Wednesday, September 25, 2013


From harvesting to hiking, hayrides and pumpkin patches, our activities have a decidedly autumnal flavor these days.

One of my girls has a much more extroverted energy than the rest of us.  With the weather cooling and the days shortening, I want to ensure that she's getting her needs met, too.  Sylvia joined in with some of her friends at girl scouts for the first time this year (without big sister).  She has a weekly ballet class without siblings as well.  

Her first girl scout outing was to a local farm to help the farmers gather pumpkins and to take a hayride.  She loved it, of course.
circling up

gathering minis

little sisters

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” 
― Henry David Thoreau

The farm happened to be about a mile away from us.  When I was chatting with one of the the farmers, she expressed an interest in our eggs.  After the outing was over, I dropped Sylvia and Ayla off at home and took Camille with me to deliver a carton of eggs to the farmers.  We exchanged them for Camille's pick of any pumpkin in the field.  Sweet!

Then, Camille returned to what she had been doing, which is helping Papa hang drywall in the room that he's finishing.  Win, win, and win, I think.

After circus class this week, we met friends at one of the most beautiful places that I've ever been in Wisconsin.  We hiked into a magical gorge filled with a slow moving creek, waterfalls, and exuberant children.  While I remembered to bring my camera, it didn't do me any good with the battery still sitting at home in the charger.  Ack!  I was still driving in the van when this dawned on me, and I said in a very calm voice, "I'm going to yell now.  It has nothing to do with any of you ... YELLING AND MILD CURSING about batteries and forgetfulness ... (calm voice again) I'm done yelling now."  They burst out laughing at my absurd venting, and we proceeded to have an amazing hike.  I let go of my desire to 'capture the moment' and immersed in it instead.  That has a charm and awareness of its own, though I do love seeing beauty through the lens.

monarch on aster, backyard beauty

The local color is slowly changing, with rust and gold peppering the formerly green fields.

Even after a cool, foggy morning, the sun still shared enough heat to make an afternoon of playing on the Wisconsin River a delightful experience.

 At the end of the day, some of us were plum-tuckered out :)  The mile long walk back to the parking area seemed much longer than the walk in.  Ayla climbed on top of our bags and supplies in the jogging stroller and promptly fell asleep.  The combination of sun, sand, and water nearly has that effect on me, too.

 The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.
John Muir

Saturday, September 21, 2013

learning in our pajamas

We often have adventures and projects and outings and plans, but some days at home (or series of days) just flow organically.  Everyone follows their interests as they arise, joining together in an activity for awhile, drifting on to the next idea, or the next conversation, or solitary moment, or snuggle, or playful romp.  We recently had three (much needed) days like this. On the surface, it might look like we didn't do much.  There was no agenda. Sometimes we wore pajamas long into the day, but below the surface was a rich blend of creativity and learning and connection.

We worked puzzles and played games, practiced cartwheels, and had living room dance parties.  We sang Skip to My Lou, many times, with all of the verses.  (Sheep in the bathtub. Hullabaloo!)  We listened to classical music and 80's music and A Capella Science music about string theory.  What?  This.

Camille and I delved into the Crash Course Biology series, including this one, in which carbon is referred to as a tramp, for its willingness to make and break bonds.

We played Statetris, a tetris-like geography game.  Spanish on DuoLingo.  We discovered new, simple, fun games on the BeGamer website.  Sometimes Camille would be playing a game (like Escape from Yepi Planet) in one room while Sylvia and I would play together in another room, with lots of running back and forth.  Did you get past this section, yet?  Don't tell me how to do it.  Just give me a clue.

We fed the chickens and gathered eggs from the coop.  We built with blocks and jump-roped.

We watched Minecraft tutorials on YouTube.  FETCH on PBS Kids.  Trouble With Sophie on Netflix. The Making Stuff series on NOVA.  We looked into what it would take to make a magnetic non-Newtonian fluid at home (also called magnetorheological fluid or ferrofluid).

We re-shaved the sides of Camille's head.  We designed a skirt that Sylvia wants to sew and picked out fabric from my stash for it.  We hula-hooped in the rain with a magical unicorn.
We harvested and canned tomatoes.  We dug potatoes and listened to barred owls calling back and forth from the valley.  

We played in the mud.  We picked, sauced, and canned more apples.  

We read stacks of picture books and continued to read The Borrowers by Mary Norton aloud.  Camille read The Giver by Lois Lowry in a day, and listened to The Secret Garden on Storynory. She made several screenshots the old-fashioned way while listening to audio books.  She simply taped a piece of paper to her monitor and traced everything, including the ads :).

We doodled and colored and snipped with scissors and decorated with glitter glue.  There was watercolor painting, and Jackson Pollock-inspired painting, which somehow turned into body painting at some point. Go figure!

I returned to some knitting that had lain dormant all summer and I looked online for information on photography.  I ended up joining the supportive regional community of photography enthusiasts over at Capture Wisconsin

We ate lots of simple, nourishing food from the gardens and we ate pizza and potato chips.

We marveled at the moon and listened to coyotes howling.

Some of these activities brought us all together and some were a special way to connect with one child at a time.  Some lasted for short bouts and were easily dropped.  Some lingered and grew and morphed into the next thing.

In this way, we find balance and connection and such a varied lot of goodness and learning in our ordinary days at home.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Skillet Creek

As we headed into the woods, the bumpy moods smoothed out.  Tension melted in young and not-so-young bodies alike.  Eyes were widened and gently alert.  We watched a hummingbird sip jewel weed nectar. Breathing came deep and easy.  "Mama, why does it smell so sweet here?"  Ah, it's that autumnal air.

We hiked in to explore Skillet Creek at the area known as Pewit's Nest.  It was our first time here.  First of many, I'm thinking.  Being in nature has a way of soothing our souls.  Not just me, being the nature-lovin' hippy that I am, but each member of the family seems to have this same response.  Connection and nourishment.

It was not swimming weather by my standards, but knowing my girls, I threw the suits in our picnic bag, just in case.

The deeper water was shockingly cold.  Can you tell?

The creek exploring was oh so fine.

We followed a trail up to the top of the gorge to view the falls from above.  Camille was careful to stay away from the edge.  She wanted to help keep her sisters safe, too, since the the edge of the wide trail was a straight drop down.  (That's the falls way off below to the left of Ayla's head.)  The view and the wonder were worth the effort (and nerves) to help three children stay safe on this somewhat dangerous trail.

After our picnic (crackers, gluten-free pretzels, cheese, hummus, apples, a pomegranate), the water beckoned again.

Aaah, this wondrous life.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” 

Mary Oliver