Monday, April 30, 2007

Things You Can Learn From Your Grandmother

1) Don't trust the thermometer. In other words, use your senses and you'll know.

2) There are stories your parents didn't tell you, and some of the stories they told you they got wrong. These stories are worth hearing.

3) The right hand ring was around long before DeBeers trademarked the phrase.

4) It's not the end of the world if your hair is not freshly washed.

5) A person needs meaningful work. For some women that doesn't mean staying home and caring for children. For some women ironing is boring. Don't judge the women who choose not to stay home and mother 24/7. Don't judge the women who do.

6) There is time to be patient, whether you die young or die old.

7) Friends are more important than you think. Take time to cultivate friendships and keep up with old friends. Never tell yourself that there isn't time; we need friends as much as we need family.

8) Things don't really change all that much. Way back when girls decided to wear the same thing to school on the same day; couples got divorced; women worked; elders were shocked; people had housecleaners; teens drank alcohol, smoked, drove too fast, and got pregnant. Technology changes; people really don't.

9) Do what you need to do to keep your family healthy, with strong ties. Love your children unconditionally and accept them for who they are. Don't lose sight of the big picture while fighting over bed times, dirty hands, and too-loud music. You are tending the saplings that will grow to protect you in your old age.

10) Frugality will win in the end...unless you are fabulously wealthy from the beginning you'd better learn the skills you need to get you through the lean years, and to take you into retirement. Let people laugh when you cut corners, let them say you're cheap, and take comfort in a paid-for house and adequate retirement savings.

11) Give of yourself. Donate your time and talents. Get involved, because you can make a difference.

12) You will hold your child's hand, and your grandchild's hand, and the time will come when you need them to hold yours. It's precious.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Another Oops

I realized today that I bought a string of lantern lights, brand new, last weekend. Every year our town has a big two-month festival, and one part of it is decorating the porch with lanterns. Last year I told the boys that we could get lanterns this year, and when we went to buy tomato plants they spotted a set for $8. I honestly didn't even think about it.

Of course, I'm slightly conflicted about lighting the lanterns. So far we've only admired them in the daylight. It is at junctions like this that I am forced to examine what I believe versus what it is like be as a child. How terrible would it be to light a string of lanterns for an hour or so every few nights? Can we cut our electricity use somewhere else? Can I expect my children to give up so much?

I could still box them up and take them back. I could remind Papa that I hadn't wanted to buy new things, and tell him I had made a mistake. I could talk to the boys about energy usage and the necessary versus the unnecessary. I could do none of these things, light the lanterns a few nights, sit on the front porch, and enjoy our town.

It isn't easy. One of the hardest things is figuring out how much I have to do, as just one person. Certainly I must be part of the solution; I cannot pretend the problems do not exist. But do I take it to the point of living in an unlit, unheated cabin, wearing rags, eating berries and other foraged food. Where is balance?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's My Birthday...

...and they sure are making a fuss about it this year! You'd think I was turning one of those big, important numbers that end in "0", but no, I'm 38 today, although Grandma thinks we should stick to "29 and holding", after I declared that saying I was 21 wasn't exactly respectable with an 8 year old in tow, since I would have had to have given birth at age 12.

The boys made cards. Grandma took us to lunch at the local fish house. Papa woke up early this morning, let me stay in bed, and made tapioca pudding, from scratch, for us to have for dessert tonight. He also sent me flowers and ordered me a Le Creuset Open Roaster in red (I'm pretty sure it isn't used...I think he's considering it a necessary kitchen purchase). My sister called, my FIL called (and sent a card and check from him and my SMIL), and my mother called and said she and my dad want to come over for dessert this evening. Did I mention before that my brother and his family bought me a vintage spinning wheel? What a whirlwind birthday for someone who usually lays low and spends it with just her husband and kids!

At least there is the rhythm of the day and week to ground me. We had lessons this morning, and this afternoon I'll start the laundry and work in the garden. I still have to make my bed. I cleaned the kitchen, and there will be dinner to cook tonight. I'm not a princess...I'm a woman and a mom and a daughter and a granddaughter, and I'm very happy to be me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Post For the Enki Users

We're a little behind on our second block. I did some planning for the next four weeks, and thought I'd share it here. As I posted before, my boys are in desperate need of more rhythm and focused learning while we are in the midst of trying to find some sort of normal after the death of my grandfather and now having my grandmother as a house guest.

We've already completed the trickster tale portion of this block cycle, although I may sneak few in here and there. I'll also try to pull one or two Western European fairy tales in. We're working grade 1 and grade 2 (the boys are 7 and 8).

Other things we're planning to weave into the block: making shortbread and bannock, working with fleece/wool, and seasonal crafts. We're spending a lot of time outdoors, and we are exploring the idea of joining our local Sierra Club chapter.

Humanities: The Sage Story Process – John Muir

Language Arts Skills: Revisiting, Summarization, Writing Sentences

4/23 Tell John Muir Ch. 1
4/25 Revisit Ch. 1, Draw from story, Write sentence, Tell Ch. 2
4/27 Revisit Ch. 2, Draw from story, Write sentence, Tell Ch. 3
4/30 Revisit Ch. 3, Draw from story, Write sentence, Tell Ch. 4
5/4 Revisit Ch. 4, Draw from story, Write sentence

Practice: Word Journals, Number Verses, Math Games, Reading

Mathematics: Fact Families

5/7 Tell Grandfather’s Family
5/9 Revisit Grandfather’s Family; Draw from story; manipulative play
5/11 Write Fact Families verse; manipulative play
5/14 Continue Fact Families manipulative play
5/16 Introduce Fact Families in written form
5/18 Fact Families worksheets

Practice: Word Journals, Word Families, Reading, Word Games

Seasonal Crafts/Projects:

Nest building project, bird feeder project, bird bath project, planting a butterfly garden.


4/24 Hand Gestures, Creating in the Shared Space of Two Hands
5/1 Hand Gestures, Elongating
5/8 The Human Form
5/15 Animals in Small Format


4/25 Tell Brush Tail
5/9 Paint Brush Tail
5/16 Free Painting

Handwork: Child’s Choice


4/26 Sonrisas Lesson 2 ~ Los Colores
5/3 Sonrisas Lesson 3 ~ Los Numeros
5/10 Sonrisas Lesson 4 ~ Mi Cuerpo
5/17 Sonrisas Lesson 5 ~ Grande y Chiquito

Nature Stories:

4/27 Pretty Poison
5/4 A Call in the Night
5/11 Sun Bathers
5/18 Camping Out

Friday, April 20, 2007

Rainy Days

I'll admit that today's rain took me by surprise. Yesterday was sunny and beautiful, and I didn't check the weather forecast. Although the old saying is April Showers Bring May Flowers, this is Southern California, and we really don't get much rain in April (usually less than 1"). I think I'll forgive Mother Nature, however, since we are at near record lows for rainfall this year.

Our plan was to get out this afternoon and pick up tomato plants, however, it's raining hard enough that Papa actually took the car to work. Technically I could have dropped him off so we could use the car, but really, on a rainy day I don't want to go anywhere.

The rain is good for the garden ~ although I did water thoroughly yesterday. I added compost and wet it down as well, and now the rain will make sure the nutrients make their way throughout the soil. We planned to plant Sunday, and it look as though that plan will work out, as there is no more rain in the forecast for the next 10 days.

Today has felt more natural than yesterday did. Grandma slept in so I ate breakfast with the boys, made my bed, and was dressed well before she got up. I poured her coffee and made her a piece of toast, and we sat and gabbed at the breakfast nook table for awhile. Then T-Guy and I walked in light rain to get the paper, and we sat and read the paper and gabbed some more. Grandma took a shower (another thing that we have now navigated successfully) while I researched spinning wheels (my brother and his family bought me one at an antique shop for my birthday, and it looks functionally and not merely decorative, but will probably need to be rehabbed).

Papa and I fixed lunch, and as we sat down with Grandma I realized how unique our family really is. Not only do we sit down to the dinner meal together each night, we almost always eat lunch together as well. It's a wonderful coming together.

Grandma is still having really hard nights, and I know that there is nothing that I can do about it. Spending her days with us provides diversion and company, however at night she is alone with her thoughts, and she is missing Grandpa's presence in bed. I know that I don't sleep well when Papa is away, and usually invite the boys (or at least the Girl-Dog) to share the bed with me.

Grief is a rough road. We can be with someone while they grieve, we can grieve the same person they are grieving, and yet we all walk the road alone. For me it is my grandfather who is gone, a man I adored as a child, a man I felt I couldn't please in my young adult days, a man I came to treasure once I had children. Certainly I feel his loss. Still, my grandmother has lost the man she was married to for 47 years, her companion, her friend, her lover, her partner, her protector. Her grief is more intense and will last longer than mine. For me, my grandfather was someone I visited occasionally; for my grandmother he was the person she was with nearly 24/7 for the past 15 years (once they both retired). My day-to-day life is not affected in the same way.

So we sit out the rain, puttering, chatting, reading, working. We accept that for now it is day-to-day; plans are not set in stone. We have options, we have time...we have each other.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


These days I'm never quite sure where to put my posts. For awhile, the Enki posts were predominant and it made sense to start posting the non-homelearning posts somewhere else, hence Red Dirt Life. My first blog was Sustainability in the Suburbs, which I deleted in a fit when I really shouldn't have.

Anyway, my grandmother is here with us for a stay, probably 2-3 weeks. To make a room for her we moved almost everything that was in the office into our bedroom (it's a big room) and emptied the bathroom so we could get it functional (it's been far more useful to me as a closet). It is amazing how spacious a 12 X 12 room is with just a twin bed, a nightstand, and a filing cabinet (well, there is also an exercise bike in there).

We always seem to make the best of everything. We've been talking for years about changing the office into a master bedroom and making the current master bedroom a family/music/learning room. Now we are halfway there! I am looking forward to moving our bed and dresser in and having a bedroom that is only a bedroom.

Of course, Grandma may decide to stay longer, or to come back, or to move in for awhile. We're open to any and all of it. One wonderful benefit of both home learning and of having simplified our lives is that we have the time and flexibility to welcome Grandma for as long as she wants to stay.

Now, Grandma just got here last night. Papa came home for lunch today and asked me, "Have you found any rhythm yet?" (Have I mentioned how much I adore this man!) Well, of course we haven't. We're integrating what Grandma usually does at her home with what we usually do at our home, only she isn't at her home, and she's a widow now, and her rhythm is changing. We also have to change, to be open to her rhythms.

We did start the day with breakfast. It's nice how meals create the basic structure of the day. Grandma usually reads her morning paper, so T-Guy and I took a short walk to buy her one, and then we read for a bit. Grandma likes The Price is Right, and my boys don't usually watch TV and are thus captivated by anything, so I put that on for them and had a nice hot bath, finishing in time to see the Showcase Showdown. Then Grandma read a book while I made pom-poms for a baby hat and did laundry. We had lunch with Papa, and now we've settled into quiet time, which is a big part of our rhythm.

I'm not sure how we graft another person into our lives so suddenly. It isn't a vacation-type visit; it's a let us be with you while you grieve visit. Grandma isn't accustomed to living with young children, the boys aren't accustomed to having to accommodate an older person with mobility challenges, and Girl-Dog doesn't know what to think about any of it (her response is to take a nap, something I think we could all use). Papa and I are missing each other a lot; with three trips up north over not quite three weeks, and now having a visitor, our time together has nearly disappeared.

Our lives have been upside down for nearly a month, and we need rhythm like we need fresh air and clean water. So now we step back into the dance, slowly, with a new partner, and we find a way to make it work. Some things will have to be put on hold, and we'll do some different things that I never imagined (The Price is Right every morning?). There are constants that provide natural structure; the garden must be tended, the boys must be read to, meals must be cooked, food obtained, laundry washed. For all of our differences, we are bound by the fact that we are all human.

Posting my be sporadic, or regular (depending on how I choose to use my quiet time). I'll probably post between all three blogs, depending on my focus for each day.

Friday, April 6, 2007


Rhythm is the big word when it comes to Enki and Waldorf living. Finding rhythm, keeping rhythm, creating rhythm. Why rhythm is important...all things that we talk about over and over again.

When your life moves into what appears to be total chaos (and it always does), rhythm is what brings you back to center. The rhythm of your breathing. The rhythms of night and day, of sleep and wake. The rhythm of meals, even when you don't necessarily feel like eating.

Rhythm is what got me through the days between my grandfather's death and the viewing and funeral. Rhythm is what will help me through the next few days and weeks. Rhythm, I believe, is what will help my grandmother through her grief.

When it all feels chaotic, I stop moving and let myself be still. I figure out where we are in the day (and believe me, right now I am often confused as to what day or what time it is, the result of hours in the car, in hotel rooms, from waiting in airports, away from home and away from rhythm) and I go from there. Right now we've just finished lunch, and the boys are having quiet time. I have things I probably should be doing (there's much to catch up on), however quiet time is when I rest, or read, or write. I step into the rhythm, I let it wrap around me like a warm shawl, I let it comfort me.

The boys need the rhythm as much as I do. They were with us when my grandfather died, however we brought them home and asked my father-in-law stay with them while we went back for the funeral. We knew that they needed the stability of home and the rhythm of regular meal and sleep times. We'll take them back in a week, and visit the grave site.

When this all happened we had moved away from formal lessons. Our days were more organic and less planned, and it was working beautifully for us. Now, however, I sense the need to pull the rhythm tighter, to give us all security (and really, to keep me from letting hours slide into days without doing the necessary tasks of living).

The beauty of stepping away from the school system is the freedom we have to live and learn in whatever ways work best for us, and to get to know ourselves and our children so well that we can sense when more or less is needed. If my children had been enrolled in school they would have missed that last day with my grandfather (their great-grandfather), as it would have been a school day. We wouldn't have had the freedom, on a Sunday evening, to say "Hey, I think we should get up there so Grandma isn't alone." There was no call telling us the end was near; Grandpa unexpectedly let go once he knew we were there to take care of Grandma, and we were there because living is learning is loving.

Since we've been back we've had a birthday party (part of our yearly rhythm). We met with friends in the park, as we do most Thursdays. We walked to the farmer's market. Tonight we'll have our family movie night, tomorrow we'll color eggs, Sunday we'll gather with family. Rhythm will carry us along.

Breaking the Compact....

It was bound to happen. Something would come up and make keeping the Compact impossible. For me, that something was my grandfather's death and the need for acceptable clothing to attend both the viewing and funeral.

I bought (all brand new):

1 pair black pants, cotton
1 black s/s blouse, cotton
1 silk blouse
1 pair black mules (shoes)
2 bras (totally acceptable Compact purchase)
1 pair jeans

I rounded it out with a hand-me-down black jacket and an old black handbag, plus my dollar store sunglasses from 2 years ago. For traveling and the casual time spent with family I took my thrift store shirts and old sweat jacket.

I hate shopping, and this was sheer torture. I didn't have enough time to scour thrift shops for something used; I was limited to the few department stores in town. Still, I was trying to keep my head about me.

I bought jeans because the only pair I have that fits are just about to rip out at the seam (honestly, I don't know what is keeping the various small holes together) and I had been unsuccessful finding jeans that fit while thrifting. I spent $20, and once I drop a size I can give them to my sister. Until then I'll just be glad to have jeans that aren't threatening to split apart on me while out in public.

I went as cheap as possible on the black pants, and bought them just a tad small, so perhaps I'll get a season out of them. I was unwilling to buy polyester, and it made no sense to invest in wool while I am still losing weight.

Both blouses can dress down, and look nice with the jeans. That's kind of nice, since I didn't have anything dressier than a black thrift store t-shirt in my closet. They are both natural fiber, and even though the silk blouse says dry clean I am confident that I can hand wash it. (By the way, I paid half that price, and still considered it very expensive).

I bought good shoes. My thinking was to buy a pair of shoes I can wear this fall and winter. In the past I would have spent $15-$20 on a pair of shoes for a special occasion, my feet would have hurt the entire time, and I would never have worn them again. These shoes should take me through 3-4 winters if I wear them often, and longer if I wear my athletic shoes a lot.

Looking back, I realize now that I probably should have been thinking ahead while I was thrifting. I so rarely need anything dressy that I never looked for that type of clothing. Because I have lost more than 60 pounds I didn't have anything dressy hanging in the back of the closet. I didn't have anyone to borrow from.

It isn't a failure. It can't be a failure to buy what you need to show respect at a funeral. I just thought I would document it in case anyone else is Compacting and hasn't thought ahead to special occasions.