Monday, June 30, 2008

On the home front

Well, I am really falling down on the blog these days. I can only attribute it to being busy in real life. But I did have a handful of interesting things to share:

First, I am reading some fascinating books by a fringe Waldorf writer named Alan Whitehead. It was actually Melisa who put me onto the Whiteheads as she refers to them in her kindy syllabus. Alan is very anthro- spiritual in his writings, but he believes that Steiner homeschooling is the best way of teaching in the whole big wide world! One of the things I have loved about his writing, equally one of the things that makes him controversial, is that he says, Skip those bloody Grimms' fairy tales and make up your own stories. Mind you, he is Australian and therefore, like myself, finds that the traditional Waldorf stories often have NO cultural/geographic significance. Now, while I am not dispensing entirely with Grimms, reading Alan Whitehead has given me confidence in my choice to sometime veer away from Waldorf dogma.

Alan also has a different approach to units, his being far more anthro directed than other curric writers. He recommends three three-week units at a time: early morning for head, late morning for hearts, afternoon for hands. This may sound like other writers, but more clearly stated, Alan suggests a three-week unit, for instance, on painting or knitting, as opposed to one day per week. This unit studies option works well for me and my girls and it allows better rhythm to our studies.

One book, in particular, I would recommend to any Waldorf homeschooler, regardless of your degree of Anthroposophical interest (mind you, I am not terribly anthro, but I have read enough to get where he's coming from): Alan writes a book called The Golden Path that outlines handwork from Grade One to Twelve. Great subjects, good breakdown, totally worth the $14!

On the homeschooling front, this week is all about America and the Fourth of July. Because we don't live in the States, our girls don't say the Pledge of Allegiance everyday and they have never been to a ballgame and heard the national anthem. Most years, the 4th falls on a day that we can't even really celebrate it because we have been in school. But not now -- woohoo, it's on a Friday, no school (!!), Dad's home and we are enjoying Independence Day. I horded this book just for the occasion and the munchkins loved it. They are learning the Pledge, "America, the Beautiful", and, of course, "The Star-Spangled Banner." The only problem is that I keep crying everytime I hear the national anthem and I can't explain why -- it's a far more emotional song for me now, as an expat, than ever before. Plus, we're making a giant American flag and indulging in some true American picnic foods: Friday will see us eating fried chicken and potato salad (just like you!) but we'll be doing it in front of the heater with hailstorms outside (I'll never get into these reversed seasons!).

Now, I would be remiss if I closed before talking about Biggie's piano. In short, we found a good Suzuki teacher, Biggie is naturally skilled at the piano and after only three lessons, she performed at a wee Suzuki concert. It was no great piece of music, but she requested of the teacher that she be taught how to perform! (OK, I think this is from too much Gwen Stefani, but, hey, great life skill!). I lurves that li'l gal. :-)

Finally, patting myself on the back, I made squaw bread today! Woohoo, never tried that before. I'm going to be fat and happy this week.

That's me for now. I'm going to read what you inspiring folks are up to, as I listen to the downpour out my window.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ok, Here's the playmat

Well, now I can see why mothers would just keep going with this project. It was fun! And I kept thinking of things that I could have added, had I more time. But for me, the piece de resistance (forgive the lack of accents, I don't know how to do them on blogger) was the felt. The felt water came about when I couldn't create a water stitch that I liked. So the girls and I tried our hand at wet felting: what a task! I first created a template of the area needed, then laid out my wrong-type wool (I had corriedale, not merino) and managed to get it to stick together. Finally, I put it in the wash. The rocks were then invented because I had one little area of felt that wasn't as thick as the others.

The result of my labours:

The corn field, in tunisian crochet, and the piggy's mud, in basketweave.

Grass for the lambs, in a ripple stitch, as well as some lighter greenery around the shoreline. You can also see a hint of our felt in this photo.

The hayfield, which is actually the wrong side of a tunisian crochet. I finished the swatch and tho't this side looked better!

The planting field, which turned out redder in the photo than in real life. It is a clay-ish sort of colour, matching some of NZ's finest soil. This is fashioned with a raised stitch, but you can't see that well with the photo.

More grass, a really fun shag-pile stitch that had me holding a knitting needle between my legs while creating this at my daughters' dance class. (Needless to say, the moms at the dance class were very curious about the end result!)

And, finally, the backing. I found this piece of fabric on the NZ version of ebay and prayed that it would arrive on time. The quilting of the mat onto fabric was one of the hardest parts. In fact, if this were for my own child, I probably would have opted NOT to back it, but I went all out for my friend.
Now, for the animals: I went overboard in knitting the animals! The list included a chicken, mouse, rabbit, horse, sheep, cow, and boy. When time came to package it, I decided that it was actually just tooooo much, so I gave a boy, a sheep, a horse, and a pig. The horse was brown, and therefore impossible to photograph well, but here are the others. These are all out of Toymaking with Children and Children's First Book of Knitting.
Now, what was really funny, not mention indicative of how my circle of friends has changed, is that I went to this very posh baby shower and came home telling DH how mine was the only handmade gift given! Heehee, because in the real-world, nobody actually makes stuff! That only happens in our wacky Waldorf world.

Again, this was a truly enjoyable project that allowed me to work in short bursts and if I goofed up or didn't like a section, re-creation was possible. In all, I think I used $30-40 in materials, including the backing and new wool. We've estimated that it took about 20 hours of work, but that would be lessened if I did it again. It took extra time because I was learning new stitches and figuring out what stitches represented what areas. Also, I discovered that my knitting sped up quite alot, but I've become so accustomed to skewer sized needles (these were created on 2.5-3mm needles) that my regular big chunky needles are awkward now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gifts for a seven year old

Okay, ladies, I need suggestions! Biggie turns seven in September and as I am notorious for not planning ahead, this year I am thinking about it early. What the heck do you give an "awake" seven-yo? She has all the requisite toys (dolls, play kitchen, sewing kit, etc.) and I don't want to waste money of stuff she doesn't want or need. Any suggestions? What did your Munchkins love? Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks a bundle, and


Sunday, June 15, 2008

For Gypsy, about raw milk, and an update

Okie-dokie, Gypsy, here is a cut and paste from an earlier post about raw milk. Since it seems you live in my neighbourhood, I'll let you know when I get my next batch and you can taste some! :-)

"Wow, what an amazing experience we had today! We went to the farm of some friends and purchased raw milk and raw cream. It's beautiful. Now, to put this understatement in context, none of us are milk drinkers. Pasteurised dairy makes me ill (always has), and dh is a soy drinker, so for us to say that this milk is enjoyable is quite a compliment. It has NO smell whatsoever and the taste is clean and sweet. My next goal is to use the cream and make our own butter (yep, even further down the hippie-trail we wander).However, before you run right out to buy your own raw milk, there is something I learned today that I wish to share: not all dairy farmers are of equal cleanliness. Our farmer friend explained how his cows are washed before milking so as to keep the milk tasting nice; BUT (this is sooo yucky), traditional dairy farmers -- those producing for big corps -- do not clean their cows before milking, because pasteurisation will kill all yucky bacteria. So if you're gonna source raw milk, ask if the cows are washed before milking!"

I would just like to add that it is important to check out (preferably by references) the health of the milk-producing cows and the integrity of the farmer. That having been said, there is only one farm near us that is selling raw organic milk, and we know all of the family and can vouch for the high standard of their livestock. (Gypsy, he's in Helensville. Ask your friends and see of that's where they are sourcing their milk.)

I'm still not blogging much, as I am frantically finishing the baby play mat. While it has been time-consuming, it's been wonderfully enjoyable and I would recommend it as a project. Lots of little bits, and nothing too hard. I've learned several new stitches, improved the quality of my knitting and it's kept me busy during the day (and night!). There are a few tricky bits now that I finish the end (such as putting non-square pieces together in such as way as to make one big square), but I will get into those more when I post photos of the finished project.

Homeschooling has fallen into a happy relaxed routine, as have our new piano and dance lessons. My Littlie has decided that she wants to take dance like her sister and this represents a huge step forward as she is slow to jump into new social groups. I am forever plagued by fears about the girls not having enough friends, but I am sure this will right itself over time. (Beware, it's alot harder to move and make new friends when you homeschool....)

That's really all I have time for tonight. I want to finish off a rooster (b'gock!).


Monday, June 9, 2008

Busy, busy

No, I haven't fallen of the planet, but I have been really busy. Here's the brief version:

HS'ing-wise, I introduced a Quality of Numbers block to Biggie, thinking that this would be cake and therefore an easy intro to the "Best Work" into main lesson books. WELL, what an eye-opener! She insists on turning fours around and some basic form drawing is hard for her! I had no idea and I am so glad that the universe put me on this course. Altho' I think the girls have chicken pox and so that'll throw the whole rhythm into upheaval, but for now, at least I feel like we are working on one of her challenges. As for her strengths, this story really made me laugh: we stopped into the thrift store (to buy knitting needles!) and the girls bee-lined for the kids' books box. They kept pulling out pop-up books, etc., asking to purchase and I said "no." Then, Biggie pulled out an ancient copy of Wind in the Willows, to which I said "yes." She proceeded to take it with her everywhere and was upset that she couldn't read it while she walked down the street to the library! What could I really say? I would do the same thing if I could! Too funny.

Crafting: a few weeks ago, I sourced some amazing organic merino wool for $5NZ a skein. Yesterday, I finished a sweater for Biggie. Not as magnificent as the pattern picture, but it was my first sweater, so I pat myself on the back merely for completing it before Winter turns to Spring. I am getting carpal tunnel, however, in my frantic efforts to finish a baby gift three months earlier than expected. My friend is having a miracle baby (she was told she could NEVER get pregnant, and lo' and behold....) and she is holding the shower early! I decided on a knitted farmyard. Well, not-just-knitted. I have crocheted most of the playmat, with one stitchwork wheatfield, and I am knitting the animals. I have been surprised as how enjoyable this project is, because it gives me an opportunity to try a variety of new stitches AND because all the pieces are so small that I don't bored. When it's done, I'll try to remember to take a photo.

Anger Management: my youngest daughter is really making me mad. It may be terrible to admit this in such a public forum, but oh well. you see, Littlie is 1) a Taurus, 2) choleric, and 3) a control freak. She demands to be the centre of attention, which is causing havoc with Biggie's lessons; and she has a need to control every situation. She's 5 years old!!! Tonight, I had a huge, non-Waldorf, shouting match with her because she simply wouldn't be quiet and let her sister go to sleep, something that was REALLY impt since they are both running fevers. We got into it yesterday because she wanted Biggie to play with her and Biggie wanted to practice her piano work. So Littlie sat on the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs in time with Biggie's notes. You know, I am trying so hard to not be a nasty, screamy mom and yet this is the child that just makes me mental. She simply does not hear me, or if she does, she just doesn't care, which makes me more angry. She goes into her room and makes an utter mess, then refuses to clean any of it up! You know, as a sane person, I am only willing to subject myself to that so many times. Anyway, I am becoming rantish, so I will simply say, If you have suggestions, feel free to comment. I could use ANY advice right now (boarding school is looking pretty good *grin*)

That's most of the week for me. Oh, except to say that I agree with Anthromama and I know something is wrong with me that, at 33 years of age, I think Shia LaBeouf is hot. (I dear heavens, I comment about some kid who is named after a side of beef.) I did love the new Indy film, and I sat chuckling to myself about Karen Allen, the Steiner Mom and Fibre Artist!

Now that really is all. I am going to sit on my daughter's bed and have a good cry.