so you want to write 300 blog posts…

july 09 151well, i made it!  i hit my goal of writing 300 blog posts before my birthday…and then i stopped posting.  not really, but almost!  it just happened to be a very busy week: VBS every afternoon and three (!) classes running concurrently for me.  add in summer temperatures that are getting warmer every day, and my mornings have been quite full.  but i wanted to write a bit about what i learned this year.

  • give yourself margin.  my goal was to write 300 posts in a year, not to write every day.  i had a day off every week plus some sick days built in.  that made it feel a lot more spacious and a lot less like work.
  • write a series.  i wrote two–one about keeping advent and one about celebrating the 50 days of Easter.  a series offers focus for the writing.  it also relieves the tedium of always reporting what’s happening in our days because there’s not all that much variation: we went to the library!  we took a walk!  read this neat article!  and when you’ve got the long year still in front of you, it feels so good to map out a few days or weeks of writing and maybe even write a few posts early and schedule them to appear on the appointed day.  there’s nothing like waking up and already having a post up!
  • participate online.  of course there are the few sites you always visit, but what about throwing your net a little wider?  this year i joined twitter.  i know!  but it’s become a great way for me to find new people outside my normal homeschool mama blog universe.  i also went deeper.  also for the first time this year i participated in a MOOC.  again, it’s something good to write about, something a little outside my normal byways to think about.  i wasn’t taking the classes to improve my blogging, but all the writing and thinking spilled over and made this place richer.
  • write for 31 days.   i also linked my Advent series with The Nester’s 31 Days series.  serious bump in traffic there!  i don’t know how many of you are still reading all these months later, but i’m happy to have you!  the series gives you a smaller canvas to work on and helps build momentum.  it’s really my #1 piece of advice.  the convergence of ModPo and 31 Days last October made it easy for me to write nearly every day.
  • lower your standards.  William Stafford says that when you’re writing and you get stuck, you should lower your standards and keep going.  what passes as a blog post certainly got a bit looser this year!  i started posting more pictures, more quotes.  and every week i had two mini-series–one called Sabbath Rest, a simple image and quote from the lectionary for that day, and one featuring a quote from the archives of the homeschooling magazine called Growing Without Schooling.  these posts were restorative to me.  i got to spend time reading, pondering, looking.  i hope they were of use to you too!

so those are my five bullet points of advice.  go forth and write!  i can’t wait to see what *you* make!


IMG_2075on Saturday AP took the oldest and the youngest to the farmers’ market to pick up our CSA share.  that left Nicolas and me alone to finish up lunch prep (salmon cakes with smoked salmon from Nana and Papa Sam!).  then we headed out to the back yard.

we ended up sitting on the edge of the deck talking about numbers–specifically 40, that big number that i’ll be turning in a couple weeks.  we did a little math, but mostly we just talked in the shade of the great horse chestnut tree.  then we came inside, and he crushed all the graham crackers for our pie crust.  we finished melting the butter and pressing the crumbs into the pie plate.  about this time the others returned home and the house filled up with all the busy sounds of five people living together.

Nicolas is the middle child.  he is quiet and speaks deliberately.  he is content and ready for just about anything.  he also happens to be surrounded by children who are louder and more dramatic than he is!  this means that in our day to day life, his voice often gets drowned out.

it was just wonderful to spend time with Nico, one on one.  it’s something that Julie Bravewriter (as we call her at our house!)  recommends.  we’ve gone out to coffee together before, but this was so much richer because we were in our own comfortable space and had work to do in common.  i overheard him tell his sister how much he liked his mama-time!  when he was born, we called him Nicolas the Wonderworker.  i want to make sure there is space + time for this boy full of wonders.

sabbath rest


Let us give thanks to the Lord for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107.8-9

Out of the mouths of infants and children, O Lord, your majesty is praised above the heavens.  Psalm 8.2

At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

So he called a little child to him whom he set among them.

Then he said, In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  And so, the one who makes himself as little as this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18.1-4

poems + prayers

IMG_1998:: can you see Jojo’s tiny footprints in the newly turned soil? ::

this week i came across a most wonderful midsummer adventure–a poetry writing MOOC made by the folks at the Iowa Writers Workshop.  i found the course a few days late and have been catching up this week.  it’s been an extra treat to run across ModPo people in the forums and get a chance to read their poems.  each week there are two videos by established poets sharing a bit of their process or other ideas, then an assignment to write a poem using the poet’s ideas and prompts.  the videos alone are worth your time if you crave good words and the chance to listen to people deeply involved in the lifetime process of confronting the page.

i also listened to the introductory recording from a Gerard Manley Hopkins retreat produced by Pray-As-You-Go.  i love the idea of employing lectio divina on something other than scripture.  when i hear people doing close readings of poems, i think that’s what theology should be–a deep wrestling with all the places of consonance and assonance in the text.  this retreat is theologians using poetry.  i am certainly going to keep on listening.

finally, i saw the title of a book, haven’t actually laid eyes on the book itself!  it’s called Praying in Color.  basically doodling or zentangling while praying.  i am very interested in this practice as coloring has become such a powerful way for us to reflect and meditate.  it’s coming via interlibrary loan!

zoo adventures

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we spent a marvelous morning at the zoo when the California grandparents came to visit!  the animals were active and visible and the day was bright but not too warm.  even though we got to see the young lion cubs wrestle with their papa and the sea otters getting breakfast, we all agreed that petting and brushing the African goas was the highlight of the day!


sept 09 055-MOTIONour tired, old computer was in desperate need of more memory. it was time for us to move all of our photographs off its hard drive.  amazingly, there were 8,000. oh my!  we have lots of pictures here on the blog, and for many years we actively used flickr.  we used google and an external hard drive to back up all the photographs.

google will “enhance” pictures for you automatically–brighten up here, add a smile there.  not too offensive…even if i wouldn’t really call them enhancements!  it also automatically makes some pictures “awesome.”  this means it makes panoramas and grids with similar pictures.  it also adds motion to sets of pictures taken close together.

which we have a lot of!  many pictures trying to get a baby to look like himself, many pictures of a child working.  and i have to admit, i think the jumpy little gifs that result are often pretty awesome.

GWS :: forty

august 09 108

Instead of beginning with a tiny idea, the sound of a letter, she began with a big and important one, that books belong to people and could belong to her.

In time she filled this big idea with smaller but still large ideas: that books have stories locked in them; that they have written words in them,

and that the stories are somehow contained in the words,

so that somehow figuring out the words is the key to unlocking and taking possession of the stories, and that these stories can be shared with, given to other people.

–John Holt in Growing Without Schooling

Issue #40 archived here.

baja-style pickled carrots

aug 13 215

do you eat pickled carrots at your place?  i’d wager that if you grew up living just minutes from the border you just might!  they are simple and oh so satisfying to make.  here’s the process:

wash and peel carrots–how many?  i usually do around 8 for a quart jar.

cut 1-2 jalapenos in half longways–seeds out or in? depends on how hot you want your carrots

put carrots + peppers in a pan; cover with vinegar + water–use a 1:1 ratio, 1 c water : 1 c apple cider vinegar. it usually takes a cup and a half of each to get my carrots covered.

bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer; cook carrots until just beginning to get tender–not too much!  you want a little bite.

remove from heat + place in glass jar. cover and let marinate 24 hours.

then your carrots are ready to eat.  they will last in the fridge for a long time.  but you’ll eat them up soon enough!  they are the perfect addition to basic brined beans + rice, nachos, or anytime you want to add a little color, a little heat, a little crunch to your plate.  enjoy!

first light, first bird, first book of the season

up early this morning even thought Jojo had a pretty hard night.  up early courtesy of the scrub jays who live in the front yard and the crows who live in the back yard.  the scrub jays were being noisy neighbors; they were upset about something.  this wasn’t their normal reep-reep.  it was more like they were the peasants in Monty Python and The Holy Grail crying out, “She’s a witch.”  so i had to get up to see what was making them so angry.

i went out the front door because it’s a little quieter, hoping to keep the sleeping house sleeping for a little while longer.  one of the jays met me at the door.  then the bird led me just like Joseph does–he gave his distressed call, then hopped a few feet away and gave it again.  i followed and he led me straight to the witch!  a fluffy calico cat who we’ve seen in the yard before.  she left as soon as i arrived, and everyone quieted down.  i went and got a handful of peanuts to put out for all the jays’ trouble.

Urban Bestiary Cover

i just received the most wonderful gift in the mail this week!  Lyanda Lynn Haupt sent me a copy of her new book called The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild in honor of Joseph’s birth!  i’ve talked plenty about Lyanda and her work as a naturalist here (writing about the book reading where i first met her and her family’s journal keeping).  she has influenced me and taught me so much about this green world.  she has enlivened and enlarged my sense of myself as a mother, a writer, a scientist.  as you can see the book has a wonderful illustrated cover. there are line drawings throughout, and such treasures within.

i started reading as soon as i had book in hand.  but i have a feeling it might take me a while to get through the book.  just a few pages in and i had learned just enough about tracking and reading animal signs that i wanted to tell the children about it.  a casual reading, a casual conversation, and an afternoon in the backyard yielded feathers, scratches on the juniper bark, half-eaten walnuts, and most curious of all muddy tracks on the fence.  did they belong to a cat or a racoon?  only four toes, so i think it might have been the same very scary calico i met this morning!

in the book Lyanda writes that it’s just a small shift in attention (and maybe intention too?) can bring us closer to the wild that lives all around us. even here at our place on a regular urban lot on a pretty busy street in the middle of the city.  we’re keeping our eyes + ears open!