Monday, June 26, 2017

At Home, Low Key Productivity

It's 1:00 p.m. on Monday.

I prefer s-l-o-w Mondays; more than any other day of the week, Monday is the day that I most need to be quiet and undemanding.

I never schedule appointments on Mondays if I can help it. I don't plan to grocery shop, either. The only errand I expect to do on Monday is to go to the library with the boys. We usually go earlier rather than later, but since the library is only open late on Mondays and Tuesdays, those are the best days for us to go because should we decide that cocooning all day Monday is necessary, we can still go after supper (even if it is late because the guys ride their bikes). Tuesday evenings are already booked, so Monday it is.

Lately I've realized how productive my Mondays actually are. Today I have done the following, all before lunch:
  • Tended the milk kefir, the goat milk kefir, and the water kefir, and washed the associated dishes.
  • Made smoothies for J and I to have for breakfast, and washed the Vitamix.
  • Put a jar of sun tea out in the sun to brew.
  • Brought in the dry towels from the porch, folded them, and put them in their respective pool bags.
  • Directed T in getting the day's laundry started.
  • Came up with breakfast for the dogs since we didn't have enough kibble.
  • Started a health log for J to document the things his doctor wants tracked.
  • Baked banana muffins, and washed the associated dishes.
  • Cooked 18 eggs in the Instant Pot so that we'll have them for the next week, cooled them, dried them, put them away, and washed the Instant Pot dishes.
  • Drafted a basic plan for this week's meals.
  • Chose the meat for this week's meals, and took it out of the freezer to defrost.
  • Started rice for lunch, and also started defrosting salmon.
  • Drove to the doctor's office to pick up lab orders for J, and made his follow up appointment while I was there. (I tried to do this Friday but missed them closing the office by 5 minutes.)
  • Cooked the salmon, along with reheating broccoli and alfredo sauce to go with lunch.
  • Checked the library accounts to see what is due today.
It seems I don't really mind doing things on Mondays, they just have to be things that I can do at home, and can't be huge tasks like mopping all the floors.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Happy Summer Solstice to those in the Northern Hemisphere, and Happy Winter Solstice to those in the Southern Hemisphere!

It's the summer solstice for us, and so our summer rhythm begins to take form.

I wake early, and make the bed unless it's a sheet washing day. If Papa is still in it I leave the task for later, but in summer he is often out of the house early for a morning bike ride. I dress, which this time of year means pulling on a light, floaty sundress.  The dogs and I make our way to the front of the house.

I drink a glass of water, slip on sandals, and walk the dogs around the block. I need the sunshine as much as they need the exercise. It takes only 10 minutes or so, unless we decide to go around a second time. This is the coolest air I am likely to feel on my skin all day. Depending on who is awake and who is home, I may have human company on my walk as well.

Back in the house, I tend the kefir and prepare smoothies for breakfast. Then I sit on the porch and listen to the birds. Sometimes I take out the newspaper or a book, sometimes Papa joins me and we visit before he heads to work, and sometime I just sit. Once finished, I bring in the pool towels that have been hung to dry on the porch raining, and put them in their respective pool bags, ready for service again.

I tidy the kitchen and front rooms. Once everyone is finished with showers I start a load of laundry, and I bring in any clothes that hung outside overnight. I finish my daily chores do any weekly home keeping chores as well. If necessary, I begin the main meal preparation, and also chop fresh fruits and vegetables for snacking on.

Chores completed, I bathe, and wash my hair if it's a hair washing day.

Usually this is all completed before 10 a.m. After that we might do errands, such as going to the library or stopping by the produce stand. If not, I'll choose a less strenuous task to work on, like paying bills and filing paperwork, or tidying in the craft room. My goal is to complete most of my non-creative chores before noon.

Then it's lunch with Papa, and after that we either head to the pool (if there is an evening bike ride scheduled) or hang out. If we stay home we might read, create, or visit with friends. It's the perfect time to knit cotton dish cloths, plan meals, or work on a scrapbook. It's also when I do any mending that might be needed. The boys might watch history or science programs, and this summer they are doing some practice assessment tests.

By mid-afternoon I'll start to think about what we can have for supper. Rice and miso soup, muffins and fruit, hard-boiled eggs and toast ... we've already had our big meal at midday, so we keep the evening meal light. Some nights it might be as simple as popcorn and watermelon, or even just ice cream or sorbet.

Depending on the evening, we either go to the pool or the guys have a bike training ride. We're usually home from all of that by 7 - 7:30, and then we eat a late supper (after showers). If there's time we'll kick back and listen to a record album or play a game, or perhaps take the dogs around the block again if it hasn't been brutally hot. Around 8:45/9:00 p.m. I slip back out onto the porch with a glass of ice water to enjoy the last light of the evening, when the blues deepen and the silhouettes of the trees gently fade away.

Finally it is time to brush my teeth, wash my face, say goodnight to my boys, and climb into bed with a book or magazine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

On The Cusp Of The Summer Solstice

The summer solstice (Northern Hemisphere) will occur tonight at 9:24 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, so I am going to dig in my heels and say that today is not the first day of summer. If we wait until tomorrow we can go for shaved ice with T once he returns from bike camp.

It's hot. I don't mind, really, except I need to remember to put on sandals if I intend to walk outside on pavement. The official max temperature was 102° yesterday, with a forecast of 106° for today, and 107° tomorrow. The A/C kicked on before 9 a.m. today, and that's with it set to 80°. Even set at 80° (82° overnight) it ran for 9 hours yesterday. I expect it to run for at least 12 hours today.

We could try to do without A/C. I grew up without it, and scientists say it is nearly 8-10 degrees warmer now than it was then (okay, those number are for 50 years ago and I am talking about 40 years ago, but still, it's hotter), but we could make it work. People have to, because not everyone can afford housing with A/C and/or the electricity to run it.

So we'd adjust, getting up earlier and then estivating during the hottest part of the day before taking advantage of the slightly cooler late evening hours.

The biggest question on a morning like today is To bake, or not to bake ... because baking heats up the house, but not baking might result in insufficient snacks and the wasting of bananas that got so ripe they weren't even fit for the freezer (too soft).

I baked.

In the middle of baking the power went out, then tried to come back on, then went out again for about a full minute. Just long enough for me to wonder what I was going to do about muffins in the oven (which, although it is gas, doesn't run without electricity). I had clothes in the washer as well, but those I could have finished in the bathtub, so that wasn't a big concern. More worrisome would have been the food in the freezers and refrigerator. Oh, and the A/C.

The power grid struggles to provide all the necessary power to the region on hot days. They ask us to cut back, and we do, not running the vacuum, washing machine, or dishwasher in the afternoon, and keeping that A/C temperature bearable but not frigid.

It's days like this that I remember that some day we are going to install a solar system, one we own, not leased. Preferably before the federal tax credits expire. I'd prefer a system with a good battery bank so that we can use our own power even after dark.

We're talking about window awnings, too, as we know our house used have them (the tracks are still up). The front of the house faces mostly west (perhaps we could say WSW) and the front rooms get very hot in the afternoons. The sun is welcome in winter, but less so in summer. Overall, someone was thinking when they built our house: the side of the house facing south is mostly protected by a nice carport.

The muffins have been baked, the laundry is hanging, the vacuuming is finished. It's time for a bath, I think. Then, on this last day of spring, we'll do our errands/appointments and then hide inside the house, away from the smog and heat. Come 9:24 p.m., I'll welcome the first night of summer with a cold drink on the porch, my feet up, and the porch fan on high. It will be cooler in the house, but I'd rather spend the moment outside anyway.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Shopping In The Refrigerator, or How I Avoided Costco This Week

If I had my way we would go to Costco once a month with a carefully planned list and then not go back no matter what. How hard can it be to plan out how much toilet paper, peanuts, dates, maple syrup, and frozen fruit we will need for a month? Or how many eggs and whether or not we need toothbrush heads? However, I live with three men (one middle-aged, two young) who think that Costco is where you go when you run out of lettuce. As in, We need to go to Costco this week because we are out of lettuce!  Did you hear me?  We need lettuce from Costco!

Lettuce, people! They sell it at the produce stand one mile from the house, which can be reached by foot or bicycle and never has more than one person in front of me in line. If it is extremely hot I will even drive there and not feel guilty, because my car is cute and I don't feel like melting on my bicycle when it is 97°.

I have already been to Costco twice in June, which isn't fair, and I will probably have to go again because: graduation party. But I will not go just because we are out of lettuce. If we were out of toilet paper, then I would go, and they could buy some lettuce too, but again, not just for lettuce. #notjustforlettuce

What can that possibly mean, anyway, to be out of lettuce? We aren't out of water or air or even food. Half the time when the young men are asked if they want a salad they say no anyway. But they keep track of lettuce like it was a baseball box score.

In a convoluted, related situation, my refrigerator has been a disorganized mess; there are approximately 6 million mason jars full of ferments, bacon fat, and leftovers (or 21, which is exactly the same thing when you are trying to find the tub of shredded Dubliner cheese). I don't mind so much, because they are my ferments, but the guys are tired of pushing everything around and tend to leave jars dangling dangerously on front shelf ledges, threatening to fall the next time the door is opened, spilling milk kefir all over.

And so today I cleaned out the refrigerator, and as a bonus I shopped it by pulling out all of the produce, cleaning and chopping it, and returning it to the bins looking brand new and shiny. There are now bags of arugula, clean mini cucumbers, washed and peeled carrots, jicama sticks, bell pepper strips, shredded cabbage, peeled daikon root, and cleaned green onions, and I'm pretty sure the family thinks I went shopping after all. When they ask for lettuce I will point out that we have cabbage, or I will just make cabbage salad myself and avoid the subject altogether.

I drank the water kefir, thus cutting the mason jars down to a manageable 20.

In the outside refrigerator I found a watermelon, 3# of prepped broccoli, and a still-good package of cooked beets. Short of a toilet paper shortage, I don't see any reason to go to Costco until we shop for the graduation party. Which is next week.

Ideas To Avoid Going to Costco for Lettuce:

Clean all of the produce in the house
Make cabbage salad
Make shredded carrot salad
Make cucumber salad
Tell Papa that arugula and tomato salad is the newest salad fad
Make a fancy salad with chopped vegetables and beets
Put out so many raw vegetables as a pre-dinner snack that I can convince Papa that we don't need to make a salad
Make pizza (because no one questions anything if I make pizza)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Things I Am Loving Right Now

Peonies ... no explanation needed.

My 18 year old son playing guitar and singing while we hang out in the living room.

The prolific explosion of jacaranda tree blossoms every May, although I suppose that the fact that I don't actually have one (and don't have to deal with the mess they make) enhances my enjoyment of this special So Cal season (yes, I call it jacaranda season).

Nature walks with friends who are perfectly happy to stop when the kids want to, because playing in water is beyond fun. Hopefully my broken toe will be healed up enough next time so I can get my feet wet too.

How much my older German Shepherd loves being in nature, and all of the funny things he does. Why was he digging in the creek while snapping at the water? I don't know, but he was enjoying it.

Dogs in trees.

Putting away the fire screen and sweeping out the fireplace for the summer.

The simple task of making milk kefir, caring for the grains and watching them multiply.

How the promise of my daily kefir smoothie encourages me to get out of my comfy bed in the morning.

Moving the armoire back into the dining room, and how much more I like to look at it than the bookcase I'd put there last year.

Blackboards and white chalk.

Lingering light in the evenings, and knowing that we've not yet reached zenith.

Making plans for a bedroom makeover, college edition.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Tree Puzzle

Round and around we went. Move the couch here, this chair there, take out the hand-built credenza, step back and survey ... and no. Switch chairs, reposition record player console, measure ... and no. Put the couch and credenza back. No. Shake head. Try not to despair. Move everything again. No. Hold back the impending meltdown. Realize that I'm not the only one about to have one ...

My living room has exactly one joy sparking arrangement, a perfect fusion of the upholstered pieces, the rugs, and the coffee table and other wood pieces. It took 15 years(!) to find the right pieces for this space and to learn where they should go. The house kept trying to tell us, but we weren't listening. Now the focus is on the fireplace and we've even carved out what feels like a small entry way in a California bungalow whose front door opens directly into the living room.

The feel of this room is highly important to me. The furniture placement needs to create a cozy space that is aesthetically pleasing, but more than than, a space the welcomes us in. I want it to be place that we want to be. Last November I breathed a huge sigh of contentment when we acquired the final piece of the furniture puzzle and added a rug to create a space within a space. Everything clicked!

Last Christmas we put up a small vintage aluminum tree with simple ball ornaments plus a color changing light and called it good. It was simple to set up and take down again, and it fit the space and was a fun throwback to the Christmas trees of my youth.

But several times this year I heard (from one child in particular) that a green tree would be preferred this year, one that could hold the many special ornaments we've collected over the years. I wanted to put my foot down and say that the simple aluminum tree would suffice, but underneath his request I could hear so much more.

I heard his longing for the tree to look like it had for the first 17 Christmases of his life (even if he didn't remember all of them).

I heard his trepidation about growing up and eventually leaving our home.

I heard his desire to revisit his childhood with the ornaments that represent part of our family story.

All the furniture moving was an attempt to make space for a large, decidedly artificial Christmas tree. We wrangled with space and chairs and the needs of our Christmas guests. It wasn't working. I was being quite rigid in what I wanted, which was for it to look and feel beautiful while also seating our expected guests. There was one chair that just wasn't working, no matter how we moved things, and I was loathe to let it go. We were both getting frustrated.

Finally, I told him to put the chair that was causing all of the problems in his room. His face turned to sunshine. We moved all of the furniture back where it had started, and decided that minus the chair and the record cabinet, a large tree would fit.

Come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we might not have enough seating, but we'll make do. We'll pull over the dining chairs, push back the couch, and a few of us may end up on the floor (not a problem). Until then, I'll try to remember that living in the house is the most important thing, and that one chair should never break us.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Plan For Our Grade 10/11 Year

I adore planning!

In May I planned the basics of our upcoming home learning year, and we hadn't even finished up grade 9/10.

I tweaked it in June.

I started over last week, and yesterday and today I completely revamped it. Like I mentioned, I adore planning -- so much so that my bed is unmade and their are bags of groceries that haven't been put away yet (don't worry -- they put the cold stuff away).

And ...

We are going back to Waldorf-style blocks, with a fair amount of Waldorf inspiration and method in the day to day lesson work.

I couldn't bear the thought of doing 9 months of chemistry every school day. I was certain that it would kill any interest the boys might have in the subject. I also think that the traditional school format for U.S. History would guarantee that the boys hate history for the rest of their lives.

We need time to explore things deeply. The average high school class is about 45 minutes long, and some of that time is spent on "housekeeping" tasks such as taking attendance, passing out papers, etc. In contrast, our main lesson blocks can be 1.5 - 2 hours per day.

This is kind of what it looks like for now:

We'll have 11 blocks; a few will be 4 weeks, but most will be 3 weeks.

Main Lessons:

Parzival (Since one boy is 16.5 and the other is 15 I need to choose something else)
Chemistry: Energy, The Periodic Table, and Compounds
U.S History: Post Constitution to The Civil War
Chemistry: Equations and Reactions
The American Novel: To Kill a Mockingbird
Chemistry: Gas Laws and Thermodynamics
U.S. History: Reconstruction to the Great Depression
Biology/Health: Genes, DNA, and Human Reproduction
U.S. History: WWII to Present
World Religions
Poetry and the Short Story

Yes, that's a lot of Chemistry. Since we didn't follow a Waldorf model for chemistry in the past two years we need to catch up. We'll actually be devoting two of our secondary lessons to chemistry as well.

Secondary Lessons:

Introduction to Chemistry: Scientific Notation and the Basics of Atoms
Shakespeare's Macbeth
19th Century Art and Music
Research Skills
Perfecting the Paragraph
Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington
Chemistry: Reactions and Dangerous Atoms
The Art of the Essay
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Research Paper: The Topic Funnel, Notes, and Outlines
Religion: Quaker Testimonies

Our major skills focus this year will be writing, because -- wait for it -- the boys have finally shown an interest in learning how to write beyond the subject journals and critical thinking pieces they did last year! In the first half of the year I have carved out 2 hours per week for writing instruction, in addition to the writing we do during Language Arts focused main and secondary lessons. I'm planning to make the lessons very fun at first! We'll also do Daily Grammar and a workbook for The Elements of Style.

"Said is Dead" and Using Descriptive Words
This Sentence Has Five Words, Crafting Power Sentences, Showing Emotions and Feelings
Tricky Words, Plurals, and Idioms
All About Punctuation
Analyze, Revise, and Edit
Expository Writing: Sequence

None of these topics are entirely new, but I think it is time to reawaken them in the context of high school writing.

You might have noticed that I did not plan any main or secondary lessons in mathematics. The boys have done so well with Teaching Textbooks that we will use it again this year for Algebra II on a daily basis. Their other daily subjects include Music, Spanish, and Physical Education.

This is a very focused and "planned" year, yet I still fully expect some organic and self-directed learning. T-Guy is going to finish up an elective in The History of American Baseball (probably this summer), while J-Baby will continue his studies in coding and electronics so that he can earn elective credit in those. T-Guy is pursuing vocational education credit it bicycle repair and mechanics (for which we hope to augment his book and hands-on learning with an internship at a local bicycle shop). He will also take driver's education this year -- yikes!

Another part of our summer learning is music and performance appreciation via attending concerts, plays, musicals, and other artistic performances, which we extend into the home learning year and add to by studying the music and composers. By the time their high school career is over they will each have enough hours for a full year's credit of music appreciation.

That's it so far!

Because You Like to Know

These are the resources we used for Grade 9/10:

Teaching Textbooks Geometry

CK-12 Biology and Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments
J-Baby studied coding and electronics
Both boys continued to explore science through documentary films and natural exploration.

Literature/Language Arts:
We chose many classic works of literature and read and discussed them.  Writing, spelling, and grammar came along organically. Some of the works we read and discussed included The Grapes of Wrath, The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Hamlet. J-Baby explored the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

History/Social Studies:
This year we focused most of our time on early American History, including colonization, the Revolutionary War, and the Constitution, and then peppered in history from many other places and time periods. Some of the books we used included Four Great Americans, Miracle at Philadelphia, A History of US, Common Sense, and several key speeches.  We also read The Royal Road to Romance, which focused mostly on geography.

Foreign Language:
Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish (into level 2)

We continue with piano, guitar, and voice. This year we added in more composer studies and music appreciation as well.  We also studied several artists and their major works.

Physical Education:
Mountain biking and more mountain biking. There are always skills to learn and more ways to improve.

Fare Thee Well Homespun Waldorf

I am knee-deep in planning right now. Who am I kidding? I'm really up to my eyeballs, caught between loving the process and being overwhelmed with the desire to finish planning the year, plan out the first block, and prepare for our annual nature pilgrimage, all before an anniversary trip near the end of summer.

I went to consult with the Homespun Waldorf forum, which rarely has new posts, hoping to find something archived about high school chemistry ... and the forum and blog were not there!

I felt sad. They had been there perhaps just last month, and today there were gone. The message says that the account has been suspended.

My first thought was that all of our collective ideas were gone. It is an idea that saddens me tremendously. Then I remembered that this is not the first time that I have been part of a sharing of ideas and experiences that disappeared, and so I looked for the lesson.

Things are temporary, ephemeral even. This is as true of shared ideas as it is of physical things. However, the experience remains; I can still tap into how I felt when Homespun Waldorf was active. It is still a loss, but I see that it is one that came in stages. First we lost the active community, then we lost the collective wisdom of that community.

Perhaps it will come back. I don't think so; however. Why should someone pay to maintain forums that are no longer active? It may be that we lost the forum way back when people stopped coming.

Farewell, and hopefully I will see someone of the Homespun Waldorf community somewhere else.