Jul 27, 2011


I have heard tell of children needing some time (upwards of a year) to decompress from their school experiences before they are ready to attempt curriculum or any sort of organized homeschooling. This gives them time to unlearn negative behaviors, feelings, and even unwelcome educational methods.

I have found with Teilee that the first couple of months she needed extreme amounts of alone time at home. She craves this time the most in the early mornings. When we were homeschoolers she couldn't wait to get out of the house. Daily trips were requested and we were limited mostly by my energy or lack of. Recently she is still craving home time but she is beginning to turn to her brother again. When she was in school she had a hard time playing with him. When she was home at night or on the weekend, she wanted to be alone. When she played with him it was not creative, inclusive play. It was non-cooperative and often antagonistic. I have heard many times over by parents that they do not have the patience to homeschool. I am amazed at how much more patience I needed when she was in school because of the personality changes and the strain in the sibling dynamics.

Landis has waited a long time for his big sister to return to him. To embrace him as a playmate, and friend and to play long hours of creative games with him. She helps him work on his workbook and loves to teach him anything he is willing to learn. I am absolutely astounded at what we lost when she went to school. This is only highlighted by what we have gained as she has been recovering from her school experience.

Several times in the last week they have insisted on playing nearly the entire day together in creative joy. This may not last or at least not at the intensity of which they are playing constantly now and so well together. However, right now I am so overwhelmed by this feeling of gratitude. That I know we are making the best decision for our family and for the kids by entering again into homeschooling.

Jul 21, 2011

Chicken in the Sink

My mind has wondered lately to the ideal. What that is? How that exists in the imperfect and impermanence of life? As a family we take as much time that we can to plug in to the moment to realize its beauty. To acknowledge the gravity of where we are. That this will pass whether we wish it to or not. We try to breathe in the moments, whatever they may be. Change seems to be what has caused havoc and created new beauty in our lives. I am pondering this as I am standing next to Blackbird, our Americana chicken, as she bathes in our kitchen sink. Something is wrong with her, we believe she is egg bound. She is one of our oldest chickens and perhaps it is just her time. The last chicken we had died in 24 hours from this. I was not about to take any measures to save the last one, it is just a chicken I said, livestock. I still feel that way, but I am softened. If there is something I can do, I do. So here I am, making sure she doesn't decide to jump out of her warm bath, drinking my tea and talking to her as she softly clucks back. I am clearly not the rough and tough farmer I idealized upon embarking on urban homesteading. I am some mixture of gentle, grounded, tough, and a little strange.

It is a moment that I appreciate. The humor of it, the gravity, the change it means has come to me. Whether this chicken in this moment survives, we will soon know. This was a beautiful space in time to contemplate who I am and what I am working towards.
*The sink has been thoroughly disinfected.

Jul 8, 2011

Recent Art Work

Ketchup Jelly Fish

Follow Your Neck (not completed yet)

Shades of Grey

Jul 2, 2011

How to turn Eight

It has been many years since we have attempted a birthday party. I have loved our small, intimate, family parties. After our busy spring when Teilee asked for a large party I knew I would have to be crazy to say yes. The reasons why we all deserved a big party began to whine in my head and suddenly I was anxiously awaiting the inevitable large party with all of our friends. Fortunately for myself, Teilee has excellent taste in friends. It was almost as though the party was for me!!
In advance I made a lovely wooden banner. Made from wooden rounds and painted with letters. It says, "Happy Birthday". I also made a banner that says "Teilee" and one that says "Landis". These will eventually become headboard decorations (without the happy birthday part).

I love multipurpose, reusable items that have been made from reclaimed materials. It sorta fits in with our Wooden Toy Garden lifestyle.

We decided to have a morning pancake party. The idea was gifted to me by a lovely friend and we couldn't have been happier about it. We had it at City Park beginning at 9:30-11:30 with a bring-your-own-lunch invitation after the party, and a trip to the pool after lunch. How lucky is our town to have a place like City Park and it's pool.

This was Teilee's party so it was dinosaur themed of course. We had a design your own necklace table and a create your own dinosaur garden. This was based on a traditional Waldorf activity, gnome garden building. We just substituted the gnomes for dinosaurs and viola! The kids crafted, played on the play ground and ate breakfast at our gluten free, dairy free, corn free, soy free pancake bar. We had coffee, juice, pancakes, homemade honey syrup, hard boiled eggs, lots of fresh fruit and veggies. Our guests brought their own plates and utensils to help reduce waste. Although I do wish I had brought extra plates, napkins, forks, cups etc... Thank goodness my parents were in town to help out! They prepared all of the fruits and vegetables, ran and defrosted the 100 pancakes (we had to premake some during the week and freeze them until the day of the party), went out and purchased extra plates and utensils, watched kids during the party, and cleaned up after the party as well. I am sure I forgot a few hundred things they did.

After everyone had gotten their craft on, eaten, and played thoroughly, I told Teilee's rainbow bridge story. Teilee is in the middle (purple and white dress) with the happy smile on her face.

The rainbow bridge story is one that we always tell. Teilee asks for it every year and can't wait to see how it changes. To prepare for the story it requires me to take some time to reflect on Teilee's past and how she has grown to be this child that she is. I share a little something about each year that she has been on earth.
Gifts were not requested, nor required, nor desired and yet they appeared. Her friends know her so well. Dinosaur inspired, carefully homemade, lovingly created gifts.

Then the kids ate and daddy took them swimming with some friends while Mommy, Grandma Lee, and Papa cleaned up!
We wound down the evening at home.

With cake of course. Teilee allowed me to do brownies instead of cake (Thank you, Thank you, Thank you). It is also our tradition that I make a cake into something, or decorate a cake in some special way. Brownies are just as capable of being designed as cake is!

Teilee unwrapped her gift from Grandma Lee and Papa Ken, and immediately showed us her sense of humor.

I am not sure if we can pull this off every year, nor do I aspire to. At least this year, we gave her a party to remember. Introducing my eight year old!

Jun 7, 2011

Creating ideal

Ideal moments are created randomly with intention.

One random day, in the middle of the errands, in the space of our to-dos, we pause often in the moments to remember why we are working hard and where our energies are best spent.

May 2, 2011

May Day/Beltane= Maeaster or Ostaltane

Whew......after all we have been up against we postponed our Easter celebration this year.
We celebrated Ostara a month ago where we had our egg hunt and spring celebration, so I wasn't to worried about missing out on Easter Day festivites. Mommy is tight with the Bunny so I asked if he would come back when we were ready. He asked that I set out our eggs, once colored, and he would come and hide them and leave treats for the kids. Well, that day was a big day for us. That night we scrambled to get our eggs dyed (no pun intended). Red onion skin, red beets, golden beets, and turmeric (or what I had on hand) combined with vinegar and boiled in water left our house smelling strange. Then add white eggs and our chickens multi colored eggs and voila! Easter Eggs! Landis had his spring festival fundraiser for his preschool that evening so we made the dyes rushed off to that and then came home around 9:00. The kids threw the eggs in and we let them sit overnight. The bunny took them out and hid them and left the kids a few treats.
The kids are most excited about the hunt. Second best is seeing what the bunny brought, and then there is the excitement over what color the eggs turn out to be. I am not sure what turned the eggs greenish-blue, but am pretty sure it was the onion skin.

We are still a rush. Now we can move at our pace, and I am giving up things that can be given up. Beltane has been an oversight, and that is a hard one to miss. I am craving a bonfire! The kids don't remember that Easter was late, they barely blink an eye that there was no May Day/Beltane festivities. They are just in the moment enjoying the hunt. We could have made it painful and stressful to pull of Easter, but we choose to cut ourselves some slack. Sometimes being a rotten mom is the only way to truly give your children unabashed joy and yourself a little breathing room! Now off to unpack, get the garden in, finish the floors, fix the plumbing, paint the bathroom, fix the toilet, repair the gutters, remodel the chicken coop, weed the yard, replace the windows, etc.......... Poco a poco.

Apr 22, 2011

The move


After. Same time of day, same light, different quality. Still not done, it will get better.

So the week of the move I had, just had to get sick. I pushed past it for the entirety of a morning before succumbing to the awful illness. For two days I stayed in bed, I slept for hours at a time. In and out of awareness. I managed to tend the kids with spurts to the kitchen and back to bed. Of course the kids enjoyed extra tv and lots of alone play time. It was Thursday before the virus began to transform into a secondary sinus infection. No problem for me, I got this. As a sufferer of chronic sinus infections I knew I could at least function. And of course, we had saved almost all the packing for that week, being utterly consumed with remodeling before then. Friday we packed. Or rather I packed, and rested, and packed, and rested.

Saturday morning it was clear that I was entering a third infection located in my chest. My voice all but disappeared as help arrived and we loaded our house into the truck. My chest hurt, breathing was shallow and painful, and I was having a hard time hearing due to the sinus infection (fish bowl syndrome I call it). We loaded until around noon and traveled to the new house to unload. We unloaded and ate lunch. Our help, beautiful helpers left. Nick and I returned to the old house and loaded 2/3rds of the garage into the truck. We picked up the kids from our awesome friends house and had dinner with a few friends/helpers and went home to spend the night at our new house.

Whew! Sunday morning help arrived to load the remaining garage items and than we were off to unload at the new house. Then to lunch and then I collapsed. My voice was a labored whisper with spurts of sound.

This week we have been setting up the house, unpacking, and taking the kids to and from school and school events. T has 5 field trips in a week and a half!
Mid week, Nick finally caught what I had. He has missed work for two days and today he slept for 8 hours during the day.

The other day I slipped on the stairs, my left hand was in my back pocket fishing for a lost item and leaving me helpless to catch myself. As I flailed wildly with my right arm to catch something I slammed my back, rear, and neck into the steps as I bounced to a stop near the bottom. Ow. I admit, I cried. The house bit back. A nasty rug burn on my arm, bruises, and a few sore bones are recovering.
It is kinda poetic. Sorta how I feel emotionally.......slammed.

I am feeling like I have a few post traumatic move issues and need to get it all out. We are so happy and joyous to be in our new home. It will be the best thing for us. The daily walks/bike rides to the kids schools have been heavenly. The help we received was phenomenal. My friends gave more than they could give and I am still in shock/awe at how much gratitude I feel. We slammed this move together and so many wonderful friends were there to make it happen for us. I am swimming in emotion. Sadness for leaving our house/home, years of torturous unknowing, stress over the time frame which with we had to remodel and move, stress over what is on hand, extreme overwhelming gratitude and appreciation for my life, my house, my friends, my family, my children, my husband, life.

I am sure this one is gonna take a while to heal.

Apr 11, 2011

A portrait of a chicken coop move

The best laid plans are sort of like the leftover chicken egg in the nesting box, you might get there a little cracked but hopefully you are still delicious.

What's the best way to transport chickens? Dirty Bit says hello new home, the other 12 stay tucked away.

Three of the misses enjoying a meal before settling in for the night at their new home.

Next week: Humans

Apr 5, 2011

Before & After

The faucet was leaky, it had to be replace. When removing the old faucet there was a problem, the entire sink had to come out. The new-to-us sink was discovered months ago at our local construction thrift store ReSource. (The same store where the new-to-us faucet was found.) We seized the opportunity. I do not have a current picture of the entire transformation, however it is done.

Mar 21, 2011


My lovely sister Katelin plugged us into the movie "My Neighbor Totoro". A tale of two sisters whose bravery and curiosity allow them to discover three forest sprites they call Totoro. Totoro has been watched, during our failed 'no-tv month', many times and the kids love the adventures, magic, and wonder that unfolds at Totoro's fingers.
Snack one day became the three furry woodland sprites complete with an umbrella.
The kids happily slurped and giggled while devouring Totoro. I can't believe that we had not discovered Totoro before now.

We since have watched Ponyo by the same animator. Watching Ponyo became a bit eerie with all that is happening in Japan currently. It is about a fish-child who wants to become human for a boys love and her love of the boy. In doing so she unintentionally moves the moon closer and thus floods the world. The world created is beautiful, richly diverse, and spellbinding. The movie did allow for conversation to flow about the topic of the tsunami in Japan over the dinner table, and helped the children to understand the gravity of the situation without having all of the fear. These movies have held our wonderment and indulged our sense of creativity and exploration. I am so glad that Kati introduced us!

Mar 15, 2011

Two and a Half weeks

I am working hard to try and stay in a place of gratitude and joy. In some cases it is exceptionally easy. We have always desired to flip houses and are having the divine pleasure of experiencing our own knowledge, abilities, and creativity. We are two and half weeks into our Frat-house-flip. We are intent on making our space livable so we can move in, in a few short weeks, with the hope of continuing to remodel while living there. We are enjoying the process. This last weekend mom came to visit which allowed us to work whenever we could without the kids there. The relief and complete appreciation for the help we have received is overwhelming. So many offers for help that I am feeling a deep adoration for my life and those fabulous people I am allowed to share it with.

I am recording as much as I possibly can, short videos and photos. These I intend to use on our www.woodentoygarden.com blog. We are working hard to fit this remodel into our own green/sustainable focus. While the transformation has been slow going (by my standards) we have achieved so much which is evidenced by the photos. We have filled thousands of holes, patched walls, patched ceilings, scraped the acoustic popcorn off of all the ceilings, taken down a wall, ripped out the carpet, removed the tile, prepped the walls, molding, doors, kitchen cabinets, and ceilings for painting, primed everything, painted the ceilings, repaired and prepped floors, and more. There are so many little details.

Of course all of this in on top of our lives and the kids are missing our focus and attention. This weekend was the longest amount of time that they have been away from us. For four days we worked as hard and long as we possibly could coming home after midnight most days. Of course it was still not as much time as we needed to get done as much as we wanted! Today mom left and I am so tired I am ready to pass out! The kids want my attention and I barely am standing. I want to find a way to sleep and then enjoy my kids. Balance.
I do not want to abandon the value most dear to me. The focus and balance and joy we reach to experience. I also am not sure how not to give that up. I just don't have time! After we move there will be more projects but we will be able to pick when we want to do them and at our own pace rather than our looming moving date.
We are only two and a half weeks in. I keep saying it because it feels like it has been forever and not enough at the same time. I must remind myself that I have more time and I have done so much already.

Mar 6, 2011


So tonight, exhausted from a day of remodeling the new house and being with our children we realized we hadn't planned a dinner. A trip to whole foods was in order. Near the end of our time there, I was engaged in a conversation with Teilee about homeschooling and public schooling. I looked up and realized that a little girl, around 1 years old, across the aisle a few table to our North was grabbing her mothers sleeve and pointing at me. Several times she pointed, so of course I waved and smiled. She lunged toward her mom with a help me sort of fuss. I assumed I had frightened her and so immediately said, "I 'm sorry" to the mom. Than I turned back to Teilee and a second later I see the girl being set on the ground and she is making a mad dash for our table. She walks around and comes right up to me with her arms outstretched in a pick me up move. Apparently the fussing was, "quick mom, quick mom get me down I want to go to her." She climbed into my lap and sat gazing up at me for 10 min. I asked her her name and she pointed to herself and said, "ya". Than she pointed to me, I told her my name was Andi. I asked her parents her name and it was Ava. I introduced her to the kids, they introduced her to their toys, we sang a few songs to her, she showed us her clapping and waving skills. I think she would have sat in my lap gazing at me for an hour, but we had to leave at some point. I took her back to her seat and put her in her booster. She smiled and waved bye and blew me a kiss. Her parents were astounded. They said she has always been social, but never has she so vehemently sought out someone and been that comfortable. I felt so honored. I have been wondering why me? I must have looked like someone she knew, but wouldn't her parents know that that was the case? They said they didn't have a clue why. Maybe Ava saw me parenting the kids and wanted to participate, but she wasn't really interested in the kids, just me. I really do feel special. She made my night!

Mar 3, 2011

and if that weren't enough....

I just love this picture. It is how I feel, flying high and hoping we are gonna land safely.

These days I spiral from feelings of inadequacy to holy-hell I'm a bad ass. Someday N and I will look back on these days with pride and wonderment at the inner strength we have had. My Current Laundry List:

  • N is enrolled in 18 credit hours (Mon-Fri from 8:00-12:00)
  • N is working part time (4 nights a week from 2 or 3 - 10:30)
  • We are running two home businesses, The Wooden Toy Garden, and my own documentation preparation and editing business.
  • T attends school where momma volunteers weekly (at least once)
  • L attends 3 days a week preschool for 3 hours. This is a co-op which means momma has a committee to work on, volunteers for field trips and holidays and parties, and is teach parent approx twice a month.
  • We are preparing to move to a new home.
  • We are remodeling said new home to make it livable.
  • The kids are in a rec program (one day a week each for a few hours)
  • Mommy is taking a religion course every Sat. morn. (9:30-12:00)
  • Various family holiday celebrations, communications with families and friends, playdates, doctors appointments, life
  • We live in poverty
Through the week N leaves at 7:45 am for school. He bike commutes since we are a one car family. (The kids and I bike commute in warmer weather to save gas, and get some great exercise.) In the really cold temperatures I became his chafur, which gave us a few more minutes together each day. N gets home around noon and does homework or sometimes dishes (since our dishwasher broke many months ago, we try to keep up). He leaves at 1:4o or 2:4o for work and than comes home around 10:30 at night (often later) and does homework.
So for 4 days in the week T sees Daddy in the morning for 15 min (she wakes around 7:30) and that's it. N is doing really really really well in school. I am so proud of his effort and commitment. I try to mirror those efforts at home.

The poverty issue I included because it is a massive time factor. When my family has a need (like underwear, not like a new dishwasher) I check freecycle, craigslist, my mom, my friends and as a last resort the thrift stores, but only if I can afford it. Many years I have learned to live without plastic bags, haircuts, pants, aluminum foil, shampoo, etc. In my creative, problem solving brain I sometimes find the absolute joy in the lets-just-see-what-happens. Can we live without it? I believe that my kids would neither identify themselves as have-not's nor would other persons find them lacking. My gifts through this time have been simplicity and family unity, not to be taken lightly. Also the extreme gift of being supported. I am beyond lucky, joyously fortunate! I have a family without which we would be miserable and depleted. I have a community that steps in when I need them to, and is there to lend any hand they have. And let me clarify, by poverty I mean as a family of four we make below poverty levels for a two person family. I read a story today about a poor destitute family of four who were barely making it. They could only feed their children carrots, peanut butter, and applesauce for lunch. My first thought was, "they can afford applesauce?!" They were the poverty stricken ones worthy of a news story and they made over twice what our family made. I am guessing the persons writing the story couldn't imagine anyone surviving/thriving on less.

I cook nutritious, whole, organic foods every meal. We eat GF, DF, Sugar almost-free, processed grains almost-free, and T doesn't eat nuts or chocolate (except at school). All of these food restrictions have helped us to stay healthy and have been guided by our doctor. Picky eaters and all, we are doing it. Once a week we eat dinner with Daddy at work. I organize and purge, and now pack every day. I do the taxes and budget. I laugh and play with the kids alot! We plan our weekly meals and shop once a week (I am hoping to extend at least the planning part to once monthly). I take my Sat. class as a weekly time commitment for myself. It is something I look forward to, and it won't last forever. I tend the chickens, hamster, and cats. I cut hair, trim nails, brush teeth. I am trying to design our new living space and have come up a little empty. I have lots of ideas, but they feel incomplete, they feel separate and uninspired. I haven't had the time for much music making, picture taking, sew happening, scrapbooking, painting, or other artistic enrichment. Today I looked at pictures of a friend's home (I have always admired her style) and felt so inadequate. I know some of it took money but the vast majority of creation came from her brain, her left brain. I am gonna have to find some moments of free time to find my muse. To expand the creativity that has been repressed by To-Do's. I am ready to get my hands beautifully dirty.

So we got a lot....going on, but that is the good news we got a lot....going on!:) I am so excited to be able to remodel a home. To get creative, to watch something come together, to build for a better future. We are moving towards something and that feels so dang powerful.
Today I am trying to live in the present moment of being overwhelmed.

My version of beautifully dirty.

My new umberella!