Saturday, June 30, 2012

Garden Bugs

Anyone know what's eating my apple mint and kale? And what I should do about it?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Reading Roundup

I've been catching up on my reading. Here are a few things I found interesting.

Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Show
by Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, Feb. 9, 2012

Tutoring Surges With Fight for Middle School Spots
by Anna M. Phillips, New York Times, Apr. 15, 2012
The gifted kids start doing so well on the tests that they have to re-tool the tests. What a great way for a kid to spend a Saturday: Bubbling in!

Treadmills in the Classroom improve concentration
The Launch Education Blog, Apr. 29, 2011
A special education school installs treadmills and exercise bikes in the math classroom. Stunning results. But what's really stunning, in my opinion, is public education's eagerness to do away with recess.

From Creeping to Leaping the Kindergarten Year—A Montessori Parent's Perspective
by Sarah Richards,, Apr. 26, 2012
A mom explains why she chose Montessori school for her daughter, over public school methods.
Future Schools
Oh geez, a first grader spending 90 minutes in a computer lab! It's like a factory! In the propaganda, it needs to be photographed black-and-white and jerky, like the movie Metropolis.

And...."customized education" looks like....a call center? If this is what Starboy was facing then I actually would have to seriously consider homeschooling, or a private school. It's bad enough that adults have entire days like this, but students?!

Quality Homework—A Smart Idea
by Annie Murphy Paul, New York Times, Sept. 10, 2011

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Miss Molly's Nature Table

Miss Molly recently updated her storefront display for summer—it's essentially a huge nature table. Spring's birds and bunnies and branches have given way to a summer beach story!

Sorry, the photos were difficult. I'll have to see if I can be there for fall when she creates the display, so I can get behind the glass. I don't think I can get a polarizer for my point-and-shoot!

There are hundreds of tiny seashells, and some wonderful starfish and seashells you can "listen" to. Fairies and mermaids frolic. It's a lovely, cooling scene.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Women Can't Have it All *

J. Howard Miller

The July 1 Atlantic tells a cautionary tale. Anne-Marie Slaughter's Why Women Still Can't Have it All maps the deadly land mines for career-minded women, then calls on our collective conscience to disable the mines. (She also had a great interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air and with Larry Mantle on AirTalk. She's making the rounds.)

There are few surprises in the story for anyone who has worked toward establishing herself as a career professional. What comes as a relief, however, is the parsing of the myths for professional women—spelling out the Jedi Mind Tricks that women and corporate America pass off as an acceptable way to do business. Things will have to change, Slaughter says, if women really want to move ahead in business.

But I wonder if one pop culture myth has been overlooked. By insisting that mothers be able to "have it all" through working at home, flex time and videoconferencing, is that reinforcing a fiction as well—that both parents should work full-time? For the benefit of children, should we be talking about how mothers can work more, or should we talk about creating a social and economic structure throughout our culture so that one parent—male or female, based on the family's choice—always can be home to support children and engage with them?

Slaughter mentions this in her interview on Fresh Air, in the framework of allowing flexibilities to men as well, so parenting can be equally shared.

I don't mean to take the focus away from the ridiculous gender discrimination that continues forty years after the feminist revolution: salaries, promotions, job descriptions. Slaughter is right to point out the failings of businesses that value female workers less, through our societal assumptions. But should it be a societal assumption that both parents must work outside the home—and maybe work full time—in addition to investing in their family? Are we setting the bar high enough?

What if Slaughter's question focused more on the children: How can we as a society invest in our children and build support for family, such that either parent could succeed professionally? 

Splat-Marker Thank Yous

Starboy was asking to do something "special," and with some quick creativity I was able to check an item off of our "to do list."

We've been using splat markers for some art play and color exploration. Actually these are bingo markers, filled 50/50 with liquid watercolors and water. Starboy and Mary Jane discovered within about the first two minutes of use that when applied with force, the bingo marker makes a satisfying splat. We have called them splat markers ever since.

And, since that day, splat-marking has become an outdoor activity. The liquid watercolors are washable, but the splats were extending five to seven feet across the room and it was getting a little stressful for Mommy.

Anyway, Starboy received an embarrassment of riches from grandparents and family friends during my brother's wedding last week (insert crowd cheering sound, here). It was like a mini-Christmas. So, while teasing him with the prospect of creating some art, I grilled him on the messages he would like to put in his thank you notes, and quickly scribbled dictation.

I taped all the notes to our art table so he easily could reach each one. Then he splatted to his heart's content.

And a language milestone: Wanting my participation, Starboy asked: "Mommy, will you splat-mark with me?"

Although the past tense of -ed verbs such as "ask" comes out as:  "ask-ed-ed," he figured the verb for this semi-made-up noun. Which also is interesting because usually with markers, we don't "mark," we "color."

Splat-marking is really fun, and can make a great DIY gift-wrap project!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Instant garden

Aunt Troi* gave us an incredible gift this week— an absolute mountain of succulent clippings!

I have monkey gloves and you don't.

"Before." This isn't even all of them—I gave one bucket full of clippings to the Thumbstumbler and another to Starboy's grandma.

"Before." Five medium pots ($8) and three small ones ($7) from Home Depot, along with a few repurposed ones from the yard, and we probably could have used three times that many.

*Nearly everyone gets a code name to help with privacy

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Disabled in Palm Springs

Techman noticed that in Palm Springs, the wheelchair users are happier, and better dressed, than in the rest of the country.

They do not have arms, however.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reading Roundup

Here are some articles I found interesting this week. I'm a little behind in my RSS queues, but hopefully I'll catch up sometime, um,  this summer?

Paranoid Parents Are a Bigger Threat to Kids, by James Peron in the Huffington Post
Even though statistically kids are much safer today, parents are terrified to allow them the independence they need to grow into sensible adults. If you're interested, there's an entire blog on this topic at Free Range Kids. You'll see more on the topic here, as time goes on.

Tending the Body's Microbial Garden, by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times
We are just beginning to understand the benefits of good bacteria in the body, the article says, and notes that vaginal birth offers a share of these bacteria to the baby that aids in breastfeeding and immune system function. Another vote against the horrifying 32% Cesarian rate that we've allowed nationally.

Dirtying Up Our Diets, by Jeff D. Leach in the New York Times
More on the topic of microorganisms that aid in immunity (e.g. allergies, autoimmune diseases). Basically, our lives and food are too "clean." More notes on how the trend in Cesarian births contributes to the loss of microbiota from one generation to the next.

photo: imagine childhood

Okay, this isn't a standard article, but my word: A recipe for Bon Bon S'mores, which are mini s'mores made from homemade graham crackers and homemade marshmallows (both from Smitten Kitchen), then dipped in chocolate and topped with candied orange peel. These things wouldn't stand a chance in the heat of Joshua Tree, where we camp, but they seem more appropriate for a black tie affair, anyway. Curse you, boot camp! Curse you!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Catching up -- Lummis Day with El Rio

 Some of you may remember that I've been working on a display table for a new Waldorf-inspired charter school starting up near us. The school set up an information table at Lummis Day, a huge local festival for this side of town.

 And when I say, "the school," I mean, my new BFF Cade* and me. We were the organizing committee, along with an awesome volunteer coordinator. Cade and I developed the overhead banner, the vertical banner to the right, flyers about the school and she wants to develop a bookmark. I put together the table, the "Think Play Do" banner, the bunting, and the craft stuff.

It was creating, crafting and editing on steriods, to be sure.

 Here's the "before" shot of the table.

*Nearly everyone gets a code name at Egg Juice, to help with privacy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Oh, all right...

Ready for business, the hibernating yoga mat and weights used to train for a week of ice climbing ("Have an ice day!!") long ago return from the depths of the basement. Do you think the trainer will notice they are eights instead of tens? I was hoping to start this project without buying a lot of new things. The sport top, sure, is badly needed. And the sport clothes I tried on at Target, well...let's just say I'm not in danger on spending money on that for a while.

Day two of boot camp wasn't nearly as horrible as day one (more weight training and less jumping around), but I still turned stupid at about minute 44 and my body gave up. And I was delighted to find that my water bottle was caked with some old coffee from about two weeks ago. Yech.

At least the group is fun and the host has a sand table that Starboy loves.

Happy Summer!

It's summertime in Starboy's nature table!

 Some of the caterpillars have turned into butterflies...

A large snail has taken up residence...

The pond has been converted into an ocean with swimming fish and starfish....

The trees are green and lush and blooming...

 There are rocks to hop on...

 .....and the birds are playing in the flowers and the shade....

...and we admire nature's artistry

Starboy was eager to show off his summer garden to Techman (that's a blue sky shimmering with sundogs and butterflies on the windowsill, along with a puffy cloud).

 And there also was some housecleaning. Starboy is excited for all of his creatures to live in the nature park, but the overcrowding was becoming a problem. But he couldn't bear to relocate his friends. So, like a queue of partiers outside a Miami nightclub, three caterpillars, Red Bird and Gold Duck wait behind invisible ropes, hoping to be invited back inside. Just wait until Blue Bird gets wind of this.....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fairy Findings in San Juan Cap

During our Father's Day train trip this weekend, we wandered about and discovered a little shop that specializes in fairy gardens! It's  Cottage Home and Garden, right next to the tracks. Lucky find!

They had several sample gardens, and lots and lots and lots of treasures to take home for your own garden. I wish we'd known before starting ours—it's even more fun to shop in person than online.

Do you love it? Don't forget the contest is still open over at The Magic Onions. Send in photos of your own garden! Starboy has loved playing in his garden!

Some fairies have their gardens to go. Starboy wanted to take this one home with him.

Catching Up — trash truck festival

LA Bureau of Sanitation throws these ridiculously brilliant open houses each spring. Free to all, they clean up the garbage trucks and line them up. You're allowed to climb in and push the buttons and empty the cans yourself. Starboy was too timid to try this, so we coaxed him onto a forklift.

The event was a crazy din of banging trucks and metal, loud music, and children's shrieks. It was a little overwhelming for Starboy, but he found it exhilarating as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Palm Springs Children's Museum

 I have to give a shout-out for the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert, in Palm Springs. We just made our second visit, during one of our many PS family events this year, and Starboy had a ball.

First: It's air conditioned. This is a big selling point, especially during the off-season (read: summer).

 But also, everything is hands on. It's all about play, and a lot of the play offers math and science opportunities, like pizza making, or playing with magnets.


One of my favorite bloggers posted about this radio interview with Sylvia Boorstein, a discussion called What We Nurture. There's a lot to think about in the interview: Boorstein's gentle ways, parenting, spirituality. During a section of the talk on anger, this part struck me:

Dr. Boorstein:  I think our children learn to speak in a tone that we speak in or to hold people kindly if we do. I had in my mind I wanted to tell this. I've never said it in a public audience, but I just thought about it recently. I decided that — I'll find out soon if this is a good analogy — but I was thinking about the GPS in my car. It never gets annoyed at me. If I make a mistake, it says, "Recalculating." And then it tells me to make the soonest left turn and go back. I thought to myself, you know, I should write a book and call it "Recalculating" because I think that that's what we're doing all the time.

That something happens, it challenges us and the challenge is, OK, so do you want to get mad now? You could get mad, you could go home, you could make some phone calls, you could tell a few people you can't believe what this person said or that person said. Indignation is tremendously seductive, you know, and to share with other people on the telephone and all that. So to not do it and to say, wait a minute, apropos of you said before, wise effort to say to yourself, wait a minute, this is not the right road. Literally, this is not the right road. There's a fork in the road here. I could become indignant, I could flame up this flame of negativity or I could say, "Recalculating." I'll just go back here.

Ms. Tippett: So this is an example of technology instilling us with spiritual discipline — we find so much to criticize.

Dr. Boorstein: And no matter how many times I don't make that turn, it will continue to say, "Recalculating." The tone of voice will stay the same.

Initially, I was thinking of it in terms of frustration with toddlers. But on re-reading the transcript passage (the audio, if you have time, is here), I think it applies to a variety of situations: poor restaurant service, family drama, toddlers who won't eat their breakfasts, acquaintances on a discussion list who speak unkindly. It's actually the way Techman looks at things; it's not always my approach.

I have learned through time that sometimes the best response in an emotional tug of war is to "drop the rope." Stop engaging. I don't always have the spiritual discipline Boorstein describes, of walking away without feeling the emotion. Or of walking away without explanation.

Is that a weakness? Is that "nurturing anger" rather than "working within community?" I haven't decided yet. I'll need some more time to think about it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fantastic Father's Day

 Venus* had long ago told us about this amazing train trip for preschoolers. She and her son Barclay* did it years ago with his preschool class. I surprised Techman and Starboy for a Family Father's Day adventure.

We left the stunning Union Station early in the morning.

I always imagine what it would look like filled with travelers from the 1920s.

 About an hour later we arrived at San Juan Capistrano to......

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scenes from Mother's Day

Somehow I never got around to finishing this post about the great Mother's Day I had! May and June have been a little nutty. We started with bear pancakes at a local hipster Starboy LOVES Mother's Day...

I was able to do some crafting, nearly finishing the owl wings for Starboy....which he won't wear, awesome. More on that later.

And we did a short hike and caught the views at the Griffith Observatory.

Techman and Starboy really gave me a special day and I felt wholly appreciated. Swoon!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Postpartum slog

They said that the pounds "just fall right off" when you are breastfeeding.


Starboy has been breastfeeding for three years, and I am like a house. People still ask me if I'm pregnant. It's horrifying. Especially since I'd love to be pregnant with a brother for Starboy.

A woman posted to a mommy list I used to participate in (that's a story for another day), raving about a particular boot camp — how she was in the best shape of her life, she loved the workout, it's different every day, she's skinnier than when she was in college, unicorns frolicked during the session underneath glistening rainbows, and so forth. I was intrigued. I've never seen a real unicorn baby. Though a big seller for me was that the group meets at someone's backyard, nearby, and kids are welcome. And the price is right: about $20 per session.

Then I found out that the host of the sessions is actually a mom I already know! Total bonus. This is going to be a great idea!

I mentally committed to starting yesterday, and doing two days this week. Actually, I ate the last of the  ice cream yesterday and started this morning.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Catching Up -- Yosemite

It's been a little busy around here over the last few weeks, lots of family, family, family. And housecleaning. I'll spend the week with highlights to catch you up.

We spent some time in Yosemite, one of the most beautiful places on earth. We love camping and playing there, despite what a pain in the neck it is to pack the bearboxes.

Getting ready to go

 Happy Isles bike ride

Regular napping still a challenge even with extreme play. At least we have the Burley.

 Exploring with old friends
We had a few rainy days but overall the weather was great. I'm a big proponent of buying and wearing the right gear — it's cheap insurance against a miserable (or dangerous) trip.


Stamping our journal with a special stamp and the date in the visitor's center.

 Water watching

 Rock throwing into the "Rabbit River" (rapid river)

Look, Mommy, I'm a big kid.

 Boy play.
I know. Gender neutral activity, don't stereotype, blah blah. But boys throwing rocks is just... BOY.