t h e m a y f i l e s is foremost a family blog, chronicling everyday life. Life including natural, healthy eating (with recipes thrown in at random), home educating (with ideas popping up sporadically), an attempt to homestead on .2 acres (with very meager yields), raising 3 of 4 children with a rare genetic disorder, and lots of highly personal family triumphs and failures. You may also find an eclectic array of musings on politics, exercise, sewing, emergency preparedness, backyard chickens, and religion. This blog isn't a campaign to glorify anyone or anything. Just simply a record.


Didgeridooing in the New Year and 2011 Summary

Who knew Callista would have a natural flare for the Didgeridoo?  Grandpa received this gem from a work colleague for Christmas.  We had a "blast"  New Year's Eve trying our lungs on this creation from down under. It was a rare moment in the spotlight for Callista, who happened to be significantly better than Ellery.  When does that ever happen as the second child?  We were cheering her on with fervor.

No holiday season would be complete without "snowballs."  We used rice milk ice cream this year, and they were as yummy as ever.  Emmett was too afraid to eat his ice cream while the candle was lit, so he opted to be first out.  

 It was so fun to spend time with Brock and Amy, Daegy and Pierce.  We had some intense games of Settlers of Catan, during which my father became very offended at Brent's bargaining techniques.  It was just too much for him when we made a deal with Brock and Amy to keep the robber off their land for the remainder of the game.  BTW: Dad and Mom won.

2011 Year in Summary

We started this year about as low as we have ever been as a family.  We were dealing with a new, official diagnosis of PCD and bronchiectasis.

Ellery was completely non-functional with ear pain and emotional anxiety issues from all the doctors appointments and new regimes.

Callista was feeling abandoned and neglected.

Emmett was a gooey mess, but sweet nonetheless.

Berkeley's ears were a mess, but thankfully she remained out of the hospital through the winter.

Brent's busiest time of year, happens to be January, and with Ellery and I only sleeping a few hours each night, and crying the majority of a 24 hour period, I wasn't certain I would make it.

There were small miracles.  One that stands out is when Christy came back to my door after leaving, Brent was out of town, and said, "What am I doing leaving you here alone.  What can I do to help?"  Another was when Jill showed up at my door at 5:50 am so I could go run.  The countless hours my running friends spent listening to me cry and hash through my frustrations and fears as we ran.

In February we jumped ship for Hawaii, to try and pick the family up.  We were sick the entire trip but it seemed to turn the corner for us.  Ellery started walking again, as her stomach pain subsided.  I got control of myself.  Brent and I reconnected. Emmett was in heaven in his bathing suit for 11 days.

Unfortunately, at the same time Papa turned the corner.  He was hospitalized and never came home, finally passing away in March after some excruciating final months.  It was extremely difficult for Mimi, and all of the children who flew back and forth to California again and again to help during these months.

Spring and Summer were busy as the children began to excel in gymnastics.  My running intensity picked back up again.  Thankfully life was very uneventful.

The end of Summer brought a few illnesses but nothing we couldn't handle.  Homeschooling with 4 children is both exhilarating and exhausting.  It is a constant battle for me to temper my intensity, which my daughters all seem to have inherited.  Callista being the most like me.  Maybe because we both fell second girl, second child.  Math whizzes, love reading...but love our independence too.  I believe the children are thriving but not without a mental and emotional cost on my part.  There are lots of rewards but each day is filled with challenges as well.

The year closes and we are in such a peaceful place.  Not everything has certainty.  Of course we wish there were more snow.  But each little speed bump we seem to be handling.  The course has been moving us forward.

Didgeridoo in the New Year!  Let it begin.


Trouble in the Pink Furry Boots

Honey has a serious knack for finding permanent markers, and taking the caps off.   Her favorite decorating surface:  her face.


Something to Read...Perfect additions to your Children's Library

We continued our family Christmas tradition of:

A Want...A Need...And Something to Read

I am always looking for excuses to buy books for my children and our library.  Christmas is just such the occasion. Additionally, my mom started a great tradition for an annual "Cousins Book Exchange."  More books.  Hooray!  I love not being inundated with junk from the "Under $5 Limit" present exchange.   I'm going to try to transfer this tradition to the other side of the family as well!

To win my heart give my children your favorite book.  At birthday parties, we always bring books.  My friend Amy always gives the most fabulous books.  Oh how I love her!

So....Which children's books did we add this year?  

Here is the sampling:

A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L 'Engle for Ellery.  She's read the first book and has been dying for the next.  This is her first foray into the Science Fiction genre.  

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein for Callista.  I can't believe we didn't have any of his books in our library.  Already and expectedly, "Sick" is the favorite poem.  Callista also loves "The Acrobats."

The Eensy-weensy Spider by Mary Ann Hoberman for Emmett and Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Iza Trapani for Berkeley.  I love books which add clever verses and illustrations to familiar nursery  rhymes and songs.  Hoberman, Trapani and Nadine Bernard Westcott  are the best at this.

Favorites Children's Books We Gave:

The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt (6 year old boy)  If you are looking for a book with excellent "boy appeal" this is the one.  The illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi are fabulous.  All my children love it, but it was a perfect fit for Mark and his 10 year old brother Bruce.  The message is classic and timeless.  All I have to say is "Will you walk into my parlor..." and the girls are hooked.  Ellery even has this one memorized.

Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Scott Gustafson (2 year old)  This will forever remind me of bed rest and reading to Emmett.  It has the most beautiful illustrations of Nursery Rhymes I have found.  I keep 5 or 6 on hand for baby shower gifts.

King Bidgoods in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood (3 year old girl)  Again captivating illustrations and witty prose.  

Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola  (5 year old girl)  I grew up with my mom reading me her favorite story from when she was a little girl "The Little Pot that Wouldn't Stop."  This old Italian folktale is timeless.

Favorite Children's Books we Received:

Iza Trapani of I'm a Little Teapot  we also have Baa, Baa Black Sheep.  I would recommend any and all of them.

he best book we received was a short, unexpectedly clever book about a giant turnip.  It looks like there are myriad versions of this story.  The Tale of the Turnip by Brian Alderson is the one we received.  


My Late Night Obsession

Brent says it is like some sick video game for me, I just can't stop playing.  I'm addicted to redesigning a home.  Specifically my neighbors home, 4 doors in on the cul de sac.  It sounds psychotic.  It is.  A little.  We are in the process of purchasing it actually, so it isn't that weird.  Things are still unofficial...there are some kinks to work through but it looks like it will happen in the next several months.

So...out comes my obsessive side.  I've always loved architect and author Sarah Susanka of The Not So Big House series.  In fact, I think I own all of her books.  Now, I love the website Houzz.com.  You can look at my ideabooks there, I think my name is savvymay.  My favorite app that keeps me warm at night: Home Design 3D for my ipad.  At 12:30 am you can often find me wandering through my virtual world in my 3D house.

I should have included a tape measure in this photo, because really, I carry one every where with me now.
I think I have measured my kitchen cabinets 10 times at least.

Most difficult will be leaving our small but gorgeous and endearing yard.  We are trading for a bigger house and 1/3 acre lot, which stares directly at another house (and the gorgeous Mt. Timpanogos right above).   I have quite a bit of vision for the house and yard.

With some TLC and of course the mighty greenbacks, I think we can create something beautiful and very functional for our family.


Christmas 2011

We spent a wonderful Christmas up at the Ranch.  The children had a great time playing with cousins, I  loved the late night chats with my siblings and their spouses and we all enjoyed spending time with Stacey Jo.  We are on pins and needles awaiting an announcement for she and Derald to seal the deal.  Hopefully sometime in the coming year!

Note the musical and dancing talent in this video compilation.  I especially love the ultra high key we sang "Silent Night" in around the fire on Christmas Eve.  
Although it is brutal for babies and super complicated with so many children and such frigid
temperatures, I am so grateful we can walk under the gorgeous Northern Utah night sky.
No light pollution.  Guided by a luminary and bundled in our costumes we head to the day barn
to sing of the birth of Jesus. 

Little Robert, as peaceful as can be, is dressed in swaddling clothes.    Later on "Santa's Helper" paid a visit to the house.

Take note of the look in Emmett's eyes.  He wanted nothing to do with this "helper" even though the "helper" looked and sounded just like grandpa!

It wouldn't be Christmas Eve without pajama's from Santa.

This year we stayed with my sister in her home, just down the hill from The Full Circle Ranch.  It was a welcome change with tons of room to spread out, but we missed seeing Grandma and Grandpa as much.


"Watch My Finger!"

Emmett and my Dad were doing a little last minute Christmas shopping last week.  The girls were getting ready for their first gymnastics meet.  Grandpa and Emmett decided to meet us at the gym.  Grandpa wandered around for 10 minutes or so, at a loss of how to find the gym.  It is tucked in an industrial park visible only after about 6 turns.

Emmett kept piping in from the back:

"Grandpa, you can't find the gym because you are going to wrong way."

He was quite persistent, and finally my Dad decided to humor him.  "Okay Emmett, you show me how to get to the gym."

"Grandpa!  Just watch my finger!  Watch where my finger is pointing!"  That little 3 year old then led my Dad directly to the gym.  After several turns...

"Can't you see it Grandpa.  Just turn here."  Sure enough they ran straight into the gym!  Way to go Emmett.

Believe me the sense of direction was not inherited from my side of the family.


First Gymnastics Meet

People are always curious as to my reasons for homeschooling the children.  The reasons are myriad but include my desire for the children to be excellent and not overwhelmed.  I want them to excel and develop talents.  I don't think anyone came with any natural talent except maybe determination and persistence.  The girls could barely do cartwheels last year at this time.  We wondered if their recreation teachers would pass them out of level 1.  Now here we are, and although they were definitely in the middle to bottom tiers of their teams, not too bad.

Gymnastics adds a wonderful balance to our homeschooling.  It gives the girls large blocks of time which they spend with a peer group and other adults.  It is a situation which requires discipline and performance.  Brent and I have no desire to train them for a future in gymnastics, most likely by the time they are 12 we will have reaped all the benefits of the sport.  The rigorous time demands can be very difficult for teammates who spend 7 hours at school.  It is a drain on the child and the family.  This has become very clear from my conversations with the mothers of their peers.  For now, gymnastics is serving an excellent purpose in the health and well being of the girls.  And I do have to say, the yogi in me is getting very jealous of their continually improving handstands and flexibility.  I can still beat them hands down though in any head stand contest!


The Best Christmas Gift: A Lung Function Test

It's easy to lose sight of the best gifts.  

Sometimes I forget 3 of my beautiful 4 children are running around happy and glowing, as persistent bacterias slowly eat away at their lungs.

I forget to talk louder and even sometimes to clean out their ears.

I think the drainage stops, only to find their ears are blocked solid with hardened fluid.

I let Emmett skip his vest because it hurts his tummy.  Ellery gets days off on her vest on Sunday and Saturday.

I forget how little I know of what the future holds.

It's hard to go back and remember what I've shelved from that painful winter last year.

I guess it can be okay to bring everything back again and remind me of things even more important than practicing the piano and cooking without refined sugar and processed, gunk filled foods.

Waking Up Again

The day before Thanksgiving the children had appointments with their pulmonologist at Primary Children's Hospital in SLC.  We were happy and confident that the changes we implemented the last 6 months would show remarkable improvement in the children.  Everyone seemed relatively healthy.  Gymnastics and flute were building lung strength and capacity...

The doctor nodded along smiling, as we explained how well everyone was doing.  Yes we have had 3 courses of antibiotics in 3 months for those nasty exacerbations that just don't seem to go away, but...

Then came the PFT's (pulmonary function tests).  We were in a hurry to get out of the office and back to Mimi's for Cousin's Camp, so I pushed to nurses and respiratory therapists to hurry.  I took note of the all the red on Ellery's PFT's.  I knew it wasn't looking good.  I wasn't prepared for the phone call from the doctor 30 minutes later.

Ellery's lung function had dropped 35% in her large airways and over 70% in her small airways.  This was precipitous and unacceptable.  She would need to start a vigorous course of antibiotics, increased airway clearance therapy to 14x per week, and a new nebulized medication.  In 2 weeks if her PFT's were not at baseline, we could expect to be in the hospital for IV antibiotics.  You can't drop 35% too many times before you get to zero.

The Interim

You can probably imagine what the ensuing 2 -1/2 weeks held.  Raw emotions in large doses.  We tried to shield Ellery from this information, but one night she happened to be sitting just out of sight at the top of the stairs while Brent and I were expressing our fears.  With Ellery in on the news, our anxiety just kept growing.  Often times I would find her just crying.  Scared.  I think eventually we helped allay most of her fears and even got her a little peaked about the attention and excitement we would provide with a Christmas hospital stay...  We put on a lot of brave faces.

It was easy to think...no way.  This isn't real.  She is fine.  I was ready to fight the doctors.  But then...what if I am wrong.  We waited.  We all ate cloves of crushed garlic.  Missing vest treatments was no longer an option.

The Best Gift

And then came the best gift.  On December 13th Ellery passed her PFT's with flying colors.  No further permanent lung damage, no psuedomonis, no hospitalizations.

The only thing we wanted for Christmas this year...we got.


First Flute Recital

Ellery "decorated" and insisted on ringlets framing her face.
Ellery designed this program.  Font choice was
particularly important to her :)

Ellery our "born performer" had a great spotlight moment for her first flute recital.  We had a conflict with her teacher's studio recital, so we decided to have our own.  Ellery made up a program and invited her friends, cousins and neighbors.

Amber, Ellery's fantastic flute teacher.
On the fly, she added an extra piece she sightread the day before.  (She didn't mention that to me until an hour or two before the recital.)

The flute has been an interesting progression for Ellery.  While I vigilantly practice the piano daily with the girls, I drew a limit at one instrument.  She practices the flute alone. I know this is not even remotely as effective, but I just couldn't add another thing to my plate.  Piano is so exhausting emotionally.  So we set the kitchen timer for 45 minutes and she "practices."  This usually happens while I am piano practicing with Callista.

Marilyn our babysitter, neighbor, and amazing musical prodigy
and example to my children.  She accompanied Ellery.
There are quite a few bathroom breaks and a lot of "Disney" sight reading, but at least she is playing and as you will see, in a year she has made quite a bit of progress.  If we had a little more time to practice with her accompanist we could have worked out some of the kinks but when all was said and done, Ellery is a performer and she pulls out all the stops come show time.


 Ellery's teacher Amber, is working on her Masters Degree in Flute Performance at BYU.  She is first chair in the chamber orchestra.  I have been so pleased at the time and attention she gives Ellery.  I found her by contacting the head of the BYU flute department.  I interviewed about 6 potential teachers, and had them play for us.  Ellery and I both felt Amber would be a perfect fit and we haven't been disappointed.


"O Christmas Tree"  Unfortunately sometimes I forget I have to keep my iphone a certain direction or my video's are cockeyed.  Oops.  This is the piece she learned in a day.  I love the jazzy version!

Marilyn, our weekly babysitter, is another blessing in our life.  She is brimming with personality and talent.  Each week when Brent and I return we coax her into a recital.  It usually includes a little Debussy or Chopin, top notch!  I love having my children exposed to such a darling, talented girl.

She really saved the day during "Jesu" by following Ellery, who seemed to miss every entrance.  But with just 3 run throughs, I'm not sure what else to expect.  Again, I don't give the flute the same attention as the piano.  The recital seemed to creep up on us without warning.  But, here it is the final number...

"Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"

This is quite a bit of beginner flute footage.  In the future I will be better about creating a video collage of sorts with excerpts.  It will be easier listening :)


It's All in the Details

I love that Emmett hangs his underwear.


November Piano Recital

Callista persevered through a dangerous piano bench slip-sliding away.

The camera was knocked out of my hand part way through so it gets a bit sketchy at the end.


Fall Festivities

 Farm Fun...

A walk up stream

Spooky Halloween

Only picture I had of Ellery as "Prom Queen"

Spooky food, witch bread sticks and spider tootsie rolls.

I threw an impromptu Halloween Bash.  Over 30 people.  It was wild.

Helped Monica with an awesome 1/2 marathon PR in St. George.


Science Fair

Successful Science Fair Projects for Elementary and Middle School Students 

Whether your children are in public schools or home educated, no child can or should escape Science Fair.  Science Fair can spark passion and excitement for Science and research in young children.  However, the parents must approach the project properly, directing their child to a successful, rewarding, educational experience.

As a former Biology teacher and Science Fair organizer I found, most crucial to a positive experience is choosing the right project.  Most critical to the learning experience is the critical analysis.  In a critical analysis you can help your child see the weaknesses in his/her project, unexpected results, experimental design mistakes, and ideas to make the project better in the future.   It is the Scientific Method at its best.

What made me think about all this Science Fair stuff?

Ellery participated in a Mad Scientist Week,  put on as a homeschool workshop.  The workshop included a teacher and about 12 children ages 8-13.  She had a wonderful time.  Activities included bottle rockets, a frog dissection, lots of fun chemistry solutions, and catapults.  Resulting from some communication issues, I found out Thursday afternoon there was a Science Fair on Saturday.  Whoa.

To understand my emotions, you have to realize Science Fair was my "baby" when I taught school.  I put my heart and soul into it for at least 4 months of every school year.  I demanded excellence.  Project ideas were turned in months before the deadline.  Weeks later research, weeks later hard data, weeks later I would teach them to make computerized spreadsheets and graphs... the progression continued until a final project emerged.

Ellery with her Science Fair Project

I always prefer typed posters, but at this age it really hinders children's participation.  As soon as they are comfortable typing, everything should be typed.  Until then, I will cringe at the handwritten posters!

 Putting together a Science Fair project in two days?  Certainly I realized this would be a major
scale-down.  But Ellery was passionate about doing a project, even though it was optional.  Of course, I would support her.

Choosing an Appropriate Elementary/Middle School Age Science Fair Project

As teacher, I soon realized the most difficult part of Science Fair for students was choosing a project. I pled with them to choose something they were interested in and passionate about, relating to a hobby, talent, or collection.  At an elementary and middle school level, I think very social projects are of high interest to children.  Anything that requires them to survey or test their friends, neighbors and family is usually a hit.  It is a great way to make Science fun.

(Note:  As students get older and become more competitive, the project's demand more variable control and standardization.  Using human subjects becomes much more difficult, it also requires a lot of red tape, but can be done.)

I recommend avoiding model projects like the "volcano."  Students will not experience the scientific method in nearly the same amount of depth.  Rarely is the model a true model.  Usually they just "appear" to be a model.  Be creative.  Think about what your child and family love and go with it.

Keys to a successful Elementary School Age Science Fair Project: 

 Interest, Involvement, Analysis

For Ellery's project she choose to investigate the relationship between arm circumference and the number of pushups an individual could complete.  It was right up her gymnastics alley, and she dove in with fervor.  She ended up testing 25 people.  She taught correct form and asked several informational questions.  She then made graphs and I helped her analyzed her data and experimental design.  After examining the data it was clear to her she had not controlled enough variables to have any valid results.  Her Dad (100 pushups: the most by 66) and her little sister (30 pushups: the third highest and she had the smallest arm.  Gymnastics seems to be doing something.) were amazing outliers! A wonderful lesson.

Callista is so competitive.  She was horrified when our 11 year old neighbor tied her record.
His pushups weren't nearly as legitimate.  She begged for a second chance, but Ellery was a stickler.
No second chances.  I think Callista had at least 10 more in her.
The most important things I looked for as a teacher in a Science Fair Project were:

1.  Does the student understand the weaknesses in their design and data?
2.  Can the student recognize errors and account for outliers (data that are completely out of the normal range)?
3.  Does the student know how to create a better project next time?

Helping your child to really understand and answer these questions, should kickstart the learning experience, and you probably will come up with a great piggyback idea for your next project.  Now you've done the hardest part and can really delve into the research and create a superior project in the future.

To sum things up:

  • Choose a project centered around a passion.
  • Consider projects involving lots of participation from family and friends.
  • Spend time on a great critical analysis, use it as a springboard for further exploration and learning.

Any questions?  I'd be happy to help. I'm not an expert, but I do love it.  In fact I had a hard time not ordering a skin caliper on Amazon for Ellery's next project, which will have to include BMI and body fat!


A Place for Bribery

I admit.  Bribery has a place in my methodology.  Nothing spells incentive and excitement like a little bottle of glittery, glow-in-the-dark nail polish!

I'm amazed how fun the children think it is to earn a new pair of socks.  The socks are a necessary expenditure in the first place, why not make them serve a sneaky purpose?  This is my most genius stroke in a while.  My children probably get too much in the first place, so I better make them work a bit harder for everything they do receive.   Actually my inspiration for this concept was the book The Five Love Languages of Children.  My SIL gave me the book a couple years ago.  It was worthwhile read.  I loved the idea of making things like a new toothbrush special to children, who thrive on gifts.  I never would have thought of wrapping a toothbrush.

Usually I attach prizes to very measurable tasks.  Currently Callista is working on completing math fact sheets of 25 problems in one minute.  For the nail polish she has to master her "doubles plus one's."  Ellery is working for 100 problems in under 2 minutes, with an end goal of beating me in 63 seconds.

I usually tie their tasks to one another (both have to pass off a goal to earn a single nail polish), to promote team unity, rather than compare and compete.  But some rewards remain individual, especially if I feel like one of the children has worked especially hard.

What you won't find me rewarding or bribing with is food.  Probably this strategy will lose novelty if used too often, like most things, but it is fun to incorporate with spelling, math and gymnastics.


A Learning Treasure

Meet the Dictionary Stand.

Our newest family member.  

Several years ago Brent's Grandma gave us this amazing 1910 Edition of Webster's Dictionary.  It is a dream come true for my book loving heart.   Instilling a love of language and books in my family tops my parenting and educational priorities.

Staged.  But cute nonetheless!
Notice the screwdriver in Emmett's hand.  Huh?

When Brent first brought this treasure home from his Grandma's, I instinctively knew I wanted it on a dictionary stand.  They say an open dictionary, on a stand, can be one of the most effective and influential learning centers in the home.  Somehow there is no comparison if the book is closed on a shelf.

Alas, bookstands are expensive so I delayed.  Thanks to several amazon gift cards, this black beauty arrived today.  At long last the dictionary is open for use.  My children aren't tall enough but a little stool quickly remedies the situation.


Visions of Emmett Idaho (sort of)

Each morning drive to the gym brings Emmett and I past this lovely chemical plant.  (Gyms always seem to located in the industrial section of town.)  This storage tower immediately elicits from Emmett the following:  "Mom it is Emmett, Idaho!"  Which inevitably draws a chuckle from me.

On our road trip to Oregon, we passed through a town called Emmett, Idaho.  It was monumental for Emmett.  Apparently the distinguishing features in his mind were the abundant grain towers.  Chemical tower.  Grain tower.  It's all the same, right?  Hmmm.


Love at First Sight

Notice the inevitable "road-rash" on the face, resulting from the first days of walking.

Sometimes we have unintentional toy rotations in our house.  I put away great toys, which the kids don't seem to be playing with, until another time.  (I try to give away the majority of unused toys as often as I can, when the kids aren't looking, but the timeless toys I keep.)  Dolls have lost priority in the battle against Barbie, so all our darling little dolls went dormant.  I spent the weekend organizing closets (it feels so wonderful when it is done).  Berkeley was wandering around the girls room and happened to toddle into the storage closet.

Berkeley meets dolly.               oh how I wish I had caught those delighted giggles on camera...

Berkeley and dolly become inseparable.

Dolly gets all the kisses and snuggles.

No one teaches little girls these things.  It is simultaneously amazing and adorable.


Something to be Grateful For...

...this is Berkeley's prominent double chin in our self-portrait, not mine.

They keep telling me she is only the 5th percentile...not real sure about that one!


Stealing Moments

I steal moments with my babies whenever I can.  One opportunity is Friday afternoons while the girls are away at art class.  No one was taking a nap, so we braved the 40 degrees and drizzle and crossed the street to the park.
Our other favorite private time is while the girls are at gym.  This one is a little trickier, because I have to simultaneously make dinner for a portion of it.  Emmett begs all day to play "Father and Sons."  The "fathers" are his four wheelers and the "sons" the hot wheels.  He is always the "Father" and I am the "sons."  We begin by going over "the plant" (aka "the plan" which is a daily routine with the children and me).  Then the day proceeds with the Father and Sons.  Not sure why no Mother's are involved, but that is just how it is.  

Emmett and I also have our grammar parties.  Proper pronoun placement is elusive for rocket boy.  A typical sentence includes his most cherished pronoun "them" multiple times.  "Them are getting them shoes on."  

Two weeks ago we decided to put tubes in Berkeley's ears.  What a miracle it has been for this little girl.  Her speech exploded and she's walking.  I have mixed emotions.  I was taking such pride in her primate gait, and then in 3 days she completely abandoned it and started walking exclusively.  In fact, her balance is uncanny, compared to before tubes.  My baby is now an official toddler.

A final note on babies growing up.  The day after my sweet little RocketBoy post, with Emmy's nukie in his mouth, we somehow lost his pacifier.  I didn't lose it on purpose, but we went with it.  Emmett is now nukie-free.  He claims it is because he is a big boy.

A very real part of this mother wants to find that nukie and keep The Honey crawling around on the ground.


The Acorn

The Acorn by Francis William Bourdillon
An acorn swung
On an oak-tree bough;
So long it had hung,
It would fain fall now
To the kindly earth,
That its germ within
Might burst into birth,
And its life begin.
And the autumn came
With its burning hand,
And each leaf grew a flame,
And each bough a brand.
And a worm came up
And began to eat
Through the hard, dry cup
To the acorn sweet.
And the acorn thought,
“I shall soon see now
The life I have sought,
When I fall from the bough;
For the worm gnaws through
Each tendon slight,
That about me grew,
And bound me tight.”
And with dying day
Came the zephyr’s sound;
And the acorn lay
Next morn on the ground;
But its germ was gone
By the worm’s sharp teeth;
And the ground it had won
Was its grave in death. 

I love this poem, perfect to memorize this time of year.  

What I love:  the alliteration, the exquisite imagery, the meaningful symbolism, and the engaging content for even the little ones.  


Special Delivery

No snafu's this year.  Registered on time.  I'm going for it!


Josephina's Authentic Mexican Salsa

The trick to this salsa is blackening on a cast iron skillet.  Make sure not to stir too much.
You want dark black patches on the veggies.  

The first almost 4 years of our marriage we lived in a charming, basement apartment (albeit creeping with cockroaches, the entire neighborhood was) of the most wonderful family from Mexico.  We learned a lot living with them, and one of the biggest take-aways was Josephina taught me how to make her delicious salsa.

Brent and I would beg her to make us salsa, as much as was possibly tactful.  Finally, I asked for the recipe.  I made several batches.  No comparison.  They all fell flat.

I decided I needed a live tutoring session.  After several careful observations, my salsa improved dramatically.  I discovered Josephina and I were from the same mold.  We don't like recipes and rarely stick to one.

I watched her like a hawk, and this salsa is the best semblance.  I may have posted this before, but it is worth reposting.

Josephina's Authentic Mexican Salsa

1 can tomatoes or 5-10 fresh roma's
1  onion, yellow or red
¼-1/2  c cilantro
1 t cumen
1 t coriander (opt)
1 t salt
Juice of 1 lime
½-1 jalenpeno
Turn heat onto high and blacken tomatoes, onion and jalepeno on a cast iron skillet.  Combine the rest of ingredients into blender or food processor.  Process.  Add tomatoes and onions and process gently until desired consistency is reached.  


Almond Milk Smoothies

Brent and I recently watched the documentary "Forks Over Knives."  It is based primarily on The China Study. The premise is: what you eat keeps you from having to "go under the knife."  We both felt inspired to recommit to a more vegan lifestyle, back to 95% instead of probably 85%.  Dairy is our only hang up, and has been creeping its way into the children's diets especially.

My neighbor brought me a great vegan chocolate smoothie a while back, it was a hit.  We've altered and expanded with excellent results.  The best thing about these is how easy they are.  Enjoy these dairy and gluten free smoothies recipes:

You can make your own almond or coconut milk, or find a high quality organic brand without a bunch of additives. Costco sells almond milk by the case.

A week ago, I received a coupon in the mail for a Jamba Juice Pumpkin Smoothie.  
It looked delicious and I knew I had to create version for our family.   
Next up pumpkin ice cream!  Tis the season. 

Pumpkin Smash

Almond Milk
1/4-1/2 c Grade B Organic Maple Syrup
3/4 cup of pumpkin puree (unsweetened, not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 t vanilla
1 t pumpkin pie spice (or just mix cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little cloves)

Fill blender half full of ice. Cover with almond milk. 
Add maple, pumpkin, vanilla and spice. Blend and serve.  Makes about 5 servings.

Chocolate Malt

Almond Milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup Cocoa powder
1/4 - 1/2 cup Natural sweetener (Grade B OrganicMaple Syrup, agave or are good choices)
1-2 Bananas (fresh or reconstituted freeze dried)
A tablespoon or two of barley malt syrup to give it a "malty" flavor (optional)

Fill blender half full of ice. Cover with almond milk. 
Add banana, cocoa, natural sweetener and malt if desired. Blend and serve.
Use your leftovers to make delicious popsicle treats for later.

Favorite Fruit

Frozen fruit. Pick your favorite! (strawberries, peaches, blueberries, bananas)
6 ice cubes
1/4 - 1/2 cup natural sweetener
Almond Milk

Fill blender with frozen berries. Cover with almond milk. Add sweetener and ice. Blend.