Thursday, July 26, 2012


Last month, I wrote that I was taking a break from this blog to move on to other things, and I have.

In fact, I'm moving my online presence to my very own website. I do hope you all will still come and visit me!

It's a work in process and I'm still playing with the colors and rooms and all that, but I'm excited for the changes.

I'll still be writing about my crazy homeschooling family and our life learning adventures, but also about chasing dreams, following passions,  and living an awesome life. For me, that includes good food, travels and enjoying the amazing things all around us.

I'm attempting to move all of my followers, so let's hope I don't lose anybody in the process!

So, come check out my new place, and let me know what you think!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Taking A Break

Summer is in full swing, and for me, it is a huge season of growth. I find myself both scared and excited at the many things to think about and opportunities to learn that life has given me lately. 

Along with all the relaxing fun of summertime, I'm feeling like it's time for me to put some dreams into action and I have several new projects I'm cooking up...

So, I'm taking a summer break from my Dear Blog to put the energy into new and fabulous things. 

I'll post updates with details on the upcoming goodies and announce the Grand Debut when she's ready.

I hope you all enjoy your summer. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two Kids and a Tent

If you've been reading my blog for long, you know that I started on a big dream with my kids last year. We're on our way to exploring all 50 US states before my oldest turns 18. We don't want to do drivethroughs- we really want to check each state out, learn, get the real feel for different areas and people- the whole shebang. To add to the challenge, we weren't counting states we'd been too already. We were starting from scratch.

Last spring, we set off on our maiden voyage. I loaded up my old Volvo and took my two kids and a tent on a 5 week adventure across the South West. It was amazing. Every day was filled with "Wows."All the time together led to long conversations, countless hours of laughter and sharing of dreams. We fell in love with the world and traveling it together.

I am very stoked that I have an article published about it this month in North State Parent Magazine, and am hoping that it will inspire other families to travel, enjoy life and chase dreams with their kids. If you have a chance, please check it out and let me know what you think.

The journey isn't over for us. We did a quick jaunt up to the Pacific Northwest this spring, but still have a whole lotta traveling to do in order to see this big beautiful country of ours. Until the next leg of our journey, we'll be working on the dreaming and scheming and planning, which is pretty fun and educational in it's own right.

Does anyone else love traveling with their kids? What dreams do you chase as a family?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Boy Child's Blog

I love real life learning. It's what I've attempted to have as the foundation of our happy little homeschool since my kids were of preschool age. The latest installment has been a project of my Boy Child's.

He wanted to start a blog a while back, and I figured that anything that encouraged him to write was a good thing, so I set him up. I tell you, it was awesome. He spent hours writing, finding clip art, figuring out how to do links and embed videos. It was some serious hands on learning.

He mostly writes about video games, sports and funny things he finds online- typical stuff of interest to an 11 year old boy. The thing is, he writes and rewrites and researches and revises again, and he appears to really enjoy doing it. I sometimes want to get in there and correct and suggest etc, but I'm resisting the urge. This is his baby, and I'm loving seeing him have this outlet.

At first, I wanted to keep the blog private, only able to be viewed by select friends and family, but lately, he's been wanting a larger audience. I can totally relate. When you work hard on something, you want to share it with the world. You want other people to look at it, appreciate it, and hopefully leave positive comments. It's even better when it's not just coming from relatives.

So, after a few talks about internet safety and the possibility of negative people, we opened my Boy Child's blog - Hurricane Henry to everyone. I know he'd love if you'd have a look, and even better, share it with your kids, and encourage them to comment. He'd love the feedback.

If you're looking for a venue to get your kids writing, maybe they too could start a blog. Or maybe they could write a guest post for another kids blog? Who knows the future of this project, but for now, I'm happy to see him learning, writing and having fun.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Summer Bucket List

I suppose the season doesn't technically start until the solstice, but Memorial Day Weekend is the kick off to summer around here.

Every season has it's list of things we'd like to do, but summer seems to have the most free time for the most people, so dreams and ideas run a little larger. Well, you know how you often really want to do something, and before you know it it's too late? 

Enter the Summer Bucket List Challenge. It's based on the idea of really making an effort to do those things- you know- make the things you want to happen actually happen.

As a lover of lists, plans, goals and challenges (self induced ones that is... I find outside challenges frustrating, and would just as soon do without) I was super excited to come across this idea and jumped on board.

The folks at the Happy Family Movement even organized this community effort where you can sign up for free and they'll send you ideas, inspiration and nice little reminders and inspirations along the way.

So, I sat down with my family for a little brain storming session of what makes summer special to us.

We came up with all sorts of good stuff! I steered away from spendy things that might be harder to make happen, and towards things that fit my fun frugalista theme- things like sleeping under the stars, making smores, taking the dogs hiking, and making home made ice cream. (Interestingly, ice cream made an appearance in 4 different places on our list, which I consider a sign that it is something I must need in my life this summer.)

If you're anything like me and lose lists all the time, you can follow the inspiration of the Happy Family folks and string up cards with your goals. We put ours in a spot where we can see them all the time and be reminded daily of what we want to enjoy. We even found a real bucket in the garage to drop the items in as we finish them.

We're more excited than ever for summer now. How about you? What's on your summer bucket list?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More Art For Me

In my attempts at being Homeschooling Madre Extraordinaire, I have a tendency to get my kids involved in all sorts of fun and artsy things. Looking around, I see I'm not the only one who makes sure their kid is well rounded, but slowly lets their own cool stuff fall by the wayside.

Aside from the outside activities, I make sure to get my kids groovy art supplies and kits for gifts, which is awesome because I at least get to partake in making projects at home. As an added bonus, I get to do all sorts of things I wished I could have done more of as a kid. (Like Shrinky Dinks- but more about those later..)

In any case, it's not that often that I start a creative project just for myself.

Bur, when I found the Art House Co Op, I began a mini revolution. They're a group out of Brooklyn- a world away from me on my petting zoo in Northern California- and they host all kinds of art projects that people all over the world can take part in. Some are free, some aren't, but they're all a chance to be a part of some big group effort in far away places.

I started with the traveling sketchbook project. It took me forever to start and was a big last minute mania to finish it, but I had a blast.

Next was the meal. It seemed like a simple idea, but was harder to execute than I imagined.

Still, I had so much fun with those that I signed myself up for what amounts to about a project a month all spring. There was a hand written note exchange, a mini artwork exchange, a map project and a photo response.

Making art just for me made me really, really happy. Of course, I could always take a few minutes to do art on my own, but signing up for a project actually makes me accountable, which increases the chances of me actually doing something. It's also more exciting to send your stuff off somewhere than to have it live in your closet.

Sometimes, I'll look at the work of the other artists and think "Oh shoot...they're really good" which is followed by negative self talk about me not being good enough or real enough. Does everyone have that annoying inner critic? Well, to heck with that. I'm just going to enjoy the process of making the art and if it doesn't look like the other artists, it's because I did it. With purple velvet and rainbows and glitter (except the Art House folks discourage glitter as it falls off and infects the non- sparkly work)

I'd encourage everyone to find their own little piece of creativity wherever they can- in the kitchen, with your camera, wherever. It's great when it includes the people you love, but it's OK to have your own thing too. What ways do you find to keep your creative spirit alive? I'd love other ideas...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Just What I Needed- The $100 Start Up

I pulled into the driveway after a long and hard day. Waiting for my Boy Child to open the gate, I just hoped he'd hurry. I was exhausted- both physically and mentally.

It had been one of those days when all the little things that cost money started adding up into a big ugly pile in my lap. I may be a master frugalista, but life still requires cash, and sometimes you need a little more than others. This summer had a lineup of things-from fun stuff like camping trips to the necessary and big stuff like a newer reliable car to get my family around- all of which would require more cash.

Being an industrious kind of gal, I perused the local job boards. Ugh. It was awful. Have you looked at employment sites lately? In the area I live, the lack of suitable jobs for me was totally discouraging, but not as much as the micro salary range of the jobs I did see.

While lamenting my dismal prospects, Boy Child came up and showed me the hole he had worn in his shoes, and Girl Child let me know that she had outgrown her swimsuit. It continued like this with things raining down- dental visits, vet visits, some wonderful opportunities that were great deals- some just things we'd just need to deal with whether we liked it or not- but all requiring me to think about how to round up money.

Driving home, I was thinking about how miserable I would be in some of the jobs that were available, and wondered how I'd live on one. It was a scary and overwhelming thought, and wasn't helping me with my dilemma at all.

So, when Boy Child found a box at the gate, I perked up and ripped it open before we even got to the house.

Don't you just love when things show up in life exactly when you need them?

It was a brand new copy of Chris Guillebeau's new book- The $100 Startup. The subtitle was like a message just for me- "Reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and create a new future." 

I'm only a few pages into it so far, and a full review will come later, but I can already see that this is just the inspirational kind of thinking I needed. Rather than resorting to soul sucking and poorly paying work, I'm brainstorming ways to use my creative talents to come up with something else. Whoohooo!

I have no problem crediting a higher power here- Thank God I got this book right now, before my mind spiraled into gloomy and dark visions of minimum wage and crummy apartments in the hood. (Yes...I know...that's a bit dramatic, but that's how I tend to be.)

If you're not familiar with Guillebeau, you simply must check out his Art of Non-Conformity. He's a go getter with a fabulous outlook on life, who actually inspired my kids and I to tackle our plan to explore all 50 states before the oldest is 18. I can't wait to see what ideas come out of this book.

I'd also love to hear what creative and fun ways other people are coming up with to fund their life adventures. Inspiration is contagious and I certainly would love to catch and spread more of it. So....any ideas to share?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Less Screen Time and More Conversations

My family sort of participated in the recent Screen Free Week. For us, it wasn't exactly screen free, but more of a consciously reduced screen week. We use the computer for school and work, and it wasn't a time we could opt out of those, but we were able to cut back on our time we spent staring at screens significantly.

We don't even really watch TV, with the exception of movies on Netflix once in a while- mostly educational stuff, with a good dose of Phinneas and Ferb thrown in because laughter makes the world a better place to live in. It wasn't terribly hard, but we took the week off of any Netflix of any sort.

OK...fine... I'll admit it... I do watch Desperate Housewives on TV, but it's one stinkin' show, one night a week and it's not even year round. I certainly don't let my kids watch it. They're thrilled that the show is coming to an end because it's the one night a week when I shoo them off to their rooms so I can have some grown up entertainment. I didn't skip it because it was in it's final episodes ever (and yes, I realize I sound rather defensive here, but a gal's gotta have something- at least this gal does.)

We did skip using the Wii all week and no DS games for Boy Child either. Facebook was generally not opened until the end of the day when all work had been completed and kids were off to bed. I did cheat a smidgen on that one, but for the most part I made huge progress in weaning myself from it for the week.

Before we started this little experiment, I imagined that we would spend all of our extra screenless time playing games, reading books and being a productive, creative and crafty family. Due to a crazy schedule full of lots of driving and state tests and working late nights, we actually didn't do a whole lot of those things that week. What we did do however, was talk...a lot, and it was awesome.

We talked while we made dinner and cleaned the kitchen, and while we got ready and folded laundry. A few times, we ended up talking for over an hour and getting so deep into the discussions that we completely ignored the baskets of clean clothes or sink full of dirty dishes we were next to.

In short, we connected as a family, which was exactly what we needed. The week has past, and I am still making an effort to stay off Facebook and be more focused in my screen time, so I can have those moments with my family. After the week was over, we've had a chance to pull out some board games, got some new books and just this morning, Girl Child and I made Shrinky Dink jewelry while Boy Child carved a bar of soap into the shape of a person. All the while, we chatted, and it was very, very good for my soul.

Next time you get a chance to turn away from all the screens in your life, don't worry if you don't have time to play a game or bake a cake or make a craft though. If you feel like you're too tired to do anything and are tempted to turn on a screen out of boredom, wait.... Just talk with your kids. It's totally worth it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tidepools, Bridges and Locks

Seattle is a city where we could have easily spent a lot more time than we had, and it's definitely worth a second blog post. There is so much to see and do- and much of it is free or cheap which is exactly the way we like to roll whenever possible. (parking was an exception- it's quite pricey.) We decided to spend our last day checking out things just outside the city itself.

I'm a tropics kind of gal, and it was way too chilly for me to head out on any boats, which would be fun in some other, warmer season. Still, there was plenty of other fun to be had near the water.

Tidepooling was high on the list for us. (Girl Child has a strong interest in Marine Biology, and the rest of us just love the ocean and it's critters.)

We found an isolated beach with the tide about halfway down, and bundled up to see what we could see. The fact that it was painfully cold may have cut our explorations a little short, but we were able to see many sea stars, some anemones, and lots of crabs and birds.

My friend's children were much hardier when it comes to cold than mine and were able to romp barefoot and in shorts. My brood was bundled and shivering the whole time, but we were glad we made the stop nevertheless. When the fog rolled out, we could practically see to Canada.

The next stop was going to be Ballard Locks, which were kind of like a mini Panama Canal- a series of waterways to help boats navigate from the Puget Sound into Lake Washington.

On the way, we passed over a cool old drawbridge just in time to watch it raise up and let a boat under. Traffic stopped for dozens of cars and we watched a lone boat pass under, but the sun was momentarily shining and no one seemed to mind the pause in their day. My kids thought it was cool and we speculated on how the bridge operates. Several people seem to be working full time operating the bridge as well, so I'm sure it has a higher boat traffic at other times, or it would be a pretty inefficient operation. In any case, it was something we don't see every day so we enjoyed it.

The locks had a bunch of beautiful sculptures, and we arrived at the perfect time to see them do their thing and raise the water level to let a couple of boats through. You could cross a walking bridge to a visitors center in a beautiful botanical garden with flowers blooming everywhere.

This place had some special significance as far as Army Corps of Engineers Projects and also had a car drive into it at one time. We actually read all sorts of interesting tidbits about the history of the place, how it was built and the geology of the area, but I was so captivated by the gorgeous colors of flowers and contrasts of clouds in the sky and the public art that I remember that more than anything else. I suppose that's just how my brain works.

Fortunately, there will be no test for any of us, and I'm willing to accept that we all learned whatever we needed to about it.

From there, we said goodbye to our friends the fabulous hosts and hit the road south towards California. The kids loved the city of Seattle, and so did I. From what my friend says, the homeschooling scene is happening, and by the classes and activities her kids told me about, it sounded like a fabulous community to me.

Girl Child especially was glad to be near the Pacific and to see all the wonderful public art, and Boy Child was impressed with the numerous skateboard parks we came across. I hope we can visit again someday, and explore the Puget Sound and the many islands that fill it (hopefully on warmer days.) For this trip, it was as far as we could go, and we'd have plenty more to see on the way home.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Some People Hate Children

It's one of those things you know, but probably choose not to think about. Sometimes it seems obvious by the dirty looks you get when accompanied by a tired, whining child in public, but it's not often that someone comes out and says it.

I would hope that most people actually like children, especially those who choose to have them or be around them. I think often times, the disapproving glances are by people who either haven't been around kids in a while and don't remember theirs ever acting up, or by those who just aren't enjoying whatever loud child's behavior is interrupting their day. It's not kids in general they dislike- it's public tantrums.

But, there are a few people out there who for some reason other just hate children. I know because I came across one in Seattle in a mall. I was with a friend who has a large family and I had my own 2 kids along as well. We had been dragging 7 kids around the city for hours and hours, through miles and miles of attractions, all on little food and no rest. It was hard enough on the big kids and adults, but for the little ones, it was a mammoth day.

Normally, neither my friend or I would recommend such long and hard days for kids under 5, but we only had a couple of days to visit and a lot to see. The city is easier to get around in if you just park and use public transportation and your own feet. So, coffee for me and kind words for the little ones and we barreled on through the day.

As we climbed yet another set of stairs, and made our way through a massive crowd, one of the younger kids began to whine softly. This was far from a full blown kid fit. It was more of a whimper that he was tired. His mom was packing his two younger siblings- one on the front and one on the back- in a sling. I was about to tell him that I'd give him a lift on my back as soon as we got through the mass of people when a very unpleasant young woman in her early twenties- a large woman with a crew cut and hard features who looked like she could be a bouncer at a bar- moved right past and said plainly "UGG- I hate children."

For some reason, in the moment, this made me laugh out loud. I just looked at her, shook my head and laughed. I kept moving and keeping track of the little guy in the midst of the sea of bodies until we broke into a clearing.

When I told my friend, she was mortified and offended. I was too, but I was also semi- amused that this seemingly bitter and miserable woman seemed to think it was acceptable or even cool to state her opinion. I mean, who says that kind of thing? We wondered if the woman also hated puppies.

My two semesters of psychology classes kicked in and I came up with possible theories about her aversion to young people, but none of them were nice and I'm not qualified to make them anyway. Besides, unlike some people, I try to occasionally use my filter when it comes to saying what I think.

Maybe she was just having a really bad day and didn't mean to say it so loudly, although it seemed like an almost boastful voice she was using, like hating kids was going to make her popular or something. Maybe someday she'll grow up and look back, repentant at what a mean young thing she was. I know I have a few instances I look back on and cringe myself. If she doesn't change her mind, I just hope she never has kids and keeps her toxic attitudes away from them.

Has anyone else ever run into someone who blatantly expressed their dislike for something so personal as your kids? How would you handle such a thing?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Screen Free Week

Did you realize that the average American preschooler spends 32 hours a week in front of a screen? Older kids spend even more time. That's almost a full time job!

It's officially Screen Free Week this week- April 30th to May 6th- and my family is taking part in the celebration.

Our TV probably gets a lot less use than your average American owned one, but I notice I've been relying on it more than I'd like to. If we're tired, we stare at the screen instead of reading, playing music or creating anything. Since we've had a crazy busy schedule lately, we've been tired a lot and books are sitting on the shelf unread, games are neglected and little creative work is popping up.

Facebook is it's own evil time sucker, which I'd considered giving up for Lent, but I opted for giving up bitterness instead. I think this is the time to wean myself away from the Facebook habit, and focus on things that I actually want to get done, and are probably more important than reading pointless status updates.

I think my family and I could use a little digital cleanse. 

Boy Child is not too excited, but I have a theory that attitudes change (like bad ones increase) with increase in media time. So, in the end, this detox will be good for him.

I'll still be blogging, because I consider it work, even if I make no money off it. I'm also in the midst of online writing classes in the UCLA Writing Program, so obviously I'll still be online. But, I'll be cutting out the extra- non work and non school related screen time, and so will my reluctant offspring. (I only mentioned the TV part so far, although it may extend to hand held game players as well. I just didn't want Boy Child to totally panic.)

What will we do instead? Hopefully, we'll play more games- indoor and out, read more books, and generally enjoy our animals, instruments and artsy stuff. There's lots more ideas here

Anyone else doing screen free week? I'd love to here about what your family does when the screens are off.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


We had been driving through the cold rain for hours when the sun finally broke through. It was nearly dark, but we were still glad to see clear sky, and to turn off the windshield wipers at last. The Pacific Northwest isn't known for warm weather, but this was farther from springlike than I had hoped for. We'd been in the car for too long, but decided to keep going- to make it to our friends home before bed.

It was late by the time we arrived, but all 5 of her children came out to greet us. Inside we met the dogs, pet rats, and even a hedge hog. We hadn't seen these friends in years, and the family had grown by a few, but my friend still had that rare patience and grace in the midst of whatever crazy chaos life (and children) throws at her.

They had generously offered to share their home as a base to spend a few days and explore the city. She also shared the advice she was given upon moving to Seattle. Don't let the rain stop you from going out. If you wait for it to stop, by the time you get your car keys, it will start back up again. I'm glad we listened because the weather changed from sun to wind to sprinkles to hail within the course of an hour, and continued that way for our entire stay. You just have to wear layers and deal with it.

Day 1 was mammoth. We started off by finding a giant troll under the Freemont Bridge. (Yes, we scout out odd tourist attractions like this ahead of time.)

Then, it was to the famous Space Needle and surrounding park. We spent a few hours exploring sculptures, shops and the Pacific Science Center.

We took the monorail (on which we almost lost one small child- but we found him quickly) to Pikes Place and where we were entertained by street musicians galore. One in particular sang songs of his painful childhood memories of broccoli for dinner, while hula hooping.

The shops were full of inspiring and creative things made by local artists that gave me countless crafty ideas of my own.

A trip to Seattle wouldn't be complete without seeing the Gum Wall. It's an entire wall on the side of this building has been covered in used chewing gum. It's definitely one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen, but strangely artistic when the light hit all the colors. The kids talked me into buying some gum so we could add to the wall, and I almost heaved, but I did it. (I then promptly doused all of our hands in sanitizer.)

I liked many things about Seattle- but especially was how clean it is. (well, not the troll or the gum wall) For a major city, it just doesn't have the level of filth that LA does though. The public transportation was great too but the parking was painfully pricey, which encouraged me to plan well and just skip driving if possible.

We could easily have spent a week in the city and not run out of things to see and do, but alas- we only had a few days. Naturally, we made the best of it and just crammed in as much as we could. The kids had natural youthful energy, and I was in the land of Starbucks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Something About the Ocean

My Girl Child has been fascinated with Marine Biology for a while - reading books, watching movies, learning about the creatures. But a book can't compare to the real thing, nor can a movie- not even in IMAX. Being a homeschooling madre extraordinaire, I feel it's my parenting responsibility to provide educational field trips to facilitate learning about our interests and passions. (Which makes a handy and valid reason to take lots of field trips.) So, off to the ocean I take my family, as often as possible. Tide pooling, beach combing and occasionally, in warmer months, immersion. The variety of living creatures and all of their colors and patterns is like an art show. There's so much to be explored, my kids never tire of it.

But for me, the lessons in the ocean go far beyond science.

No matter what's going on in life, good things or awful, it doesn't matter, there's just something about the ocean that lets you know that life is much bigger than any of us and our personal dramas.

No matter what I do, the tides keep coming in and going out. The constancy and massiveness put things in perspective and make me realize that my little problems aren't really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Even when it creates massive destruction, if you watch it long enough, you see that in the end, it all works out.

I miss living near the ocean terribly. Not to complain, because I live in the wonderful state of California, where you can visit the ocean, mountains and desert all within a few hours. I get to visit her quite a few times a year, and I just got back from a visit last week. Still, I miss living closer because a few hours isn't the same as a few minutes.

I've only been to the Pacific Ocean, but I've explored her shores as far north as Alaska, and as far south as Costa Rica. In some ways she's the same- big, beautiful and powerful. In others, she's completely different. Costa Rican waters for example, beckon you to hop in with their bath like temperatures and colorful fish. Alaskan waters are best appreciated from shore or a boat.

I met a few young kids recently who had NEVER BEEN TO THE OCEAN!!!! I just simply can't imagine, because they lived in California. I mean, if you live in Kansas....OK, I get it....the ocean is far, but in California....really?

I would implore every adult who is responsible for children to take them to the ocean if at all possible. Find a way- skip lunch out for a couple weeks, take a day off, play hooky- whatever you have to do, just do it. Take yourselves for that matter, whether you have kids or not. It's worth the money and the time. (Since someone is bound to point out that the ocean is also dangerous and sometimes smelly, I'll go ahead and add that disclaimer. You're also likely to leave with sand in your ears, but it's worth it.)

Too many people skip on the amazing things the world has to offer because it takes a little effort, and to me the ocean is amazing. Too many others live right next to wonderful things, and just pass them by in the busyness of life. You don't want to be one of those people.

Hopefully, sometime soon, we'll find a way to dip our toes in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, and eventually the Mediterranean. In the mean time, I'm making summer plans for oceans closer by, and I'll have to be happy with memories.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Super Mama Sacagewea

Every kid in America learns about the great explorations of Lewis and Clark, and most will learn at least the name Sacagawea while they're at it, but knowing that a native American woman helped as a guide just really doesn't do this woman or her story justice.

We love exploration, and stories of adventure always resonate with me. Yes, the men were brave and adventurous, but without  Sacagawea's assistance, I doubt they would have made it. As a mother, I am especially in awe that during the entire adventure she was either pregnant or carrying a baby on her back. That is one super mama. Her husband seems like a creeper old man, but that is another story.

As part of our own recent Great Pacific North West Adventure, we did a little Lewis and Clark exploration along the Columbia River in Oregon. Our route started near the ocean at Fort Clatsop, a replica of the fort that the party spent a winter in before returning home. Apparently, it rained all but 12 days out of the three months they spent there, making it a less than pleasant experience.

The weather was very cold and wet for our visit, giving it an authentic feel, except when we got tired of hiking in the rain, we got in a car with heated seats and ate chips. Gotta love modern conveniences.

We also saw replicas of the dug out canoes they used, and could not imagine heading down that massive river on one of them. When one flipped over, Sacagawea was the one to save all their scientific journals and samples, with the baby on her back on her back of course. Did I mention no life vests? In our safety immersed culture, it's hard to even picture a baby in a tiny boat at all, let alone with no flotation device.

We've enjoyed looking at the Lewis and Clark story from different points of view through historical fiction, my personal favorites being that of Sacagawea of course, but also that of Seaman, the big dog that accompanied the group.

His life size statue looks so much like our big dog, it made us all miss him. It also made me think about how smelly that wet dog would have been in those cold and rainy months. And, how much poison oak he would have spread.

Another interesting note....we read that the Lewis and Clark pieces were recently opened again at the Smithsonian Institute, and all of the museum staff who handled them got poison oak. So, the oil of that evil plant can still do it's itchy mayhem after over 100 years. Crazy.

After our fill of Fort Clatsop, we headed up the river that the Lewis and Clark party had came down, talking about the bravery of people who attempt such feats. I've had people tell me that I'm brave for traveling solo with my kids these days. HA- I'm pretty sure I'm completely incompetent compared to Sacagewea. I have maps, a laptop, convenience stores, snacks and towing service. I can't even fathom doing half of what she did, especially with a baby on my back.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


OK, I tend to count all kinds of things as educational, but even people who accept that about me might raise eyebrows at our current studies of Bigfoot. He (or she) is also known as Sasquatch, or depending on the region, Yeti.

A couple of weeks ago, my kids and I found a documentary on Netflix called "Ancient Mysteries: Bigfoot." I figured if it was narrated by Leonard Nemoy, how could it not be cool?

After seeing snippets of the Bigfoot chasers on Animal Planet, I expected a good deal of rural ridiculousness. My kids have been filming their own mockumentaries about Searching for Sasquatch, which have certainly added to my joking about the whole phenomenon.

This documentary though, was in fact quite interesting. I'll admit, I was able to laugh off a lot of the "evidence." Just because someone has a doctorate degree doesn't mean they can't be just as kooky as a hillbilly in camo with night vision goggles, but still, there were a few things that made me stop and think, hmmmmmm....well, maybe?

Apparently, the legends of the creature go way back, and I found it interesting that the local Indian tribes have all sorts of cultural stories that include Bigfoot and are hundreds of years old. Some modern "scholars" have figured out a whole social structure for the creatures, but I didn't quite get how they came to their conclusions.

It just so happens that we live within a few hours of major Bigfoot territory, where not only are there gas stations and burger joints named after the mysterious species, but also a "Bigfoot Museum." Naturally, we had to go.

There were more footprint casts than I could count, some looking fairly realistic, and others looking someone made a large and perfectly shaped foot model. The most authentic looking had toe prints (the little lines in the skin, like fingerprints, but obviously on toes.) The mysterious "fur" samples looked like something I cleaned out my dog brush, but apparently when it was sent to a lab for analysis, it came back as an unknown or unidentified species. Hmmmmmmm......

We scoured the woods a bit on foot, but mostly by car on paved roads. The off road terrain is made up of steep and dense hillsides which someone or something could quite easily hide in for a long time if they had some survival skills, because no one else is really going to try to climb around in those places. While we did see plenty of shadows, our only confirmed sighting of Sasquatch was in murals and statues.

So, I'm not convinced he (or she) is out there, but I'm not convinced they aren't either. If they are, I hope we don't find them, and they get to live out happy and long lives free from hillbilly hunters and mad scientists. For now, I'm considering this mystery unsolved.

What do you think? Does Bigfoot exist?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tea Time

A young homeschooling friend recently had an assignment for his online Literature class that wasn't the easiest thing for an 11 year old boy. He had to throw a tea party. Not the political kind, but after reading and discussing "Little Women" he had to host an authentic Victorian tea party.

That's not exactly every boy's dream assignment, but fortunately for the young fellow, he knew some willing kids who would participate, which meant arriving in costume and character, and trying their best to use suitable manners. Girl Child had been studying the Civil war, so this all went along with things in our little homeschool quite splendidly.

I had not read the book "Little Women" in years, and my kids hadn't read it at all. We didn't have time to reread it before the party, so we resorted to borrowing the movie from the library. Unfortunately, it was the 1994 version, which was I'm sorry to say, just painful, and didn't make the best impression of it for my Boy Child.

Nevertheless, my kids are good sports and we attempted to rummage up costumes. My Boy Child was the hardest as he doesn't really do "dress clothes" but we at least found an old button up shirt from some past performance and paired it with black jeans and a vest. The skater shoes weren't exactly authentic Victorian vintage, but were the best we could do.

The day of the party came and the guests all looked lovely. The food was elegant, and their manners were impressive. They even showed some restraint with the sugar cubes in their tea without being asked (or at least they seemed to.)

Tea was followed by croquet. At this point I wondered when the manners would slack to modern times, but they maintained fairly well for the most part (although one mallet handle get broken, no people or animals were injured in the making of the tea party.)

I was quite proud of the young fellow who put it all together, and even made figgy pudding to serve.

Most of all, I'm proud to know such an assorted group of kids who haven't been crammed into a one size fits all mold and are still open to having fun while learning and trying new things.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Extravaganza

What could be more fun than a rain soaked and activity filled weekend with an eclectic batch of homeschoolers from all over the state of California? Well...less rain would've helped, but despite the weather, my family had a great time in the Bay Area at the Homeschool Association of California Spring Extravaganza last weekend.

We've been to campouts and conferences with folks from this group in the past, and always had a great time. This event was not too far from home, at a Boy scout Campground in some really steep hills in Berkeley, and super affordable, so we jumped on the chance to go.  When we signed up for a camp spot in February, we were having fabulous near 70 degree sunny days. By the time the actual event arrived in late March, it was 40 degrees and pouring rain.

Luckily, we weren't the only crazy campers. A few other families, who are much hardier at camping life than me were there when we arrived. I'm fine with a tent, as long as it's dry, Oh- and I hate being cold too but thankfully, we had tarps, a surdy tent and really warm bags.

Even better, there was a lodge building, and although it had signs everywhere telling us we couldn't sleep in it, there was nothing saying we couldn't hang out a goof off until 2 AM. We arrived on Friday late afternoon, and were able to get our tent set up under the redwoods before it started raining. Our fellow campers attempted building a fire, but it was still just too cold, which prompted us to escape into the warmth of the lodge. It was great that the group of about 8 kids got to connect on a smaller scale before everyone else arrived.

The next day, the actual extravaganza took place. It was an all day event with a little something for everyone. Boy Child enjoyed the foam weapon battle while Girl Child and her BFF enjoyed making custom flip flops and the clothing swap-o-rama (participants bring clothes they no longer want and pick out others, which can be altered and turned into new things with the sewing machines, trims, paints and other things on sight.)

We all made Franstuffies (no longer loved stuffed animals are separated into parts and reassembled into new mix and match creations.) I'm glad that the dismantling was done ahead of time, or I may have found it disturbing, but instead, we all found it fun.

The evening was a dance and although the kids hadn't wanted to go ahead of time, they changed their minds and wanted to spend more time with their new friends. The event ended and was cleaned up by 11pm, and most of the people left for home or hotels. The campers stayed (and hung out in the lodge until the wee hours again) while the kids taught each other dance moves and played hysterical and entertaining games including ultimate ninja, a strange version of duck, duck, goose, wheelbarrow races. I bummed free wifi.

Even though it rained solid for over 36 hours, our tent didn't leak. Thankfully, it let up again in the morning while we packed up. We were exhausted and muddy and the drive home took longer than usual since I drank the worlds largest Dr Pepper to stay awake and kept having to hit rest stops.

The kids slept till almost 11 yesterday, and are already asking when we can do it again.