Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year + a reminder!

Another turn around the sun with these three:

Feeling a lot of love and passing it along to you as you await
what joys and surprises 2017 will bring!

As we leave the cares and memories of the old year,
may the new one grant you peace and happiness and light!

Happy New Year from my family to yours.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

A love- and light-filled day to you and yours!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Make handprint snowmen ornaments for a last-minute handmade gift!

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I first saw these adorable handprint snowmen ornaments on Natural Parents Network, which linked to the full tutorial on Little Bit Funky, which linked to the original (maybe?) tutorial at Full of Great Ideas. It's a holiday chain o' awesomeness! These are my favorite ornaments on the tree each year, so I think it's time for a reprise!


  • Plain ornaments: We had two kids at the time, so I bought a box of eight ornaments at Michael's in a neutral pale green and had two for us, two for one set of grandparents, two for the other, and two to get messed up.
  • White acrylic craft paint: The first year, I tried to get clever and bought white glitter paint to look more like snow. It wasn't opaque enough to show up. Make sure you buy opaque white. If you like the glitter idea, you could always paint over the snowmen with clear glitter paint after the first layer dries.
  • Sharpies: I highly recommend the Ultra Fine Point for ease in drawing teensy designs. If you don't have a set handy, craft and office-supply stores let you buy individual colors. Make sure you have orange for the carrot nose and black for the coal eyes and buttons. Other colors are fun for decorating the snowpeople's clothing.
  • Foam craft brush: I found this the easiest way of spreading the paint evenly on a child's hand.
  • Drying surface: Ideas include an empty dish drainer, an egg carton, or the box the ornaments came in. You could also use several sturdy cups.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Are we the only ones who can understand him?

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And you'll see in the video that's only with about 70% success as it is.

I love the so-called terrible twos. Two-year-olds are adorable, and everything they do seems clever. Here's a video we uploaded mostly for the grandparents of their genius grandkid knowing his colors. And objects! And letters! Whut!

This is the "odd one out" color book we were reading. You can get it for cheapo used. But if you don't already have one bazillion books of colors and desire a new one, here's a link for your shopping pleasure.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

So pragmatic

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My oldest has his head on straight. Mikko at nine cannot be taken in by tomfoolery.

I was singing my kids this Johnny Flynn song as a lullaby:

(Side note: Alrik, age 5, asked for "Wrecking Ball" to be next.)

"'The water sustains me,'" Mikko quotes. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Well, I say, it could be twofold: Water gives life, and it also holds you as you float. It's maybe a song about letting go and letting the water support you.

"I don't like floating," Mikko says. "I don't like that feeling of leaning back in the water."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How children can help after the election: 16 ideas for family-friendly activism

We've just finished a U.S. election. No matter how you lean politically, it is fact that the outcome has caused distress and grief to vulnerable populations who now fear losing their rights, their livelihoods, their family members, their legal protections, even their lives.

You and your kids don't have to just feel bad. Here are some practical ways to help fight the good fight.

1. Contact your government officials.

Here's a link for how to find contact info for all your representatives, from the president on down to city council members. This is a great idea for homeschool kids especially to practice reading, writing, telephone manners, and civics: Follow along with each new policy and appointment, and then call or write in to the appropriate officials to tell them what you think. This former staff member for two Republican representatives explains why it's better to call than write, if possible. Not all kids will be up for calling, but it's great real-life practice for adulting. Contact your representatives often. Encourage friends to do the same when it's something very important. Attend city council and neighborhood meetings, and rehearse beforehand with your kids so they can read prepared statements of their opinions. Let your voice be heard.

2. Protect human rights.

Join or form an Amnesty International student group to campaign for human rights. Amnesty's page "The America I Believe In" has a video featuring kids talking about their beliefs against torture — older and not-too-sensitive children could appreciate viewing it. On the same page is a sign you can download and print out to say what the America you believe in looks like. There's a toolkit below that with ideas for future steps to take to protect human rights and take a stand against anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant discrimination.

3. Be kind to the environment.

Double down on your family's commitment to sustainable living. Save water, turn down the thermostat, walk and ride bikes, and break out those reusable bags and containers. Start composting at your own house, and organize composting, rainwater collection, or other environmental initiatives at school or businesses where you spend a lot of time. Pick up garbage at the playground or out in nature. Volunteer as a family to become naturalist guides at a local beach, park, or wetlands — you'll learn more about nature and then get to help others do the same.

4. Stop bullying in its tracks.

The best way to stop a bully is for a bystander to say something. Teach your children what bullying is, how to treat others with respect, and how to respond when they see someone being picked on. A generally safe way to defuse a situation is to talk calmly to the person being picked on and ignore the attackers until they leave. If your kids don't feel safe speaking up in the moment, tell them they can and should find a trusted adult to intervene, even if it's after the fact. It can take so little for a kid to feel like an outcast — and then so little again to turn that around. Encourage your kids to seek out lonely children for playdates and lunch seats. A little kindness can affect someone positively for life, and your children can be a good memory that stays in that person's heart forever.

5. Encourage hope.

Teach your kids to take talk of suicide seriously and let a trusted adult know if a friend is in crisis. They can also post crisis contact information on social media along with a video offering love and a listening ear. Some national hotlines are 1-800-273-TALK for suicide prevention, 1-866-488-7386 for LGBTQ youth in crisis, and 1-877-565-8860 for transgender people in need. Teens can volunteer at some local teen-to-teen helplines; do an internet search for opportunities.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

We're swinging. Done.

He wanted to do the shortest video ever.

I think he succeeded.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Unschool uniforms

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This is appropriate field-trip attire
for an unschooler.
Take notes.

While I was at the playground on a warm summer's day, I was amusing myself trying to pick out the homeschooled kids.

It all started because Alrik, in his sparkliest My Little Pony shirt, was trying to play with a group of boys who were not at all interested in playing with him. I sized up their appropriate-length hair and matching gender-specific clothing and concluded that they probably all went to school together and weren't open to a newcomer. (Fair enough.)

After that, I glanced around to try to locate some easier targets for his overtures. Where my weirdo unschool kids at?

I saw one boy with longish hair in long sleeves and unmatched shorts. Possible.

I saw one girl in head-to-toe but unmatching pink leopard print. Maybe.

I saw one boy in patterned leggings. Probable.

Then a kid arrived in Christmas jammies and rainboots. Definitely.

Among some unschooler friends of mine, talk turned to school uniforms on little kids, and we decided to make out a list of appropriate school attire for unschoolers. Shannon compiled the following list, and I will add to it:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The easiest ongoing shopping list (free template!)

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Do you hate wandering aimlessly through the aisles, trying to remember which one has the salad dressing, peering at a hastily scribbled list and trying to decipher if that addition by a family member says beef or beer? Do you hate getting home, only to realize you forgot five things you needed for the week's meals?

I recently came up with an incredibly easy shopping list hack that I want to share with you. It's an ongoing shopping list that's targeted to our family and that matches the order of the aisles in our local grocery store.


Allow me to elucidate.

I wanted this list to have five salient features:
  1. Offline: My husband doesn't believe in new technology. His phone cannot handle a fancy app that syncs with mine. In any case, I actually do prefer to have a physical list on the fridge, because that's where we're thinking about what food we need.
  2. Tracking all our regular purchases: We wanted to see at a glance what foods we normally buy so we could run down the list before a shopping trip as we checked our stock of essentials.
  3. In aisle order: I wanted to walk from one end of our usual store(s) to the other, gathering our groceries in an efficient manner as I went.
  4. Easy to mark: I needed this list to work well from a practical standpoint. It needed to be easy to see what we wanted to buy, what we'd already gotten, and any notes or additions we had.
  5. One page: This isn't a manifesto, people! It's a shopping list!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pokemon Go baby says Pikachu

He might be too young to play it, but he's not too young to say it.

Well worth the 24 seconds this takes to watch:

P.S. If you can't tell by the awe-inspiring attitude,
someone just turned 2.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The best photo of the kids

We went to JC Penney for our annual family portraits.

It gets hairier the more kids we have,
because we have so many occasions to shoehorn in.

In the fall, we have to manage
the older kids' "school" photos
(I don't think even homeschool kids should be exempt
from an awkwardly smiling yearly head-and-shoulders shot)
and the youngest child's commemoration of turning another year old.

We also about this time start thinking
we could really use another portrait
of all five of us.

So many frames.

Add in the fact that my kids are
at posing for photos.
They don't seem to know you're supposed to look toward the lens.
They are incapable of arranging their bodies as instructed.
They don't know how to order their muscles into a smile.
They just have no earthly idea.
Coaching, showing them a mirror, trying to get them to giggle
— no dice.

I actually enjoy cataloging their awful smiles
and know they'll have a laugh looking back at them someday.

Anyway, we broke our portrait session into two this time,
so we didn't have to manage ALL those poses in one meager day.

This meant, too, that if something went awry in one session,
we had the next session to try, try again.

Enter: The photo of all three brothers together.

Getting three kids to look at a camera and look pleasant,
all at the same time,
is a pip, my friends.

And I didn't know, when reviewing the captures of the day,
whether we'd miraculously get anything better the next time.

So I chose this.

Are you ready?

You're really ready?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Read along with us! Little Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl

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We're having piratey fun reading this book Little Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl, by Sanae Ishida, a children's picture book about a ninja girl and her samurai friend who learn the value of shugyo (practice & discipline).

It's got delightful watercolor illustrations with whimsical details. You and your kids will love the silliness throughout, and the message is one that I think we all need to hear: that being good at something almost always takes practice, practice, practice.

Plus, isn't it nice to see a ninja girl?

Learn more about Sanae Ishida, a Seattle artist and author, at her page. I learned, for instance, that her name is pronounced Sun-eye, so now I know, and she has a new book out for grown-ups that also looks fabuloso called Sewing Happiness: A Year of Simple Projects for Living Well. (Doesn't that sound like fun?!) Visit Sasquatch Books, the publisher of Little Kunoichi, here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Brothers by the autumn tree

Every autumn, we take photos in front of
a sweet maple tree outside our home
as the leaves change colors.

Karsten: 22 months
Mikko: 9 years
Alrik: 5 years

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Do you breastfeed more on the left side?

Breastfeeding on the left side so my right hand is free
for important swiping-related activities.
I was curious why button-down shirts tailored to women button right over left whereas men's button left over right, and I came across this article from The Straight Dope by Cecil Adams (emphasis mine):

"Buttoning left over right — the man's way — is supposedly easiest for right-handed people. According to legend, women button right over left because in medieval times they were dressed by their right-handed maids. Don't buy it? Can't say as I blame you, but the alternative explanation is no improvement: men had to keep their right hand tucked into their coats so as to be ready for cold-weather swordplay, whereas women always breastfed with the left breast (hey, that's what it says here) and protected their babies by covering them with the right side of the dress or coat."

Now, these might not be the real reasons for the button differential, and I don't really care. (I find theories just as satisfying as answers for some of these burning questions in my brain.)

What interests me more is the new question that formed: Do you breastfeed more on your left side than your right, too?

Monday, September 12, 2016

The perfect cat litter for a small space: ARM & HAMMER™ CLUMP & SEAL™ MicroGuard™ Cat Litter + $100 giveaway!



What do you get when you combine 1,000 square feet, 5 people, and 2 large cats?

Challenging litter box placements!

We don't have a lot of space, and we need to fit three litter boxes amidst the chaos of kids' stuff, a home business, and the accoutrements of daily life. We have visitors frequently, so we tried hiding the litter boxes cleverly, but you know who didn't like that? The cats.

So for the sake of keeping happy cats happily using the appropriate containers, the litter boxes are out in plain sight — and plain smell. One is — don't judge! — in our dining room. There's literally nowhere else to put it, so we need reliable odor control.

Enter ARM & HAMMER™ CLUMP & SEAL™ MicroGuard™ Cat Litter.

ARM & HAMMER™ CLUMP & SEAL™ MicroGuard™ Cat Litter has a 7-day odor control — guaranteed. The MicroGuard™ technology works to prevent bacterial odors that would otherwise linger even after scooping. Now that's technology we can use!

Due to past pottying challenges, I was worried about replacing our cats' litter in one swoop (scoop?), so I bought a new (fourth) litter box that I could place near an established site. I needn't have worried! My cats immediately took to the ARM & HAMMER™ CLUMP & SEAL™ MicroGuard™ Cat Litter and have gleefully used it alongside their other boxes.

The litter is really nice for me as the cat owner to use. It has a pleasant fresh scent, and the clumping with moisture-activated Micro-Granules works really well to seal around cat waste for easy scooping.

For the cat, the texture is really lovely. It's made with fine micro-particles that are smooth on paws. If you have a cat who prefers a finer texture, this is perfect! The formula is ultra low dust, which keeps your kitty's experience cleaner and your floors cleaner, too.

But what about the smell? For science — for you! — I put my nose into the box after scooping. Deep in. And then I sniffed, gingerly. And then I sniffed again, with confidence. It smelled clean! Heavy-duty odor eliminators plus ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda seal and destroy immediate odors on contact, and the MicroGuard™ technology works to prevent the growth of bacterial odor before it begins.

It works! With regular scooping, you'll experience the confidence of 7-day odor control, no matter how out-in-the-open your litter boxes are.

Monday, September 5, 2016

How to manage the mess of renovation in an apartment, condo, or other small indoor space

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It's one thing to DIY in a garage or workshop — it's another to paint, sand, saw, and otherwise muck around with no outdoor space to call your own and wall-to-wall beige carpet covering your whole living space.

Here's how we've handled doing super-messy and time-consuming projects — painting cabinet interiors and doors, retexturing and painting walls and ceilings, staining and painting furniture, and spray painting hardware — in a second-floor condo with a teensy balcony and no usable uncarpeted area.

Tip #1: Choose a less-trafficked area if possible.

This might not be possible if your space if super small, but give it a try. If needed, choose a space with a door to block out kids, pets, and other curiosity seekers. I've had cabinet doors dry with sweet little paw prints in the paint. A studio apartment might not have a door option, so you'll have to work quickly and supervise any interlopers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


I decided Karsten needed his own post of cuteness.

Was I right, or was I right?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Family photos in a beach sunset

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Every year around Mikko's birthday
(usually on),
we walk out to the beach
for a special silhouette photo shoot.

Here's this year's,
with three children standing.

Previous years:

All five of us

Monday, July 25, 2016

Munz & carrots

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The other day, nine-year-old Mikko was intrigued by our returning something to Home Depot. "Are they giving you cash back? Can I have the munz?"

I said: "Normally, I'd tell you that it belongs to me, but I'm tempted to now that you've made up a new nickname for money."

"Oh, sure, Mama," he said. "Money has lots of nicknames. Munz. Carrots."

I was having trouble driving from laughing at this point.

"You're right that money has a ton of nicknames, and those are none of them."

Monday, July 11, 2016

On branded clothing and parental expectations

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Recently I was talking with a nanny who was telling me why the kids she cares for ended up with Sesame Street shoes. She was apologetic in explaining it: It was all they had left! They were on clearance, in their size, so we had to make do!

Meanwhile, she full knows my kids are nearly always in head-to-toe character-branded nonsense: My Little Pony Crocs, Minecraft and Five Nights at Freddy's and Star Wars T-shirts, Spider-Man and Power Rangers hoodies, plus assorted accessories. As if I would be judging her.

When I grew up, I wasn't allowed to wear characters. Well, that's too strong, but my mother "didn't care" for such fashion choices, and I was persuadable, so I had my Wonder Woman Underoos to wear in private but very demure and girly clothing to wear above.

Before I had children (and this is possibly the idealistic realm in which my nanny friend resides), I assumed their clothing would be similarly character-neutral. Not for me the Thomas the Train shirts and Elmo hats and Caillou sandals (I'm just making things up now). I eschewed even hand-me-downs and gifts that featured recognizable brands. My kids would wear cute things that wouldn't date them in photographs to a particular cultural period, clothing that was bright and whimsical and classically childlike.

And so it went…until my first child developed opinions.

Monday, June 13, 2016

On being five & not wanting to die: Playing through the serious questions

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Alrik recently turned five years old. Maybe this engendered a sense of impending mortality, because he's been talking daily about how he doesn't want to die, and doesn't want me to die, and doesn't want family members or pets to die, or really anybody.

I think there are two types of people in this world: those who fear death constantly, and those who kind of push it out of their minds to think about occasionally but not obsess. I am one of the former group. Apparently so is my son, despite my efforts not to pass along the useless anxiety.

I didn't realize it would start so young.

Alrik, being young, though, came up with a great idea: I'm a scientist, or so he tells me, and I can make a potion to keep us from dying. I'm not sure if that makes me more a witch than a scientist, but I'll take either unearned title.