capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. (Inspired by Amanda Soule of SouleMama)


Thursday, January 19, 2012

in this moment

I am...

:reading a really good book; Your Farm In the City by Lisa Taylor and the gardeners of the Seattle tilth:
:staring a stack of "sew me" projects down with ecstatic determination:
:taking over the kitchen table...my work space is getting small:
:creating a new menu for the household; I think I need a few new cook books, any suggestions?:
:debating 10 more minutes in bed this cold damp morning:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

out and about

 His newest love...crab apples! Just the right size to make a little one feel big.
My big boy is so filled with love! Best Big Brother Possible!

There are the days when projects must get done. Days when chores are on the table and can no longer be put off. And there are days when you look around at your pile of W.I.P's (works in process), the stacks of laundry, recycling that needs sorting, dishes crying out for attention and you climb in the car and head for the hills. This was just such a day.

 Loki's foray into photography; he's really into the self portrait right now.

 The artist as the subject...spinning!
 Makes me dizzy just looking at the picture.
 After the ride.

 What's funny is while he might look like a child having a meltdown, this is how he likes to ride the baby swings now. He has graduated to normal big people park swings (proud mama!!!) so this is like a novelty.
This was taken by my 18 month old! He loves his big brother.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

White Chocolate Blueberry Brownies

White Chocolate Coconut Blueberry Brownies with Peppermint Whipped Cream

The Brownies...
11/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
11 ounces white chocolate chips (1 bag)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
11/2 cups evaporated cane juice or palm sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
5 eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut 
1 cup  blueberries (or more as desired, fresh or frozen)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Butter a 9x13" pan and set aside. Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler (or a ceramic bowl over boiling water being careful not to get the contents of the bowl wet).When it is completely melted, turn it off and scrape contents into a larger bowl. Mix the sugars and stir until well blended. Add 3 eggs and mix. Add the remaining eggs and the vanilla and mix. Pour the flour and salt mixture, the coconut, and the blueberries into the chocolate mixture and gently stir until well combined. Pour the mixture into the buttered pan, place in the oven, and bake for 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a tester (toothpick or knife) poked into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Cut and enjoy.

The Peppermint Whipped Cream...
1 small container of heavy whipping cream (larger if yo wish to make lots of whipped cream)
1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice, light agave, or palm sugar
2 drops peppermint extract

Put the heavy whipping cream, the evaporated cane juice (or agave or palm sugar), and the peppermint extract into a blender. Blend on medium until the whipping cream forms peaks (becomes stiff enough to scoop). Scoop large dollops onto the brownies (and into your mouth) and enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

playing in the dirt

There is the occasional time that I start a project with a picture in my mind and gusto in my heart but without a full array of the know how needed to complete said project. Creating a permaculture/ edible landscape and combining it with a playscape (child wonderland of nature) has proven itself to be one of these times. While I understand the nuances of creating a garden, I do not simply wish to have a garden. I wish for my yard to tread gently on this Earth while providing a bounty of beautiful fruits and veggies for my family to eat and share with friends. I want the yard to be a lovely wonderland filled with little fairy houses hidden near tree trunks (fairy doors in knots of trees), crawl through earth tunnels, and play houses more tree than house but still perfect for a tea party. So far we have succeeded in breaking ground and halfway accomplished uprooting a very stubborn grape vine root. Here is our progress. Any suggestions?

Friday, January 13, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment}- A Friday ritual. A single photo -no words- capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. (Inspired by Amanda Soule of SouleMama)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

best laid plans

As I sat at the end of the day yesterday, I took note of the fact that not one thing I had set forth to do that day had been accomplished. No sewing was touched; in fact my projects in process pile has gotten as tall as my four year old. No dishes were washed nor any laundry cleaned folded or put away. And the yard work was woefully neglected. Yesterday morning my well shut down and halted all other projects until we could figure out what happened. Turns out two pumps were down and we had a leak in the line. Since we had to wait for the problem to be fixed and wanted the children out of the way of the person fixing the problem we went miniature golfing! And yup I forgot my camera...oops! So now that this is fixed today I set before myself the same challenge as yesterday. I am sure that most of my things will get done this time but if not well there's always tomorrow!
 My tragically neglected work area :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

merrily working

First I want to start by saying that I am sorry I have not been posting daily. As I move forward in writing my books and making our home the place we wish it to be (we are finally getting our bearings since we moved in in October) I have been distracted and forgetful. This means that I have missed some prime picture taking moments as well as not writing down the topics I wish to speak on while they are fresh in my mind. I am grateful for the patience you all show in returning to read even in my inconsistent moments.
Today, we are tearing up the yard! I am beyond elated to get a jump on our garden areas. The weather has been pristine and perfect for playing out doors and I am going to take full advantage of this time to create the space for our food source; for our fruit trees and 1/2 barrels of fruits and veggies galore. And we can not forget creating the chicken tractor for our friends the chickens!
How is the weather in your neck of the woods? Any suggestions for food to plant in my garden?

Monday, January 9, 2012

to another year

The sweet and loving man in my life just turned 32 and in celebration of this momentous occasion...a bonfire!  

Good friends, barbeque, a Vanilla Passion Fruit birthday cake, and the yummiest White Chocolate Coconut Blueberry Brownies I have ever made (recipe to come)! All in all the most beautiful day with the family with a gorgeous moon to end it! Happy birthday honey! Hope you all enjoyed your day as much as we enjoyed ours!