Sunday, December 26, 2010

12 Days of Christmas

Phew! We have survived the preparations for the holidays, and then sailed gracefully (although rather later than planned) into a glorious Christmas Eve & Day. I really couldn't ask for a more perfect couple of days, except perhaps to have our loved ones who are far away nearby. We spent Christmas Eve with my family, and it was just fun and lovely, the way family holidays should be. We were there way too late, stayed up even way too later to get the remaining (almost all!) gifts wrapped, and then slept later than I can remember sleeping in years, the small one too!

I was thinking about 12 Days of Christmas, also known as Christmastide,  which begin Dec 25th and culminates with 12th Night (Jan 5th), followed by the feast of Epiphany on Jan 6th. There's a great explanation of all of this at Wikipedia, if you want to further your understanding of all of this. 

Sometimes I think it would be great to extend the Christmas holiday for 12 days, but today I'm tired, peaceful, and just basking in the glow of the lovely 2 days, and it feels enough. 12 days off work to rest and just be home would be nice though....some companies do this. We have friends who work for Solar Turbines out in San Diego, and they go on holiday shut down from Christmas-New Years each year....that would be lovely, I'm thinking. 

Helena has fallen in love with the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and we have had  a blast singing it together this year, especially on tedious, tired car rides. I love listening to her sweet voice piping out all 12 verses. 

We also have a book featuring this song with pictures. She loves the story too, but wondered out load, why the true didn't just give his "true love," why all that stuff? She even added her own 13th day of Christmas verse, were the true love gives true love. That's my girl!

Happy, Happy New Year to us all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Soups for the Season, December 17th, 2010

Feeing well again, and back to the soup season...Here's a nice, simple, hearty one for a cold day. Leftover's freeze well too, great for quick, warm lunches.

Lentil Tomato Soup

2 1/2 cups uncooked lentils
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
2 yellow onions, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped celery
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
parsley, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, onions, green pepper, and celery.
Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until garlic and onions begin to brown.
Add the vegetable broth, lentils, turmeric, and tomatoes.
Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer and cover.
Cook for about 40 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add some water or more vegetable broth if the soup is too thick.
Add salt and pepper to taste, cayenne pepper if you'd like a spicy soup, and sprinkle parsley over the top if desired.
Makes about 8 servings.

Found here

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Donate Your Unexpired, Unused Meds

My daughter recently reacted badly to a certain antibiotic, she just couldn't stomach it. This left us with a brand new, nearly full bottle of medication. I dug around and found that there's an organization, The Health Equity Project, that accepts these and other prescription meds and sends them to developing countries where medication is scarce. 

You can find the Health Equity Project HERE. The mailing address and list of accepted items are on that page. 

In my searching, many links directed me to the Starfish Project, which is now apparently defunct. It took some hunting to find this, so I thought I'd share.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finding True North....part 5

northern lights compete with big dipper
Photo Courtesy of Steve Wall

Distilling it all Down

What do you truly want in life? What do I want? Moreover, where is the intersection of our wants and needs?

These are big questions, without seemingly simple answers. This post, from Rosaria, has got me thinking (darn it!). That and other life seems we've reached another crossroads as a family, in terms of my husband's career. Which path do we take? So delicious and abundant, somehow, to have options, but so utterly overwhelming to me at times too.

Here are the items that matter to me, in this moment, as they roll off the top of my head.

- I want to be healthy, to have energy to meet life head on, whatever comes.

 - I want my life to be simpler, with fewer interruptions. I find our level of connectivity (email, cell phone, smart phone) somewhat exhausting. 

- I want to spend as much time as possible with people I love, or at least, like a lot.

- I want a home and the feeling that we can sustain this home without backbreaking effort. I think of my parents, who bought their first home in the early 1970s for $30,000, on a $30,000 income (and that was one income, thank you!). In 2009, according to the US census, the median home price was $216,700. The median income in 2009 was $49,777. Anyone else notice the disparity here? 

- I want to go to the doctor when I'm sick and not be afraid of the bills that come after ($803/month for high deductible insurance for a family of 3 is a bit much, perhaps?).

- I want above mentioned home to have the useful things we need, and for some of them to be pretty, and probably handmade, or at least well made. And I want them to have a place to be put away when not in use. And when they're all put away, I want a simple, uncluttered, but lived in and well loved feeling to this home.

- I want to work hard, and I mean this in all sincerity. I do not prefer to be idle. Quiet sometimes, but not idle, not much. But I don't like to feel like I'm on a treadmill. Work with a purpose feels good. Work without purpose, or with the purpose of consuming more, not so much. 

My parents gave me some amazing gifts, many of which I didn't appreciate at the time, some of which I probably still don't get. But many of them are coming home to me now, in a big way.

We didn't have cable TV. We had limits placed on how much network TV we did watch....albeit, that was a lot simpler in the days when kids programing was basically between 3-5 pm and on Saturday mornings, with a few little kiddie shows on PBS in the mornings.

We bought most things, clothing, housewares, furniture. This chafed me at times, especially in my teens when friends had new clothes, fancier houses, and just more stuff. I'm so grateful for this now...this part of my childhood prepared me to be a more thoughtful person as an adult, at a time in the world when consumption is at an all time high (or maybe ebbing a bit, hopefully). It taught me to use my resources wisely and thoughtfully, and think of the inherent costs involved in everything, not just the sticker price.

They taught me to treat others as I would like to be treated, and to widen this thinking beyond my own immediate circle, to the community of people who share this planet. It's not enough to be kind and thoughtful just to those I interact with directly. My actions affect people thousands of miles away, and it's time to get real about all of that.

As we move forward with our decision making process, keeping the bigger picture of what is important, what choices will enhance our quality of life and the lives of those around us need to be the key factors to consider.

As we rapidly approach the holidays and the shopping that usually entails, I find myself more and more ready to do this in a small, simple, thoughtful way. In the past holiday shopping has made me both anxious and tired. This year, I don't think I'll be doing much of it. Here's something to think about, if you haven't seen this already.

Friday, November 26, 2010


My life is so very full these days...and mostly just full of wonderful things and people. I would love to sit and reflect upon all of this, but it's time...

to load of for our baby tree fundraiser! Very excited about this. Tired, too, after such a week, but mostly just excited excited excited. 

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday weekend full of the best kinds of love

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Fundraiser for the SPCA

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of being of others, to the community, be it our local community, or the larger global community. These are not new thoughts for me. We did volunteer work with our parents from time to time when I was small, and it has always resonated with me strongly, this idea of thinking beyond my own doorstep, and giving outside my immediate circle.

I have been thinking and dreaming more along these lines since becoming a parent, as I think about the values I'd like to pass on to our daughter. Service is high on that last. 

Paradoxically, these feelings of wanting (maybe even needing) to be of greater service, have come at a time in my life where I feel like I have the least amount of free time to share. When the demands on me and my time are greater than ever before. Who knew (ha ha, some of you veteran parents are laughing at me now), that parenting would be quite this demanding.

Yet this fullness in my life also really drives home the need to do some of it now...the important stuff, that is. One of the bigger gifts of parenting has given me is to teach me (it's still teaching me daily) to prioritize. If there's one thing I've learned in recent years, it's that if I don't make the important things a priority, they WILL NOT HAPPEN.

Apparently, I could go on and on about this topic, I feel like I'm just warming up. But more at a later date. Let's get to the point.

Somehow, I got this idea to sell trees. We have these huge, gorgeous spruce trees surrounding our property. And they make lots of baby trees. These mama and papa trees are about 50 years old and quite hardy. Who wouldn't want such a tree in their yard? 

Well, now's your chance!

On black Friday, November 26th, we will be selling baby spruce trees at the SPCA Annex at the Shops at Ithaca Mall. We'll be there from 10am-4pm, or until we sell out, whichever comes first. We have a few friends helping out and we think it will be a lot of fun. Moreover, 100% of our proceeds will benefit the Tompkins County SPCA

Trees will be from 3"-15" tall and the price range is from $2-$10. We plan to have around 40 trees available for sale.

If you're in the Ithaca area, please help us spread the word about this fundraiser. We would love to sell out completely, and may repeat this again in December if the first round is a success. 

If you can't make it on the 26th, you can also donate directly to the Tompkins County SPCA here. Or web search your local area & SPCA to find a shelter in your region to donate to. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

When Life Gives You a Broken Refrigerator....

Make yogurt....sigh...

I'm feeling a bit wry, but also stretching for gratitude today. 

We have been sick, one or the other, if not all three, since late September. Not with anything really serious, just nasty, tenacious flus and colds. Ugh. Helena has been the one most persistently ill with a cough that keeps coming and going (and finally seems to be going, thankfully!), with me feeling vaguely ill for the last 4 weeks or so, and only developing strong symptoms (coughing that won't quit) this week, and Patrick getting hit fast and hard, also this week with flu. Blah.

So here's the gratitude I've mustered up on behalf of this lingering malaise....

- I'm truly, deeply grateful that in general I'm fit and healthy. I can somewhat imagine what dealing with chronic illness must be like, and I'm thankful that this is temporary.

- I'm grateful for the ability to keep some levity in our days despite the often overwhelming cranky vibe around here these days. We have had some truly light, fun moments as a family despite feeling icky that I'm grateful for.

-I'm grateful for the wealth of natural resources at my disposal that bring us comfort and healing. Growing up the daughter of a studied herbalist and otherwise naturally inclined mama has been and continues to be such a gift to me. 

-I'm grateful for the flexibility that our combined self-employment gives us, especially at times like these. The freedom to rest when the need arises, and work when we're feeling more up to it (if not really raring to go), is a huge gift which I never take for granted.

And now, on to the refrigerator, which today (weekend of course), seems to be malfunctioning.

- I'm grateful that the freezer is functioning perfectly despite the rising temperatures in the refrigerator. It's keeping our more perishable, more expensive items safe, and this also indicates it's probably a fan, and not something more major like the compressor....

- I'm grateful that it's winter nearly, and cold enough outside that popping most everything in coolers is a viable short term solution.

- I'm grateful that I caught it time to salvage tonight's chicken and that it didn't happen when I had a lot more meat around, like earlier in the week.

- I'm grateful that I caught the milk in time to turn it into yogurt, for surely it's too warm to keep at this point.

- I'm grateful that we have the resources to fix this problem, even in tight times.

- I'm grateful for the opportunity to thoroughly clean out said refrigerator (okay, really stretching here!), which, less face it, doesn't happen all that often. 

- I'm grateful to have learned enough to only let this issue derail me for about 15 minutes, when in the past something like this could have ruined a beautiful day. I'm back to enjoying these moment.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Soups for the Season, November 4, 2010

It is most assuredly soup season here in the east...currently about 44 degrees and raining, although next week promises some sunshine and a slight warming trend.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE chili! I have become quite passionate about legumes in general in recent years, and they end up in our meals often these days. This recipe comes from my dear friend Lynn, although I'm not sure of it's beginning origins. It's fairly simple and really delicious. I like it best served over brown rice and topped with Monterey jack cheese, but the blue chips are great too.

Crock pot adaptation:
I recently served this for a party and did it early in the day in my crock pot. Brown the turkey with the onion and garlic, then add in the peppers and cook a few minutes. Then just put this mixture plus all remaining ingredients into your crockpot on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Doubled, this recipe nicely fills a 5-6 qt crockpot and leaves enough for leftovers. I like to freeze some to have handy when we don't feel like cooking, or want chili dogs or chili nachos!

Rainbow Chili

1 lb. Ground turkey
1 med. To lg. yellow onion – finely chopped
3-5 cloves garlic – finely chopped

While browning together – chop the peppers then add in:
2 med. To lg. poblano peppers – chopped
1 orange bell pepper (if doubling recipe add a yellow bell pepper)

After a few minutes of cooking add all the canned stuff
1 can blk. Beans - drained and rinsed
1 can white Beans - drained and rinsed
1 32 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce

add spices to taste after sauce
fair amt. of dried basil
good amt. of chili powder
less amt. of dried sage
A tiny sprinkle of brown sugar

Serve with blue corn chips to complete the rainbow!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Soups for the Season, October 26, 2010

This is a six year favorite of mine, which I've posted before. It was made for me by a friend when Helena was just a few days old. Admittedly, I have some nostalgic and warm feelings about this soup that have nothing to do with the soup itself, but others who've tried it all agree it's pretty great. I blogged about it once before, but I believe it deserves a reintroduction. If you're lucky enough to still have some fresh tomatoes from the garden (I'm not, sniff, sniff!), here's a great use for them.

Tomato Cabbage Soup

1) Finely dice 1 carrot, 1 leek, well-washed and 1/2 bunch celery, including leaves. Saute in a soup pot with 1 Tb oil and 1/2 Tb whole fennel seed. When golden brown, add 8 c. water and 1 Tb pesto, if you have it, otherwise add 1tsp dried basil. Cover and simmer 1 hour.

2) Coarsely shop 5 c. fresh tomatoes. You need not skin them. (Or alternatively, add 1 qt. canned tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes somewhat in the soup pot). Add to soup pot with 1/4 c. canned tomato paste. Cut up 1/4 small cabbage into 1" squares and add to simmering soup. Cook another 30 min. When cabbage and tomatoes seem done, add 1/3 c. white rice and cook 10 min more. The rice really needs to go in much earlier to be done on time.

3) Season soup with 2 Tb brown sugar, 2 tsp salt and 1 Tb lemon juice. Taste and correct seasonings if necessary. Garnish each serving with sour cream.

serves 6

Of course, serve it with some good, crusty bread, maybe a salad. I have, on occasion, when hearty fare was called for, browned up some Italian sausage and tossed it in with good results. Whatever you do though, try this soup. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Finding True North....part 4

Purple Aurora Borealis
Photo Courtesy of Anar Valdimarsson

There is one thing that has become abundantly clear to me of late, and that is this: The Good Life starts right here, right now, in this moment. It isn't tomorrow or next week or next year. It isn't when my body is thinner or tighter, when my house is cleaner or more finished, it's not when the laundry is put away, when the dishes are done, when I have the right job or relationship or geographical location. IT'S RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW.

I have spent much of my life working through the to do lists, whatever they were for the time, be it finishing school, work for the day, a list of tasks or goals. All of these pieces are necessary parts of life, the stuff that life is made up of. In fact, they are life itself, along with many other pieces that fit into what makes up our hours of our days.

But if we (read, I!) get some caught up in getting it all done, getting there, getting somewhere, so much so that we forget that it's the quality of each day, of our interactions as we move throughout our days, that really matters, then we lose something precious with each day that passes. Each day is rich with the possibility that I can slow down enough to savor it, to savor the moments with those I love, and those I hold on my own, no matter what I'm doing.

This is not to say that it's not important to strive for what we want and work toward it, but more that we (again, read I!) need to remember the richness in what we already have. 

Recently, I stepped outside for just a moment for something, and was struck by the incredibly rich beauty of the sunset, just reaching peak. I ran back in for my camera, and was distracted by something out of place, that irritated me begged to be put away. I did so, then grabbed my camera and ran back out, and the sun had already sunk below the hills.....I had missed it. I have missed other moments as well, for similar reasons. But, if I can learn by the end of my days, to soak up the richness of many more moments without missing them, to put into perspective and balance the doing with the being, then I will consider this a life well spent.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Soups for the Season, October 19, 2010

We have been eating soup at least twice a week since the weather turned cooler. I've been working my way through the deck of soup cards, mentioned here, as well as revisiting some old favorites and seeking out new ones through varied sources. I thought a weekly soup feature might be fun for awhile, so here is the first in our list of hits.

Moosewood Curried Zucchini Soup, recipe found here.

We have been love, love loving this soup....I've made it twice over that last few weeks. This one came from the soup deck, which can be had gently used on Amazon for about $8 total last I checked. If you're lucky enough to have summer squash still coming in, (and I know some of us are not feeling so lucky with an overabundance of summer squash at this point in the year), try this. It's rich and creamy while still being fairly light. I've done it now with zucchini and yellow crook neck squash with equally good results. Vegans could probably leave out the milk and yogurt and substitute some soy or rice milk with a little more vinegar too boost the tartness. I also think this would freeze well if you leave out the dairy until reheating, although I haven't tried it yet.

Serve with warm, crusty bread and a salad.Try this bread, which I wrote about here, and recipe found here if you want to bake your own. I've been baking this bread and variations for about six months, with a break in the summer for heat, and we don't tire of it.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Loving the Light

Having grown up and spent the first 32 years of my life in southern California, I have to admit that I took sunlight for granted. When it's all you know, and there's just, well, so much of it, it's easy to really appreciate it. As I move into my 8th real winter here in the east, I no longer take the light for granted.

I was prepared for cold, but not for how dreary it can be here. We have a lot of rainfall here, which accounts for the lush beauty of the area. But we can also go days without seeing the sun. It took me some time to realize this affected me. I think I really noticed it a couple of winters ago, when my then 4 year old daughter began to point out shafts of sunlight that occasionally streamed through the windows on cold winter days. She would grab my hand, and say "mama, I have a surprise for you, " then pull me into the room and position me so that the sun beamed into my face. I guess I had been pretty obvious in my delight at these bits of sunshine.

I have come to really love the light as it changes through the seasons here, and I noticed it particularly as the days get shorter and shorter as we move toward winter. There's something especially poignant to me about the autumn light.

These are from our backyard, yesterday, and this morning.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook, October 6, 2010

Join the Simple Woman's Daybook here.

Outside my window...~ it is very dark still, we're heading toward the shortest day of the year, and it feels it.

I am thinking... ~about how fortunate I am to be able to just stay home today.

I am thankful for... ~ the happy smile on my husband's face as he walked out the door.

I am wearing... ~pj's, sweatshirt, slippers.

In the learning room... ~how to pull together our IHIP (Independent Home Instruction Plan)

I am remembering... ~ that time for rest and play is as important as getting it all done.

I am going... ~to be home on a delicious, rainy, cool day with my sweet little girl.

I am currently reading... ~regulations of the commissioner of education...more IHIP stuff

I am hoping... ~that this path we've chosen, to home school, will support Helena's ability to learn and thrive.

On my mind... ~the pile on my desk...time to get to it!

Noticing that... ~quiet does me good.

From the kitchen... ~simple, easy food today...just H and I all day and evening, and more time to play that way.

Around the house... ~contained chaos...more organizing and purging needed, but it's time for a break to breath and just enjoy the day.

One of my favorite things ~the flowers on my desk H picked for me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Do You Freecycle?

Have you heard of Freecycle? There might be one in your area.

Freecycle is simply an online group where you can post things you no longer need and give them away for free. You can also post items you want, and if someone has one to give, voila`, it's yours! 

I think Freecycle rocks. We're in the process of clearing out a lot of unneeded stuff. My criteria for what I keep has gotten a little tougher over the years, mostly due to sheer need to move quickly through it all. The list goes something like this:

If I'm keeping it because:

1) It's beautiful, then it needs to be displayed, not stored.
2) It's useful, it needs to be useful now or in the immediate future (12 months or less). And it needs to have a regular home.
3) It's sentimental, then hopefully it's also beautiful, and back to rule 1. If not, then I think hard about it and decide if storage is worth it in the long run. And if someone else can really use it now, it still might not make the cut. 

If it get's pitched, then here's the list:
1) If someone I know can use it, great, it goes to them.
2) If not, can I sell it? Ebay, craigslist?
3) If not, then Freecycle.
4) If not, than hopefully thrift store
5) Finally, trash...:-(

Here's where Freecycle becomes really cool.  You find your local Freecycle. Google it, many are listed as Yahoo Groups. Lots of areas have them. You get added as a member. This is usually a simple approval process where you learn the rules, which are simple things like only free things get listed, and how to add your area to the post so people know where they have to drive to to pick it up.

Aha! Did you get that last line...people will come to you, and take away your unwanted stuff! They get something they want or need, and it's magically (to me, anyway!) gone!

Oh, a final idea for clearing out...if you live on a well traveled road, as we currently do, don't underestimate the usefulness of hauling things out to the curb and placing a free sign in front. More magic! We place probably 2 pick up truck loads worth of unwanted but still useful items out by the street this summer and they just disappeared. All of them!

This is especially true of things like building materials that your local resale shop won't take, but someone can still use, and would otherwise end up in the landfill (at your expense, and all of ours, in the long run).

Happy day! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding True North....part 3

Moonshimmering waterfall and Aurora Borealis
Photo Courtesy of Arnar Valdimarsson ,Öxarárfoss at National Park Þingvellir in Iceland 

Small Steps....

Sometimes, when I have a goal, I can be overwhelmed by the seeming enormity of what needs to be done to get there. What I am working now at remembering, is that I only need to take the next step. Sometimes the steps from beginning to end seem clearly laid out and defined, sometimes even the first step seems fuzzy and nebulous. Sometimes the goal itself isn't all that clear.

For me, what's important is not to stop in my own head, but to put myself out there in a concrete way in the direction of my dreams. I have a very rich inner life, in that I can spend a lot of time happily in my own head. The gift in this is that I can create a lot of cool things in theory, the possible curse is that I can get stuck there and never make them reality. And then wonder why my life isn't working in the way I want it to. Once again, the theme for me is balance. To strike that balance between spending enough time dreaming of how it could be and enough time taking action to make it so.

A few years ago Patrick and I had a shared dream of working from home, home schooling our children (we had none yet at the time), and having our lives be simple, creative and sustainable. There have been a lot of detours along the path toward this dream, so much so that I have doubted the feasibility of it, and even doubted my desire for it (and I venture to say Patrick has felt the same way, at least at times). But I'm back now, dreaming, feeling more strongly that this is right for us, although some of the details are still vague. That's okay though, some are falling into place. Patrick has just left a job to work as an independent contractor in the same field, and will be working primarily from home. One piece of the puzzle has just snapped into place. Others will follow...

The next step in this path is's time to create the home space needed to support this life. We have the home, and there's just too much stuff in it for us to function well given as much time that we all spend at home. We, and I especially, as the one holding down the home-front, have a ton of sorting, selling and giving away to do before I get to really settle in to the creating I want to be doing in this home. I have been resistant to this process but it's clearly now time to push through the resistance and do the next step. And still to squeeze in some time to do the fulfilling things that keep me energized.

What is your next (or first step?)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Finding True North....part 2

Aurora Borealis, the colored lights seen in the skies around the North Pole, the Northern Lights, from Bear Lake, Alaska, Beautiful Christmas Scene, Winter Star Filled Skies, Scenic Nature
Photo courtesy of Beverly & Pack. Bear Lake, Alaska.

I firmly believe that we create our own reality. Recently, since I've become more aware of this and more adept at putting into practice, I'm finding more and more real life proof that this is true.

Something that occurred to me along theses lines, during my morning walk, was this: We have to own our wants, our needs, our deep desires, for them to come into being. For me this has been a process of distilling these wants into the simplest of lists, of weeding out the extraneous, distracting wants, and finding the sweet, true places where my soul resides. 

It's become clear to me that what holds me back most in terms of living the life I want is the lack of belief that what I want is truly possible. And so I have told myself that I didn't want that, or wasn't sure if it was right. 

I've stopped doing that, for the most part. I need to remind myself at times that what I want is possible, and I'm sometimes very afraid that it isn't. But mostly, there's the small, sure voice in me that says it is possible, and that the dreaming brings it all to life.

What holds you back from what feeds your soul?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Home Schooling: New York State Letter of Intent

Yes, we're officially back to home schooling. For those who are interested, or maybe considering home schooling and wonder what's involved, here's the beginning of the process in New York State once your child reaches age 6, when education becomes compulsory. 

Step One, File your Letter of Intent.

In New York, once you decide to home school your child, you have to file a Letter of Intent with your school district. This is usually directed to the school superintendent, but in districts which have a large enough home schooled population, you may have a "home school coordinator" assigned. In our case, it goes to the superintendent. 

The letter is simple, just a few lines identifying your child and stating your intention to school at home. Here is the format I used:

Dear (Superintendent),

RE: (child's full name)
Age: (child's age)
Date of birth: (child's DOB)
Grade level: (child's grade level)

We reside in the (your school) District. We are planning to instruct our (son or daughter), (child's name) at home for the 2010-2011 academic year.


 (parents names)

That's it! Very simple! Mail or email. 

This needs to be sent to your school district annually, either by July 1st for the coming school year, or as soon as you know you plan to home school, if the current school year has begun and your child is already in school.

The next step, which I believe you have a few weeks to complete, is to file your IHIP, or Independent Home Instruction Plan. Once you mail in your Letter of Intent, you should receive information about what is expected for the IHIP. My letter of intent goes out today, I'll let you know what I get back from our school system.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The next turn along the educational path????

I have blogged a few times about Helena's choice to attend public school, and more specifically my feelings about it. You can find those older posts here and here. At the crux of all of this for me was really letting it be her own choice, despite my own feelings.

She breezed through 3.5 weeks of kindergarten with a smile on her face and a skip in her step. She started the first week of 1st grade eagerly, and was excited enough about it to choose to attend school on her birthday that week, when she had previously insisted that she wanted to stay home. 

Then came the weekend, and Sunday evening, while we were snuggling in and getting ready for her to go to sleep, she mentioned she may not want to stick with school. 

This took me by surprise, but really, it shouldn't have. I questioned her on why. Her reasoning makes sense to me. In a nutshell, she's developed some close friendships with some home-schooled/unschooled friends, which really solidified over the summer. She really likes the things she does with them. And she'd rather spend her time having more time with them. 

Our agreement when she started kindergarten June 1st, was that she would finish the year, and then if she didn't like and didn't want to continue, that would be fine. She was so enthusiastic about returning to 1st grade that we didn't really revisit what it would look like to quit if she decided she wanted to. I think she knew it would be an option, it certainly always has been in my heart. 

The agreement we have come to now, is that if she's feeling like she doesn't want to continue, we'll give it a couple of weeks and if she still feels that way, then she can stop going. She seems content with this arrangement, and it feels reasonable to me. She has already said once since then that maybe she'd like to continue longer than 2 more weeks. We haven't said this to her, but we also decided, if at any point things seems bad for her there, then there would be no waiting period, we would just pull her out.

We started off the week with her still attending school without complaint, but as we've gotten later in the week, she's begun to protest going at all, so much so that we're having a "sick" day today and then weekend to think on it. Then, we may just be done.

This all comes at such an interesting time for this time when my values and life choices seems so much more solid and real and me , then they did even 3 months ago. I talked about about that here. One of those values is to choose from clarity, rather than reaction, and this is where we're at with this right now. Taking the time to consider the benefits and disadvantages of both situations, and really, of honoring the inherent value in each path, and then simply choose the one that feels right.

I have spent a lot of my life feeling like there had to be something wrong with a circumstance in order for me to choose not to be involved with it. I think it's a fairly common trait, to criticize that which we choose not to associate ourselves with. It's one that hasn't felt good to me for awhile though, this choice to make other people and situations wrong so I can feel right about my own choices. If I can move beyond that, and I think I'm moving in that direction, then I can approach life and people with a more truly open heart. 

There has been no specific incident that precipitated this discussion about leaving school, at least not one that I can determine. There are some things that I've heard about that I'm less than thrilled with in terms of classroom management, but in all honesty, these don't seem to be issues for Helena, just stories she's relating about her days there. Her desire to leave is more a sense of there's something else that's more appealing.  I'm grateful at this time in my life, to be able to provide her with this option to choose. 

What I can say now from an open hearted place is that I see the hard work that is going on at the school Helena attends, and the commitment on the part of the staff there to provide a quality experience for those who attend. And I'm grateful for it. And, it may not be our path, we'll decide soon. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Finding True North....part 1

Northern Lights Easter 2006

Photo courtesy of PJ Hansen (Artic PJ). Norway: Ersfjordbotn, Troms  Fylke.

True north is the direction along the earth's surface towards the geographic North Pole.
True north usually differs from magnetic north (the direction of the magnetic north pole) and grid north (the direction northwards along the grid lines of a map projection).

This term has been bouncing around in my head for months now, in terms of my own "true north." 

I have listened to many voices in my lifetime, most not my own. I have done things that I thought I should do, based on who I thought I was. Some of it was resonant with me, the inner me, a lot of it dissonant, or just confused, as in, "is this really what I believe, or only what I have accepted?"

It has only been recently that have felt the glimmer of ME getting stronger, more sure. Many experiences and situations have contributed to this growth, this emergence of me. Nearly all I am grateful for. All have been gifts. 

I have read and been told to look back at who I was as a child, to find pieces of who I truly am. This makes tremendous sense to me, resonates with me, if you will. These are the truths that stand out right now, some from my childhood and some more recent realizations:

 1) I have always liked to make things, create things, and give them as gifts. I can remember one autumn being inspired to paint. I found a bunch of pieces of scrap 1' x 12" shelf ends from shelves my dad had made for us. I took them, spread newspaper all over the floor in my bedroom, and painted on them with my mom's acrylic paints. I mixed my own colors and did my own designs. I don't remember the subject matter well, mostly flowers and trees, I think, and that the colors were all pastels. I gave them as gifts to my parents, grandparents and all of my aunts and uncles. Something close to 20 pieces I created. I was about 8.

2) Living simply feels good to me, especially with regard to food. I like growing food, freezing and canning it, putting it by, if you will. In our current day, where convenience is often key, convenience foods leave me with a hollow feeling. 

My daughter's small friend Rose, has been a window into my past. Rose is passionate about all things "Little House on the Prairie," and so was I. Rose is 6 and loves to dress in old time clothing, is learning to cook, likes to wash dishes for her mom (at least for now). I came upon the Little House Books a little later than Rose, but not much. And I read them over and over again and yearned for simple times when handmade gifts were all there was, and putting food by for winter was critical. 

3) I take tremendous pleasure in making new things of those that are old and discarded or about to be. One of my favorite projects was rehabbing two wooden outdoor table sets. Sanding, gluing, replacing rotten boards, and eventually painting them. I wish I had photos. I did this in my San Diego days, and sold them when we moved east...made money on them too:-)

4) Family and quality of home life are key to me. My home is becoming more and more my sanctuary, and I want it to feel that way to my family, and to our guests. I love having friends and relatives grace our home, feeding them, relaxing with them. More of this in our home would be good.

5) The quality of the interactions in my life, the journey itself, are more important than the destination. It has taken me a long time to come to this truth...I have been very goal or destination oriented, oftentimes without really knowing where "there" was. The right here and now is key.

I think there's a part of me that has always known that I was this person...this person who loved home and family and simple things above all else. I just couldn't see how this could translate into making a living, in sharing in the financial support of our family. I'm still not sure how this will work, but I now believe it's possible. It will be interesting to see what's next.

Where's your true North? If this type of journey is something that speaks to you, post a comment, and a link if you like.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Late Summer's Feast

This summer has flown too quickly, been hotter than usual, and busier than I like it, truth be told. This week we all pretty much melted down from just too much and I set a serious intention to do the last week of summer (before school begins) the way I really wanted to whole summer to be. The experience of this week made me wonder if I could have captured more of this feeling all summer, had I put my mind to it, but c`est la vie.

To rest and revive, we stayed home as much as possible, celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary as a family threesome, played more, rested more, and today, I'm finally feeling more grounded and in my own skin, and I believe my other 2 family members feel the same.

Sunday evening, after a glorious afternoon working and playing in the yard in fall-ish weather, Helena and I cooked up the loveliest of meals.

I have this deck of soup cards:
Moosewood Restaurant Soups and Stews Deck: 50 Recipes for Simple and Satisfying Meals [CD-MOOSEWOOD RESTAURANT S -OS]

 The Moosewood Restaurant Soups and Stews Deck a gift from my dear friend and inspiring cook, Nicole. I have to admit, I haven't used it much yet, mostly because my menu planning has been pretty loose and these recipes have a lot of ingredients, some which aren't normal staples for us.

But Helena loves this little deck of cards, I mean, it's fun, who wouldn't! So Sunday morning, when I was asking for requests or suggestions for dinner, Helena pulled out the deck and selected the Grecian Isle Stew (I found it online at this link).

We made some substitutions...we didn't have eggplant. My mom's garden usually supplies us with plenty, but this year wasn't a good eggplant year, so instead we used an 18" zucchini, which I threw in with the potatoes. We also lacked kalamata olives (I used black), and capers, which I left out altogether. Still, it was really lovely, and Helena, who usually doesn't like many vegetables or anything with lots of items mixed in, loved this stew! I like that it used a lot of the fresh things we're still getting around here, but was warming and felt solid even though it was a vegetarian meal with a lot of protein.

She also created her own salad dressing, as follows:

Helena's Hickory Nut Vinaigrette

3 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
5 hickory nuts, ground 
Salt & Pepper to taste

The dressing is delicious, and featured the hickory nuts we gather from the yard of our previous home last fall. I've been staring at the for awhile, seeking inspiration, and she found it!

And the easier homemade bread ever. Link here or book here.

We had the best of times creating this meal, and I'm noticing how much more invested in eating and trying things Helena is when she helps create them. I'm utterly grateful for the peacefulness and connectedness of this last week. 

And now, onward to autumn.... school starts tomorrow!