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Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

June 23, 2012

My response to the Weekly Photo Challenge includes all creations incorporating dirt, as we are in mudpieville.





Book Review: Storytelling for Kids

June 17, 2012

An important area of every kid’s education is writing.  We all want our kids to be able to express themselves in writing – if nothing else than for those college applications one day.  As it turns out, those same skills honed we express ourselves in writing also are at work when we express ourselves in oral speech.  Or even in film making or a variety of other creative media.

As a writer myself, and a homeschooling parent, I have read a lot about how to teach writing to kids.  Some argue that kids only need to learn expository writing because that’s what is necessary in life.  Creative writing is optional.  And I mostly agree with that.  But….isn’t creative writing so much more FUN?!  Not that we cannot get intensely engaged in our report about the foraging habits of the green sea turtle.  We can really enjoy researching and writing about something that interests us.

But in no other way can we truly let our hair down than when we get to make up a story.  The experience is so totally unfettered.  Well, not totally, so it turns out.  There are tools that good writers use to make good stories.  And the most fun way you will find of sharing those tools with your lower and middle grade students is the story telling magic of Gooney Bird Greene.  This short novel by Lois Lowry features an exotic new girl in school who comes with a host of outrageous – and totally true – stories.  (Stories like “How Gooney Bird Came from China on a Flying Carpet.”)  As she shares her stories with her class, the class learns about the tools that good story-tellers use in telling their stories.  Your kids will hardly know they are learning anything.  And they will all want to tell stories as engaging as Gooney Bird’s.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

June 16, 2012

Here’s my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge.


Book Review: The Snow Child

June 14, 2012

I recently read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a novel based on the Russian fairy tale by the same name.  In the book, the early 20th century older couple copes with their childless existence by leaving their families and moving to the harsh frontier of Alaska, where they become homesteaders, barely scraping by.  Despite their circumstances, their love for one another is so sweet and complete, and they find themselves playfully making a snow person.  In the morning, the snow person is gone and they find only the footsteps of a child.  They catch glimpses of this child, who appears to them to have been the product of magic, and eventually get to know her.  Like the snow child of the fairy tale, she is wild and cannot abide by the close, warm space of their home, so she lives outside in the wilderness.

I love how this child and the older couple, and even the good-hearted neighbors who live several miles away, introduce the reader to the untamed magnificence of Alaska’s wilderness.  It is so wild that the characters in the story are continually questioning their own perceptions as well as those of others.  It’s like they can’t trust themselves to see things clearly amidst all of the vastness of their physical surroundings.  In the end, it’s almost impossible to believe that the reality that they observe is truly real.  They themselves don’t know whether to believe their own perceptions.

It’s not fast paced, but I have to say that I found myself hooked early and enjoyed every bit.

Mom Enough

June 13, 2012

It’s sort of old news, but I am still having feelings about the Time Magazine headline, “Are You Mom Enough?”

I can’t begin to express my frustration with this article.  And yet it provokes mixed feelings as well.  On the one hand, I am delighted to see extended breastfeeding (which is the norm around the world and is perfectly natural, despite the unnatural photograph on the cover) is getting attention in the mainstream media.  There is plenty of research to show that extended breastfeeding has health benefits for mothers and children and to argue that there is something wrong with it is incredibly silly.

Yet, I know people do argue with it.  And I am even okay with that.  I am okay with people venting their discomfort about breastfeeding because they come by it naturally in our society that doesn’t support or encourage much that is natural and healthy.

But I find the headline just so frustrating.  I have friends who were not able to breastfeed, despite valiant efforts (and my standards for valiant efforts with breastfeeding are very high because I have also jumped some enormous hurdles to breastfeed my babies).  And these friends are very, very much mom enough.  In fact, they are precisely the moms that their children need.  They love their children unconditionally and with abandon.  They work hard to make sure that their children have safety, security, health, and love.  They make their own best judgments about how to raise their children and they go forward to do so.  Breastfeeding does not define a mother, nor does doing something that is socially awkward make one a bigger or better mom.

Recently I read a similarly frustrating blog post from Dr. Christine Carter, happiness expert at Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center.  I love Christine Carter.  I have taken her happiness classes online and highly recommend them.  She’s gentle and supportive and a very solid scientist.

This post has a lot of good information, all of which I learned about in her online course, which I highly recommend.  It’s useful, practical stuff that you can implement and improve your own happiness and the happiness of your family.

And while this post is full of good information, I absolutely hate it because it is so full of unnecessary judgment.  The headline asks the magic mirror “who’s the best mom” and I think we all know that the whole magic mirror comparison didn’t turn out so well in Snow White.  The idea of a “best mom” of them all makes me a little crazy, sort of like that crazy wicked witch.

The post from Christine Carter goes on to explain that to be a good mother, we have to do certain things.  Like be “happy” and be “in a happy romantic relationship.”  Now, I get why these things are encouraged.  No doubt, when a mother is happy and in a happy romantic relationship, she’s going to be more resourced and more capable of connecting with her child and doing the great service of mothering.  But are we really not “good” mothers if we don’t have this ideal life?  Sheesh.  I can think of really good mothers who are single parents.  I know for a fact that not all good mothers are always happy.  There are low points for everyone.  It’s the fortitude to persevere and work toward that happiness goal that really marks a great mother.

We could all do with a little less of the judgment and a little more confidence that we are the parents our children need.  Wouldn’t it be blissfully freeing to trust that we know our kids best and that we are exactly the kind of parent we need to be?

Of course, I still take parent education courses and read books and try to be an even better mom, which can really push my angst buttons, helping me to both hyper-focus on my shortcomings and put me on a path to improvement.  So, maybe I don’t believe I am the parent I should be.  Or maybe I have been convinced by mass media that I am not good enough.

But maybe what we need most is a little grace and tolerance for our own shortcomings.  Isn’t that the kind of value we would like to share with our children?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Friends

June 10, 2012

Friends are a big part of why we take photos.  I love to capture my family and friends in photos because it reminds me of the fun times we have had together.  These photos are like a tonic for my spirit.  And while family is incredibly special, friends hold this special place because we get to choose them.  We don’t have to make things work out with our friends, but we choose to make things work out with our friends.  Good friends are like the family we choose.

Since this is Mudpieville, we’ll focus on some of my favorite memories of friends and mud for these photos for the Weekly Photo Challenge.


These girls got muddy running on the beach in the rain, trying to catch up with us parents who couldn’t hear them over the howl of the wind, and then collapsing with exhaustion when we finally turned around and saw them.  Welcome to summer on the Washington Coast.  You can tell it’s summer because the children are not wearing shoes and have not turned blue from cold.


Friends who muck together are stuck together?


I cannot recount how many shrimp and mullosks were found in the thick, wet sand this day.  But it was an exciting element of this day at the beach.


Okay, this isn’t really about mud at all.  But you know when the snow melts, it’s going to be very muddy here.  I just love this photo of one of my family’s favorite traditions, a trip with friends to the mountains every winter.  The kids always want to eat the icicles.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Today

June 2, 2012

Some days are short and quiet.  Some days are long and eventful.  When I read the Weekly Photo Challenge, it was one of those eventful days.  Here’s a little sample of my Friday.

Family Learning Program field games!

Face painting

Choir rehearsal for oldest child

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