Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giving Thanks

   How does one go about putting into words feeling like the luckiest person in the world?  That's exactly how I feel each year at Thanksgiving.  See, my Thanksgivings are like no other.  This year, it involved homemade goodness in the form of so much food it might actually hurt to look at, four types of gravy, more Bailey's than one could shake a stick at, an impromptu big band orchestra in the living room, jump shots, ping-pong, toiletries of every variety flushed down the toilet by mischievous twins, dance parties, Italian feasting, pounding ocean waves, talent shows, Thriller, gut-busting laughter and, most importantly, the beautiful smiles and warm hugs of so many people I love so very VERY much. I got to spend four days strait raging it with people I love so much it makes me feel dizzy.  Four days that repeatedly lasted into the wee hours of the morning because I just don't want to miss even a second of it.  Four days of cheek-cramping, belly-aching, how-is-it-possible-to-laugh-this-much moments.  Four days of feeling blessed to be adopted into such a wonderful, raucous, rowdy, ridiculous, open-hearted group of freaks.

   How incredibly lucky am I?  Giving Thanks doesn't even begin to sum it up.  After all, those are the fleeting moments we live for... and I just got FOUR DAYS!

Monday, November 22, 2010


   As Sequoia puts it... it's snowing cats and dogs!
a brief sunny break in the storm
   We hardly ever get snow, so it's really exciting!!!  The timing couldn't be worse since we were supposed to leave this morning for California.  But, I still love every second of it.  I totally do not want to do anything I "should" be doing.  I just want to go play in the snow!  Baraka, our gigantic goof-ball dog, has been in his bliss.  He just keeps rolling in it and bounding around the yard and nudging little snowballs down the hill then chasing after them.  He LOVES the snow.
   We have decided to hold off until tomorrow to make the trek to northern Cali.  (Sorry folks!) We'll get there eventually, but driving in the midst of a snow storm doesn't sound so appealing.  I absolutely love how snow just brings everything to a stand-still.  Even if my plans are what come to a screeching halt!  It's been dumping all day and it's still coming down as I type this.  The winds are picking up rapidly and the lights keep flickering.
Honey Bee hive in the snow!
   Luckily, we have the warmth of our woodstove on such snowy, cold days.  I have to admit, the cozy factor played a major part in the decision to hold off until tomorrow.  Staying snuggled in by the fire sounded awfully nice....
   Not to mention, leaving a homestead full of animals in the midst of such a storm is not such a responsible thing to do.  Especially with baby animals in the mix.  Everyone is hooked up with heat lamps and several inches of fresh bedding to snuggle into.  I'm sure they'll all make it through just fine, but I feel like a jerk leaving them.  I think I've been out to check on the the chickens and turkeys at least eight times today.  In honor of Thanksgiving, here are a couple shots of the Toms:

   I hope that you all have a fabulous holiday week!  I know that we will!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Learning Plans

OK... the really boring part of homeschooling: writing the learning plan.  It sounds like it should be exciting.  But when it's a document simply being written to satisfy the state, well... not so much fun.  My eyes are beginning to cross as I sit here at the computer working on these documents.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Baby photos

   Here are some promised photos of the adorable new arrival, Napali Jr.

I love how you can see the little egg tooth in this one! (the tiny extra point on the beak)
and mama Napali!

Monday, November 15, 2010


    Here's a visual peek into our first few weeks of learning through living....

Quiet book work time
Baking for friends
    A field trip to the zoo....
Sequoia becomes a turtle at the zoo!
Snake at the zoo - photo by Sequoia
Bengal Tiger at the zoo - photo by Sequoia
    Mushroom hunting with friends....
a toppled giant

a coral peeks from from a mossy grotto

Cedar, Sequoia and Dusty chat as they weave through the old growth

Steve, Sequoia, Cedar, Dusty and Paul toting their bounty

   And more baking....
the kids take it to the next level...

piping delicious butter cream frosting onto their home-made pineapple cake and pumpkin muffins!
   The above reflects only a snippet of all that we have been doing.  I can't wait to post more on all that we are up to on the homeschooling front.  After all the text-only posts, I felt I owed you a photo post.


   We had quite the surprise this morning!

   Sequoia and I were quietly hanging out in the living room and Cedar wandered in still bleary-eyed and half-alseep.  As he plopped onto the couch and rubbed his eyes, trying to catch up with those of us who had been awake for a good long while, we heard the faintest noise.  It took a solid 15 seconds before it hit all three of us simultaneously just what we had heard.  Recognition flashed across each of our faces and we all three dashed for the wood box.  We cleared it off as fast as we could and threw open the lid.  Sure enough, there peeking up at us through the feathers of its proud and anxious mama was a tiny, perfectly egg-sized, peeping baby chick!

   The sweet little bundle must have just hatched because it was still damp from life inside an egg!  It's back fluff was still slicked down and shiny.  Both kids squealed with delight and excitement.  This is the first egg to hatch from one of our hens (in their recollection).  It's not for lack of trying on the part of our hens or roosters.  Oh no, those boys chase the ladies around all day long jumping on their backs every chance they get.  And several hens have sat and sat and sat... and sat on their eggs, to no avail.  We have come to think that Napali (mama hen) is just a magic chicken.  She is undoubtedly the coolest chicken ever.  We love her very much.

   So, our morning plans immediately shifted gears.  What had begun as a slow, sleepy, quiet morning, suddenly turned to quickly getting dressed, brushing teeth, and jumping in the van to hurry to the feed store for a water font, chick feeder,  chick starter and new bedding.  We had a baby to care for and nothing was going to slow us down!

   We got home, cleaned out the wood box of anything and everything, filled it with a nice thick, warm layer of bedding, built an edge along the side to prevent the chick from falling out, stocked them up on food and water, hung some netting to protect it from that cats, then stood back and admired the itty-bitty new arrival.  Actually, we hovered and cooed and fretted and stared as if it were a new born baby of our own.

   Sorry for the lack of photos.  The little whipper snapper arrived just in time for some nasty weather that has settled in.  In fact the lights keep flickering as I type this.  I am hoping that some point tomorrow offers some decent light for a mommy and baby photo opp.  I am also keeping my fingers crossed that the babe survives the cold snap that is expected to hit later this week.  Tomorrow I plan to hang a heat lamp.  What's with these birds?  Easter in Autumn and chicks just in time for Thanksgiving!?!

Fall Cleaning

   We have spent the last couple of days cleaning up the property.  The inspiration: the last of the leaves have fallen from the big leaf maple that towers over our house and yard.  Now that the leaves are all on the ground (and not still streaming down) we can actually rake 'em all up and not have it look as though we did nothing 20 minutes later!  Gosh, that feels good!  So, what started as simple raking and hauling, turned into a full blown clean-up.

   Ever since the tree fell on our house nearly two years ago, we've not kept up with the patio/yard area so much.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's the impending construction on the destroyed part of the house.  Or maybe it's the indecisive feeling that looms over that area since we are still trying to figure out just how we wish to rebuild.  Or maybe it's that we have focused our energy on the gardens instead.  Or maybe it's just that we have been so incredibly busy, it hasn't been a priority....

   Whatever the reason, the neglect finally came to close (or at least a brief interlude) this weekend.  And it felt darn good to give that area a good solid dose of attention and care.  The leaves are all raked and hauled to their winter resting places (mmm, yummy compost for next year's veggies!), the grass is mowed, the garden tools/stakes/trellises/pots/etc put up in the garden shed, the grill accouterments tucked away for the winter, toys sorted and stowed, gardens mulched and put to bed, kindling split and stacked on the porch, and happy chickens with lots of fresh warm bedding.

   I know that likely sounds like a strange mix of things to be covered in one area, but the part of our property that's not forest is not very big and it was one BIG tree that fell.  It covered a lot of ground and affected a lot of things.  For those permies reading this, that tree fell through zones 0-3.  Geeze!

   Another added productivity bonus: Steve finished tearing up the kitchen floor!  YES!!!  Yet another project years in the making.  So, now all the flooring is out and all we have to do is stay on task and get the new floor down!  I cannot wait, I mean really can't wait, to have a finished kitchen floor.  It very well might be the highlight of 2010 - if it actually happens in 2010.  Here's hoping!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quiet Mornings

   I live for quiet mornings.  Really, I do.  I love them so much it's a little obsessive.

   This morning did not disappoint.  As I lay in a drowsy half-asleep state trying to jump back into a dream in the early hours of darkness this morning, I was brought fully into the word by a text from a far-away-friend telling me she loves me.  And that I am a bad-ass mini van mama.  (yes, we bought a mini van - something I swore I would never do)  So, I literally woke with a smile on my face.  Can't beat that.  Now I am relaxing well into my second hour of a quiet, sleepy house.  The wind is howling like crazy outside, the rain's coming down, candles are lit on every windowsill, the dehydrator's humming away drying yet another round of bountiful mushroom harvest, the kids are snoozing, and the house is filling with the smell of coffee steeping in the french press (thanks Steve!).  I don't think that I could ask for more.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Going for it

  Well Ladies and Gentlemen, we went for it.  We are now a homeschooling family.  Holy crap!

   This is such a huge step for us.  Or, I guess I should say, for me.  You may recall that the whole impetus behind this blog is to chronicle my experience of following my heart.  For years now I have allowed "logic" and "reason" to rule the show.  I put these words in quotes because what may seem logical and reasonable is not always so... especially when conflicting with what the heart truly desires.  And when there is a driven workaholic with something to prove behind the wheel.

   So now, a huge step in the direction of my heart.  It is terrifying!  I thought that it would feel so calming and reassuring.  However, not so.  At least not with this particular decision.  I think, perhaps, that is because this decision significantly affects more than my own future.  There is so much more at stake....

  However, scary as it may seem, I know that we have made the right choice.  Like I said, following my heart.  This is something that we have wanted to do for a very long time.  When Cedar was but a tiny little little guy we always said we'd homeschool.  And now, we are.

   I have to say, it is a crazy feeling to shift life so drastically and so suddenly, with very little forethought or planning.  This was not a decision we had planned long in advance as we usually do with such biggies.  No, this was more of a spur-of-the-moment, I gotta do what's right... RIGHT NOW... kind of decision.  A few weeks ago, I was a working mama.  And I mean WORKING in the fullest sense of the word.  I mean 50+ hours a week in the lab, no childcare, on the school board, easily 2 hours in the car per day, still getting the kids to school and in bed on time, plus homework, plus MAYBE get a few hours of sleep in somewhere kind of working.  I literally functioned on pure stress.  It's what kept me going each day.  Simply put, the momentum from the crazy day before provided the strength for the crazy day ahead.  And I was so deeply engaged in the cycle, I could see no way out of it.

   Well, Cedar has always kept us on our toes.  From the second that boy took his first breath he has had something to teach me.  And there is nothing subtle or mild about those teachings either.  On many, many, many occasions he has brought me to my knees in surrender to what, simply, must be.  This was no exception.

  While I likely could have continued on for many more years of this psychotic schedule, Cedar made it apparent, if not downright obvious, that this shit had to stop.  But, of course, being ten years old, he did not come right out and say it.

   Luckily, prior to the start of this school year, both kids had the wonderful blessing of attending the most supportive, nurturing school I could ever imagine.  They were loved, truly and deeply loved, by every person they spent their days with.  I refer to this as a blessing because it filled them up with stability and strength and confidence while life was a wild ride of running and rushing and working and "hurry up! we have to go RIGHT NOW or I'm going to be late!".  When they started in public school this fall, that holy momentum, that crazy balancing act I so desperately worked to maintain came to a screeching halt.  Or, should I say, crashed and burned like a 50 car pile-up blocking traffic for miles in both directions.

   Cedar could not deal in the public school world.  And it was a really good public school - well funded, lots of access to arts and science, etc.  It was just too much.  And, not enough.  My poor little man tried with all his might to make it work, and yet it didn't.  And in the process, he fell apart.  And my heart broke.

   It was like the universe realigned.  I opened my eyes and saw my choices for what they were.  Choices.  I realized that I had, within my power, the ability to make a different choice.  I could follow my heart and do what I knew was right for my kids.  I could take a step back from all those "responsibilities" and put everything I have into the one responsibility I truly have... my babies.

   So please join me on this journey.  I'm nervous and unsure.  I feel like a new born baby, getting used to this new world.  Learning to breathe, learning to trust....  Learning to follow as my heart leads the way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


   We are in the midst of a flood watch.  Five inches expected overnight.  Oish!

Chop, chop and more

   We had a really nice visit with the east coasters last weekend.  Steve's dad, Jerry, and his wife, Diane, visited from New York.  They are fun to hang out with and the kids LOVE it when their grandparents visit!  We did all sorts of regional fall activities.  We, of course, went to the cider mill/pumpkin patch - an annual October ritual for our family.  This kids picked several pumpkins which now grace our front porch.  We ate apple fritters (something terrible for me that I look forward to all year!), drank cider, fed all manner of farm animals, slingshot some apples, and won a fish in a ping-pong-ball-toss.  (I now have to change my profile to state two fish!  Splotches in settling in nicely.)  Following the gluttonous, glutenous fritter fest, we went to see the salmon running.  This time of year here in the Puget Sound region the salmon begin their sacred journey upstream to spawn.  It is quite a magnificent thing to behold. 
   Day two found us raging the farmers market, filling our baskets with beautiful local veggi bounty.  Most importantly, Steve was on the hunt for hot peppers - namely, Ghost Peppers, the hottest peppers in the world.  He has been creating and canning some delicious spicy concoctions!  Post market, we wound our way down to the waterfront during high tide.  There, we spied jelly fish galore - little white Moon Jellies, huge yellow Egg Yolk jellyfish, and even bigger red Lion's Mane.  Among the jellies were a couple of playful seals.  They are so cute and curious.  I love seeing them!
  After a scrumptious meal of spicy "mancheladas", as Steve likes to call them, the really exciting event of the weekend took place.  Mister Cedar let Grandma Diane cut his hair!  Chop, Chop!
Holy cow!  Look at my little man!  Shortest hair cut he's ever had, by a long shot!  Oh man do I miss those long, long, long curly locks!
Cedar and Ganda 2008
   And I remember back then thinking it was so short because we had recently cut it due to a tree sap incident.  Little Moon, how did you get so big and grown up?  Other moms out there, please tell me how we slow time down so that we may savor these moments longer.  It goes by so fast!  Now my little man is truly on the cusp of becoming a little man!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting things done

   Hmmm.... After last night's epic download, this evening's post shall be brief.  In a nutshell - choppin' and preppin'.  Steve and I spent the day today chopping and stacking firewood and prepping for a visit with family from NY.  It was a glorious day to be working outside.  Finally, some classic, beautiful pacific northwest September weather... on the eve of October.  Again, I say - hmmm....

   I am happy to report that I found the hidden egg motherload.  Remember the Easter egg hunt in autumn?  Well, in a sneaky game of "hide behind the rocks and spy on the chickens", I discovered their secret hiding spots.  And they thought they could fool me!  Ha ha ha!  This chicken wrangler proved today that she is, in fact, at least as smart as four independently minded hens.  Score one for mama.  Now, if I can only figure out how to keep them from escaping the run in the first place....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Autumn adventures

  It's been a busy couple of weeks, so the updates have been minimal.  Well actually, non-existent would be more accurate.  So, here goes the catch-up.

  We have been welcoming autumn here in our family.  The leaves are just beginning to fall from the huge maple that towers over our house.
 The escapee chickens are loving every stolen second scratching in those fallen leaves.  We have a rebellious handful of hens who would really prefer life outside of their run.  Nothing we do keeps them in.  They are wily and wise.  So, each day here on the homestead is also like Easter in autumn... a giant egg hunt!  Those rascals!  Meet Hedwig, one such mischievous lady:
  Thanks to Greg, builder extraordinaire, our mammoth wood shed is now complete.  It is huge and beautiful and awaiting several cords of fir, oak and maple.  I cannot wait to see that baby crammed full of wood.  What is currently an eyesore in my driveway under an absurd number of tarps, will soon be a neat and tidy (and DRY!) stacked treasure trove of winter warmth.  Thank you Greg!  Feast your eyes on this beauty:
  As we continue to discuss whether to homeschool or public school, we are exploring our interests a little more deeply.  We are taking time to think about what we would really like to get out of homeschooling.  What are the interests that we have that don't get satiated in the classroom (or in my case, the lab)?
For Cedar, the list goes on and on: baking, stop animation, photography, computer graphics, being able to spend more time learning math concepts, getting to have more time to read and less time on worksheets, spending more than 30 minutes playing outside, more science, and on and on....
Sequoia's wishes are a little more broad and less specific: animal care, singing, playing, not sitting at a desk all day, more time outside, NO TESTS(!), home cooked lunches and no more sandwiches, going at her own pace, being home, and more.  (The amount of anxiety that Sequoia is having about tests is worrisome.  Being in an alternative program for all of their schooling up to this point has really allowed them to be themselves as learners.  The external expectations for performance are really stressing her out.  Cedar, on the other hand, seems more grounded in that regard and couldn't care less about tests.  He figures he either knows it or he doesn't and that is good enough for him.)
My dreams for homeschooling: a more relaxed schedule, more time with my kids, travel, a chance to allow my kids to really dive into things they are excited about, the chance to dive into those things with them, mornings when we do not have to squabble and rush to get out the door, getting to witness their learning and growth, experiential learning, field trips, and SO much more.  Ultimately, I would love life to be school rather than life being all about school.
On the other side of the coin, we have also been discussing what we really like about school so far this year.  As far as Sequoia is concerned, school doesn't have much to offer other than the Wednesday afternoon ceramics class.  Cedar loves the library, band, science class, PE, getting to join the Hundred Mile Club (kids sign up to run 100 miles by the end of the school year), and recess with friends.  I am trying to stay neutral and just witness their experiences.
So... the hemming and hawing continues.  We hope to make a decision this weekend.  Stay tuned.

  To get back to the welcoming of fall, I wish to share the lovely evening our family created together to ring in the season.  In celebration of the Equinox and the Harvest Moon we had the most wonderful time!  The kids were home sick so we did a "trying-out" day of homeschooling.  Our day was filled with card games that challenged our math skills, reading some favorite books, drawing fairies, looking up a good fall dinner recipe, and going to the co-op (where we did all sorts of fractions, decimal places, reading, adding and subtracting, and learning the value of allowance money!).  That evening, Sequoia and I cooked up the most delicious pot of autumn harvest soup that was delightfully warming and oh so satisfying.  Meanwhile, Cedar baked his first layer cake.  This kid LOVES to bake.  He decided to spend his allowance money on all the necessary ingredients so that he could tantalize us all with a lemon layer cake with vanilla/lemon buttercream frosting.  Here is the proud baker with his creation:
Needless to say, it was a delectable evening - with lots of excitement, new recipes, snuggles on the couch, full bellies and love.  I could not have asked for a better way to usher in Autumn 2010.

  Last weekend we decided to head to Mt. Rainier for some sunshine, exercise and mushrooms.  It was a beautiful day so half of western Washington was there, but it was lovely none-the-less.  For all of our exploration, we only found one little Bolete.  Oh well... we still enjoyed spectacular views, sparkling glaciers, curious deer, warm sunshine and amazing smelling alpine meadows.  What is it about alpine meadows that smell so good?  I couldn't get enough - taking huge deep breaths every minute or so, practically trying inhale the mountainside.  It was absolutely intoxicating.  I'm getting giddy just thinking about it!  Here are some captured moments:
Seriously, those alpine meadows really do smell so good.  Anywho....  All of the above photos from Mt. Rainier were taken by Cedar.  He is quite the photographer. 

  Phew!  I think that about brings us back up to speed.  I suppose that's what happens when nearly two weeks go by.  Looking forward to many more wonderful autumn adventures!

Friday, September 17, 2010

My poor tomatoes

   The summer weather this year was, well, not really summer weather.  It's been cool and wet.  And fall is falling early and with gusto.  Hence, my poor little 'maters:
   Those little guys are trying with all their might to be their fully-ripened, glorious, gleaming red selves.  And yet....
   So, I will be preparing green tomato recipes by the dozens this year.  When life gives you green tomatoes, make relish.  Wait, is that how that saying goes?
   Anyway, on the up-side, our colossal wood shed is nearly complete!  No more tarps or chopping in the rain!  Just a lovely, dry and cozy winter for our family!  I can't tell you how exciting this is!  For a family who heats primarily with wood to be able to store nice dry firewood up off the ground, in a shed that circulates lots of air and keeps the northwest rain off is truly a godsend.  It will make such a HUGE difference in our fall/winter/spring quality of life.  Oh hurray!  I have never looked forward to stacking wood so much in my life!  Bring it on!
   In other news, the question of whether to school or homeschool continues.  More on that later....  For now, I have a school BBQ to attend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Goofy kids

  As Steve and I were making dinner tonight, the kids ran out to play in the rain.  Or should I say, downpour.  (good old pacific northwest for you)  I looked out the window to see Sequoia running around with Napali - our Barred Rock hen - tucked snugly in her rain coat.   She came grinning up to the window and proclaimed that she was keeping her cozy during the rain storm.  "Oh, how sweet!", I thought to myself.  Only to look out the window moments later to see this....
  As I stepped out onto the porch with my 'What the heck are you doing?' look, she cracked up and said, "What? I'm just keeping her dry!"
  She promptly popped the container off the hen's head and continued on with her rounds about the farm. 
 It's the life of a girl and her hen.... what are you gonna do?

Here we go....

Here I find myself, teetering on the edge of....
Well, I'm not really sure what yet.  But, I know whatever it is, it's huge and it's good.  See, I have made the vow to myself and my family to start living my life and making my decisions according to what feels right and good.  Live according to my dreams.  And my dreams... well, simplicity and happiness.  I know it may seem corny, but I believe that if I live my life in alignment with what brings me and my family joy, there is no way we can go wrong.  Now it's a matter of cultivating enough trust in myself that I can act according to what feels right without over thinking everything to death (something I have perfected over the years).
So, here in this space, I'll write about that journey.
Here we go....