Earth Day Family Meeting 2012

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Earth Day Family Meeting 2012

The Earth is a living, conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water, and earth.

Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood, and the body of the Mother, or as blessed gifts of a creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.

To call these things sacred is to say that they have a value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves become the standards by which our acts, our economics, our laws, and our purposes must be judged. No one has the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.

All people, all living beings, are part of the earth life, and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom. Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirit flourish in its full diversity.

To honor the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustinance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive. To honor the sacred is to make love possible.

To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives.

~ by Starhawk

After reading this to the kids, we talked about ways we could help right now to care for our Earth and we wrote them in our family journal. Zofia was too busy picking at the plants and marveling over the candles to do any guided meditation or quiet reflection, but we had a nice discussion and enjoyed being together, since it was rainy and cold outside.

Happy Earth Day!

Welcoming Spring 2012 ~ Family Meeting

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Family Meeting ~ Welcoming Spring 2012

We celebrated the Spring Equinox by getting getting our seedlings planted
and talking about our plans for this year's garden. Zofia and Joe competed
for the watermelon seeds, and Flo decided to plant the herbs in her little
patch of garden this year. The other garden boxes will hopefully host an
array of veggies, including lettuce, spinach, chard, tomatoes, peppers,
squash, cucumbers and carrots.

We talked about the symbolism of Spring, including fertility and re-birth,
and how it's an opportunity to let go of unwanted energy and welcome in new
things. We all took "The Positive Pledge" from, along
with our continued efforts from the "Complaint-Free World" challenge, we
will continue to focus on letting our thoughts and actions reflect
optimism, faith, love, strength, determination and kindness. While Darren
and I certainly aren't perfect in the positivity department, I think just
letting the kids know that we are conscious of it, and value them doing so,
as well, is a good thing. I'm going to print out everyone a copy of the
pledge and put it around the house, as a reminder!

Today's wellness card says, "Nothing Happens Without My Having Invited It."
~ We talked about taking responsibility for the situations we may find
ourselves in and finding the lesson in the challenges.

There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.
You seek problems because you need their gifts. Richard Bach – Illusions

Closed the circle and played with some potting soil and seeds! 🙂

Welcome Spring!

Family Meeting ~ February 20, 2012

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Family Meeting ~ February 20, 2012

It's February, and it's all about the LOVE this month!

Love Unconditionally ~ Unconditional love is one of the greatest gifts you
can give to anyone, so why note include yourself?

Opening prayer:
The waters support and surround me.
The land extends about me.
The sky reaches out above me.
At the center burns a living flame.

We talked about just what love actually is, and the words "life energy,"
and "Universe" came up… we looked to Eckhart Tolle for a little fodder
for reflection:

What is God? The eternal One Life underneath all the forms of life. What
is love? To feel the presence of that One Life deep within yourself and
within all creatures. To be it. Therefore, all love is the love of God.
~ Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Whoa. Deep! Not sure Joe's 9 year-old brain wrapped itself around the
entirety of that, but bits and peaces seeped through, and Flo has a solid
understanding of that divine spark in herself. Zofia just kept doodling
and wanting us to look at her artistic creations. Beautiful! I love
watching their understanding/exploration of life unfold. 🙂

We talked about ways we express love. The kids said things like "helping
with chores, giving hugs, being nice and telling someone you love them."

Doodled in our gratitude journal and closed the circle before Joe and
Darren had to rush off to hockey!

A good day!

Family Meeting ~ January 29, 2012

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Family Meeting ~ January 29, 2012

By the time we got going on our meeting today, it was already well into the evening, and I could tell the kids' attention spans would be limited. So, we kept it short and sweet this time. I made everyone a nice cup of chai tea with homemade hemp milk. We lit some candles, and said an opening prayer from A Child's book of Blessings. Then, we talked about some things we're grateful for and looking forward to, especially summer vacations.

We reiterated the importance of having a positive attitude, and how not taking care of ourselves well can affect our mood. This was in response to Joe's crabbiness, after a sleepover the previous day, where he didn't get enough sleep, and could hardly hold himself together by the time he got home. And, of course, I also have lots of experience with sleep issues, so I keep encouraging the kids to remember that a healthy sleep routine is just as important as healthy food.

We talked some "business" stuff about general budgeting and how we're saving for some vacations this summer, so we'll have to be frugal in other areas over the upcoming months. We want the kids to be aware of our money situation, but not burdened by any of it, so we keep it light and simple. Consume less = more space in your life for the good stuff.

We read a quote from the Wayseers book I'm reading about love, and how love never comes into your life uninvited. You have to be open to it (Love/Source of Life/God/etc) to truly benefit from its energy. And sometimes when we don't feel we can make it through a situation, being open to that energy of love (having faith) can pull us through, where we otherwise would feel alone in our struggle. Stopped there… don't want to get too philosophical when everyone's tired! LOL

Zofia danced around during our meeting and brought many trinkets to decorate her space on the table. We closed with another prayer from the A Child's book of Blessings and everyone went on their merry way.

Happy Holidays 2011

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Holiday Season 2011

Look at that! Winter already! In fact, we're smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season, racing towards the New Year! I always marvel at how fast time seems to be going these days, and wonder if it's simply a perceptive byproduct of an overly-busy life. Nonetheless, I'm along for the ride, on which, I try, though somewhat feebly, to slow down once and awhile, so we can enjoy the beautiful views on the way to where we're going.

And this year, those beautiful views have included cherished memories of our homeschooling journey with our kids. We're convinced they're teaching us more than we're imparting to them, but I do think we're rubbing off on them a bit.

Flo is twelve now, and has put to rest the stereotype of the unsocialized homeschooler. Her schedule is full of activities. Her best friend, Megan, just moved away, so she's missing her, but, of course, she's quite the computer savvy gal, fully adept in the whole social networking world, keeping in touch with friends all over the place.

Joe just turned nine, and is still an avid hockey player. His interests this year include utilizing his massive Lego collection to build all sorts of interesting creations. He's also into the whole Star Wars story now, too. We have been fairly prudent with the TV we let the kids watch, trying to minimize exposure to violent images and such while they're young. So, up until this week, Joe had never seen any of the Star Wars movies. We were surprised how much of the story he had already absorbed just as a byproduct of the culture he's in. So, we recently relented to let him watch the original movie, which of course, he thought was the BEST movie he's ever seen!

Zofia, now four, is keep us busy with answering tons of questions, like "Why is the sky blue?" and "Why does Daddy have hair on his face?" Surprisingly, the questions of a four year-old aren't always that easy to answer. Nonetheless, we give it our best shot.

Darren continues working for the Department of Veterans Affairs out of DC, but thankfully is still working at home, only commuting one day per week to update his casework. Working at home for the past few years has been a real gift. Of course, though it does come with some distractions, since his office right off our kitchen, Darren has really enjoyed having this time to spend with the kids while they're young.

And, as for me, I keep busy facilitating the whole family enterprise. Photographer, chef, seamstress, secretary, accountant, chauffer, computer operator, story teller, therapist, philosopher … those are just some of the roles I fill in this venture, but best of all are the titles of Mother and Friend. I really am blessed.

So, as we celebrate the Winter Solstice this week and look forward to spending time with friends and family over the Christmas holiday, we hope you all are well and eager to greet the New Year with ambitious goals or simply gratitude for that which you've already achieved.

Summer ReCap

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Oops! Another whole season has drifted into the realm of memories now, and I've obviously neglected updating our family weblog here. The Summer is winding down, and we're already starting to schedule activities for the upcoming year and organizing ourselves for another adventurous year of homeschooling!

Spring Skate Show 2011

We finished off the Spring season, celebrating our 18th anniversary at the end of April, and going to camp for three days with our homeschooling group in mid-May. Then, we continued the regular pace of things into June, with regular lessons and activities, though we got a little break from the hockey routine. Flo did a number in the Spring Skate Show at our local ice rink in early June, performing a routine to the "Crowning Glory" song from the Princess Diaries 2 Soundtrack. That's on our YouTube channel (PetiteWeb), if anyone would like to check it out. Very cute!

July began with the annual July 4th Mile Long Yard Sale in our community. This is truly an event, with hundreds of yard sales going on all day within the mile or so around our home. This year, we decided not to have a sale of our own, and to just enjoy walking around. Flo and Joe had a lemonade stands with their friends, and enjoyed hanging out for the day. We managed to go the entire day without finding any "great deals," to clutter up our house. But, we did enjoy walking around, checking out some of the interesting bargains!

Vegetarian Summerfest 2011

Early July found us heading to Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, Pennsylvania for our fourth year. Flo went for the full five day conference with our friend, and we joined her for the weekend portion. We decided to leave Zofia home with Grandma for the weekend, and this really was the first time Darren and I got a chance to relax in quite awhile. We got a lot of sleep, rode our bikes all over campus (University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown), chatted with veg-friendly folk from all over the world, attended a few lectures, and enjoyed a few meals. All in all, I think that few days was the highlight of our summer. We had hoped to go to the first Woodstock Fruit Festival in New York in August, but with an expensive and long trip to Canada for a family reunion, we ended up crossing that off the agenda, but definitely hope to attend that next year!

At the end of July, our niece Samantha, flew down from Ontario to join me in a few day drive up to Eastern Canada for Darren's parent's 50th wedding anniversary celebration and family reunion. I left two weeks prior to the actual event, to take Joe up to a hockey camp in the area, hoping to enjoy some time in the area and visiting with my in-laws. Darren would be flying up a few days before the reunion, and driving home with me and the kids.

Made it to Darlings Island... Old covered bridge was replaced by more sturdy new one...

The trip up to New Brunswick was nice. We took our time, staying with friends a couple nights, dining at Whole Foods Market along the way, and staying in a couple hotels, where the kids got a chance to swim. We arrived a couple days before Joe's hockey camp started, and went to the registration meeting and got him all ready to start that Monday.

Well, Sunday night, I was startled awake by Joe, who said he fell out of bed and his chin hurt. I told him to "rub it up," and go back to sleep. He did for a few minutes, but then came back, saying it really hurt. So, in the dark, I reach up to rub it for him and it was wet and I felt a big hole in his chin. "Oh no!" So, I jumped out of bed and turned on the lights, only to confirm that he, indeed, had a huge gash in his chin. We still don't know what in the heck he did. Nonetheless, at 3am, I woke up my in-laws, who confirmed the definite need for stitches, and off Joe and I went to the emergency room. Thankfully, the waiting area was sparsely populated at 3am that day, and we got right in. Joe was stitched up by a pleasant doctor, who also homeschools his kids, and put Joe at ease. He was very brave. The worst part was the needle for the numbing stuff.

Goalie Camp ~ Day 5

By the time we finished at the emergency room, it was close to 5am, and camp started at 7am just around the corner. With less than three hours sleep, and a big bandage on his chin that was likely to interfere with his goalie helmet, I let Joe know that it was okay if he decided he didn't want to attend the camp, as I'm sure they would have refunded us due to injury. But, ever the trooper, Joe insisted on going. Thankfully, his dad had packed a spare helmet, which just happen to fit without disturbing his bandage. But, I still don't know how he made it through the day. When I picked him up that afternoon, he was so tired, he barely made it to the car before he fell asleep. Nonetheless, his week-long goalie camp experience was worth the trip alone, as Joe had a great time, got some excellent instruction, and got a chance to hang out in his dad's hometown.

Flo, on the other hand, wasn't able to get signed up for any camps during the time we were there, and by the end, was really craving some peer interaction. But, she did get a chance to spend some quality time with her grandparents, and got to celebrate her twelfth birthday in scenic Saint John, walking around uptown, going to the city market and visiting with my mom, who had driven up for a week visit. Towards the tail end of the trip, Darren's siblings arrived, too, so Flo got to spend a couple days visiting with her cousins, which was nice. Her favorite thing about the visit was Nanny and Poppy's yard, which was right on a river, and full of trees and wildlife. She got a chance to feed the local deer residents, collect rocks and shells, and hang out in the hammock, enjoying the mild summer temperatures and pleasant breezes.

Flo's Birthday Breakfast Brownie ~ Twelve Years Old!

Zofia enjoyed the visit with Nanny and Poppy, too, but kept me quite busy. She was most excited about visiting with her cousin, Ella, who is just two months younger and arrived a few days before the reunion. They were so cute to watch together, and I'm glad they got to connect.

Darren arrived mid-week, just in time for all the pre-reunion prep work before the event on Saturday. I think, by then, we had exhausted my in-laws with the general chaos that is our routine, and I was becoming a weary traveler. But, Darren was happy to reconnect with his family, and though brief, the reunion was a nice opportunity to see some old familiar faces and meet some new ones. I'm sure many good memories were made, and I'm happy we make the trek up for the event.

Umm... is this all supposed to fit in here? ~ Leaving Saint John... heading to Quebec City...

On Sunday, we bid farewell to all the relatives, and commenced our trip home, detouring through Quebec to extend the vacation a bit, and do a little sightseeing. We stopped in Quebec City and Montreal, before heading back to the States, staying one night in upstate New York in a rather shady hotel, and then our final night at our friend's house in New Jersey, before making our way home on August 18th, just in time to celebrate Zofia's fourth birthday the next day.

A couple days after getting home, I hurt my back, and have not been feeling too great since. I think the lack of sleep, and emotional ups and downs, during the almost month-long trip finally caught up with me. So, I've been spending the past week just trying to get on track with housework, scheduling the kids activities for the Fall, and resting up as much as possible Today, I spent the day in my pajamas, sorting the kids old clothes and toys for Goodwill. Of course, while I was doing this, Zofia was dismantling other areas of the house. But, at least I feel like I'm making progress! And, we're looking forward to the new "school" year and some fun activities with friends.

So, that's where we find ourselves at the end of August; reflecting on a summer already gone by. It seems like we planned for the Canada trip for so long, it's hard to believe it has come and gone already. It reminds me how quickly life goes by, and brings to mind an inspiration card we read during our family meeting yesterday, which said, "I will love where I am right now!"

Family Meeting ~ August 24, 2011

Spring is Here!

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My last entry here had us heading into the holiday season. You'll be happy to know we survived the onslaught of commercialism, tempered by community activities and general holiday cheer.

Then began the New Year. 2011! We started off on the fiscally ambitious note of getting our taxes compiled and ready to send in as soon as possible. Darren is always motivated to get this task done early in the New Year. I think it's the suspense of whether or not we'll see any sizeable return that keeps him inspired. Thankfully, we didn't have to pay any taxes this year, so that was a good way to start things off!

Into February we went, attending meetings, co-op classes, basketball and hockey practices, swimming and music lessons, and various appointments. All this interspersed amongst social engagements errands, housework, Darren's job, parenting, and the general routines of life made for a tiring start to the year, and was underscored by gloomy cold weather. Nonetheless, Valentine's Day is in February, and, after all, "All You Need is Love!" So, we kept our spirits high and energy up (well, the kids anyway), and forged on into the Winter.

Fortunately, as we headed into March, the winter weather didn't interfere with too many plans, nor did it dampen anyone's spirits too greatly. After all, we all had a lot to be looking forward to. My birthday came first, which I suppose is not something everyone looks forward to, but I don't mind. It's just a marker of time, celebrating my arrival on the planet. I had a nice day, hanging out with the family and going to see a movie with Darren, while Grandma babysat.

Next on the list of highly anticipated events came Darren's trip to Italy, which he had been planning and saving for all year. He had the luxury of spending ten days with his good friend, Alex, just relaxing, doing some hiking and visiting old friends.

That same week, Joe was excited to be going (along with his support crew of me, his siblings and Grandma) to a hockey tournament in Richmond, Virginia. This was an adventure! Having a toddler in tow made for some challenging and stress-filled moments, but we made it through, supporting Joe during his four games over the weekend, and enjoying watching the kids have such a good time staying at a hotel with a pool with all their friend. The change of scenery was welcomed, and spending a little time with Grandma was nice. So, overall, it was a good experience.

Now we're into April, and Spring is in the air! Darren's birthday started the month. Our April Fool was still in Italy, enjoying a couple last days of solitude. That weekend, the kids and I attended our church fundraising auction, and enjoyed seeing all the interesting donations. We donated a "Greens N Goodness" basket of healthy inspirations. It was a fun evening with friends, though by the time we got home, I barely had the energy to get the kids to bed and crawl in myself! Thankfully, I had one more day to rest up before Darren's return that Monday. He arrived back from his European retreat refreshed and ready to continue the tasks at hand with renewed energy and enthusiasm. That lasted about four days, and then the kids wore him out and he needed a nap! Ha!

Our eighteenth wedding (or should I say, elopement) anniversary is next week, so maybe we'll get a brief respite, to reflect on this life we've created together, and blow some air on the smoldering flame of our love! Ha ha… no gagging please! All corniness aside, we are really thankful for where we are, despite occasional bumps and turns in the road. We've collected volumes of wisdom, of which I'm sure we'll continue to reference as we continue on our path. But, we are excited about the possibilities for what is to come!

Today was one of the first few really warm days of the season, and to celebrate, Flo, Zofia and I dusted off the jogging stroller and headed out for a good long walk, stopping to say hi to a friend, and doing some errands along the way. I signed Zofia up for a kid's yoga class at the YMCA while we were out. It will be her first real class. By this age, we had Flo and Joe in all sorts of dance, gymnastics, Little Gym, etc. I guess the plight of the third child is to tag along with her siblings more and learn by association! She's three and a half now, and keeping us alert! We always felt the threes was harder than the "terrible" twos, and she's proving no exception. But, I'll try to keep myself in good shape mentally and physically, so I am up to the challenge of keeping up with her, because I know that in the blink of an eye, she'll be more self-sufficient and less interested in her boring mom!

So, I'll try to be back before the change of seasons, but I make no promises. Scheduling time for such luxuries as writing or fiddling around on the computer with photographs and such, is more of a challenge these days. But, that's okay, too… That wisdom I mentioned before has taught me to prioritize… and I'm slowly heading to that intuitive advice. I hope everyone enjoys the coming of the warmer weather, and is looking forward to some fun Spring and Summer activities. Drop us a note, and let us know what you're up to!

Happy Holiday Season 2010

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Petite Kids Holiday 2010

Here in the United States, Thanksgiving has already come and gone. We bid it farewell on Thursday, after a quiet day at home and a simple meal together. We were just thankful to have a day off! But, I guess that means we've officially launched into the 2010 holiday season. Brace yourselves! Well, unless you're one of those people that just thrive on the busyness, and often daunting, holiday preparations. I'm generally not cynical, but the strongest current of this time of year often seems to be one of consumerism, which can threaten to wash away all the pleasantries and joys. Nonetheless, I can't say that the holiday decorations, festive gatherings, and chilly weather, don't spark nostalgic sentiments for me. So, I do my best to create happy memories and new traditions for my kids and our family, while trying to minimize over consumption and the incurrence of holiday debt. Fa la la la la!

That said, I'm looking forward to upcoming holiday get-togethers. And, the kids are already well-prepared with their lists for Santa and eagerness to set up the Christmas tree this weekend. Flo started months ago with a very detailed and organized list for "Santa." She is now privy to Santa's identity, but still enjoys the fun, and may be a little reluctant to let go of the illusion. The fact that she has two siblings looking forward to Santa's return, makes it easy for her to savor the fantasy a bit longer.

Since my last post at the end of the summer, we've all been busy with the activities of this new homeschool year. Flo has a full schedule with guitar, skating, art, and tutoring and a learning co-op. And, Joe is still busy several days a week with hockey practices and games, as well as, various other homeschool activities. His eighth birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, and he is excited about that. And finally, Zofia is now three and giving us a run for our money. She's so much fun, but the kids have lovingly nicknamed her "Destructo Baby." Joe had just gotten through that "dump everything on the floor" stage, and now Zofia is next in line. We spend a lot of time picking up stuff off the floor, but I love her creativity and watching her entertain herself with my pots and pans, or all of the books from the lower shelves of our bookcase. Someday, I'll stand in my tidy, organized home, missing the chaos and dishevelment. I remind myself of that daily.

Darren is still happily working at home. In January, he has to reapply for the work at home program, so hopefully, it will continue. There's always that fear that he'll have to return to the miserable daily commute, but we'll remain optimistic, and enjoy having so much time together right now.

As for me, I'm feeling busy as ever, and trying to balance all the parts of my life. Between parenting, homeschooling, being on the board at our church, helping organize a produce co-op, and trying to keep myself in good health, there doesn't often seem to be much time left to breathe. But, I'm working on that… just breathing… it does wonders!

So, I hope this season finds everyone doing well and looking forward to time with friends and family. As corny as it sounds, it is a magical time of year; especially if we focus on the spirit of the season, fostering friendships and family connections, and knowing that the greatest gift we can give is our own energy, focus and love. Happy Holidays!

Summer is Winding Down

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Well, the summer season is drawing to an end. We've had an eventful few months, though. The kids have gotten in lots of fun in the sun, and plenty of swimming. We started off July with our mini-vacation to Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA. It was five days of fun and community and the kids had a great time. Zofia was a bit of a handful, so I didn't get to attend as many lectures as I'd hoped, but I still had a good time hanging out, chatting with people and enjoying the vegan and raw food cuisine.

We had a couple houseguests this summer, too. Our niece, Samantha, came down from Ontario to join us on our trip to Summerfest. This is her third year in a row visiting. She always makes an easy houseguest, as she pretty much entertains herself and she eats whatever we make or does her own thing. She stayed for two weeks, during which time our community had its huge "mile-long" yard sale. We didn't sell much this year, but it was fun just hanging out and watching all the people.

Shortly after Samantha's departure, Darren's sister's family came down from Canada for about five days. It was great to everyone and catch up. Zofia and her cousin, Ella, are only two months apart, so it was cute to see them interact. And Joe had a great time playing indoor hockey and kicking around a soccer ball with his older cousins.

Right after the Canadian Cousins departed, we took a little trip to the Saugerties, New York area, to visit an old friend of mine. We went the day before Flo's birthday, so we celebrated her day by walking around Woodstock and taking her to a few fun shops and out to lunch. It was great to reconnect with my friend, Laura, and do something special with Flo.

Most recently, we headed up near Philadelphia on August 21st for the Vibrant Living Festival, which was a eco-conscious, raw food, health type festival. We stayed at a nearby hotel for two nights, and we enjoyed swimming in the pool and checking out the local area.

This weekend, we're wrapping up the summer with a potluck with our vegetarian group, and Darren is taking a coaching clinic for hockey on Sunday. So, one more official week of summer before Labor Day, but we're already thinking of the upcoming homeschooling year, and trying to schedule all the kids activities without being too busy. We're looking forward more fun and adventures as we head into the Fall!

Still Here…

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The enormous lapse in time since my last homeschooling review entry clearly illustrates the demands on the time of a homeschooling parent. At some point in the last year, I guess I realized that to fully participate in my children's lives, I would have to spend less time journaling about it for awhile… at least until we're though the toddler stage with Zofia, and I can once again clear a few minutes in my day for personal endeavors requiring some thought and articulation.

So, stay tuned… the adventure continues…