Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I'm back in body...

but my spirit is kind of scattered about the ether right now.

Chiron East was wow, amazing, enlightening, deepening, nourishing, all great and wonderful stuff and Inwill post a whole lot more in a few days time.

While I was dropping the kids off in Ottawa (which went really well at the airport) Sprout and I crashed the Fringe Festival blogger wine and cheese with Zoom ... Greenpa, has competition I have a new crush - Milan from a Sibilant Intake of Breathe. Sprout got rowdy and threw brie and strawberries.

I spent an afternoon with Dark Mirror, and had my heart stomped on when I went to pick him up - poor Nature Girl and Wild Thing were down with a stomach flu bug and Wild Thing fell apart when I had to leave him there.

Went to Chiron and got some sage advice on being the pillar of strength I need to be for my littles during this sort of developmentally inappropriate separation.

Came home, called the kids and my sunny, strong, independant Nature Girl broke down sobbing that she wanted me to pick her up!

I spoke with Dark Mirror and told him I was afraid to talk to Wild Thing in case I upset him even more.

What do you think, should I be calling once a week or not? Will it mae it harder on them, or am I making excuses for how hard it is on me?

I'm exhausted, of to bed and tomorrow I'll clean and maybe blog but definitely take pictures of all the flowers that came out since I left!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Guilty as charged...

This poem was written by Brianne McPhearson, 7th grader at Shining Mountain Waldorf School.

Waldorf Moms
Waldorf moms wear cotton socks
Woolen sweaters, Birkenstocks.
Waldorf moms have long full skirts,
Big silk scarves and layered shirts.
Waldorf moms have fluffy hair,
They’re kind and firm and make you share.
Waldorf moms drive Volvo cars
And talk of fairies, gnomes, and stars.
Waldorf moms love Waldorf meetings
Where they greet with Waldorf greetings.
Waldorf moms make Waldorf dolls
From purest wool and cotton balls.
Waldorf moms drink lots of tea
Which has been grown organically.
Waldorf moms serve fruits and meats.
Veggies, grains, and not much sweets.
Their favorite word is “nourishing.”
They love to hike and knit and sing.
They leave the gluten out of bread
And make you spend twelve hours in bed.
And if you fall and scrape your knee
They give you rescue remedy!

Wild Thing has some spiffy new orange shorts

They fit great and his butt is always covered!

Frenchy's comes through again!

The brand you ask? Carters.

The size? 3 MONTHS - as in 8-16 POUNDS!!!!


Our other favorite pair of pedal pusher length pants are a size 18 months.

Lets give a WOOT WOOT for getting out of diapers!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Never fail play dough recipe

1 cup flour
1 cup beet cooking water, spinach cooking water, or onion skin cooking water...or water
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp cooking oil - I usually use grapeseed oil

If you want to get fancy add a few drops of essential oil when you knead it

Put in a pot on the stove on medium
Stir constantly til it thickens
Let it cool til you can handle it

Stores really well in a closed container.

This is a lovely soft playdough, just right for first dough experiences with little ones, it doesn't dry out quickly, it doesn't dry out little hands, and it isn't gritty like a lot of homemade doughs. We love this dough.

Takes less than 10 minutes to make.

But it doesn't taste good!

I've been missing elements of our old property in Quebec...

I was missing our woods...

Wild Thing was asking when we could get him more sand. He had a roughly 40 ft in diameter DEEP - like dug out with a backhoe sand box edged with boulders and logs with swings and a two storey playhouse at our old house.

This is what he's excavating now.

We do have a lovely story circle here though

We're appeasing the neighbours with a mowed lawn out front...

But I'm cultivating a natural meadow in the backyard...
I think it might be too late to get a garden in this year, and we have a huge job in the fence this summer. But next year...oh boy! I'm getting out a book on food not lawns and planning what we can do already.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My house is a mess right now

I'm trying to fit too much one on one kid time into a week and being totally child centred has led to that state of entrophy that consumes so many homes with kids.

My house it not healthy right now.

Mess is NOT creative. It really isn't - well organized displayed stuff can be creative, but if it doesn't have a place it is clutter, and if it has a place but hasn't been returned to it it is a MESS. Messes are disharmonizing. It stresses us out and frankly for me and mine, it symbolizes brain chaos too. It symbolizes fear, and anxiety, and losing our centre and then it feeds those things.

A healthy home life involves the full circle of any activity.

You do something like make a meal, get the kids to wash their hands, set the table, give thanks for the food, eat together, clear the table, wash the table, do the dishes, and the next time you come to make a meal it is a calm centred activity again. If you break the circle by not clearing the table or not washing the table or not getting to the dishes when you come to start the circle again the primary task of making the meal becomes a harried production because you don't have space, clean tools, etc. You start dropping things to fit in the essentials and usually that means you drop the kids helping because it takes too long or requires some supervision and you're too busy for that in that moment. Then you feel resentful that the kids don't help out automatically. If you are so harried that you can't set the circle right in that cycle then it just compounds and you have total chaos on your hands.

We HAVE to feed our kids every day so the mealtime circle usually keeps rolling along however wobbily.

What about things like artmaking and handcrafting though?

The painting circle requires that clean table, then you put down the painting boards, mix the paint, set a tray to soak your paper, put the paper and paint in front of each child then hand out the paintbrushes last. At last you paint. You remove the boards so the paintings can dry. You wash the brushes, little fingers and the table. You put away the paints. After the paintings dry you wipe down and put away the boards. All ready for next time. If you come back to paint and you've missed steps in walking the circle how likely are you to do the extra work to keep that circle spinning? Its the same with knitting, embroidery, papermaking, woodworking, what have you.

So today we're spending the afternoon cleaning up the mess, together. Tomorrow we will paint.

RAW version of what Nature Girl took to the party!

Cut your asparagus into 3inch pieces and marinate in an oil/vinegar/onion/tarragon blend in the fridge overnight.

Make the cups from your favorite sprouted cracker recipe - dehydrate til flexible then cut and form into cups and finish dehydrating

The quiche is EASILY replaced if you use white miso and I'd recommend cashew cream, avocado, a dash of braggs and lemon juice and a tbsp fresh tarragon - don't mash the avocado - lay it in thin pieces in the cups and pour the rest in.

Ahhhh...I gotta get my dehydrator out I haven't been doing fancy raw stuff for awhile.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beck over at Frog and Toad is tackling Asparagus

So I thought I'd post the recipe NATURE GIRL made yesterday to take to a birthday party for some grown up friends Andy and Ariane.

Asparagus quiche tarts

The pastry

1 1/3 cup flour - unbleached all purpose in this case
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 stick unsalted butter cut into tiny bits - this is best if it is very cold - we keep it in the freezer.
ice water 3 tbsp to start then more if you need it

Preheat oven to 450
Mix together the flour, salt, sugar
Cut the butter into tiny bits and add to the flour. Use a pastry cutter to blend it all together
Add the ice water and stir it into a ball
Gently pat it into a ball and put it on a floured work surface. Flour it and flour your rolling pin and roll it thin.
Don't touch too much! Pastry hates your hands!

Take a muffin tin and turn it upside down, cut the pastry into rough squares and drape over the upturned cups of the muffin tin prick with a fork

Bake 8 minutes

While they bake make the filling -

cut asparagus into 3 inch pieces and steam
mix together 3 eggs 2/3 cup cream
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese - grated
1 tbsp snipped up tarragon leaves

Get mom to flip them over onto a cookie tray and use a tbsp to add your quiche mix while they're hot
turn down the oven to 350
put 2 asparagus pieces in each cup
shake a bit of salt on each tart
put it in the oven for 20 minutes

While it cooks, eat all the left over asparagus with mom with lemon juice and a bit of salt.

Give to Ariana and Andy and make sure you get to eat one too!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Waldorf on a Shoestring - the early years

People think Waldorf homeschooling, or enrichment, or raising kids "the Waldorf Way" is expensive. I know its a combination of things - the private school tuition, volvo driving, organic fashion, crunchy upper middle class older mom image that goes along with who chooses Waldorf Education when they have a choice about these things, but lets take it back to the bare bones.

The first school was for the children of the Waldorf cigarette factory workers. Urban shift workers, not rich folks.

So, first things first - The Waldorf Kindergarten ages 4-7. It didn't originally exist! The Kindergarten mimics the healthy rhythm of the home, so all you need to do is focus your attention on a healthy home life and include your children in that. What is a healthy home life? Okay that really isn't something that can be glossed over quickly so I'll come back to it, but a healthy home life doesn't involve a curriculum or any expensive paraphenalia.

You want details though!

Oh, okay. What do you need to get started, to undertand the philosophy? I'd recommend you go to the library and get out Rahima Baldwin Dancy's book "You Are Your Child's First Teacher" and then if you feel you need more help establishing some simple traditions with verses and stories and simple ideas for new traditions get out Shea Darian's book "Seven Times the Sun" I think this book is the greatest example of "How to Do Waldorf Early Childhood". Thats it.

Now, about those waldorf toys you're supposed to have. Stop worrying about it.

A basic list of natural playthings:

beach glass
seed pods

With all of that available in their natural environment how many toys can they possibly need?

I'd like to put forth the thought that if you didn't provide any toys, and your child was never exposed to advertising for toys, that they would seek out 10 basic playthings.

a doll
a ball
some way to play kitchen
things to help them build a shelter of their own
a small scale dollhouse of some kind
a farm of some kind
a nature collection
art making materials

As I've written about before, they'll create all of these things on their own if you don't provide them. They really will. But if you want to provide these toys please consider making them yourself with your child. You don't need to buy any of them.

Over the next month I'll try to post tutorials for each of them.

In the meantime - the most simple rag doll YOU make from recycled materials will be far better than the most expensive handcrafted waldorf doll you could ever purchase.

But today I'm going to post about the thing people seem to choke on - the art supplies. In Waldorf education, children are given artist quality art materials and there's some sticker shock when you face a box of 8 crayons that cost 12.00 or more. Three things to understand, the box of 8 block crayons you buy your child now, will be the same box of block crayons they use their entire childhood. I'm totally serious. They don't break, and they last forever, well atleast a very long long time - my kids are using crayons I bought 10 years ago still. Once in awhile you can sit down with some vegetable oil and a piece of rag or paper towel and clean them. I do it once a year. The stick crayons you'll want eventually, and in a wider range of colours don't break either (unless you work at it and there are some valid reasons to make them smaller!) and you'll eventually need to replace specific well used colours. You can buy them *individually* as needed though. The second thing to understand is that rather than buying 64 fashion colours of crayons, most blended with white to make pastel tints, you have an artist's spectrum of colours that allow your child to blend the colours they want, they even sell "blenders" if you want to get fancy. The third thing to understand is that you don't NEED beeswax crayons to incorporate the Waldorf philosophy into your home or homeschool! You can use whatever crayons you have available to you right now!

The same applies to the watercolour paints. There are all sorts of great reasons to get child safe artist quality watercolour concentrates, but you don't need them, any watercolours will do.

Same thing with the modelling wax. Now, modelling wax is kind of a specific material and no one else really makes it for kids so here's a simple recipe for making your own. This isn't exact, because beeswax comes in several different grades from soft and flexible to kind of flaky and crumbly

Lets say a cup of beeswax

2 tbsps olive oil

2 tsp lanolin

In a double boiler or a can in a pot of water melt your beeswax

Mix the lanolin and the olive oil together and add to the beeswax til its melted - remove from heat and keep stirring and pour into a walled cookie tray you have lined with tinfoil. Let it cool until you can tear it into quarter sized pieces. Let these cool completely. Take a piece and warm it in your hand and roll it into a ball, then press it out flat, umm this more of a pulling it out flat, and fold it. Can you do this without it flaking? Can you do this without it crumbling? Is it too hard to do it at all?

If it feels "good" its ready. If it is flaking apart or crumbling then you need to add a bit more wax. If its too hard to work, add more oil or lanolin.

If you want coloured modelling wax melt crayon shavings in with small batches of your quarter sized pieces and pour out to recool.

If this seems like a lot of work - homemade playdough is fine too!

If you want to make a petroleum free version of plastercine it is easy too, and you'll use it in the upper grades.


1 cup of modelling wax

2 cups vegetable oil (olive is good because it doesn't go bad easily)

2 tsp lavender essential oil

3 cups powdered clay from the beach, the yard, or the health food store (it needs to be DRY or it'll get funky. So if you collect your own, crumble it up and put it in a PAPER bag to dry, then pound it up in a mortar and pestle (this is a fabulous thing to get the kids to do for you btw!) )

Melt down your wax, add the oil, and slowly add the clay to the mix, stirring well. Take it off the heat once all the clay is combined, not before, and pour it out on a cookie sheet to cool. Then, treating clay like flour, knead it til its all well mixed up and again, feels "right". With this one, you can always knead in more clay, but it won't melt up easily to start over with k?

So there you go, add a bread recipe and start gardening and you've got birth to seven covered!

Friday, June 13, 2008

This'll likely cause OMA some PTSD discomfort

Last night was the Wolfville School funfair...cake walks, alien crash site investigation, giant castle jumper, finger nail polish and finger casts!

I am just so impressed, really AWED with mommy bloggers who can remember to take photos! I usually leave the camera because the Sprout'll chew on it and yank it from me if I'm taking pictures and if Papa Pan has the Sprout another child has me by the hand taking me on another adventure!

So here's our photographic evidence, a day late. The much covetted broken bone cast. Nature Girl is SO envious of E in her clas;, not only did she break her arm and get a cast everyone could sign, it was set improperly so she got to go to IWK and have it broken and reset again and ANOTHER cast!!! How cool is that????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oma? Care to weigh in?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I've written a lot about my belief

That children do not need toys - any toys. There are 10 archetypical toys kids need, but in the absence of them they will make them themselves.

This is a cabbage baby. It is not made of cabbage leaves but "cabbage baby" is what Nature Girl calls them.

Here is an unfinished cabbage baby she is making for her her best friend.

Here's the oldest cabbage baby I could find in the yard. These are resting on cradles - otherwise known as split logs or firewood.

Before you scoff and say "she makes them because all you give her to play with are sticks and stones!" Nature Girl has THREE American Girl type dolls. She NEVER plays with them. The doll she is making for her friend, her friend begged her to make her one. The same girl who had a Build a Bear birthday party.

Really, your kids don't need toys!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Healthy Eating

Typical meal here - apple cider watered down, salad, rice, stirfried'll get topped with "Asian sauce" a sauce I make that changes according to what I have in the kitchen - basic ingredients - hoisin sauce, honey, rice vinegar, tamari, garlic ginger - this nights had the rice vinegar supplemented with the juice of a few limes, it gets mixed into the salad and on the chicken and rice. a fork'll be used to eat the rice, but the salad got eaten with fingers piece by piece, and so did the chicken. Picture contains one very tired out Wild Thing too.

First off the way to RUIN a kids taste for healthy foods is not by giving them sugar - breastmilk is deliciously sweet and there's nothing wrong with craving sweet. We ruin them by getting them hooked on very salty food which is unfortunately most processed foods. Next, high fructose corn syrup is completely unnaturally sweet, and the only way our bodies can even tolerate it is in conjunction with acidic counterparts - so NO SODA POP!

But I want to focus on how to get them to like real food, healthy food.

Get primal

Go out in the lawn and wildcraft together - chickweed, sorrel, lambs ears, clover, dandelions, violets, plantain, oatstraw...the list goes on!

Eat them raw, add them to a simple salad, learn to cook with wild plants.

Grow a garden with your kids and let them eat everything raw.

Raw veggies and dip are the best kid foods going. Make fresh dips. If you do dairy, blend together a fresh cheese - cottage cheese or the like - with freshly picked herbs from the garden add a touch of salt or braggs aminos, a well minced garlic clove. If you don't do dairy pick a bean your kids like and mash it up with herbs, a bit of olive oil (or grapeseed oil if they are adverse to strong flavours), maybe some lemon or apple juice and dip away! Almond butter and a touch of braggs or honey is another yummy dip. Temper hot spicy flavours with dairy or a fat - it protects the mouth and children have a lot more taste buds than the rest of us! If your kids are REALLY adverse to veggies make sweet dips from honey and yogurt or fruited yogurt or marmelade and lime juice.

Greens are easy to get kids to eat if you serve them raw and minced fine in dips or mixed in with other simple foods. Mix up greens and fruit, the reason kids are often adverse to greens is that they are often a little bitter, and bitter tells kids that it *might* be poisonous - they activate the gag relex and children need to LEARN which bitter foods are good food medicine and which are bad for them. Milkweed is poisonous, early dandelion greens are rich in vitamins. Old spent dandelions taste remarkably like milkweed.

RELAX about the greens, make them available all the time and in simple minced up forms and let your child develop a taste for them. Focus your real efforts on the seasonally available tender greens, lovingly cooked with that bit of dairy to cut any bitterness - baby spinach, nettles (in soup or tea!) early tender dandelion greens, sweet beet greens. Drink the cooking water - either in soup or keep it for your vegetable stock. The tougher greens - kale etc will grow on your children over time but they can be hard for adults to take too! I like them minced, cooked in water then with some oil added and a bit of salt and I personally like the kick of roasted garlic and hot sauce but your kids might prefer them without the heat

Let them learn through example that food is easy to take enjoyable medicine. Do something fun with them like gathering spruce tips and make syrup with it (I'll be posting about doing this with the kids on my child care blog btw), or gather raspberry leaves and dry them for tea all year round.

Don't allow your child to become a carbohydrate junkie - switch up the grains in your house. In Waldorf circles there is a different grain featured each day and this encourages children to have a varied diet and not one based on wheat. Introduce your children to sweet potatoes before white potatoes. Always serve potatoes with their skins, even if they won't eat the skins, cooking to potato in the skin retains more vitamins and keep that cooking water to add to soups and breads!

Allow your kids treats regularly. Just adjust your concept of treat. Rice cooked in coconut milk with chopped fruit, a squeeze of lime, cinnamon and the smallest pinch of sugar for show and my kids are in heaven - not just MY kids, but my daycare kids were talking about that snack for DAYS - and it was LEFTOVERS and it was HEALTHY!

Include nuts and seeds in your diet - avoid nonorganic ones, go for the less popular varieties, but give your kids a variety of protein sources even if you are an omnivore. We have a rule of only having meat - if at all - with dinner. Snacks, breakfast, lunch are all vegetarian.

Cook onions well, slowly so that they release their sugars and caramelize, then mince them up so they aren't a big slimy mass and mix into favorites like mashed potatoes, rice, burgers, etc.

The big thing to me to lead by example and relax. I have one child - Dark Mirror who has always had serious food aversions - mainly textural. I learned early that I couldn't have meal time revolve around him and he always had the opportunity to make himself a peanut butter sandwich if nothing I made appealed to him. He's overcome a lot and I think being relaxed helped with that.

Oh yeah, and remember kids are kids, come birthday and special event dinners, my kids want Papa Pan cooking, he fries stuff for them!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Oh I love taking the crew to the dentist!

No, seriously I do!

I have heard horror stories about moms getting chastized for extended nursing and nighttime nursing ruining their kids teeth. Mom's chastized for not using flouride with their kids.

My kids have PERFECT teeth and when they ask about their oral hygiene and our habits they're always amazed and I get to chat about the PROTECTION that breastmilk affords teeth.

Of course, my kids eat mainly raw foods (fruits and veggieholics they are!), very little juice, very little processed sugar. I'm sure that contributes too. But we really aren't freaks about it - ask Zoom - I let my kids eat candy in lieu of the big family Christmas dinner! - and they do eat that big bugaboo dried fruit and real fruit leather (I LOVE that stuff!)

How it all started...

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with his might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

---Kahlil Gibran

In 1984 I took part in an Anarchist Free School in Ottawa, on Parliament Hill. In the write up on the session on Authentic Education "On Children" was quoted. The presenter went to the Alternative School in Toronto and talked about the concept of the Alternative School as well as other models like Summerhill in England and the democratic free school model - the Sudbury Valley School in the US.

"On Children" struck a deep chord in me and I knew that this was how I'd raise my children. In fact, one of them is named in homage to the poem.

Did you know that Kahlil Gibran was heavily influenced by Abdu'l Baha in writing The Prophet??

The other advise I always took to heart was something Zoom said to me, "Kids are born perfect, our job is to screw them up as little as possible." So true.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

When we left this was a mermaid castle

Nature Girl accepts the whimsical impermanence of sand castles, but she did rescue her seaweed to bring home. Atleast I hope thats why the car smells of clams!
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Full Moon on the Cape

Repeated 100 times a day..."Wild Thing Pull up yer drawers!"
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Crab round up...

Some of these crabs are...well...they're dismembered...Wild Thing didn't do it but like goes with like.
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Papa Pan and Sprout sharing a joke

Check out the fishy shoes!
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First taste of the beach...

Hmmmmm SALTY!
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Cape Blomidon Waterfall

Ever read Paddle to the Sea? Its time to read it with Nature Girl, here's where a river empties into the Minas Basin, we arrived as the tide started pushing in. Wild Thing got soaked, hence his lack of pants. It was a wonderful afternoon though, when the tide really gets going it comes up the beach at a terrific pace - 10 ft a minute - great for kids with short attention spans!
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Friday, June 6, 2008

A forest child stole my baby!

Nature Girl played an elaborate game this afternoon with Wild Thing and my child care flowers that involved being sinister fairy folk. Their objective was to steal the babies from me. Sprout had fun being taken to the fairy realm under the maple.
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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Playroom Series - Part Two: CEILING

So what to do with an ugly ceiling of stucco stalactites?

I took my cue from the Waldorf schools I've visited that have been in real "make do" locations. Parsifal has a lovely old school building now, but at one time it was housed in an ugly, kinda run down, nondescript institutional boxy school behind the Canadian Tire in Ottawa's south end. They had decorated it beautifully though, and the biggest thing that changed the space was draping those ugly ceilings!

I thought it would be a good idea for my basement too.

But that is a lot of yardage of fabric! The room is 24x14!

I got these silk saris on e-bay some time ago. With shipping from India they were 1.00 a metre. It isn't finished along the edges and it's really hard to sew with, it shreds easily. I didn't have any choice in colours and got a mix of earthy shades that I'm going to use upstairs in the living/dining room, but there were four lovely mid shade pastels too.

I pinned them up with thumb tacks.

Next post on dealing with miserly little basement windows!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

This kid hates the camera!

I've got him pinned between my knees to keep him from crawling away. He refuses to look at me if I have the camera in my hands. But he's still cute!

And I wouldn't usually do this, but go see my other blog for more shots of the kids, I just want to keep the Cafe a family blog so if the kids I watch are in images I'll only post them on my childcare blog.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Half a lifetime ago, really!

Looking oh so grown up!

I can't believe you're already 8 years old!!!!!!

Wii Sports with a friend...
Her favorite dinner (and balloons from the Duck Races earlier in the day...)