Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beaded Icicle Ornaments

All you need for these pretty and simple ornaments, is beading wire (or other thin flexible wire) and sparkly beads.  We used 28 gauge beading wire which is thin and very bendy. If you want a sturdier ornament you could use a lower gauge wire.  We used inexpensive plastic beads from the craft store this time, but I have also made them with faceted glass beads.
 I start with roughly 24" of wire length, though we like to vary the sizes.  In order to secure the beads, the first bead is slid to the middle of the length of wire and the wire is doubled over.All of the other beads are threaded on both strands of the doubled wire.

 After the beads are strung to the desired length, the ends are looped back and threaded through the last couple of beads to secure them and to make a loop for hanging the ornament.
 (All close-up hand photos were taken by Sylvia :)
 The wire can be wrapped around a finger or a pencil to create a spiral, and then stretched to lengthen it for a traditional icicle ornament, or they can, of course, be free-form shaped, or made into a letter of the alphabet, or a bracelet, or...
 We strung the icicles on green wool yarn because it was handy, but you could slip on an ornament hook or use a pretty thin ribbon to hang your ornaments.  They look equally pretty hanging in the window or on a lit-up Christmas tree reflecting the colorful lights.

We had fun sharing this craft with our homeschool group after practicing Christmas carols yesterday.  

This post is shared at Natural Suburbia's Creative Friday, and The Magic Onion's Friday's Nature Table, and Ordinary Life Magic's Saturday's Artist: Holiday Edition.  The links at all of these spaces are often crafty, fun, and inspiring.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Unschooling and Schooling

Camille is still very happy with her choice to go to school this year.  She has a kind teacher and a small class.  And since it is her choice, she takes full responsibility for it.  To be honest, I don't care about her grades, or her homework, or her attendance record.  I don't enforce a bedtime, a limit on media use at home, or have regulations on food intake.  I do encourage respect, kindness, and joy, and if these things are difficult to find in the moment, I try to find a way to smooth the path back to them.

At one point Camille was getting very grumpy and easily aggravated every morning during her first recess.  She told me that she felt like lashing out at her friends, and we problem-solved together.  It turns out she wasn't eating the breakfast that school provides because she mostly avoids gluten (again, her choice) and most of the food was gluten-y and unappealing to her.  Her teacher now has a cupboard where she can keep gluten-free cereal and other snacks for breakfast or snacktime, and she doesn't have that problem any more.

The reason that I am writing about this is that having approached her life and learning from an unschooling perspective has had a huge (and positive) effect on how we approach her schooling.  As a parent, I don't feel like I have to have an adversarial relationship with her.  I can be her safe place to come home to.  I can make her healthy lunches, and help with her homework if asked, but I don't feel like I have to be the one to push the school agenda.  As the learner, Camille is there because she enjoys the social interaction and the activities. Academically, school is not at all challenging for her, and she does get bored or frustrated occasionally, but she wants to be there, and that carries her joyfully (most of the time) through the less appealing aspects of it.

She never wants to take a day off just because, even though she knows she can.  She finishes her homework on time every day, and goes to bed at 8:00 every night, because she doesn't want to be sleepy at school.  Her teacher says she's a joy to have in class, and her grades are good, (except gym :).  But what I actually care about is that she is happy, she is enjoying her school experience, and she is doing it on her terms.  And interestingly enough, I think that I have unschooling to thank for that.

By the way, unschooling is sometimes wrongly seen as just letting a child figure everything out on their own, but in actuality, I have seen that the parents of unschoolers (when it works well) are even more involved in their children's learning, but they are more of a support network than a "teacher".  For example, a week of unschooling math for Camille might have looked like helping bake a cake, measuring wood for Papa's construction project, figuring out scores on a computer game, playing dice and board games, doing a 1400 number dot-to-dot, and figuring out the best way to spend $5.00 at a thrift store.  These things are not done 'to teach math', but the learning is there nonetheless, or maybe all-the-more.  Learning happens best when there is actual interest in the subject matter :)

I do miss Camille when she's gone such long hours every day, but she told me tonight in the car that I'm "pretty much her best friend", which of course melted my heart.  She has a lot of friends, both in school and out, and even a sweet little 8 year-old home-schooled boyfriend that sewed her a Robin Hood-style hat :) I love to see her so very happy.

So far, Sylvia is still content to be home-schooled/unschooled, and Ayla is far away from those choices, but I know that we will continue to follow the path of happiness and see where that leads us.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Naked Lady Party: A Tradition

Also known as a clothing swap, but it doesn't have quite the same ring.
 Once a  season (or so) one of the women from our group of friends offers to host a naked lady party.  It is a great chance to purge the closet, and/or add to it, as well as an excuse to get together with some of my all-time favorite ladies.
 It's the perfect way to pass on old favorite clothes that no longer serve you, or those that never fit quite so, even hand-made items that you just can't bring yourself to donate to a thrift store.  Everyone brings their unwanted clothing, and sometimes books, DVDs, or household items.  They get sorted into separate piles of skirts, pants, sweaters, etc.  An hour or so after people gather together, the dig begins!  It's a free-for-all, pick it up, try it on, and either keep it or toss it back on the pile, kind of lovely mayhem.

  It was also a lovely way to spend black friday and come home with a large bag of new (to me) clothes, and fill up on hugs and laughter with some truly lovely women.  All while being eco-friendly and avoiding consumer madness.

 Some elements to consider if you are thinking of hosting a naked lady party:  A full length mirror (or two) in the swap area is nice, and some music.  Our group of friends usually bring wine and/or snacks.  There could be a designated area for safe piles, where people can stash the clothes that they plan on bringing home with them, or they can just fill up bags.  And the group doesn't need to be large.  Some of my favorite swaps have been with less than ten or so ladies.

Anyway, thanks to some of my favorite women for hugs, laughter, friendship and the stuffed-to-overflowing bag of clothes that I brought home with me. Some items are bound to show back up at another naked lady party... (maybe that sea-foam green corduroy blazer).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Random things I'm thankful for:

(In no particular order)

friends and family that I don't see often enough, but always know that the love is still there

the sun and our solar-heated floors and hot water

the ability to obtain food close to the source (growing it, preserving it, purchasing it straight from a local farmer, supporting small local stores that support small local farmers)

my three healthy, amazing daughters who every day delight me, challenge me, and make me laugh, and only occasionally make me cry :)

my husband, who is a hard-worker, a kind father, and makes sure there's a load of wood by the woodstove when he leaves for work in the morning :)

homemade, from scratch, green bean casserole

gluten-free chocolate cream pie for breakfast :)

the fact that I am not setting foot in a store the day after Thanksgiving :)

all of the people who help make the world a better place, globally, in their communities, and in their families

our naughty puppy, Carly, and 25 chickens
sunset walks in the country with my family

Reading over that list, it pretty much comes down to people, food, animals, and the sun.  That's about right :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

just us

It's been a whole week since I've posted.  No reason really.  It's just us, living our lives, and me, with a camera in my back pocket, and sometimes my thoughts finding a voice.  But I'm grateful for this life, and the camera, and the thoughts.  And I'm thankful for anyone who takes the time to come here for a peek into our lives, and I always appreciate your kind comments.

Our last week has brought us into the city for a day, and another day of having friends out for a visit, feeding the chickens and chasing them and catching them  :)  While the mamas strummed and drummed and sang.
We've been busy taping, mudding, sanding, and priming so that Camille can move back into her room.  She picked out a wall color that feels "clear and happy". (It's not the color in that photo.  I'll keep it a surprise until it's done.)
Camille and I have been enjoying griddlers.  It's a cross between a nonogram logic puzzle and color-by-number.
 And our indoor rope swings are getting used for hours every day!
 Sylvia has put hours into her t-shirt rug.  Weaving, cutting more strips, and finally tying it off. 

 I got a chance to take a walk with just Ayla and the puppy at sunset tonight.

Those are some moments from the last week, some big, some small, but all of them just us, living our lives.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

photos of the day

 We now have two rope swings in our livingroom.  Perfect for high energy on cold days.  Also perfect for a fairy princess to put on a flying acrobatic performance.
 And the swings can be unhooked easily and taken down when the fairy princess is more in the mood for a dance performance.

 Nothing makes me much happier than seeing my kids playing in the dirt.  It's satisfying down to my toes :)
  And, "Can we throw water balloons at the trees?"  yes!
 I've said it before, but hanging laundry is my all time favorite chore...
 especially with this little helper.

 More milkweed play.  Sylvia and Ayla can't get enough of "helping the milkweed fairies be birthed."

 Mmm, brussels!  We  harvested brussel sprouts, rainbow chard, and cabbage.

 And planted a second round of garlic.
 And in the evening, more swinging.  This time with a pirate maiden.
Chard, onion, and potato frittata for dinner.

Life is good.