Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now


Leave a comment

some short thoughts and shots from the summer (summer is summer is summer 2016)

I am an end of summer, into fall, into winter, under the heavy blankets sort of person. I love nesting, putting on layers. I love being cozy. I love being outside in the cold, in the snow and at the end of it all, in my own bed.  It took moving to Colorado and 6 months (or more?) of winter for me to begin to truly appreciate the, ah, warmer seasons. This past spring-summer, I was feeling so full of joy and optimism having connected with kindred souls that I was throwing myself at the expansive summer months and travel ahead.

Many thousand miles around the country we traveled, spending quality time with friends and family.  Much, much to say. I’m still digesting it all, but for now summaries and photos. Stephen and the girls kicked it off with a camping trip in the Colorado mountains. The girls hiked above the tree-line and crossed snow fields in the summer. I stayed home with Happy to do some planning and while I wasn’t planning on it, I saw the sunrise at the dog park, each morning.

1st to Texas/Visit my friend, aka “Gert” for several days:  visited with my oldest girlfriend and her family. No pictures were taken since she’s the photographer and in fact she did take some awesome family portraits.  Little girls playing all-day-long, mamas catching up, pool mornings, pool afternoons, holding/loving/smiling at/adoring/admiring (you get the picture) baby Zoe, delicious dinners, a special birthday for my friend, and an all around A wonderful time!

Atlanta/Family re-group for a night: incredible pizza, a king-size bed for all, and an inexpensive, super-deal 5 star hotel, whereby after walking through marble lobbies with piano players, the girls exclaimed: “This is niiiice, BUT the Drury Inn is a lot nicer.” Drury Inn might be a 2-star, but they have a popcorn machine in the lobby.

North Carolina/Family and Roots for a few weeks: welcomed by family and a place, that feels so, so right, so much of the time is hard to put words to exactly. Even its challenging facets were comforting, such as the heat and the humidity. Imaginative play, quality time with grandparents, aunts and uncle, visiting with Great-Grandmother. Unobstructed BIG skies. Walks to the pond, feeding the ducks, farm stand, pickling, lots of reading with Gommie, with Aunt Wendy, games with cousins (Rat a Tat Cat, anyone?), rain, sunshine, friends and more friends. 4th of July in the country. Bunko, football and blankets. Fireworks in a big old field. The BEACH for A WEEK! Sand and sun, late nights and full bellies. Spy game?! Soooooooooo much fun. Clue: carbon paper. Ballroom dancing with cousins on sandy floors. Amazing talks with our nieces and nephew. Quality time with people WE LOVE. Stephen and I enjoyed sultry, but leisure runs together and profound conversations about faith, life, and the incredible gratitude we both felt.  In the wake of so many challenging events in the world, we really struggled through some deep thoughts. We walked the streets of our old town, knowing and feeling it was no longer home. It was hard, but an important step in our journey. Connecting with June, Joe, and John on Hale Street filled my soul – I feel so at home with them as do the girls and Stephen. Praying Mantis is for June.

Massachusetts/good ole Jack, college friends & their beautiful girls AND revisiting the way back past (colonial history and all). Maybe it is because I’m from the NE, although from nothing like western MA, the air, the trees, the roads are all just so right to me. Coincidentally my sister and husband were visiting Massachusetts the same time and so we connected in Cambridge. It was great. Playing around at Harvard Yard- spending time together. Period.  Visiting Groton, the last place I lived before NC, was not as emotionally triggering as I might have predicted. My senses were ON in countless ways, but I returned as a traveler with Stephen and my girls to visit a friend whom I’m convinced I’ve known in a different life and time. With the exception of lamb hearts being doled out upon our arrival (for Happy), we sunk into Jack’s world so seamlessly, so beautifully it is hard to accept it only took hours. And within a day my entire family was smitten with him and his dog almost as much as I am. Visiting with my sweet friends from college and their BEAUTIFUL girls was so life-confirming! To re-connect with friends from ones’ past and again, for it to work out so smoothly- like we’ve all been hanging out together for years, is incredibly precious and inspiring.  I hadn’t seen Amy and Brett  since 2005 and our girls played like they’d known each other for years, we talked like we were continuing conversations from the day before.  We hiked, washed dogs, chopped wood, made dinner, smelled the flowers and celebrated another birthday on the road. Book on the blanket, blanket on the lawn, we exhaled.

Click on pictures to see some of our summer. *Background: I recently destroyed my iPhone in an unexpected jump into the creek so THOSE photos are LOST, but my camera’s photos are here to stay! I’ve been so intimidated by my camera and the volumes of photos that I have been reluctant to photograph. YET, this is coming from someone who LOVES taking photos and started spending countless hours in darkrooms IN high school. Thanks to my wonderful niece  though I’m slowly being integrated into the 21st century with photographic  “work flow” and editing…

 

 

 

 

 


2 Comments

wrapped up bird block with picnic

After our egg activities, we moved into a variety of bird-related pursuits which were mostly inspired by the books we read. We ended our block with a picnic at some nearby ponds.

DSC01577

From one book, Tree of Cranes, we were able to explore geography, migratory patterns, arts, and a look at specific birds, in this case cranes and other waterfowl. Since the book takes place in Japan we practiced bird origami and began drawing our own world map starting with the Pacific Ocean, the west coast of North America and Japan.  I loved shifting their perspective by placing the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the map.

A common thread throughout this block was the reading of E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan and working on bird identification. The latter consisted of us sitting on the couch flipping though our Audubon book of birds! Speaking of which, we read an incredible  biography picture book on John Audubon, but I’m not exactly sure of the title now. We also spent time on the Audubon’s website listening to bird calls, again mostly waterfowl as that seemed to emerge on its own, as a theme.

Another book that we really enjoyed was called The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, a folktale picture book from Japan. Somewhat unplanned, but here we were again in Japan and waterfowl! We continued with our maps and also pulled out some of our Zen picture books by John Muth, Zen Shorts and Zen Ties.  We enjoyed reading some haikus:

an old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water

~and another~

Now that eyes of hawks

in dusky night

are darkened . . .

Chirping of the quails (Basho)

At Walden Ponds (here in Colorado, not Massachusetts), we spied: a dozen pelicans, a blue heron, a black cormorant, many Canadian geese, robins, red-winged black birds, sparrows, and chickadees. Ada also lost her 2nd top tooth at lunch!

I really enjoyed the flexibility of this bird block but appreciate the bit of structure. It was hard to end because we could go on and on with this type of study! Next up, sewing our first skirts and then wrapping up a couple math and language arts blocks!

A week later we went up into the mountain for a dog training class and we saw dozens of hummingbirds!

April-May 2016 F-3April-May 2016 F-4

 


2 Comments

tackling photos

I completed our first year 1 photo album last week and just finished year 2 with the girls this morning. It has been a pleasurable experience overall, but the expectations I’ve set (to deal with all the photos NOW) has been a bit much to face!

I’m trying to attach a link to the 2nd album. I thought it would be a nice way to share some of these photos with friends and family. There should be a hyper-link to click below which will bring you to my book on shutterfly’s site.  There you will see a button “view photo book.” We’ll see!

<p style=”width:425px;margin-top:0;text-align:center;”><a rel=”nofollow” href=”http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0AZMm7Zs4ctmjtA&eid=118″>Click here to view this photo book larger</a>

Shutterfly photo books  offer a variety of layouts and cover options to choose from.

</p>

 

 

 

 

misty mountain hop on the mesa trail (and the start of an ornithological odyssey )

2 Comments

It can be the slightest, most faint rain shower and we are OUTSIDE immediately dancing “in the rain.” It fills me up to imagine that deep in the girls’ souls are etched the joyful memories of puddle jumping and rainy walks in North Carolina.  Arlene often talks of the time I did yoga on the front porch while it just poured buckets! Torrential southern rain coming down – heavy and long and we all gathered there on the porch. I do believe that day is etched in our souls– the scent of the rain, the sounds of it’s descent, the feel of it’s spray, the excitement of that powerful storm beside and above us, yet, on the porch together, safe and warm, full of awe and excitement.

Some people in the middle of a country yearn deeply for the ocean. It is beyond intellect. It’s limbic and emotional and deeply scored in them. They must see, smell, feel the ocean every so often. In its absence they miss it profoundly and can’t explain what its absence means. I feel that way about rain and I think the girls do as well. I didn’t expect to long for rain, but I do, so deeply and often.

DSC01564

 

It rained last night. It continued raining into the morning. The hills and mountains around us were engulfed in mist and fog. I was thrilled when Ada and Arlene said yes to an early morning hike. We dropped Stephen off at school and hit the beautiful trail before 8. We ambled off-trail a few times, once exploring a huge boulder and several other times to examine more closely beautiful trees that loomed in the clouds. Mostly we chatted and smiled. Happy to be together in the light rain, the mist, hopping along.

 

We returned home to begin our nature block on birds (ornithological odyssey). I’m really excited about where this went and where it is going! What started out as a plan for a straightforward study of birds has turned into both a look at birds and a look at Japan, lots of geography, poetry and painting!  As I planned some of the books and crafts, Japanese culture surfaced and thus activities and ideas for our studies – origami cranes and geography from one book, history and Zen practices from another. I found several beautiful haiku poems on birds, too. Maybe we could work on some Japanese-styled paintings after reading the haikus? Might be nice to visit the nearby Japanese archery school, too.

We started our block with eggs. Eggs come first! After reading a wonderful non-fiction book on said topic and a touching fictional story, Albert, we got working on completing the following statements in a mini-book format with simple drawings and/or words: An egg is quiet…stays warm…is colorful…is clever…is different sizes, etc. Then on to our activity with some eggs! Fortunately we brought home some special eggs from both California and New Mexico so the girls each chose a couple of their favorites. We had a dozen from Joey and Tweedie, the latter, our last living hen from N.C. now living in California with Vicki. After blowing the eggs, we decopauged them with dainty pictures- butterflies, feathers, flowers.  We baked some delicious gluten-free chocolate chip muffins (uses a lot of eggs) and started a new chapter book:The Trumpet of the Swan.  So far, GREAT.

Garden work was the other outdoor bookend to our day. Stephen and the girls turned over the soil and amended it. Over dinner we discussed garden hopes and dreams. We aim to get a bunch of seeds in by Wednesday. Brace yourself. Here in our zone, May 11th is the average last frost date so there are a few plants we can get into the ground now, but much more… later!

Cold hands post-hike needed warm beverages!

IMG_4727

This gallery contains 7 photos


Leave a comment

multiply, minus and museum musings

We’ve had a full few months around here and I’m hesitant to skip sharing any of it, but I also want to write what we’re up to now.

On the homeschooling front, our math and language arts blocks are going super well. Art and music are big hits around here, too. There’s a lot of art activities nestled into the LA and math blocks, but also dedicated times for their own projects and painting. Ada and Arlene both LOVE playing the piano! Spanish has taken a bit of a backseat, but was revived this last week (first week of April). We continue to focus primarily on Spanish nursery rhymes and songs. Mapping has been a favorite activity- whether creative pursuits from books we’ve read or trips we’ve travelled, they enjoy the process of learning from maps and creating them! Arlene shows a strong interest in mathematics and Ada, no surprise loves reading! We completed our math block on the four processes with multiply and minus, complete with gnome stories and hands on activities. I’ve come to appreciate this approach to mathematics more and more as it becomes a truly tangible practice in their life. I thought multiplication clicked the least as it is basically a short cut to adding. We can count by 2s, 5s, and 10s and made our “multiplication table” but really I think written equations, like 2 x 2 = 4, are a bit off and rightfully so! Often mathematics slips off from the practical realm later in school- I can just hear kids (and myself) mumbling questions of math’s purpose in one’s life. When learning is meaningful, it resonates and clicks. These creative and fanciful stories introduce mathematics’ basic concepts  while giving them a context that is tangible.

We’re using our bus passes and recently ventured to Denver sans car! Oh, what a way to travel with the girls and completely enjoy ourselves. The Denver Museum of Art is hands down, one of my favorite art museums.  Predictably we are drawn to the halls on Native Americans. Both the girls have had a deep interest in learning about Native Americans– for as long as I can remember. In fact, after reading this book many years ago their curiosity AND ability to begin to put the history of Native Americans into some perspective, took off. It is a wonderful book, has a great layout and excellent illustrations.

hqdefault River

However, I’ve grown uncomfortable with the fact that the only way they think about Native Americans is through an outdated and often caricatured image. How to continue the story about Native Americans, so that it isn’t just about the past, but also contains the present? How can I help it be less confusing that our neighbor, a Native American from a nearby reservation, who dresses like “us” IS in fact Native American? What if in learning about Americans they were only exposed to:

The exhibit at the Denver Art Museum got the conversation flowing on Native Americans. By showing examples of modern art, I could bridge the Native American artist from the past to the present. How did Native American art change? What does art attempt to do? Most of the examples of modern art at the museum are in fact dealing with this ever challenging and evolving issue. Who are they (Native Americans)? How can they be defined outside of caricature of tipis, hunting, and feather headdresses? These people live today!  Yes, this is their heritage. However, when a group is so exclusively defined by their past that it makes it impossible to “see” them today, there’s a huge problem.

I didn’t take a picture of the photograph that accompanies this description, but it is a self-portrait by the artist- straight forward, unaltered set of 3 photographs. I thought this was one of the most helpful pieces in beginning this conversation with the girls.

IMG_3635

 

If it wasn’t for this guy, we’d spend the entire day at the museum!

DSC00691

Travels and times in Denver.

 

 


Leave a comment

Brown Bear, Brown Bear…

Ada reading the Eric Carle classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  I’ve read it hundreds of times to the girls since we received it from Linda, our friend. It is well worn and bearing signs of toddler love like ripped and missing pages. This morning I pulled out the books Linda sent me when the girls were born and we enjoyed reading them so much! They were both thrilled at reading the Carle book- said many times: this book is SO much fun!

Linda passed away Saturday in a car accident in Massachusetts. My heart is heavy. My deepest sympathies go out to Jack and Lee, her husband and son. I hope to see them soon.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

2nd block of math, keeping it up!

During the second week of math block we met Gnome Plus, a green little fella that likes to add up more and more jewels!  I continued with our story of the two young women traveling through the Land of Numbers with Ancient One. The first day they meet the gnome and his verse. The second day they discover his “sign” in the scene we have set up on the cabinet. There’s lots of hands on activities in this block and while I make a plan for some of our practice, I’m often coming up with amusing “problems” on the fly. It is after all, all about practicing! I try to insert items of significance into our storytelling and thus our “problems.”  A few more of their wooden animals made their debut this week which made things interesting and to that I added an old favorite watercolor of an autumn tree that they have enjoyed playing with since they were toddlers.  With another story layer, this painting and new animals were a hit!  Several forest animals were trying to put together fruits, nuts and all sorts of food they’d found, thus adding it up to make a communal cache (seen in the tree hollow)!  With some simple touches, they connect more with what we are doing and appreciate the way it is being done. Learning through meaningful experiences!

After lots of adding and some sharing (dividing from last week)  with rocks, gems, food (green food since Gnome Plus is GREEN!), sticks, books, whatever we had around I introduce equations. First I draw out what we are talking about…Gnome Plus had 5 gems (I draw him and the 5 gems), then he found 4 more in his pocket ( draw 2 more). How many gems did he have all together? Beneath that I write the numerals and signs (+ and =). This block is meant to get them hands on experience and exposure to these concepts. We will come back to them a little more in-depth after our next LA block. At bedtime they will ask what our plans are for the following day and when I answer we will be doing a morning lesson, they honestly cheer!

I continued the theme of stories with numbers as a way to end main lesson. I resurrected some oldies but goodies from the past– simple counting books which they LOVED and can now read!  Five Little Monkeys,  Dots, and Freight Train. Oh the memories! I can almost hear the train’s horn as it made its way through downtown Durham some years ago. I’ve always loved the sound of the train (not too close by) and back then we would often pause to listen and pull out Freight Train!

We have also been hunkering down for more significant reading as we continue with Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House series. We are on book 3 now and there is no stopping these two girls!  Our reading inspired some gorgeous artwork, too. They made beautiful collages of Old Tallow, a wonderful character in the book, whose winter coat is patched and mended, layered year after year. They also wanted to make a map of the island where the story takes place and Omakayas lives.  It is currently taped to our coffee table,  behaving more like a huge jigsaw puzzle than map. They can stop by at it for a few minutes or settle down for more detailed additions. (Images below: Ada’s Old Tallow, followed by Arlene’s, a picture of the book with Ada, and beginning of the map.)

We had a fun Boulder day later in the week and met friends at the library. We happened upon a wonderful singing story time, too. Afterward Stephen met us since the library is just blocks from his school. We walked the downtown creek path which was deserted in the late afternoon — we enjoyed it all to ourselves!

We ended the week with a fabulous trip to Denver– by bus! I’ve been wanting to shoot for a month without a car and this was a little practice at still getting around, not changing our plans, but without the car. We invested in Eco passes (annual bus passes) for everyone and 2 days after getting them took full advantage! We got down to Denver in 50 minutes on a new route and new bus (had the new car scent and all) and I didn’t have to deal with parking nor the long drive back home.  More on our trip to Denver later…

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.