Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Throwing Away the Vote

 Today I exercised my right as an American Citizen to, yet again, vote for a third party candidate who does not stand a chance in hell of becoming our next president.  Just as I did four years ago,  I went ahead and cast a vote for someone who better represents me and my beliefs.  The fact is, I'm not a fan of either of the two major candidates for president.  My daughter is a big supporter of President Obama and that is fine.  I don't think she understands all that implicates but she likes him and frankly, while I don't agree with most of his policies, I like him too.  He is likeable.  But liking a candidate isn't enough reason, in my opinion, to vote for him or her.  So today I voted for Gary Johnson, a man who believes that the government has no right to decide who can get married, who believes our public schools are in bad shape and need reforming, and who believes that marijuana should be legal.  I did not vote against a candidate because 8 years ago I did.  And I couldn't get excited about that vote.  I couldn't get on board with being thrilled to fill in the ballot for a man I didn't even like or trust.  So I have promised myself to never vote against a candidate again. 

It is my prayer that one day the libertarian or the constitution party are considered to be a legitimate choice for the presidential office.  I wish more people would bother to find out about third party/independent candidates and cast their votes for folks who genuinely represent them.  This is my hope for our country.

Hunter went with me to vote.  The location was a church about 3 miles from our house.  It took literally about five minutes and that was because I had to head back out to the van for my driver's license. When we arrived we saw this sign: 

This sign sparked a discussion about how it would be inappropriate for people to be campaigning for a candidate at the actual poll location.  I love how there is a campaign sign right behind the No Campaigning sign! 

Happy Election Day! Praying that things improve for our country over the next four years, no matter who is elected!

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween at Cheekwood

Llama Llama scarecrow

Terrifying pro-vaccine scarecrow.  ACK!

Sweet Carolyn spending some time with Drayken

The pumpkin patch!

Sweet Eve spending time with Drayken

Happy Halloween!

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A Bona Fide Gluten Free Halloween

Halloween is always and has always been a challenge for us.  First there was that phase I went through where I rebelled against my heathen upbringing as a new conservative Christian and outlawed Halloween all together, despite it always being my very favorite holiday.  Once I had nearly lost a child to cancer, I felt God saying to me, "Mandy, life is short.  Have fun with your kids."  Halloween was back on.  Last year, our first post leukemia Halloween, we tried giving the kids the freedom of trick or treating and collecting all of the awful chemical laden candy they could fit into their little buckets.  Then we tried letting them eat whatever they wanted from it.  Drayken handled it pretty well.  Even Hunter did okay.  But Ronin was a wreck.  A complete and total wreck.  We tried it.  It didn't work.  We decided then and there that this year we'd have to go back to some of our restrictions regarding Halloween and candy consumption.

Now that Hunter is dairy and gluten free, allowing him to eat just whatever wasn't even an option.  But this mama refused to give up the fun without a fight.  And I must say that I rocked the Halloween fun this year and Hunter didn't end up eating one forbidden piece of candy.  How did I do it?  I'm glad you asked.  I started the month of October off with researching gluten free Halloween recipes.  Then I made some lists for the grocery store.  Then I planned a Halloween feast.  Leading up to the big feast, I created a couple special Halloween-themed desserts.  Such as...

Boonannas.  These amazing, healthy, adorable, gluten and dairy free treats were a huge hit, especially with Drayken.  Here's how ya make them:  Cut peeled bananas in half, roll them in juice (we used organic orange, strawberry, banana), roll them in shredded coconut, stick in a popsicle stick, insert chocolate chips for the eyes, freeze.  This is as simple as it gets, folks.

Candy Corn Parfaits:  This particular parfait included fresh pineapple on the bottom, thawed organic peach slices, and a dairy/gluten free whipped topping from the freezer which we only had because the Captain found it on closeout for a dollar and knew it would make a special treat for our upcoming desserts.  I topped the parfaits with a few chocolate chips and a couple grinds of this stuff

For our Halloween feast (which the grandparents attended), we made "witches brew"... a punch with a bag of organic thawed strawberries which had been crushed or "monster guts", some organic grapes or "ghoul eyes", Zevia ginger ale, and a jar of organic pomegranate juice.  It was scrumptious.

 Our tacos had spiders on them.  EEEK!

And for dessert, a delicious pan of ghost brownies.  We used Bob's Red Mill gluten free brownie mix, the Captain brilliantly whipped up an amazing chocolate icing, and I used wax paper as a stencil and proceeded to make this ghost out of coconut.  I used chocolate chips for the eyes again here as well. 

On Halloween morning, all. three kids woke to buckets of Halloween treats.  Yummy Earth lollipops and gummy bears, and some gluten free dairy free dark chocolate coconut bars that I found at Marshalls and they were amazing (Hunter even said they were better than any candy bar he'd ever had, including Kit Kat).  We had a great Halloween and no one felt as if they were lacking in the treat department, despite regulations and restrictions.

Do you have special dietary needs at your house?  How do you deal with them during holidays?
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7 Snippets of Unschooling


 1.  The Diner:  All three kids worked together to create their very own diner complete with a menu and uniforms.  Ronin really loves acting out restaurant situations as she loves being a server and she's absolutely in love with food.  Wonder where she gets that from? 

2.  Shucking corn:  At the farmer's market a couple weeks ago, Hunter asked me to please get him some corn.  After speaking with the farmer and feeling confident that this white corn was most likely not genetically engineered and probably not covered in too many pesticides, I agreed to purchase a dozen.  But only if he would agree to help shuck the corn.  All three kids were happy to help me shuck all dozen ears outside on a nice warm sunny day.  They had a lot of fun removing the silks from the ears.  I appreciated their help with dinner. 

3.  Trunk or Treat:  Each year our church has a fall family fest and this always includes trunk or treat.  Well, this year dad splurged and got chocolate candy for the kids to hand out.  Of course they still weren't allowed to collect candy but they had a good time handing it out.  Drayken would say, "Trick or Treat" to each child who approached the van.  They didn't seem too bummed about not collecting candy, especially when they woke up to buckets full of candy and treats that they could have.

4.  Pumpkin carving:  Last year I promised the kids that this year we'd buy a pumpkin to carve and that is just what we did.  They loved helping clean it out, create the cat design, and light the candle under it.  

 5.  SMILE:  Ronin and Hunter have discovered graphic novels and this week, Ronin found this title in the graphic novel section of the library.  She checked it out at 5pm and by 9:30, she had read it all.  She even apologized for staying up so late to read it but it was just so good.  How could I fault her?  After all, last night I stayed up readying Kathy Griffin's book which is so good I could nearly cry.  Anyway, the point is that the book was so good and she loved it so much that she has asked me and her brother to read it and it's inspired her to start a book club.  So, awesome. 

6.  Halloween feast:  The kids helped me put together a special Halloween feast to which we invited their grandparents.  More about the Halloween feast to come in a separate blog post.  Here they are making "witches brew".  

7.  You're the One that I Want:  After only two months of clogging, Ronin had a chance to perform in public at a festival this past weekend.  It was strangely cold and therefore she didn't feel great in general.  But she felt proud of herself for trying so hard and for having the confidence to get out there and try.  She performed to two numbers... "Rockin Robin" and "You're the One that I Want".  She did great. 

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Show and Tell Blog Hop October

 It's Time for the Show and Tell Blog Hop again!  

This month we have three show and tell videos to share with you.  The first is one that Hunter and Ronin made on their dad's phone while they were hiking with him a couple of weeks ago.  We hope you enjoy hearing about their hiking trip and we'd LOVE to hear about one of your own "roughin' it" trips!

The next two videos are, as promised, about the game that Ronin invented a couple of weeks ago.  It's a stress relief meditation game that involves pouring water and my experience with the game proved it to be quite relaxing.  

We'd love your comments on our videos and we'd also love to have you participate with us over at Christian Unschooling

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Say Yes

Saying yes to my kids is something that isn't super hard for me.  It comes naturally I suppose.  But I don't believe I've paid a ton of attention to how often I actually say yes until this blog hop came along.  So, Jessica, thanks for giving me the motivation to take note of how often I'm saying yes so that when I've just suddenly realized that I've failed at being mom big time, I can take solace in knowing that once in a while, I'm not totally screwing it up.

So here is how I've been saying "YES" to each of the kids in different ways :).

Saying yes to Hunter:  Agreeing to take him to karate twice a week.  Letting him teach me his karate moves.  Allowing him to put his book back in the library bag unread.  Making him meatballs.  Spending my entire Saturday at an "audition" that turned out to just be a scam.  Doing the handwriting for his science homework so that he could concentrate on the material and not on the pain in his poor hands. Checking out all of the books on his library list despite the fact that it nearly broke my shoulder to carry the heavy bag to the van.  Designing a research project about vikings when he said he wanted to learn about vikings.

Saying yes to Ronin:  Calling back to the "auditioners" to schedule her an appointment too.  Taking her to clogging weekly.  Accepting the invitations to the "shows" she's been putting on lately.  Helping her learn to jump rope.  Designing her a horse unit study when she said she wanted to learn more about horses.  Watching "Doctor Who" with her.  Agreeing to start over from the beginning with the series "Community" because it is, indeed, just that good.  Ordering a bunch of "Little Sister" books for her to read.  Rallying for her to be able to join her brother and dad on their camping trip. 

Saying yes to Drayken:  Agreeing to turn down the road that he likes to take on the way home.  Taking him bowling.  Allowing more than enough lollipops for treats and oatmeal instead of my dinners.  Reading the same books over and over.  Buying him his very own brand new undies.  Leaving in the middle of the "Parents and Tots" program at the local children's museum when the "tickle monster" freaked him the hell out. 

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

7 Snippets

1.  Family Day in Nashville.  Last week we all (everyone, including Dad!) went to Nashville for a family outing to the Adventure Science Center (our membership was about to expire) and to the Frist (our local art museum).  Ronin was really excited because she was finally big enough to try the moon walk simulator.  I was really excited because we recently learned about the moon landing so it was a nice way to finish off that little study.  Here's Drayken appearing in his very own television program.  We even got to saunter over to the International Grocery store.  We picked up Japanese rice noodles and some Polish chocolate.  At the Frist, the kids enjoyed screen printing and checking out some paintings of mostly natural landscapes and beaches in England. 

2.  Paying Attention to Drayken.  While I was (briefly) baby-sitting full time, Drayken was neglected.  He was the one kid who was happy to just sit with headphones and use the iPad all day long. 

Sure, he didn't actually mind this.  In fact, I believe he quite liked it.  But let's face it.  After a few days of this, a mother starts to a. miss her kid and b. reflect on how he should be doing something else with his days.  I know he learns a lot while he's using the iPad.  He watches Diego and Dora and he learns a great deal about animals from their programs.  He plays the multitude of games that we've found for free.  He is certainly engaged and learning.  But all day?  Not something I'm comfortable with.  Now that I'm NOT baby-sitting full time, I made a promise to myself to engage him in other types of activities.  So I've been planning little tiny unit studies based upon books we check out at the library. 
Here he is gluing together a tree that he made during our "Where the Wild Things Are" wild rumpus party. 

He has made it abundantly clear that he loves loves loves the activities that I'm planning and he's asked to read the books again and to do the activities again and again.  I feel that I've been rather successful with this endeavor.  It takes little to no planning on my part but the rewards are so very fruitful. 

3.  Art Appreciation.  Hunter has recently discovered just how much he loves to look at art, particularly paintings he says.  It kinda all started when I checked out this book and he spent days pouring over it.  Shortly after that, we spent some time a local art festival and Hunter wasn't interested in leaving until he had seen every single piece of art available. 
While I continue to introduce new artists every week (we are studying art history through "the Simpsons" right now) and I bring books of art into the house from the library, I am still planning to go ahead and buy this homeschool curriculum as part of his Christmas.  Since we have to use curriculum now, why not buy curriculum that directly relates to his current interests?

4.  Epcot study.  We are currently learning about the different countries respresented in the World Showcase at Epcot as we prepare for our trip to Walt Disney World later this year.  Each Sunday we are coming home from church to enjoy an authentic meal from the country we are studying.  We do color sheets for the book we are making (which we will take to have signed by cast members from each country).  We read books.  We watch youtube videos.  We listen to music.  It's insanely fun.  And I'm learning as much as the kids seem to be.  Maybe even more.  Can you believe that until a couple weeks ago I didn't realize that Morocco was in Africa? 
The kids enjoyed their spicy butternut squash and eggdrop soup from China.
And when we learned about Japan they loved the Japanese style fried rice, the seaweed snacks (something they have regularly anyway) and miso soup.  They especially loved the special "marble soda" from Japan that our friend Julia brought to them.

5.  Cat.  Finn has recently brought Hunter a lot of joy.  He took it upon himself to start reading books about cats to learn more about him.  He spent many hours a day outside cuddling and enjoying his kitty.  He had me snap this photo of the silly guy being lazy on our porch swing.  There is no doubt.  Hunter loves this cat.  But now Finn has been missing for about a week.  We've not seen him since last week around the time of the pirate party.  And let me tell you... this boy has a broken heart.  

6.  Flowers for Frannie.  Saturday Hunter had the opportunity to play a hillbilly son of the "bad guys" in a local Christian family-friendly film.  He was really excited to be able to put a movie on his resume and he had a lot of fun shooting his scenes. They were so sweet to him.  Today he even received a thank you card from the director and they have honored him by making him the actor in the spotlight on Facebook this week. 

7.  Karate. Our church has started its Karate ministry again and I'm so excited that Hunter is able to participate now.  And he LOVES it.  I mean really really loves it.  After his first class he came home and started showing his moves off to everyone.  And then he graciously spent his entire evening teaching the moves to me and his siblings.  He said that he was hoping he'd like it and feel like he was as good at it as he is at theater.  So I feel like he has found one more thing he can call a hobby.  Believe it or not, he and his sister are both considering basketball in the winter!

Now you can link up your own 7 Snippets post over at Christian Unschooling!
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Monday, October 1, 2012

Five Things You Didn't Know About Me

All of my friends are doing it (and you should too) and I'm trying to avoid actually getting up and doing anything that might be considered to be productive.  So, I'll join in on this ridiculousness.  IS there anything that my readers don't know about me?  I'm no so sure.  I guess we'll have to see.

1.  Recipe writer from birth! Writing recipes is not something that I recently became interested in.  Oh no.  I vividly recall being about Hunter or Ronin's age and spending Sunday mornings at church writing down recipe after recipe with my friend Kathy.  We would even write them on index cards and I *think* we may have even collected them in a recipe card box.  At least that seems right.  But the point is that I was interested in food concoctions from a very early age.  As a teen, my mom would *let* me make this Mexican casserole that I made up every once in a while.  I would layer corn or flour tortillas, refried beans, salsa, olives, cheese, peppers, etc. and bake it for dinner.  Everything of course came from a can or a package and I'd not dream of making a dinner that required so many cans these days.  But it was a start and proof that maybe this food thing was in me from the beginning.  When I was a vegetarian for those twelve years, I remember getting a vegetarian magazine in the mail.  It was filled with recipe after recipe.  And I loved reading through it.  I loved devouring any and all vegetarian cook book that I could get my hands on.  Of course, I didn't have access to the ingredients but I dreamed of one day being able to create any recipe I so chose in my own kitchen.  I suppose that dream has come true.

2.  I was dumped the day before my wedding.   Yep.  When I was 19, I was dumped by a gorgeous artist (who now lives as an artist in Australia) on the day before we were to get married.  And it's led to all kinds of trust issues.  And all kinds of heart ache.  And all kinds of self-hatred and misery and... well... it  sucked. 

3.  Former democrat.  That's right.  When I was a teenager I was an actual democrat.  So much of a democrat that I was the secretary of the young democrat's club in my high school and I spent my free time in the early 90s campaigning for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.  And I do not regret this.  I still think that Clinton was an awesome president.  And I think I was an awesome teenager for even caring or doing anything. 

4.  Started an improv troupe.  I recently joined forces with an awesome lady who runs a cool art studio here in my neck of the woods.  She sells my chocolate and I am planning to offer a homeschool theater class at her studio starting in January.  When I first met her I learned that she was a stand up comedian in her past life (heck I even saw her perform the day that I became engaged).  And she had plenty of professional improv experience.  And yes, she'd be interested in starting an improv troupe.  All I can say is that this was a meeting ordained by God because being involved with a real live breathing improv troupe is a dream come true for me.  We are calling our little troupe the Barn Razors and we are pretty entertaining if I do say so myself!  In fact, we are meeting again this Saturday!

5.  100 Pen Pals!  At one point in my life, I had right at 100 pen pals.  I didn't write all of them regularly (maybe only 30 did I write weekly/daily).  I didn't even write all of them through the mail (Prodigy anyone?).  It was my hobby and I suppose it makes sense that pen palling was the preteen hobby for a girl who went on to blog and do the social media thing.  I learned a lot through my pen pals.  I learned what pens worked well.   I learned that I have no interest in writing in cursive (and I still will NOT write in cursive).  And I learned about geography because I sure wasn't getting that education in school.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

This Ain't Your Grandma's Birds and the Bees Talk

I remember "the talk" well.  I was 8 and I was in the backseat riding home with my mom and dad from church.  I remember asking how it was possible for my best friend to exist since her mom wasn't married to her dad.  Wasn't that... somehow... wrong?  My mother brought me home and promptly sat me down with a book that showed a baby growing inside of a woman's womb and gave me a lot of details that I didn't feel ready to hear.  You know, "when a man and a woman love each other very much" blah blah blah.  I didn't get it.  All I'd wanted to know was why someone who wasn't married (not only was she not married but we'd never laid eyes on a father and frankly, neither had her daughter) would be allowed to have a baby.  Clearly if this dude wasn't around there could not have been too much "love" that brought my friend into the world. None of this made sense.  I didn't need to know all of the technical sex stuff.  That was all WAY over my head and, well, gross.

So, there I was.  Knowing more about sex than my 8 year old self wanted to know and still not having my moral/religious question answered.  But if I asked my question again, there was no telling what I might have to hear so I kept quiet.

Perhaps my experience with "the talk" was what sparked my response to my own 8 year old's recent question.  We were watching an episode of "Community" in which one of the main characters, Shirley, was pregnant.  Only she wasn't sure of the father.  She may have gotten drunk at a Halloween party and did the horizontal mambo with Chang, the completely insane Spanish teacher turn student turn dean kidnapper (seriously, why are you not watching this show?).  She was hoping that the baby didn't belong to him but that, instead, it would come out black like her ex-soon-to-be -future husband Andre, played by none other than Malcolm-Jamal Warner.  His question was, "If Shirley and Chang only had sex one time then how did they make a baby?"  We've never hidden the topic of sex in our home.  Our children are allowed to watch more risque things on television than most of their peers.  I've heard my kids talk about sex.  I've heard their Barbie and Ken dolls talk about sex.  But I refused to give them more information about what sex actually was until the question was asked.  Because I didn't want to freak them the hell out like I had been freaked out 26 years ago.

When Hunter asked his question, I responded with my own series of questions.

"Well, what do you think that sex is?"
"Making Love"
"Okay.  What is that exactly?"
"Making out.  Kissing."
"Ummm... not exactly.   Do you really want to know what sex is and how a baby is made?"

And so I proceeded to explain to him that in order for a baby to be made, a sperm must reach an egg.  So that the egg could be fertilized exactly like he's heard about eggs being fertilized in many other biological reproductive scenarios.  And we talked about why he might not be able to reproduce due to his own sperm possibly being destroyed during cancer treatments.  And we discussed that in most cases, the sperm meets the egg during the act of sex.  And that yes, most of the time sex is also making love and that there is usually kissing involved but not always.  The actual sex was something else.  But that in some situations, babies are not made that way.  Babies are always made with a sperm and egg but a lot of times a doctor gets involved because perhaps a couple is having a hard time making a baby the natural way.  Or a single woman would like to be a mother and she doesn't have a father picked out.  Or two men or two women would like to raise a baby together ("Like on 'The New Normal' he responded!  He's not really been watching that... he's just seen a bit about it).  Or maybe there is a couple of people who love one another but the mommy cannot grow a baby in her womb so they find a lady to carry their baby for them.  I made it clear that these were all perfectly viable options for making a baby.  That he might choose to make a baby with his partner in one of these ways one day.

He said he felt weird knowing all of that information... being "in the know".  He's not said anything about it since that night.  No mention of the technicalities of how it all works.  I guess he's not traumatized.  I hope that I handled the situation well and that he's informed with a completely open mind.

And for the record, Shirley's baby came out black and it's entirely possible that she and Chang never actually did anything together that might allow a baby to be made.  He may have made it all up. He's that insane.  Seriously, people, why are you not watching this show?

So, have you had to have "the talk" yet with your children?  How did that go?

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