Monday, March 31, 2008

It's All About Me

I suppose it is a bit about me every day on this blog, but I hope it is rarely all about me. Today, however, I feel somewhat justified considering it is a particularly 'me' day. I thought I would attempt a self-portrait for my 34th birthday.

What I realized is that I don't care for pictures of myself. I took about 100 (okay, maybe more) trying to get one I liked. (Maybe because this is my first try ever at a self-portrait?) This is what it came down to after playing around in Nikon Editor for a little while:

Maybe I'll turn one of these into my avatar. Votes for a favorite?

Today is a perfect day to play along with Sarah and complete my 7 Random Things About Me tag. If you just can't stand it and need more of me, check here (you'll have to scroll a bit) or here.

* Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
* Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
* Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I've watched every season of American Idol. Sad, but true. David Cook has been my top choice from the beginning of this season. He was absolutely, positively incredible last week. David A., Brooke, and Michael Johns round out my top 4. (Whispering... I also watch Dancing with the Stars. But don't tell anybody. It's embarassing.)

2. I love to sleep. I'd sleep 12 hours a day if I could. I miss my sleep.

3. I love living in the country, but when it comes right down to it, I'm not much of an outside person.

4. I could spend all day talking about personality styles. You might call it obsessive. I can peg people fairly quickly and accurately using the Myers Briggs system. Take a free online test here. I'd love to know what you all come up with. My favorite description of the personality styles is here. Conversations with my little sister often go something like this, 'Yeah, but that's the 'J' coming out in her,' or 'Well, if he wasn't such an 'E' we wouldn't have this problem.' I happen to be an ISFJ.

5. Speaking of personality styles, the ISFJ portrait here describes me in the following way: 'follows the rules, polite, fears drawing attention to self, dislikes competition, somewhat easily frightened, easily offended, timid, dutiful, private, lower energy [laughing out loud, here...], finisher, organized, socially uncomfortable, modest, not confrontational, easily hurt, observer, prone to crying, not spontaneous, does not appreciate strangeness - intolerant to differences, apprehensive, clean, planner, prone to confusion, afraid of many things, responsible, guarded, avoidant, anxious, cautious, suspicious, more interested in relationships and family than intellectual pursuits, not adventurous, fears doing the wrong thing, dislikes change.' That about covers it. I think that counts as #6 and #7 as well. We're done here.

6. Didn't you read the description of me in #5? FOLLOWS THE RULES, DUTIFUL, FINISHER...

7. My daughter-in-law is going to hate me. When I hand Luke his clothes and tell him to get dressed, he bats his eyelashes at me and sweetly asks me to warm them in the dryer for him. I can't even described the power that little boy has over me. The good thing is that he is the same personality style as his Uncle Ben who would put his own clothes in the dryer along with his wife's and hand them to her warm along with a cup of Chai tea as she is slowly waking up in the morning. I think I am going to redirect Luke into warming my clothes in the morning. I bet he'd do it.

That's enough about me for another year. What would you like to talk about? If anyone wants to participate in the random things about me tag, feel free. I know I should follow the rules and tag 7 people, but I hate telling anyone what to do. Grin.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


March was party month growing up. My sisters, Holly and Shannon, and I all share this birthday month.

Now that we're adults the parties have changed some. Occasionally we'll do a round robin with each of us hostessing another's party. Last year, Shan hostessed the party for all of us. This year, the early Easter threw us off, and we decided on my house at the last minute.

I slaved over dinner:
We all made a dessert (priorities, you know):
We blew out candles (with help, of course):
Had lots of help opening gifts:
And more help:
Ivy treated us to a fashion show:

And Leif entertained us with a musical number:
Ah, perfect!

Thai Chicken Satays

(Yes, I cheated. That is the picture in the cookbook.)

Thai Chicken Satays

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (I use powdered.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed (I used a bit of garlic powder.)
1 pound chicken tenders (I cut frozen skinless chicken breasts up into chunks.)
6 (6-inch) pita bread rounds, cut in half*
Choppen fresh cilantro (I prefer fresh, but had to use dried this time.)
Plain yogurt

COMBINE: 1 cup yogurt, coconut milk, curry, lemon juice, ginger, salt, pepper and garlic in medium bowl; reserve 1/3 cup marinade. Add chicken to remaining marinade; cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours. (I don't always have 8 hours...)

SOAK 12 (10 inch) wooden skewers in water 30 minutes; set aside.

REMOVE chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Thread chicken onto skewers. Place skewers on broiler rack coated with nonstick cooking spray; place rack on broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat source 4 to 5 minutes. Turn skewers; brush with reserved marinade. Broil 4 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink in center.

REMOVE chicken from skewers. Fill pitas with chicken and top with cilantro and dollop of yogurt.

Heidi's Tips:
*I served the chicken with whole grain wraps which weren't as dry and didn't fall apart as easily as the pita pockets. The kids loved them! I offered a green salad, but we used the lettuce in the wraps. Instead of adding the remaining marinade while broiling, I saved it and served it as a dressing instead of the plain yogurt.

The chicken is rather mild tasting and all three (picky eater) boys love it!

Coconut milk can be found in the Asian food section at the grocery store. It comes in a can. Use the remaining coconut milk to make smoothies, hot chocolate, or cream of wheat.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Watership Down

Watership Down is unlike any book I've read before. Compelling, poignant, and intriguing, the author crafts a lyrical tale. Just kidding, Trish. Now I will suffer acute attacks of 'should I use that word?' I have no intentions of claiming to be a writer. I am simply an annoying, novice book reviewer.

Back to the serious business of reviewing Watership Down. I'll start with the negatives, so we can end on a positive note.

The author himself states in the introduction that it was difficult to get his novel published. It is a tale (tail?) about talking rabbits written in a decidedly adult style. I had a tough time adjusting to the idea of rabbits with rabbit lives (the author allows the rabbits to physically act only like those found in nature) with human adult personalities. In the end, I almost had to separate the two aspects of the story in my mind. Running parallel to each other were a detailed lesson on the lives of wild rabbits along with the surrounding nature and a fascinating story of leadership and the art of war.

Secondly, the story didn't draw me in immediately. I spent many a night reading because I wanted to finish the book, not because I was wrapped up in the story. It wasn't until halfway through the book (a hefty 200 pages, or more) that I picked up the book because I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Was this because I am not fond of animal stories? Possibly, except that the other 3 members of our 13 member book club who happened to make it past the beginning of the book felt the same way.

This is where my complaints end, and my praises begin. Richard Adams is obviously a well-read, talented, and clever writer. While the story was sometimes quiet and uneventful, the writing was never stilted or awkward. Often throughout the story I marveled at the creativity and sheer genius the author displayed. By the end, I thought he was brilliant.

The story opens with a small group of rabbits leaving a warren for fear of their lives. Over the course of the book they search for a new home, meet strange rabbit societies, defend themselves against predators, create new allies, confront fears, fight against enemies, and discover their strengths. The personalities of the characters were highly developed. I felt honored to get to know each one in the unlikely, close-knit 'band of brothers.'

Hazel, Fiver, Silver, Bigwig, Dandelion, Speedwell, Blackberry... the name of each rabbit added a great deal to the story and made a vivid impression in my mind.

Using visionary leadership skills and cleverness the Chief Rabbit, Hazel, is able to lead his band of rabbits into victory against an enemy much larger, stronger, and more highly-trained. They learn to respect each other for their given talents and work together for their safety, freedom and future life.

I have placed this book high on the list of stories to share and discuss with the boys when they are old enough to draw out and internalize the rich lessons to be learned from a rabbit named Hazel as well as understanding the cautionary social illustrations.

pg. 421

At that moment, in the sunset on Watership Down, there was offered to General Woundwort the opportunity to show whether he was really the leader of vision and genius which he believed himself to be, or whether he was no more than a tyrant with the courage and cunning of a pirate. For one beat of his pulse the lame rabbit's idea shone clearly before him. He grasped it and realized what it meant. The next, he had pushed it away from him. The sun dipped into the cloud bank and now he could see clearly the track along the ridge, leading to the beech hanger and the bloodshed for which he had prepared with so much energy and care.

::As an aside, thank you, book club ladies for an amazing meeting. I could have stayed all night. The conversation was animated, entertaining, and fascinating. I feel blessed to be a part of this group!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring Treats

Rice Krispie Treat Nests are one of our favorite spring treats. I simply use greased muffin tins to form the nests before the treats cool, making a dip in the center to hold candy eggs. Easy, festive, kid-friendly, and delicious!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Toy Taxonomy and Jello Cell-o

I'm still thrilled with our new science program!

Making a cell model with jello:

Learning taxonomy with toys:

Kingdom: Legos
Phyllum: Duplo, Lego, Quatro:

Class: Odd Shaped, Square, Rectangle:

Order: Tapered, Short, Tall

Family: Gray, Brown, Green, Yellow, White, Orange:

Genus: Light Green, Dark Green

Species: Okay, we ran out of blocks, but we were close!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why Homeschool, Revisited

I always wondered at what point it would be appropriate for a blogger to repost from their archives. I don't want to be like the singer who compiles their greatest hits after releasing only two albums.

Again, it comes down to the fact that this is my blog. I'm trying to get a few things done this week (other than blog). I like to keep things hopping around here. I'd hate to let you all down.

All this to say, you're stuck with a post from the archives. One that is very important to me. One that took me forever to write. (I'm a very slow writer.) One that will take you forever to read, so you'll feel like you're really getting your money's worth. (Oh, yeah... it's free. Like I said, getting your money's worth. Grin.)

Without further ado:

Why We Homeschool

Having thought about homeschooling for over 15 years now, my list of reasons to homeschool is a long one.

#1. Learning as a Lifestyle. Family Life. Real Life. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the kitchen, car, dental office, library, museum, mountains. Reading. Asking questions. Being interested. Talking with people of different ages, professions, interests. More time for 'field trips' and travel. Not confined to a certain building, certain hours of the day, with an adult and a room full of same-aged peers. Children should see their parents learning, reading, and discovering along with them and on their own.

#2. Tailoring Education to Fit the Individual. All children are unique individuals. They learn different subjects at different paces. They are interested in different things. Ideally, my sons will be learning at their own speed in each subject. If they are at a '4th' grade level in reading, '1st' grade level in spelling, and '3rd' grade level in math, I can meet them where they are. If they need extra time to acquire mastery in phonics, we'll take that time. If they grasp a mathematical concept immediately, we won't spend 2 weeks on drill and review. No worrying about pushing ahead too quickly, or boring other students, or leaving my sons frustrated and lost, or lingering too long on a subject--leaving them bored to tears, or worse--sucking the love of learning right out of them. When we find a subject fascinating, let us spend the time delving in! When we find a subject that we don't care for, let us learn what we must and move on! If one of my sons is interested in, say, photography we'll buy or borrow books, get him equipment for his birthday, find an adult who loves and is knowledgeable in photography and schedule some time for them to be together, or find a class in which he can enroll. Science? How about classes at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry? I want them to master the basics and have time for their passions. I want them to love learning. My children's educations can be better tailored to suit their goals and equip them for their future.

#3. Owning Their Education. When learning happens 'on their own turf', when children have some control over what subjects they study, when there is time to really ask questions and discuss issues, when they are allowed input on where they study/how their daily schedule is arranged/how much time they need for specific subjects, when a love of learning has been developed, when education happens as a constant part of life...I believe children will have a greater feeling of ownership of their education. It is more personal and internalized. They are more likely to spend the rest of their life learning, instead of regarding education as something that happened to them for 12 (or more) years of their childhood.

#4. Flexibility. Homeschooling provides an amazing amount of flexibility to education in so many ways. When children become interested in a particular subject, they don't have to shut their books and move on when the bell rings. When they finish a lesson earlier than expected, they don't have to fill the next half hour with 'busy work.' If a child is sick, instead of missing a day of school, they might listen to a book on CD or follow the Latin lesson along with their siblings. Maybe they will sleep all day and continue lessons that evening. There will be no falling behind or scrambling to get the day's work from the teacher. Learning can happen anywhere: in the waiting room at the dentist's office, in the car, between events at a swim meet, or on vacation. The 'school year' can be spread out over a whole year with more frequent breaks, helping to eliminate burn-out or loosing skills and knowledge over a long summer break. Family vacations can be had during off-season. We can take a week day to deal with life and add in school on Saturday. If we have fallen behind or need more time to dig in to a subject, we may add in a day here or there. If we are ahead, then we may relax a bit. In short, we will make homeschooling work for us, rather than striving to fit a 'perfect' box. During their high school years particularly, education can be flexible for work schedules, apprenticeships, college classes, travel, community service, volunteer opportunities, and extracurricular activities.

#5. Using our Time Wisely. One of my top reasons for homeschooling is the efficient use of our time. There are so many wonderful things with which to fill our days. More time can be spent on-task when there is no transportation time to and from school, no school assemblies, no roll call, no explanations/discipline/review for other students, no 'busy work,' no inappropriate socialization during study time, no 'filler' classes or subjects. When children are able to be on-task at their exact learning level with a 1:3 teacher/student ratio and with immediate personal feedback and discussion, much is accomplished in a short amount of time. This leaves hours of the day free for a full and well-rounded life, complete with down-time. As Greg Sherman writes in the essay, Ten Good Reasons to Homeschool (linked below):

Other people may rightfully disagree with our priorities, but my wife and I both feel that enjoying and performing music, playing in the outdoors, cooking, performing in the theater, learning ballet, and immersing ourselves in long and complicated games with siblings and friends is much more important than 99% of the math we were compelled to try and learn in school. I know that some people are capable of doing it all: school, music, theater, ballet, soccer, family. But not us.
I want my children to have the time for a fulfilling life, to pursue their passions. I don't think we would have the time without a homeschool environment.

#6. Integration of Knowledge and Subjects. Rarely in real life does one use a skill or 'subject' in isolation. The ideal educational environment would allow writing skills to be developed during history class, grammar skills developed during Latin, or a current events discussion during science.

To the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated. Astronomy (for example) isn't studied in isolation; it's learned along with the history of scientific discovery, which leads into the church's relationship to science and from there to the intricacies of medieval church history. The reading of the Odyssey leads the student into the consideration of Greek history, the nature of heroism, the development of the epic, and man's understanding of the divine. --Susan Wise Bauer, in her essay, What is Classical Education?

#7. Continuity. Homeschooling will allow for a seamless progression of skills and knowledge. It will allow my children to master a skill and then progress to the next level without lingering, and without gaps. We won't jump from one teaching style to another, one curriculum to another, or one set of expectations to another. I will know what material they have covered, and what needs to be presented, without having to assume that certain information or skills have been acquired. We will cover world history starting at the beginning, finishing at the end. We will not spend all of our time learning about the pilgrims again, and again, and again. We will not do a unit study on ocean life each year of grade school. Instead, we will start with Biology, move on to Earth Science, then Astronomy, Chemistry, and Physics. We will not read Charlotte's Web as our yearly read-aloud. (We read the book, listened to it on CD, and watched the movie when Levi was 4.) We will discover new books daily and revisit favorites often.

#8. No One Knows My Kids Like Their Own Parents. No other person wants more for them, is ready to sacrifice what we are willing to sacrifice for them. A teacher with 20-30 (or more) incoming students each year does not know what are my child's strengths, weaknesses, interests, learning style and personality. I hope to know when to challenge them, and when to hold back. As their parents, we have authority to discipline, authority to teach values and morals, and authority to guide our children in deciding their futures.

#9. Socialization. In my experience, children in recent times lose their innocence early and mature later, creating a 10-15 year (or longer) adolescence. My hope is to help my children retain their childhood innocence longer and encourage maturation. I want my kids to think for themselves without a herd mentality. Lots of free play time (particularly outdoors), time for imagination to let loose, quality children's literature, selective television, very little video games, more interaction with adults or families and less with large groups of same-aged peers, chores and responsibilities, serious participation in and ownership of family relationships, deep friendships, challenging academic studies (including Socratic dialogue and discussion), more time with their father, travel, personal development sports (swimming, tennis, martial arts...), music lessons, quality group experiences (books club, age-group swim team, debate team, band or orchestra...), apprenticeships, and specific training in life skills will all help serve my children as they enjoy childhood and develop into mature young adults.

#10. Rigorous Academics. I hope to provide my boys with a solid classical (or neo-classical) academic foundation. This will include an emphasis on the mastery of reading, writing, and math. We will study history chronologically and in great depth. We will read a thousand pieces of quality literature and end with a Great Books study in high school. The boys' dad (with a science degree and a masters in education) will oversee their science studies. We may use online tutorials, private tutors, or college classes for high school level science. The same applies to math. Our boys have started learning Spanish, will begin the study of Latin by the 3rd grade, and hopefully add in a 3rd foreign language by the 6th-9th grade. We will study logic and rhetoric. Music and art will be added in as much as possible, including a few years of piano and music theory. I'll be posting more about classical education later.

#11. Furthering My Own Education. I am incredibly full of anticipation, knowing that I will have the opportunity to learn along with my boys. There are so many gaps in my education, and I look forward with delight to the years ahead. Mental multivitamin says it best (as usual).

If you are interested, after surviving my lengthy explanations, in reading a wonderful article about a father's reasons for homeschooling, check out Ten Good Reasons to Homeschool by Greg Sherman, Ph.D.

An interesting view from another angle, why someone shouldn't home educate, can be found here.

Some of my favorite inspirational books that encourage me (directly or indirectly) to homeschool:
Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Md Mate
Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos by Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D.

Feel free to leave comments if you have any questions!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Menu Planning

I'm still working on my menu planning notebook, but here's what we've got on the menu plan for this week:

Monday: Ginger Beef with Greenbeans

Tuesday: Thai Chicken Satays with Whole Wheat Flatbread and Green Salad

Wednesday: Tomato Beef and Broccoli over Whole Wheat Spiral Noodles

Thursday: French Dip Subs and Veggies

Friday: Gnocchi with Sausage and Spinach

Saturday: Shredded Beef and Black Bean Tacos

Sunday: Birthday Party!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Tidings

Awake, thou wintry earth--

Fling off thy sadness!

Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth

Your ancient gladness!

Christ is risen.

~Thomas Blackburn, An Easter Hymn

Sending you wishes for a Glorious Easter
from our family to yours!

Resurrection Rolls

The marshmallow represents Christ's body, rolled in butter and cinnamon to represent oils and spices used to anoint the body upon burial, wrapped in crescent roll dough to signify the tomb. Close tightly, sealing the seams.
Break open the tomb and the body of Christ is no longer there!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Poetry of Spring

Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, March 21, 2008

One of Those Days

We've had one of those days. Weeks, actually. The one year old can now open doors, the three year old now has staples in his head after a late evening trip to the ER, and yesterday was one thing after another... including an incident involving three little boys, 5 jars of cake sprinkles, and the floor of a very messy playroom.

After the tenth frustrating event in a row, and numerous time-outs spent in various places (including mommy hiding out with chocolate and an icy Dr. Pepper), I told the boys that the only toy they could play with for the rest of the afternoon was a bin of blocks. And they weren't to leave the area rug. For the rest of their lives. No, that isn't true. I'm kicking them out at 18.

Amazingly, the heavens opened up, and beams of light shone in the living room. There was peace. And harmony. The sounds of two little boys playing and creating together with simple, beautifully made wooden blocks (thank you John, Char, McKinnon, and Monet!). It only lasted about five minutes before blocks were flying at stapled heads, but it was a lovely five minutes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pedestal Bowl, Take Three

You all are so brilliant, I couldn't help but post a 'take three.' Thank you so much for participating. The pedestal bowl ideas you shared in the comments were terrific. Here is a recap for those of you who missed it:

Wine Corks
Coffee Beans
Jewelry Beads
and more!

Jodi gets the Project Heidi: Thanks for the Tip! award. She let me know that ebay is a great place to get bulk Scrabble tiles (as well as a bunch of the other items suggested...).

Jen over at Lipstick and Laundry gets the Project Heidi: That's the Way to Do It! award. She posted a bunch of pictures over on her blog, but I've stolen a few because I love them so much. I wanted black and white, if you remember, and dominoes are even better than dice. Why didn't I think of that?

What a beautiful way to display old family photographs and treasures!
And you know how much I love monograms!
Vintage kitchen utensils? Perfect!
And this is where we have a perfect segue! From vintage kitchen utensils in a pedestal bowl by Jen, we move on to cookie cutters in a glass jar by Shelly who receives the Project Heidi: You're One Step Ahead of Me! award:

I had wanted to move on to the next decorating essential, glass pitchers and containers. I love white pitchers, and they make a wonderful display in themselves, but glass pitchers and containers allow you more flexibility in your decorating.

Many of the items we've discussed that would look lovely in a pedestal bowl, also look wonderful in a glass pitcher. One of the benefits of a glass pitcher (or other container) is that the contents are still in view when it is set on a shelf or mantel.

Having a collection of various sizes and styles makes it easy to display a variety of items or put a few together (three of course) for a grouping. Look for creamer pitchers, apothecary jars, or canisters as well as traditional pitchers or vases.

There is more to come on Project Heidi. I have additional Decorating Essentials to share with you and for Decorating:101 we'll talk about hanging pictures on the wall. I also hope to show you a variety of collections to display on your Spot for Beauty. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Levi. Again.

I was going through a box of stuff yesterday and came across the list I had written of funny things Levi said at the age of four. I laughed and laughed at each one, again realizing that Levi has been distinctly 'Levi' from a very young age. I wanted to share one of my favorites, as it so perfectly highlights the difference between Levi and myself:

Mom, I'm fishing. (He was in the back of the Suburban, 'fishing' with a flag pole while we were out running errands. Without thinking, I asked him what he was fishing for. Immediately, I realized what a stupid question that was. The answer would obviously be fish. What else do you fish for? His answer came without a second's hesitation...) Speckled trout for the mayor's dinner. (Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Not.)

Without further ado, Levi at six:

(Levi is skipping into his TKD class. He asks me if I'll join him. No, thank you. I'm still feeling the after affects of the stomach flu.) Mom, don't you feel young again?

I like that bird monastery. (My mom had a weathered bird house in a somewhat vague church shape.

(We were at Two Rivers Market.) They should have called this place Mesopotamia Market. (Thank you, Story of the World! Otherwise we would not have known that Mesopotamia means 'between two rivers.')

(Levi calls to me in the middle of the night. I go in his room. He asks me to fill up his water cup. I go...come back and give it to him. He takes a long drink.) Perfection. (He rolls over and goes back to sleep.)

(Levi tells his aunt that he is learning Spanish. As he is leading her into the school room to show her his Spanish lessons, he says...) Would you like to see the source?

My legs look so slender!

Mom, we're going to play outside today. Do you doubt it? I've seen the future!

I can't tolerate this any longer!

I have a parcel for Leif.




and the list goes on.... until next time....