Thursday, January 31, 2008

Merhaba Turkey!

Merhaba Turkey! Adim Laura.

Tani, stz-gzmzza memnun oldum. Nasilsin? Iyi?

Ben iyi!

Gule gule,
Arkada Laura

The Cyber Side of the Street

My Dad is now finally hooked up to the internet. For a long time, he had a little mail station which was a device that allowed him to send and receive e-mail, but would not allow for attachments or for navigating the internet. He is just starting out on his round-the-world discovery of cyber space. How exciting!

And speaking of round-the-world, I mentioned in a previous post that I can see where my visitors come from with the stat counter that is associated with this blog. It's not really big brotherish, but sorta, kinda. I can know if you've come here from say Boise, Idaho, and how long you stayed and if you've come here before and if you came here from a google search looking for a specific subject. Kinda big brotherish, but with the anonymity of the internet in that I don't know who is driving the computer that sent you here through cyber space and dropped you off in We Don't Buy It land.

LOTS of people have come to my blog looking to read about kefir. There seems to be a worldwide subculture of grain heads who are into kefir. (I'm one of them, but I didn't realize how many more there were out there. I speak curd...)

Some people, it seems, were wanting to find out about yurts in Connecticut and instead ended up at my blog at this post. My post which drew comparisons between yurts, and our house model, the Connecticut. If they read it, it might have amused them, but it didn't inform them about seeing yurts in Connecticut, or buying yurts in Connecticut, or building codes about yurts in Connecticut--to say nothing of zoning regulations... Try putting up a yurt in New Canaan or Greenwich and see how that flies. I bet it doesn't!

A couple of days ago a person from Berlin, Germany tried to find out about cakes. They did a search that said, "Birthday Cake to Buy in London". Someone is going to have a birthday in London some time and this nice Berliner is looking into finding out where to get a cake. How very nice. How thoughtful to be doing this kind of research for a friend, a lover, or a family member! Was this poor, kind soul directed to a number of bakeries in London, maybe in Kensington, or Covent Garden? No. They were instead diverted to my blog where they read a post titled, "Floam birthday cake...Yum!" Helpful, huh?!

All this to say that although the internet can open up the world to you with instant and varied information, it can also fling you across continents and oceans where you end up in a suburb of Chicago looking for a place to buy a birthday cake in London.

Watch yourself, Dad. Look both ways before you cross the cyber street.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Guten Tag Deutchland!

Guten tag Deutchland!

Wie geht's? Ich heisse Laura. Ich bin gut.

Ich bin eine Illinoiser. Wo winst du? Danke.

Auf Wiedersehen,

Laundry Line, or We Don't Really Know What's Wrong With the Dryer

Below you see an array of my son's clothes. They're hanging on a pole that is mounted to the underside of the floor joists overhead in the laundry room. This is the spot that is almost always occupied by some bike, usually an old Schwinn, hanging in varying stages of deconstruction. The bikes have been pushed aside recently as our dryer is broken! The pole now is an indoor clothes line.

This summer my husband strung line outside in the backyard from our tree to the shed and we started drying our clothes outside as much as possible. The kids liked to help in this and would take turns climbing up a shaky step ladder to pin the clothes to the line. The clothes would sway in the breezes and get fresh and warm in the sunshine. Sheets would billow out catching the wind like sails. It felt like it brought back another time--one that I didn't have as a kid. We dried our clothes in the dryer. Somehow, both my husband and I have romantic notions about simple domesticity. I still don't like to dust, but we both like the idea of clothes swaying in the breezes.

On the other hand...this. Well, this is just clothes hanging in the basement because the dryer broke. There's nothing romantic about this. No one does any Winslow Homeresque water colors with a cat's litter box in the corner and an ironing board leaning against the wall.

There's been some discussion that maybe the coil that ignites the gas is burnt out. Huh.

So...are we gonna fix this?? Is this OK for our compact, or should we just hang the clothes and not worry about it? We could argue that's it's a health issue--we need clean clothes that we can wear. But, of course, we can hang the clothes and they will slowwwwwwly dry. They WILL dry.

I think we may be hanging clothes for a while. What do you think? Maybe I can get out my watercolors and paint any way...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Drawing With Dad

I like posting stories about our daily life around here. We're just a normal family, and yet so many of our life choices have been anything but typical. My children were born in this house. Every birth is exciting and every birth is special. But, being able to welcome our babies to life here in our own home was particularly special for us. Only about 1% of babies born in the United States are born at home. My family and Husband's family were both here for the birth of our son. Cheers rang out from the stairs where my mother, mother-in-law, and sisters were sitting as I labored upstairs in our bedroom with my husband, a doctor and 2 nurses when my son was born. My daughter's birth was so easy, and I was so relaxed and so far along that the doctor came AFTER she was born and so it was just me, my husband, our almost 2 1/2 year old boy and my new daughter here. And, I breastfed these kids for YEARS!

All of these ways of living are so natural but they're not typical.

We homeschool. Again, not a typical life choice yet one that many families are making with increasing frequency. There are estimates that about 2 million kids are now homeschooled. So, for some, not quite the freaky thing it once was. It's not fringey any more and everybody at least knows someones cousin's brother-in-law's niece's husband's sister's son's great aunt once removed who is doing it as well. So, totally common these days. People do still look askance a little bit at the kids' soccer matches when I tell them we homeschool..."Oh!! Really?!! Oh, I could NEVER do that! But I know a friend who has a cousin whose brother-in-law's niece's husband's sister's son's great aunt once removed is doing it as well. Wow. Good for you..." Polite smiles all around.

Any way. Back to our normal every day life around here. Below, you see pictures of my husband drawing with our kids at the kitchen table. All three of them are quite visual and I've improved my drawing abilities because of them. I never had a lot of art classes in school and I never just picked up a pencil and started drawing, but my kids do and so does my husband.

They are drawing bicycles. Sometimes, a lot of the time, they draw buildings with vanishing points and aliens and monsters and apple trees and ants and horses and mountains and flowers and robots and snakes.

Here, you see my husband drawing a High Wheeler, or an Ordinary or for you folks across the pond, a Penny Farthing. This is just a simple sketch, but I am so impressed with his abilities. He's like this all the time. He just grabs a pencil and with a few strokes has a clear, recognizable image. The kids have gotten this from him. Drawing is now part of our curriculum and the kids love this aspect of their schooling. I do too.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dangerous Things for Kids to do Poll Results

Over to the right here you see the actual poll I had up all last week. I have made a change to make it more interesting and to give us all a better picture as to where we all stand vis a vis letting our kids do dangerous, wacky things.

16 people answered the poll. However, I don't really feel that that's a big enough sample of people. In a previous poll, 19 people answered and although I appreciate everyone who bothers to respond, still, I thought that it would be more fun to pretend that each vote represented 1,000 people. 19,000 people voted in that poll. So, in keeping with that line of thinking, I shall now pretend that the 16 votes cast in this poll REALLY are 16,000.

Let's look at the results together, shall we? Let's keep positive and report from the most to the least number of votes for the respective categories. OK?

Of the 16,000 people who voted, fully 100% (or 16,000 people) felt that it would be fine for a 7 year old to sew.

87% (14,000 people) thought that a 7 year old could say, make a grilled cheese sandwich at the stove and then go build a bird house. Which, by the way, would make for a fun afternoon--wouldn't it?

68% (11,000 people) felt it would be OK for a 7 year old to light a candle.

62% (10,000 people) felt that all of the following were OK: using a sharp knife, riding a bike around the block (I didn't specify alone, but that's what I was thinking when I asked the question...), tending a fire, or using pruners or other garden tools.

56% (9,000 people) thought that a 7 year old could use a cordless drill. All of this depends of course on the child, and the situation...both of our kids have done this.

And lastly, only 43% (7,000 people) felt it would be OK for a 7 year old to use a hand saw...our kids have done this as well.

How do you guys read this? For example, almost 2/3 of the voters would let their kids ride a bike and tend a fire. But that means a little more than a 1/3 would not.

Do you think our kids are overprotected, or just protected? If they are overprotected, how would that manifest itself? Would it necessarily be negative? Would these kids be less confident or more nervous or timid or more confused?

What do you think? Do you agree with the 16,000 people who voted in this poll?

Thanks voters! Rock the vote!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hola Mexico!

Hola Mexico! Como esta usted? Muy bien o asi asi?

Yo estoy muy bien. Tengo mucho frio aqui en Illinois. Pero, es Enero, no? Si, por supeusta!

Adios, hasta luego!

Tu amiga,

Birthday for a Compactor

OK. Yes, as of yesterday I am now 42 years old. I was born in 1966 on January 26th. A year later there would be a giant snow storm that would effectively shut down the city of Chicago and surrounding areas. Later on in 1967, there would be the "summer of love" in San Francisco where mellow people from all over the country would come to drop out and turn on. Another 2 years later, in 1969, there would be a giant music festival on a farmer's land in a town called Woodstock in upstate New York and people would dance in the mud, much like my daughter and son sometimes do now when it rains. In 1968, or 1969 there would be televised rocket launches, one of which comprises one of my earliest memories: my oldest sister insisting to my mother that I could stay up to watch the launch because how often would there be one? My Mom relented and I did get to stay up--thanks sister #1. Thanks Mom.

In the 70's I went camping with my family up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. It was a wonderful time of immersion in Nature and allowed for self discovery.

One of my favorite memories from one of our camping trips was when I went camping with my Father, Brother and a friend of his, Sue. My Dad and I were in one canoe, and my brother and his friend were in another. We paddled over the lakes, portaged, paddled again and made camp. At some point we went out and went fishing from the canoes. We used worms and draped the line over the side of the canoe. We used Red Devil spoon lures: red and white, or black and white or green and white. My Dad inadvertently dropped my pole into the water. Uh oh. I cried. I was very upset. He looked at me, looked into my eyes, and dove in to try and get it. I felt bad that he went to all of that trouble, and felt very well loved by him for his trying. He did not find the fishing pole--he got hypothermia instead.

We got Dad back to camp and got him into warm clothes and got him into a sleeping bag and he rested. He warmed up and then after a while was fine. But, it was a scary time for all of us.

The next day I stayed with him in camp and my brother and Sue went out fishing near a river. They caught a lot of fish: small mouth bass, northern pike and they fishing pole! They snagged it and pulled it in.

We all were amazed.

Meanwhile, my father had felt so badly about the loss of my fishing pole that he had fashioned one for me out of a thick stick, a spare reel from his tackle box and guide rings he made from twisted strips of metal he got from an empty fuel can for our cook stove. With that fishing pole I caught the northern pike you see below. I was proud. He was proud. My brother and Sue were proud. I caught that fish in 1975 and I was 9 1/2 years old. My son is the same age now as I was in that picture.

Here I am holding the pike.

I'm now 42 years old. And, my husband and children and I are in a compact not to buy anything new for this year. What a quandary for my husband. What was he going to get me? He knows how strongly I feel about all of my camping experiences. He knows how they have helped to frame my view of the world and the universe and my place in it and my connection to everything else. So, my husband found this picture of me (I don't even know where it was) went out and found an ugly turquoise frame from a thrift shop, painted it black and framed the picture of me with the northern pike. Beautiful.

Yesterday, my husband had my kids make me cards.

My son's front, inside and back:

Note the "Hallmark" on the back?

I blocked out the names in my daughter's card to protect the innocent here...

See the "1, 4, 3"? That means, I love you.

Below, you see the mixer going at top speed as my husband made me "Dream Cake"--the cake we always make for birthdays.

1, 4, 3 family. I love you daughter. And you son. And you husband. And you cat. And you mom and dad and brother and sister and sister. Thank you, it has been a very happy birthday indeed.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Frozen Strawberries

We went to Trader Joe's yesterday after Homeschooling Open Gym. I did some shopping and decided to get some organic frozen strawberries. I got them because it's important to me that my kids have berries in their fruit smoothies and I know that strawberries are one of a long list of dirty fruits/veggies that always have a really high residue of pesticides. Getting organic especially makes sense for strawberries.

Are there organic growers--people who don't dump chemicals on their crops here in the United States? The very same farmers that I get the raw milk from (and really I OWN part of their farm as it's a farm share--I get the bacon, baby) sometimes sell strawberries in June, but they're in Michigan not here in Very-Republican-Town, Illinois. It's January and it's really cold these days.

Maybe I could get some strawberries from California. Would they be like $5.99 a half pint? (Remind me to tell you about the time I bought a bunch of organic cherries for about $9 and they got buried in the husband didn't really dig that, I gotta say...) I can't really justify expensive food purchases around here. I can get healthy foods for us, but I can't be completely decadent and frivolous and irreverent about cherries. I digress.

So, I stand in the aisle and read the frozen organic strawberry package, and remember that these strawberries come all the way from Turkey! Turkey.

But, these juicy organic strawberries are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness...

Here's a closer look. See?

So is the carbon footprint that these strawberries make by their ocean-crossing, fuel-burning voyage offset by the fact that they're organic? And, on a tangential and similar note, is the Australian wine I got significantly better than the stuff we could get from California? Do I have to be a sucker for a hopping kangaroo on a colorful label on a bottle of wine? Am I like one of those birds that eats everything shiny she finds on the beach? Ooooh, shiny!!!!

Maybe we need to be thinking about buying local as well as not buying anything new for a year.

I think my kids deserve for me to feed them as well as I can. The more you know, the more you know; I may have to keep on giving them frozen strawberries from Turkey after all. I know that they're organic and I know that my kids shouldn't have to eat synthetic chemicals where it is so easy to avoid them.

That's where he had me--the strawberries.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Buon giorno, Italy!

Buon giorno, Italy!

Mi chiamo Laura. Come stai oggi? Di dove sei?


Mi sono divertito,

Republican Sample Ballot, or Barking up the Wrong Tree

Look at that picture above. It's a sample ballot for me for the upcoming elections. It's from the Republicans of _______ Township. They want me to vote for their people. They want me to vote republican. Um. That's not going to happen. Not even close to happening. Way not gonna happen.

It's good not to have preconceived notions about people. We're all complex bundles of history, stories, DNA and ideas walking around bumping into each other. Do I really know you? Do I? Do you really know me? No. We don't really know each other, actually. You're reading this post in your cozy slippers at home, or your Birkentocks, or while surfing at work...I'm not tellin' anyone. I sent it across cyber space releasing it to the universe and whoever catches my message for whatever their/your reasons are, I still have no idea what's going on in the remote, secret, allusive parts of their/your head. That's your space, I'm working on my side in my space just sendin' it out there.


I think you can make some pretty good guesses about me if you choose to. I had homebirths. And, I breastfed--for YEARS! I homeschool. My husband fiddles around with bicycles. All of this is available to see on the front page here on my blog. My blog which espouses not buying anything new...To be simplistic, are you generally seeing red or blue here?

I know I'm on all sorts of mailing lists--I've requested to be removed from lots of catalogs' lists. I've gotten great catalogs for wonderful, beautiful products that I have bought, within limits, in the past. I love looking through J. Jill and Sundance catalogs. But, that's not where my heart is.

I have magazine subscriptions to things like this,

and this,

I get catalogs selling groovy bumperstickers and t-shirts and posters like this one,

I get herbs from this catalog,

I give money to this group to buy animals for people around the world to improve their livelihoods and their nutrition and their self reliance. Here is their January/February circular.

Based on all of this information, which I'm sure is readily available on some list somewhere, does it really look like I'll be reading this on election day?

Barking up the wrong tree...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kids in the Snow

Let's go play at a playground in the middle of winter. We can go at any time of the day, because we are homeschooled. Probably no one else will be there and we'll have full run of the place.

We can make snow angels and play on the icy slide and throw snowballs at each other, and at Mom... Mom? Mom. MOM!!

What do you mean, "Don't throw snowballs at me!!"? Aw, come on!

Look at our cool footprints. Isn't the snow powdery and beautiful? Every shadow is blue.

RUN!! I'll beat ya!

This is so much fun! Too bad our Mom's camera is about to run out of memory on the chip thing. She won't be able to take pictures of us making giant letters that start our names, or making a giant heart with our footprints on the baseball diamond over there to the right, just out of the frame of this shot. She won't be able to photograph our snow angels. There will be no photographic record of the icicles we gleefully pulled off of the bottom of the slide or the picnic table. Oh well. That's hardly the point. We're out in this beautiful sunshine and glittery snow, and getting rosy cheeks and having fun together in the bitter, bitter cold.

We love winter.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A New Goodwill is Opening, a New Goodwill is Opening!!!

Oh. My. God.

A new Goodwill is opening! How fabulous is that?! I have yet another place to go get used stuff if I need it! This is like a Hannah Anderson 50% off sale! This is like getting a perfect J. Jill shirt, or jewelry from the Sundance catalog. This is like getting fabulous Born shoes or Romikas!

This store is right down the street from us in Very-Republican-Town, Illinois. It's not Mall of America or 5th Avenue or Rodeo Dr. It's a Goodwill...but, it's opening right near us! More choices!


See the prominent sign right near the street?

Look at that beautiful new building--it's huge!

Doesn't this look inviting?

Can't you picture yourself going in there and finding something reasonable? Maybe an old record or too. Maybe some in-line skates, or a poncho, or a set of glasses that won't break.

Wow! This place IS huge! What will they fill it with?

See you on opening day, Goodwill. We hope you'll be very happy here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Floam birthday cake...Yum!

My daughter has never met a substance she didn't like to smear, control, smoosh and create with. Yesterday, she found floam to be the perfect medium. For those of you who are not familiar with this sculpting medium, it is sort of like very small packing peanuts held together with marshmallow fluff, only not quite as sticky, but probably just as delicious.

I haven't usually bought either of my kids synthetic substances in any form. Not food, or clothing or soap or play things. But we needed this floam for a long trip we took overseas and knew that our daughter would be captivated by it and be able to create wherever we went. A little off-gassing was going to be OK and would be worth it for her happiness and calm during long traveling time. Pre-compact, I bought my daughter a few different colors and thought she would like them.

This was months ago when we travelled overseas--Hello London! Sorry about the Rugby loss. Good on ya for getting as far as you got! When we were there three people fell into an art installation at the Tate. Are they OK? Is the Crack still there?

My daughter's floam has traveled to London and back and has been in baggies here when it wasn't rolling around on the floor, or carpet, or rugs. It's kind of icky now. Well, ickier. Floam sticks to itself and can be shaped by squeezing and pushing and pulling and pinching. Our cat's hair is everywhere in this house--and also in my daughter's floam! Ewwwwwww. An artist like my daughter is not to be put off by such trivialities. If she's inspired, she's inspired. It can be smearing butter on the kitchen floor right before a trip, or getting mud on her legs and hair, because it was really working for her. I can't question the creative process. How would I even dare to try to limit anyone else's bliss?

Here is a birthday cake my daughter made out of floam. It is for her doll, Megan. She has decided for the purposes of this cake, that Megan is 4 years old. Sometimes Megan is a toddler.

Let's put that cake up on a beautiful serving platter. There. That's better.

There's a plate for Megan and a beautiful cake server with a china handle.

A fork and a knife are in coordinating colors. My daughter sets a beautiful table.

Woops! She almost forgot the napkin.

Ta Da!

Let's have an "M" for Megan.

Happy Birthday Megan! How do you like your "M" and floam cake? Delicious, eh?!

Well done daughter. Megan loves it and is very happy.

And, thanks for the hair, cat. It wouldn't be a special 4-year-old-happy-birthday-floam-cake without it!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Konichiwa Japan!

Konichiwa Japan!

Watakushi-wa Laura, desu.

O hayou gozaimasu. O-genki desu ka?


Jack Frost Visits the Connecticut

Jack Frost has come to our bedroom window at the Connecticut. I like his art. I don't care that it's provincial and lyrical--Jack Frost is not known for being avant-garde. He's old fashioned and sentimental and some argue derivative in his themes (read: Suzy Snowflake...) Her work is more free form and sometimes it acquires a patina from whatever the snowflakes adhere to. But the surface is not really a substantive part of her repertoire and it truly is an apple/orange thing. For Jack Frost, the medium is part of the message. The canvas makes a difference for him.

Oh, I don't care! Art arguments are best left to the critics--I don't need that high drama. Jack Frost does good work. He's prolific and dependable.

You may not get Jack Frost murals on your windows--do you have a house from the 60's that needs new windows? That's his medium of choice. Although he may sometimes dabble in New England colonial houses of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, you'll find he mostly likes the versatility of modern materials and makes his way to wherever there is a Siberian Express--that's his favorite mode of travel.

Here is a selection from his most recent show. Enjoy:

"Feather Frost"

"Curves in Corners"

"Frozen Vanishing Point"

"Spectral Light: Shattered Ice"

"Frozen Yin Yang"

"A Thousand Points of Light..."
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