Wednesday, July 30, 2008

That's My Motto

When Luke was really into Harry Potter, a favorite book of his was J.K. Rowling's fundraising book, Quidditch Through the Ages. One night, he told me that his favorite quidditch team is the Falmouth Falcons, because their motto is "Let us win, but if we cannot win, let us break a few heads." He mispronounced motto (calling it mow-tow) and as I corrected him, I asked, how did he even knew what a motto was?

His answer, so casually related, still fascinates me: "Oh," Luke said, "from Calvin and Hobbes." He then described a favorite comic strip in which Calvin and Hobbes have a huge fight in Calvin's bed; at the end, Hobbes says to Calvin, "my mow-tow is, Revenge or Death!"

Imagine grasping the concept of a motto before you can even pronounce the word.

Another comic-related story that stopped me in my tracks was more recent. We get this totally awesome left-wing newspaper of comics and articles (Dave Barry, Garrison Keillor) called the Funny Times, and in a recent issue was the following: a one-panel comic of a huge, globe-shaped birdcage and inside it, swinging on the canary swing, sat a little polar bear. Luke didn't get it - until I asked him if he knew what the saying 'canary in a coal mine' meant. Watching the light dawn on your child's face is so cool! - he said, "ohhh yeah, the polar bear is the canary of the world!"

When I think of the knowledge that went in to the light dawning in Luke's mind, I am amazed. He had to know about the polar bear's endangerment, that the cause is global warming (yes, I really, really believe that - and if you don't, you ought to watch the Planet Earth about the Poles), and that people used to use canaries to see if there was breathable air before going underground themselves.

I think Luke's ability to draw from different sources will serve him extremely well as he moves through life. Also, it amazes me that, at age 7, he can mentally fit things together with connections that I may not even see at the ripe old age of 37.

It sure justifies all the time he spends reading the comics!

Monday, July 28, 2008


This time last summer, Luke was nearly 7 and deathly afraid of getting his face wet. He had a real phobia about it, which is no surprise considering I had the same phobia until age 9. Knowing that I shared his fear made him more comfortable, but real help came late in the summer, in the form of a pair of goggles.

The goggles actually kicked around all summer; then right around Labor Day Luke plucked up his courage, put them on, went under - and loved it! He was fascinated with how everything looked under the water, and so finally beat back his water-related fears.

Just before we closed our pool last summer, Luke started holding his breath for a bit longer, tentatively swimming and floating. We opened the pool this year in early June; here's a series of pictures I snagged yesterday:

My mind boggles at the difference between Luke last July, and Luke now.

The best thing about his progress (outside of how much fun he's having, and how much safer he is now that he can swim) is that it came about through play.

As an unschooling parent, I spend lots of time finding illustrations of play-as-learning for skeptical parents and friends. Well, there's no better way to show the value of play in learning than swimming, where everything Luke does is a small step in the direction of learning to swim.

But he never set out to 'be a swimmer;' instead, he wanted to see what the diving sharks looked like under water. And then he wanted to grab the diving sharks under water, and then he wanted to use his hands to pull himself along the bottom, and then he wanted to jump in from the stairs, and swim in the deep end...

And suddenly, Luke is a swimmer.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Harvest Season in the Life of an Almost-Locavore

Here's the thing about summer and fall, for a blogger and her family who eat mainly locally: they are really, really busy times of year.

So, when faced with the choice of getting on the computer or canning jam, shredding squash for the freezer, or drying fruit slices at 10PM, I gotta go with the food.

In truth, I love that the year has this rhythm, that, for 3 months of the year, so much takes a backseat to food. I never enjoyed the humid, sticky New England summer as a young person - but as I approach middle age, I find that I do enjoy it. I love the smells, sounds, and sights of summer now, probably because I can appreciate how fleeting they are; as my Dad sometimes says, "Nobody wants to swim in the pool after Labor Day."

Anyway, for the next few months we here at The Stone Age Techie will be making hay while the sun shines, as the saying goes, and spending an insane amount of time in the garden and the kitchen in order to have food for winter, which means I won't be able to post 5 days a week.

At the same time as that's a reason to look forward to October, I know I'll enjoy the fleeting days of summer - and all the harvesting, standing over a boiling canning cauldron, and the delicious results as well.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


The value of a fort of sheets

On a rainy summer day

Is beyond measure.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Both boys have been sick, Owen especially had it really bad, with a 105 degree fever, the hottest we've ever seen in either kid.

But I digress!

For whatever reason, I am the current Parent of Choice, the one the kids want to sit next to at meals, the one they want to play with, read with, become surgically attached at the hip with. Especially Owen, who is in the temper tantrum dimension again, and so the whole neighborhood knows when Daddy commits the mortal sin of sitting next to him at the table.

It must be tough for Ben, as the parent on the outs, but he can console himself with this:

At night, when Owen calls out for water, or has a near-to-barf coughing fit, the person he asks for isn't me.

It's Daddy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No Place Like Home

I'm obsessed with Charles Darwin.

I love that, as a young man, the guy who would come up with the theory of natural selection was told by his father, "you are the shame of your family, and will never amount to anything." (Or words to that effect, don't quote me!)

And then, off he goes on the 5-year trip around the world in the H.M.S. Beagle, and puzzles over why tortoises on different islands in the same chain, that look otherwise the same, have different shell structures, and why finches on all the islands have so many different behaviors - there's even a "woodpecker" finch!

I love, too, how he sat on his research for twenty years, not wanting to be the man who tells the world, 'well, we thought that we were the be-all and end-all, but it seems that that may not be the case.' He apparently wrote to a colleague, "publishing this theory is akin to publishing a confession of murder." (Again, not sure of exact wording.)

Finally, I love that after his voyage on the Beagle, he hardly left home again, like Dorothy coming back from Oz.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Blueberries, Blueberries, Blueberries!

For blueberries, we go to this amazing, indescribable place not far from home.

They provide ancient-looking coffee cans strung on plastic wire; pricing is simple - 1 full coffee can = 4 pounds = 8 dollars.

It is awesome. Owen acts like the bear from Blueberries for Sal, standing at a bush, munching and gulping. The first time we ever went, I offered to buy an extra pound of berries due to my youngest's nibbling. The farmer's response was to wave my money away, saying "nonsense, everybody eats."

As you stand among the bushes, you don't see anyone else (even the people you're there with - you have to call out every once in awhile to the kids), but here and there you can hear voices of other pickers. I love that, on any given day, you'll hear Polish, Indian, Chinese, Spanish. All kinds of people who really care about good, fresh food come here.

Best of all, you leave with 9 pounds of berries, picked in an hour and a half. And then you get to turn it into pies, and muffins, and pancakes...

And jam.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Creativity Speaker

Tonight I checked out the Life Without School blog (in my blogroll, right over there -->), and found an article about reading that really resonated. And then I went to the author's blog and found an embedded video of Ken Robinson's TED speech on creativity, which made me so happy!

Months ago, I came across this speech and loved it - and then I lost track of the speaker's name, and the conference at which he spoke, so it was very nice to have it fall into my lap tonight.

If you have 20 minutes or so, this is a very worthwile speech to hear. Also, Ken Robinson is a funny guy! Thanks to Jena of Yarns of the Heart; my first visit to her blog won't be my last.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Coffee Junkie

Two days I've been without coffee, and it's killing me.

I'm a special kind of coffee junkie though, because I have this thing about my coffee being Fair Trade and Organic, which means that I need a fourth job in order to support my habit (my first three jobs, mother/home educator, writer, and fitness instructor, are insufficiently lucrative for this purpose.) And the coffee really must be Fair Trade and Organic, otherwise I feel so darned guilty about drinking it that I can't enjoy it.

This week, as our coffee started getting down toward the bottom of the can, I thought to myself, 'I can give it up - I don't need coffee to get through my day.' And here we are two days later, and I'm online looking for coffee again - I've decided that when we're really, really low-down and destitute, then I'll stop drinking coffee.

Wanna hear the punchline to all this? I can only drink decaf.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


All our hard work in the front yard is really paying off now - here's where I spent an hour this morning, playing with Luke and Owen, reading, watering, and just being:


Monday, July 14, 2008

Hot Stuff

I know I'm a little weird with this, but I happen to love hot soup in summertime. Not so much the cooking of it, which is just barely tolerable, but the result: a steaming bowl of soup, often containing just-harvested veggies.

My latest article at Parents and Kids Online includes a summer favorite, Corn Chowder, as well as ideas for eating well and local this summer.

Maybe you'll read it and decide to get a little weird with the hot soup in summer too!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oregon Highlights

One huge temptation when blogging, I've found, is to put in every detail of every event, with many, many pictures. But I do my best to avoid this so I don't come off like a senior citizen with a bumper sticker on her car that says, 'Let Me Tell You about My Grandchildren' - thereby alienating you, poor, dear reader.

But, we had such a good time in Oregon! So of the literally hundreds of pictures we took, I'm going to select a few and post them to convince anyone who hasn't visited to do it. Soon.

From the coast-

Here we all are, in a picture taken by a total cutie Canadian photographer who happened to be visiting Ecola state park too.

My husband's whole family, all together; it was a blast.

Alas, I cannot take credit for that last one, Ben took it. Isn't it incredible?

We went to a place called Shipwreck Beach, so named for obvious reasons:

It was one of the coolest places I've ever seen.

Somebody built this lean-to, and it was the perfect spot for sparking the imagination of two young boys.

We spent time around two rivers, the Willamette and the Columbia:

Here's Maltnomah Falls, in the Columbia River Gorge:

We also took a ride up to Mount Hood, which looks to me like the mountain that Smaug the dragon must have lived in in The Hobbit. We got close to the snowy peak, then went fishing in Trillim Lake. Sooo cool!

Although the lake is called Trillium, and I did snag a few pictures of that lovely flower there, the one that took my breath away was this one, which looks like Indian Paintbrush to me. Isn't it beautiful?

Here were some spots we visited that made the kid everyone go, "wheee!":

This playground is at the Air Museum, although because of a much-needed Mommy break, I didn't see it firsthand.

If you do nothing else in Portland, go to the Turbine Room at the OMSI (science museum). It was awesome!

Here's Luke, bouldering with his Auntie.

Finally, the International Rose Test Gardens, which was mind-blowing:

Thanks to Dan, Melanie, Ralph and Stella for a great trip - we hope to be back there soon!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Panic and Gratitude

Longtime readers may remember that I'm not fond of airplane rides. Each time I get off a plane, I fervently hope that I'll never have to get back on one, so this was a tough year because we planned two plane-based trips within 5 months of one another. Urgh!

We just returned from a trip to Portland, Oregon to visit family and (of course) had a great time - more on that tomorrow. For today's post, I want to describe my airplane-mindset, and see if it makes sense to anyone but me. Here goes:

My mind divides into more or less 3 parts, each competing with the others to come out on top. For the duration of the flights, time in the airport, and even the days leading up to flying, it's like a conversation that constantly takes place in my head.

First, panic. "The wing! It's dipping... towards the ground... is that okay? Should it be doing that? Did the pilot get enough sleep last night, is he or she fresh?... Oh no, turbulence, how can the flight attendants be so calm with all this bumping?..."

Then comes postitive thinking: "hey, relax, take a few deep breaths, you need to direct all your energy into thinking positive... yes, the pilot got enough sleep... that dip was very controlled, the people in the cockpit did that on purpose, because we're facing north and must instead face east... so many millions of people are in the air right now, odds are extremely small that you'd be on the plane which crashes..."

And, finally, gratitude. Usually, this starts weeks before the planned flight, in which I begin to notice every little wonderful thing about everything - my husband and kids, the flowers, the feel of water on my skin, the pleasure I get out of walking, singing, chopping vegetables. The day before the flight(s), when I start to wonder, 'is this my last day on earth?,' gratitude kicks into high gear.

And it sounds like this: "If this is my last day on earth, I want to thank the powers that be for giving me this time, for sharing with me my husband and family, and friends... if this is my last moment on earth, let me think about Owen's beautiful eyelashes, and cute little lisp, and let me thank you (whoever you are) for Luke's giggle and for the fact that he's grown so well and happy this year... and thank you too for Ben, the whole of him... I'm grateful to have had so many wonderful people in my life... thank you for this moment."

I know, it's nuts to have this 3-way mind break when preparing for a ride in a plane. But I kind of like it, especially the gratitude part - it brings me right up to living in the moment. Because, someday really will be my last day on earth. And when that day comes, I know there will be some panic.

But there will also be deep, profound gratitude.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Twelve Days of Summer...

Day 12

Today's book is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling. I asolutely LOVED all the HP's, but this one still holds a special place in my heart because of Harry's relationship with his guardian. Reading it with Luke, when he was 6, was especially fun because I got to see the light dawn on his face as he figured out what was happening.

Today's picture:

Doesn't this say everything that needs to be said about summer?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Twelve Days of Summer

Day 11

Today's book is Wizard and Glass, the fourth book in Stephen King's Gunslinger saga. This whole saga is Stephen King unlike any I've ever read, and for me, this book is the pinnacle.

Today's picture:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Twelve Days of Summer...

Day 10

Today's book is Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson. This book makes several persuasive arguments about how people learn.

Today's picture:

Friday, July 4, 2008

Twelve Days of Summer...

Day 9

Today's book is The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen. I love reading it to my boys because this guy tries, and tries, and tries again before finally making a plane that will fly. I also love it because when Ben reads it, he massacres the French names and the kids correct him!

Today's picture:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Twelve Days of Summer...

Day 8

Today's book is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It was a great read, and food for thought too.

Today's picture:

The boy can swim!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Twelve Days of Summer...

Day 7

Today's book is Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck. When doctors ask me if I'm on a special diet, I say yes: I don't eat food that's been scienfifically messed with. This book is why.

Today's picture:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Twelve Days of Summer...

Day 6

Today's book is The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacysyn. I LOVE this book; sometimes, I'll randomly open it and just read - it makes me feel hopeful.

Today's picture: