Building a Garden

A Day in the Life, Farm Book, How

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A couple weekends ago, we joined a team of volunteers at the Muse to put in the boxes for our vegetable garden and clear out an area that had been fenced off and grown over. I knew there weren’t a lot of kids coming but I think it’s healthy for the Huckleberries to feel a little ownership and responsibility. More importantly, gardening is our favorite!

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Daddy brought the truck to help bring in fresh dirt. Rory brought the wheelbarrow.

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Edie brought get shovel and she knows how to use it.

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We had to rent a trailer to move a ton of dirt to school and then wheel it up to the garden site on the other side of the yard.

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But there’s nothing wetting with wheel barrows.

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It took a long time to get the garden boxes put together and moved up to the right place.

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Now we have a beautiful garden spot and a play forest as well. As soon as the little kids get bored of digging in the dirt, it will be safe to plant seeds!

Building a Garden

A Day in the Life

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A couple weekends ago, we joined a team of volunteers at the Muse to put in the boxes for our vegetable garden and clear out an area that had been fenced off and grown over. I knew there weren’t a lot of kids coming but I think it’s healthy for the Huckleberries to feel a little ownership and responsibility. More importantly, gardening is our favorite!

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Daddy brought the truck to help bring in fresh dirt. Rory brought the wheelbarrow.

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Edie brought get shovel and she knows how to use it.

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We had to rent a trailer to move a ton of dirt to school and then wheel it up to the garden site on the other side of the yard.

image

But there’s nothing wetting with wheel barrows.

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It took a long time to get the garden boxes put together and moved up to the right place.

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Now we have a beautiful garden spot and a play forest as well. As soon as the little kids get bored of digging in the dirt, it will be safe to plant seeds!

School Bus

A Day in the Life

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If we leave a little early, we can catch the bus from our corner to downtown. I got a bus pass through work, and since we arealways looking for new ways to enjoy our great city, we decided to try it out.

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Edie used to ride the bus worth me quite a bit when it was just the two of us. Rory had never taken the bus before. He liked the bus stop pretty well and watching the cars go by was just fascinating. As the bus pulled up, we were sure he would love it.

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But he didn’t.

He looked concerned when it stopped in front of us. When the doors opened and the hydrolic hissed, he entered a state of panic and hysteria. It could only get worse if we were inside that spooky monster….

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Once in our seats, he was able to breathe it out and settle down, though keeping alert and vigilant for the six minute ride. Edie held him reassuringly and patted his shoulder.

Getting off was easier. Getting on the next time wasn’t so bad. A few bus rides later, we are all pretty well adjusted. Rory will probably be concerned about stepping up into the belly of the beast for a while, but don’t you know, anyone can get used to something new. We all have a part to do, finding ways of getting around that will work for everyone.

Worst Easter Ever

A Day in the Life

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There is a viral one-two punch going around right now and it’s pretty horrific. After a long day of sanitizing and keeping the remnant children and teachers outside all Friday, we came home and started sinking into our own mini-apocalypse. Rory started out with some serious adventure diapers, and over the night I lost my battle against a sinus catastrophe. Kevin held it together, cleaned up bodily fluids, and ran out for illness supplies all weekend while we trailed Rory with wipes and Clorox. Edie occupied herself with a preschool workbook, just asking for help with reading directions, for hours at a time.

We rescheduled Easter. Next week hopefully we can hit Fort Warden with the troupe after all. During a window of higher energy, we popped over to Snake Lake and breathed half a mile of woods air, sliming as we went. Rory briefly fell asleep in my arms, rolled together in a picnic blanket.

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As evening settled in, both kids returned their dinners to sender. For the third night in a row, we played musical beds(and couches).

These Huckleberries are so tough. We are taking our remedies, drinking smoothies, and reading stories for the third day in a row. My head has begun to clear and a cough stirred up instead. We hope to get back to school on Tuesday, but in the mean time we’ll settle in for another day of snuggles and nasty laundry.

Self Portrait, Grown up Lady

Art Book, How

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I’m a judge. I’m a princess judge and I have a never stop glowing rose in my hair and I have curly hair, very curly hair, and my best fruit hat. I’m carrying a grocery bag and it has two loafs of bread and two cherry pies and two cakes and I have blueberries and strawberries in my basket and candy and watermelon and guess what I have? Everything in the whole wide world that you could possibly eat. It’s a huge bag.
-Edie, 4

Edie has been drawing a lot of picture sets lately, four princesses in a row, or five similar garden scenes. As four year olds usually do, she developed a quirky shorthand for human figures. One evening this week she showed me her work and I asked if I could have a turn. She watched intently as I drew. I made a big point of feeling and noticing the elements of my face, adding them carefully to my amateurish drawing, from the top and working down.

When I handed the pen back to her, she paused. She felt her own face. She counted out eight curls, drew the face outline, and added two big eyes. Trying my best not to giggle at the big spider, I transcribed most of what she said. She continued to feel her own face and add details, many of which she had never depicted before. For the first time, she illustrated teeth, the shape of lips, ears, eyelashes, and fingers.

I don’t know what is a princess judge or why she needs a fruit hat.

Huckleberries don’t take federal tests.

A Day in the Life, Why
Although I was home-schooled for a bulk of my k-12 education, I took the full battery of Washington State standardized tests and I pretty much crushed them because my personality and outside experiences were a good match for test taking. I got a sense of personal satisfaction and identity from being in the top 90-95% just about every time.
 
I wish I could take every test back. For several years now, I have been increasingly convinced that standardized testing is unwise and unhealthy, even for those children who do the best at it. I know I spent at least 90 total hours on testing and test prep, and I wish I had just taken another 5 college credits, or written another awkward juvenile fantasy novel, or read fifteen more classics, or basically anything else that I could have done with 90 hours. It is absurd to me that so many collective hours are blown on standardized testing by children, who never get anything back but a false personal ranking.
 
And now for a truly disturbing development:

My life is like ooooo

A Day in the Life

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We are super awesome. In fact, Edie and her friends are actual super heroes like 40% of the time. Edie loves working with her friends, doing art and big body play, and being one of the big kids. I overhear her talk and plans here and there, which is fun to catch. Yesterday she initiated a fantastic family hug with her best pals and told them all how great it is to be a team together. She didn’t know I was there on the other side of the curtain.

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Rory is comfortably settled and learning so much. I love how many sensory and art opportunities he’s getting. Fourteen toddlers sounds like a terrible clean up to commit to, but it’s a actually a lot more efficient than doing then all one at a time… He’s also really communicating much more; he’s added several words both spoken and sign in the last week or so. He calls for Dada, asks for more or eat in sign, and sends an uh-oh after the toys her throws in the bath tub… Of course his eyebrows get all his other points across.

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I am really happy. My work is exhausting but I’m doing the kinds of provocation and documentation that I’ve always loved, and I’m playing gobs of pretends. I almost never cook or bake, which I partly miss and partly don’t miss at all. I feel really good at my job and in control of my life; my mental and physical health are at the best they have been since Edie was two. We’re celebrating lots of little things and our weekends are almost long enough (but not quite).

Finding our Rhythm

A Day in the Life

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We are halfway through our first week of school together, and so far it’s been amazing. I try to get up before the Huckleberries, but they seem to hear me get up no matter what I do. Our  floor boards sound like  automatic weapons so I’m not really surprised. If I get a little time alone it’s much easier to roll through the morning routine and get out the door on time. We haven’t been late but we haven’t exactly got the extra settling in time I keep planning for either.

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Each day we parked at a different place, trying to figure out what route works best for our little parade. Today we brought the stroller Nana got for our California trip, which made the transition much smoother. When we get to school, Edie serves herself breakfast and sits with friends. Rory grumps at his teachers for a while when he realizes what’s up, but they easily buy him off with food. Through the day he is settling in gradually and doing well. The toddler room has viewing windows to the studio and kitchen, so every time I pass through he spots me. So far the effect has been mostly disruptive, but I’m sure he will eventually reach reassurance. Another week or so…. Meanwhile I try to play in his space a bit each day. His teacher has been warning everyone who comes in the room, “Look out for Rory; he loves trust falls!” Apparently his new-found “jump!” has become a sort of initiation rite. Rory had a five or six word vocabulary; it’s quite unusual for an American child to acquire a verb so early in the set but “jump” is one of the six most important things in his world.

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Edie is making friends and finding her way as well, and she loves to pop over during play times or snack for a quick kiss. It turns out some neighbors who she has played with before are in my class, and Edie joins their pack for much of the day. She also made friends the first day with a girl she calls Delphia, which is the a wild mispronunciation, but Delphia doesn’t seem to mind 😉

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This last picture is Edie as a Onceler Aunt. This fabulous play exploded from the Lorax after we read the book as a group. One child claimed to be the Lorax while spinning across the room with a play knife from the little kitchen, and others corrected, you have to be the Onceler if you cut down the truffelas! Rhonda draped herself in a truffelly scarf and was felled, which triggered a mass deforestation of teachers. Some children were concerned, but many were gleeful as they scooped up the sweet-smelling silk. I offered a few pairs of chopsticks in case someone needed them for knitting thneeds. At first a few children insisted I knit the thneeds from the truffelas they brought me, but soon several- Edie among them- wanted to do it themselves. After most children moved on to different aspects of the game, Edie continued knitting thneeds and biggering. Later, she joined a conscientious GMO forestry Onceler who wanted to feed truffela seeds with little cosmetic bottles, so the thneeds would come to harvest quickly and sustainably. They sat together and meticulously dropped invisible potion into a helmet filled with cold weather accessories. It was glorious.

Ready for School

A Day in the Life

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At first when we talked about starting school, Edie was pretty resistant. She would insist that she would never go to school, and sometimes she was willing to discuss the specifics of what she felt nervous about; being away from me, being away from home, making new friends. I did my best to validate her feelings while giving her tools and reassurances to deal with them. It was quite a trick sometimes.

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After a number of visits to The Muse, though, Edie gradually warmed up to the idea. Each time she arrived, more of the material was in place and it was easier to visualize what our days will be like here. She made towers with foam blocks and looked at books on the aqua ottoman: “My favorite color is aqua.” She tried out the wooden stencils, beeswax crayons, and felt markers.

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Now, the last few days before school starts, she is happy and eager. We will do a little shopping today for supplies like indoor shoes and wipes to contribute to the changing station in Rory’s room. On Monday at seven thirty, we will leave our house, walk from our parking spot to school, up the hill and across the train tracks bridge, and into our new life. We will have breakfast together, and then head each to our own rooms, Rory to the Nest, Edie to the Bridge, and mama to the Forest.

Leaving Home

A Day in the Life

This year is already shaping up to be a season of big changes for everyone in our family. One of the most significant changes started grinding into action this week. I’ve been playing this a little close to my chest so a lot of you may need some back story.

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Ever since my first exposure and study of the Reggio Emilia approach to early learning, I have had fantasies of really digging deeper and spending my days in a Reggio-inspired environment. Sometimes I have been able for period to really incorporate some of that into my patenting, and in the early days I often dreamed of launching a new preschool or center myself. All along I kept my ear to the ground for opportunities to participate with a Reggio community, but there really was nothing like it around here. Over time, I connected with other important aspects of my personhood and calling, and also just spent a lot of time caught in the current of family life. That dream faded, but never completely disappeared.

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However, last fall I attended a fundraising lunch for the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, which is a great community resource that draws on Reggio philosophy in it’s various programs. Over lunch, the Museum announced the upcoming launch of a preschool Children’s Center under it’s umbrella. The center would be called The Muse.

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In the following months, I was increasingly fixated on the opportunities the kids and I would have in such a center, and when I found out there was really no part time opportunity for us all to join The Muse community, I made the exciting but difficult decision to apply for a full time position as an assistant teacher. The application process was long, and my interview came as I recovered from a pretty awful illness. I almost canceled. All along the whole process felt so tentative I felt quite private about it all. But just before Christmas, the call came. I was invited to join The Muse team as a Lead teacher in the preschool.

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We got home from California with just a week to switch gears and work out the details. The most challenging part was finding and adapting to a place for the huckleberries to be for the month that I have preparing myself and the school for the official launch of The Muse in early February. My lovely friend Tori has taken them into her fold for the time being. It is strange and complicated to be away from the kids all day, but I spent the last week learning, growing, recharging, and getting inspired while Edie and Rory played their hearts out with charming little friends. So it was a good week, all balanced up, and it feels like the start of an amazing adventure.

All the photos are from the visits the kids paid me in our new school, except the one  sleeping littles in the bed they share.