Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hi Again.

Well, I'm kind of back.  Anybody out there?

I took a really, really long break.  I missed blogging but my brain wasn't co-operating.  I felt like I was getting my life back when whammo! It was gone again.  Every last symptom returned and then a few extra to boot.  There's a reason for it all but I'll spare all the boring details.

One day I'll write a whole post about it, but I don't expect friends to read it.  I just want to put it out there because there's a huge shortage of information and I want to make my story available with the hope that it will help somebody else.  I'm not really sure how to do that, other than writing about it here or starting a new blog to document the symptoms and recovery process.  Or maybe a YouTube video.  I don't know.  I'll figure it out.  (Totally open to suggestions).

Last month, John started a new job.  Next month we'll be moving to a new apartment.  This month, we are downsizing and packing and adjusting to a very new and difficult (but fortunately temporary) schedule.  In the meantime, I've been learning how to make kefir with raw milk and can't wait to use it in my first kefir-based smoothie tomorrow morning.  Well, kefir that wasn't purchased at the store, anyway.  Joshua and I have been doing reading lessons and he's already learning some basic words, which thrills me heart. :-)  And it's finally spring!  I've been enjoying sitting outside and getting some fresh air and sunshine while Joshua runs around in the park.

Joshua and I celebrated the first day of spring-like weather several weeks ago by donning shorts and going barefoot in the grassy area outside of our apartment and then we dug in the dirt for worms and beetles, and Joshy got all sticky and appropriately warm-weather-like with his first Popsicle of the year.

So.  That's life.

Last but not least, since I'm so very, very behind anyway, here's a few pictures from Joshua's 5th birthday party back in February.  I hate that feeling that I've taken dozens of pictures, only to find out I had a few...and of course, of those few, even fewer actually turned out.

The first is all the guests-- minus John, Rona and myself.  Uncle Chuck was the only family who could make it, representing the cousins and their families.  Two neighbor kids, V and K, also joined us.  Joshua has loved playing with them over the last year.  And Danielle, a friend from out west, who was here for a few weeks and helped a ton with party prep.  Thanks Daniellie!

Best buds.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let's Make Soap

I live in a toxic-to-me city (and quite certainly to everybody, but I happen to be reminded of the negative effects it has on my body every single day), and there's not much I can do about it right now, so I decided to go as green as possible inside my home.  Without becoming obsessive about it.  Which was surprisingly hard to do, once I started getting into it.

The idea of giving up commercial cleaners and their industrious feeling sudsy-ness and deliciously CLEAN scents, was one I have been putting off for a long time, but once I started getting into the whole process, I found the fascination of this going-green business and make-your-own-this-and-that experimentation more than made up for the loss.  And really, once you start reading about the benefits, it's not even a loss after all.

To start, I made my own liquid hand soap.  I Googled a bunch of recipes and they all looked pretty similar, so I ended up doing my own thing....which is pretty much the same thing as everybody else.  I grated a bar of unscented Castile soap and added it to four cups of boiling water, followed by a splash of glycerin (which was completely optional, according to the various websites I skimmed, but I'm definitely glad I used it).

(My camera was too flashy, so I turned the flash off, hoping to edit some light back into it, quite forgetting there is no program on this computer with which to edit the pictures...but at least they all match in their yellowy under-exposed fashion.)

(Note: The Electrolyte Enhanced Water was the only thing I had on hand that was not chlorinated, fluoridated and whatever other fill-in-the-blank-ated stuff is floating around in our tap water....sorry, John, I know you'll cringe.  I did, too.  Really.)

Once the soap had dissolved, I put the pot on the back of the stove for twelve hours, so it could cool and solidify a bit.  I remembered reading one online review that said a tablespoon of salt would cause the mixture to solidify before my very brown eyes, so I gave it a shot.  Didn't work.

Then the fun part, mixing essential oils and coming up with a pleasing combination.  I mixed three separate combinations and then asked myself, "Which of these do you like best?"  I love asking myself the questions, because I always get the answer I want to hear, which, in this case, was lavender and eucalyptus and peppermint.

Maybe my tacky green (but ever so warm and comfortable) sweat pants were part of my success. Then again, I can't prove it was successful, because I haven't actually used the soap yet.

As for what I can observe, the soap separates a bit, but I guess it's no big deal to give the soap pump a shake now and again.  I'll see if I can resolve the issue with batch #2.  

Next up...reusable disinfectant wipes.

And here was have an over-exposed picture of Joshua, who was happily drinking milk and munching on his QT snack during the whole soap-making process.  I love him.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Country Love

Phooey on me for forgetting the camera today.  On the other hand, it was quite foggy, especially over the rolling hills and farm fields, so they may not have looked so great.

We now live close enough to Lancaster that we can bypass all the city traffic and within 5 minutes of leaving home, we are cruisin' a country road. Every second of that drive leaves me breathless.  I'm certain I've never seen more beautiful farmland.  (<--admittedly coming from a not-so-well-traveled writer...also from someone who loves the beauty of the prairies, but considers them to be a whole different sort of category)  Perhaps I should have reworded my statement, rather than adding an entire disclaimer to explain it.

We just went to the outlets today, spending more time there than usual. I found a winter coat and jeans at the Gap outlet.  We'd usually stop at one of our favorite roadside stands, run by an Amish family.  They sell raw milk and homemade cheese, canned goods, fresh produce, flowers, and fresh cider donuts.

My craving for the fresh air and gorgeous scenery has been satisfied.  I've never loved the city, though I am fully capable of enjoying the benefits, and every once in a while, an escape to the country or a quaint small town is just what it takes for me to come back home with a renewed tolerance perspective and a thankful heart.

Ps. I am not one who particularly enjoys shopping, but I have developed an absolute obsession with Whole Foods.  They are so expensive, but I am somehow satisfied to just roam the aisles and buy a few sale items...and a jar of kimchi. Seriously...who falls in love with a grocery store?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Autumn Ramblings

The days have been filled with schooling and playing and cooking and drinking tea and eating chocolate with dear friends, and then company coming from Canada- the most delightfully last-minute, spur of the moment decision they made to detour on their way to their vacation spot- and the park, and the library, and more dinner guests (what a formal way to describe a great night with friends), and talking and dreaming.  And so the last days of summer have passed, and it is fall.

The fall makes me nostalgic.  It gets me to pondering the past, looking ahead to the future, and I'm filled with gratefulness for the memories.  I'm learning to fill each day with thanks, each moment with awe and wonder at the simple beauty found in the ordinary.  I breathe thanks with each conversation, every kiss, every laugh.  Every prayer.  But I am repeatedly 'human' and it shatters the momentum, the perfect rhythm of a fully embraced day.

I'm learning: sometimes the beauty is in real-life messes, too. A simple thought, even an obvious one...definitely not an original...but much bigger when actually applied to the living of it all.  The parts where I am human, I make mistakes, or I want to give up.

Often, the pain intensifies the joy.  Sometimes the joy is in the pain, in the mistakes, not just in the obviously good things of life....because it takes us to places beyond ourselves and outside of our comfort zone.  We can't grow or learn or trust if we are in our realm of simple goodness.  The great stuff is on the other side.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

At the Farm

We went to Linvilla today. There is pick-your-own-just-about-anything-you-can-think-of, a store selling baked goods and already-picked produce, hayrides, organized events, fishing, and the main attraction of our day: a petting zoo that's not a petting zoo.  You just feed the animals.  Does that make it a feeding zoo?

Feeding the deer.

A very hungry goat.

Talking to the chickens.

Show me how excited you are!


Throwing bread to the ducks down in the pond.

I want to go back and pick pumpkins and apples.  Fall is in the air!  I'm resisting the temptation to decorate for fall until October.  We're supposed to enjoy summer, right?  But I'm so ready for the cooler weather, warm sweaters, denim jeans, soup simmering on the stove.  Bliss.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A School Post: On Workboxes

My friend sent me some info on the workbox system and I have been hooked on the idea ever since, finally putting it into practice this morning.  Seriously, I could not have felt more organized (which I love), everything went so smoothly, and Joshua loved it, too.  I would have appreciated something like this back in my own homeschool days.  Or is it home school?  Or home-school?  You'd think I would know.  I think I just found a shortcoming in my education.  That, and my overuse of commas.  ,,,,  I can see this organizing concept becoming even more useful in the years to come.

There's no point in my describing how it works.  Others have done so before me.  In fact, you can go straight to the original workbox maker-upper's website: CLICK.  But...I'm gonna do it anyway.

John ordered a 10-drawer cart online.  Joshua and I put it together on Wednesday night.  I then laminated and velcro-ized some box numbers and a chart.  I heart my laminator.  So handy.

In each drawer, I placed an assignment and the necessary supplies, then numbered the drawer, and placed it back in the cart.  I'm currently using 6 boxes a day.  I haven't added penmanship or phonics to our daily routine yet.

Joshua is basically in control of the boxes, though he must go in order.  As he completes each task, he replaces the drawer, removes the number, and puts it back on the chart.  When he empties the last drawer, he's done for the day.  He gets way more excited looking inside each drawer to discover the next project than he did when I was piling the stuff on the table.  I can throw in a random book, game, extra craft, or whatever, to help break up the day and make the boxes more exciting than ever. ;-)

Here's my chart.  I wanted to print the numbers off, but I ran out of printer ink.  In light of the 'system,' I didn't really need the "Done!" card, but it aided Joshua in learning how the process worked.

This morning, the first drawer contained a box of markers and a sheet of paper.  John and Joshua went outside with them and drew a picture of the outside of our apartment.  The second box contained construction paper, scissors, markers, cotton balls and gold glitter glue.  Joshua made a picture of Heaven, with the streets of gold.  

I purchased a box of 20 craft projects, supplies and all, that worked out to less than $1 a craft.  We did the snail (pictured above) this morning, as we are doing a sort of makeshift bug unit study.  One of the drawers just had a book, and we read several pages.  Both of us learned some neat bug facts.  

I ordered these tanagram blocks that came with 50 pattern cards.  It's a nice way to break up the hour and definitely stretched Joshua's brain a bit.  

He was a bit baffled at first...

...but he did it!

Who would have thought that such a simple concept could have me so excited that I'd blog about it?  Ha, me!  I'm so easy to amuse. But in all seriousness, if you choose to homeschool (...or home school... or home-school), it's lots of fun.  The workbox system, that is...though the tanagrams were fun, too.  :-)  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Joshua's First Day of School

Writer's block is an understandable thing, but blog-block?  I simply desired to write about the day- Joshua's first day of school.  I ended up spending more time with my finger on the back-space key, my brain in a fog of indecision, than writing.  Maybe I breathed in too many charcoal fumes.  I'm giving up on writing anything truly worthy of clicking the "publish post" button (Is anything I write really ever "truly worthy?" Good question.).  Here are the pictures and a few brief words to accompany each one.

This seemed like a good year to start school, and so we did.  We took pictures of the student before starting our first lesson.

One of our projects was cutting eyes, noses and mouths from enlarged pictures of John, Joshua, and myself, and making puppets.  

I wanted to start the year off with something special, something that we could do as a yearly tradition on the first day of school each year.  I'd like to add a few more details to next year's kick-off, but this time around we ended up going to the library (something that will be turned into a weekly event), followed by an evening at the playground and a hot dog and marshmallow....cookout?  <-- I'm agonizing over simple word choices; no wonder I am not getting anything written.

(Edit: I think the word I was looking for was "roast."  But who really knows when I'm in this frame of mind.)

Joshua and Andre will be together a lot this year for school and play.  Rona and I are partners of sorts in this whole schooling business.  She has enriched my life in so many ways. (Now THAT is worth publishing.  It's so true.)

First taste of a s'more.

Joshua's first taste:


I am so looking forward to the rest of this year!  It's going to be a great adventure.  But right now, I'm mostly just looking forward to sleep.  Good night. :-)