Spring Cookout

All our real food etiquette went out the window today.  Lunch was from Pizza Hut and we had our first cookout of the spring with hot dogs and marshmallows.  HOW SHAMEFUL!  After an afternoon spent gardening, we drove up the canyon a little way to a park and had a fire and played in the underbrush.  All the spur of the moment reasons I love having my kids at home with me.  One more vote for home school.

Tree wrestling — a new game called “push-off” was invented — and no one was seriously damaged.  Lulu’s feelings were trampled upon, but she lived to tell about it.  Brett blamed marshmallows for Max’s hyperactivity.  I think I know where to place the blame.

A good time was had by all. (Even though we’re really, really sorry about the junk food.  Please don’t tell anyone.)  Hope you’re enjoying spring time, too!


Book Recommendation: The Element by Ken Robinson, Ph. D.

The premise of this book is that each one of us has a unique Element or even Elements that will satisfy our minds and bodies and give us a sense of fulfillment and happiness in life.  If we are able to find this Element, we will be able to find satisfaction with our lives. 

The first chapters of the book focus on the definition of words like intelligence and creativity and how society has limited the use of these words to specific situations and persons.  Therefore, many people do not consider themselves as intelligent because they did not do well on standardized tests. Conversely, people who do well on standardized tests may consider themselves intelligent even if they have not achieved success or fulfillment in their lives.  Creativity has also been limited in definition to people who are artists or authors by trade, rather than widening that definition to include all who use their abilities in a variety of ways to achieve their goals.  The author seems to state that widening our definition of these words will help us to re-define our paths to success.

Another issue that this book discusses is the problem of finding others to help and mentor you in your Element.  He speaks directly of the fact that “Many people don’t find their Element because they don’t have the encouragement of the confidence to step outside their established circle of relationships.” Although those around us may genuinely care for us, they do not necessarily know what will make our lives happiest or most meaningful.  It takes courage to step outside of the expectations that others set for us.

The last chapters of this book really spoke to me.  Chapter 7, “Do You Feel Lucky?” focused on the value of a positive, confident outlook in achieving success.  This is an idea I have tried to share with many people throughout my adult life, and it is stated far better here than anything I have been able to say.  It is so important to have confidence in a good outcome when going into a project.  A negative outlook guarantees failure.  Summarizing findings from the book The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman, Dr. Robinson states that “lucky people tend to expect to be lucky, creating a series of self-fulfilling prophecies because they go into the world anticipating a positive outcome. “ And, “lucky people have an attitude that allows them to turn bad luck to good.  They don’t allow ill fortune to overwhelm them, and they move quickly to take control of the situation when it isn’t going well for them.”  I would like to read this chapter to people who through the years have accused me of just being “lucky!”

In Chapter 10, “For Love or Money,” examples are cited of people who became amateurs in certain professions instead of making that profession a source of income.  The author discusses how the word amateur actually means a lover of something, and how being a real amateur can bring one pleasure and satisfaction in life.  This really went along well with his ideas about it being never too late to find fulfillment in your Element.

The other chapter that I felt all homeschoolers should read was Chapter 11 on education.  The author describes standard public education as factory-style education, with each teacher installing one bit of knowledge, bound by bells, batches of students and time schedules.  He advocates an individualized approach to education that would allow individuals to pursue their interests and learn toward real world application.  He recommends a “Michelin model,” holding schools to very high standards but not standardizing schools.  Reading about some of the schools he recommends, I couldn’t help but think of Dewey’s educational approach again, and also the difficulty of actually implementing this approach within limits of a public system.  Luckily, as homeschoolers we need not be bound by concerns of what others will think or funding and are able to give each child an individualized education if we are ready to make the effort to do so.

This book, along with two others I have read recently–How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer and How to Live On 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett, has given me much food for thought on how I am focusing my time to make the best use of my talents and interests.  As a parent, I realize that although providing for my children’s education is important, the best I can do for them is to give a good example of fulfilling my own potential at the same time.  These books gave both encouragement and direction in that regard.  The Michelangelo quote in the afterword of this book really made me ask, “Am I aiming high enough for myself?”

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

Exploring Capitol Reef National Park

Don’t drive through Capitol Reef without stopping to see the fruit orchards and one room school house at Fruita.  Fruita was a tiny town in the middle of Capitol Reef — what a location to live in!  The kids and I really enjoyed peeking through the windows of the school house, and imaging Laura, Mary and Almanzo going to just such a school.

Another must stop at Capitol Reef is the Goosenecks overlook.  Sulfur Creek is one of the most wonderful hikes in Capitol Reef, and I hope to do this hike again this summer and show you pictures of it.  In the meantime, looking off the overlook down into this deep canyon gives a foretaste of what is in store.

We stopped at the overlook to take some pictures.

I guess you can tell how much Max hates hiking.

Lots more to see in Capitol Reef — can’t wait til I get to go there again.  Hope you’re having a great week!

Hiking Lower Spring Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park

This weekend was beautiful spring weather, a little breezy and 70 degrees.  A little hot for a hiking — but just perfect.  We weren’t certain where we would be hiking, because we wanted to do Spring Canyon, but that required fording the Fremont River.  If the river was too high, we planned to hike Upper Muley Twist, another must do Capitol Reef hike we’ve been saving for the right day.  Mom and Dad got down to Capitol Reef on Saturday afternoon and checked the ford.  Dad actually was able to ford it, so we planned to get up early on Sunday started hiking to Spring Canyon from the Chimney Rock trailhead.

The first time we had hiked this trail, we only made it part way to the confluence with Spring Canyon.  We were “checking it out” on our way to another hike.  The trail at Chimney Rock starts up a steep, blue clay hill that really kicked our butts when we were here before.  This time we just powered right up it.  It is short, and it is nearly the only uphill on this trail.  Right after you get to the top of this hill, start looking for petrified wood.  It is everywhere, some of it big stumps, some bark, and some pieces that look like splinters from someone splitting firewood.

This is a big stump we saw further down the canyon that someone very strong had lifted up on top of a boulder.

We came to an open looking confluence that we assumed was the confluence with Spring Canyon, and followed it a little way up canyon before realizing it was just a box.  The  confluence with Spring Canyon is signed, and it seems farther than 3 miles from the trailhead (posted), but my GPS was getting lots of crazy points, so I don’t have good mileage on this trip.

The light was beautiful for taking shots of the canyon and the desert varnish (the black markings on the canyon walls) was  shining like wet paint.  As usual, the kids found plenty of rock climbing and fun on the trail.

We did walk up the Spring Canyon Confluence when we found it, and although the spring was not marked on the map, we did find where the water began about a half mile up from the confluence.  If this water is perennial, it would make Spring Canyon a very nice overnight backpack.  Most of the hike is a straight wash walk, with a little sand slogging and bouldering thrown in for spice.  There is only one tricky spot of the trail, a climb around a narrow slot canyon.

The path above the slot canyon was not too scary, but one part of it was a walk around a sliding dirt hill above a drop.  Dad and Shandy were ahead, and assured us it was fine, but it appeared that we were walking on a thin line carved into the dirt.  After deciding we would probably survive a fall (but with lots and lots of road rash and broken legs), Lulu and I took our walk around the cliff.

This was definitely the most exciting part of the hike.  After a stop for lunch, we finished our hike down the canyon.  We spotted an arch high on the wall, and there was one very beautiful alcove.

In the excitement of the river crossing, we forgot to take pictures!  Sorry.  It was about thigh deep and running quite fast, but the bottom was not slippery.  We crossed with arms linked, and were successful!  Thank goodness — no way we were hiking back 9 miles.  That is also the reason you should never start a hike with a possibly uncrossable river on it — when you get there, you’ll try to cross whether or not it is safe.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!  Go to Capitol Reef soon.  You won’t be sorry and March and April are perfect times to go.  Tomorrow — some more things to see on your trip.

March Marathon Training — Relay Style

My training run this weekend was 19 miles.  19 Miles!  I have discovered something that really helps my long training runs fly by.  I beg/coerce/ask my family members to accompany me.  This week, Shandy, Eden, and Brett did training for  a marathon relay, and I was the baton.

Shandy started out, running 5.5 miles down the canyon with me.  We scared a herd of deer, listened to a flock of wild turkeys, and passed 6 runners running up the canyon.  Then, I ran by myself for a few miles while he and Brett went to collect the car.

Next, Eden ran 4 miles with me along our regular route.  That was a real pick-me-up, because she was fresh and full of energy and I was only halfway through.  She pushed me hard to keep going strong (and keep up with her.)

Finally, Shandy brought Brett out to my turn around point and picked Eden up to take her home.  Brett ran the last 4 miles along with me.  He was very happy, because he said finally he and I had the same energy level on a run!  The only bad thing that happened this whole run was that Shandy forgot my last fuel, so I ran the last 7 miles without any re-fuel or water.  It turned out all right, and really, I think I could have finished a marathon this weekend!  Too bad the one I am scheduled for is so far away.  Here I am at the end:  doesn’t it look like I could run or at least hobble 7 more?

Do you have running partners?  How do you beg/borrow/steal long runs?  Have a great Monday.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a great hiking weekend with kids story.

Reading Week in Review

These are a few of the books we’ve been reading this week.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.   This is one of my continuing projects.  I have read this wonderful classic twice before, once when I was about 13 and again a few years ago.  I picked it up again to read at the first of this year.

Daddy Long-Legs and Dear Enemy by Jean Webster. I saw the name of the first of these books on a blog (sorry, I don’t remember which one) and remembered reading it as a kid, so I downloaded it to my Nook for the girls to read.  It was as cute as I remembered, a sort of Anne of Windy Poplars written in letter style.  Unfortunately, the quality of the free Nook book was so poor I could hardly read it, and I certainly couldn’t recommend it to the girls.  Luckily, the library had a copy, bound with the sequel, Dear Enemy about the remaking of the asylum the heroine had grown up in.  Dear Enemy was actually the real find for me, since I had read about John Dewey’s system of education and Jane Addam’s Hull House in a study project a few years ago.  Although the author never refers directly to these ideas, she puts them to work in the orphanage she is redesigning.  I really enjoyed how she thought those ideas would work out.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  This is the book I am reading aloud to the little kids right now.  I have read it aloud several times before.  It is a beautiful book, descriptive and well written.  It begs to be read aloud.

A Zoo in My Luggage and Beasts in My Belfry by Gerald Durrell.  This is Max’s assigned book right now.  After I finished reading My Family and Other Animals by this same author to the kids, I ordered three more books by Gerald Durrell.  By the time they arrived, I had already begun reading The Secret Garden aloud, so the kids started reading the others themselves.  Birds, Beasts and Relatives went first, then Beasts in My Belfry and A Zoo in my Luggage.  Lulu’s finished them all, Max is in the middle of the second one.  Each of them has had them rolling on the floor laughing.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Shandy is reading this book aloud to the kids at bedtime.  They are enjoying it very much, so much that they rarely get to bed on time.

Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver.  Eden was assigned persuasive essays for her English classes, and chose to read some of these essays.  I didn’t read all of them, but her essay about The One-Eyed Monster and Why I Don’t Let Him In I highly recommend.  Her statements about no one killing in her home define exactly why regular TV left our home on September 11, 2001.  No one should have to watch random acts of violence.

The Passionate Observer by Jean Henri Fabre.  This is another naturalist book, Lulu’s assigned reading for the week.  Fabre was a passionate observer of insect life, and wrote about his passion in this beautiful book.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer.  Nothing makes me feel so foolish as reading on my phone.  I feel like people watching me must wonder what could be so fascinating to leave me watching my phone for hours.  However, I have a Kindle app on my phone, and this book was only $2.99 on Kindle a few weeks ago.  It is an excellent book about the way we make decisions based on emotion, and discusses the way our brain works on dopamine triggers to make snap reactions.  His examination of quarter backs, radar operators and pilots who made correct decisions instantaneously is very interesting.  I am not quite finished with it, but it has given me some food for thought on encouraging examination of mistakes and trial and error as a way to increase intelligence.

Are you like me, and have several books going at the same time?  Or do you concentrate on one at a time?

Homeschooling to Adulthood: Teaching Kids to Clean

So many blogs lately have been running features about cleaning less and having kids do more chores, I finally realized one area in which I have been slacking.  I haven’t been having my “little kids” ( who are rapidly turning into big kids) do their fair share of the chores around the house.  While they clean out the dishwasher, set the table and fold laundry for me, I have not had them do the more demanding chores like washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms.

Part of this is on purpose.  I have a fear of cleaners and children combined.  Ever since I dropped an open bottle of toilet bowl cleaner on my bedroom carpet and melted it! I have had an inordinate fear of what  cleaners could do if used incorrectly.  My older kids didn’t begin cleaning bathrooms until they were about 10, and even then it was under supervision for some time.  But Lulu is nearing that age, and I haven’t even begun teaching her how to clean the bathrooms.

This is also partly laziness on my part because I have two such wonderful older helpers that out of four bathrooms in the house, I only ever have to clean one of them (and not that one if I can pawn it off on Daddy!)  I have been thinking about how unwise this is, however.  After all, the purpose of having children do chores is not just to have help around the house.  That is one very important reason, because a large homeschool family cannot operate successfully if the mom has to do all the chores.  But the real, important reason to have children do chores is so that they are well equipped as adults to run a household.  Cleaning is an important part of that equipment.

So even though I had to force myself past my laziness, Lulu got her first bathroom cleaning lesson last week on the half bath, and this week did her first supervised cleaning.  She did very well.  She remembered to wear an apron so that she wouldn’t get bleach spots on her good clothes.  She remembered the order in which to clean.  And she did not do anything silly with the cleaners.  All in all, a good first session.

Do you teach your young children to clean bathrooms?  Which chores do you save for older kids to do?  Please leave me a comment.

Healthy and Delicious: Orange Julius Smoothie

We like big breakfasts.  Although we nearly always have some kind of hot cereal for breakfast, somehow that doesn’t seem like quite enough to start the day off right.  Maybe that’s because we’re coming in from a five or six mile run, and going to work hard all day.  Often we have grapefruit with our cereal, but sometimes we have a smoothie.  This is one of our favorite recipes.

Orange Julius Smoothie

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate

2 cans water

1 16 ounce container cottage cheese, frozen (just throw it in the freezer the night before) or plain yogurt

2 bananas

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

The cottage cheese stays a little grainy, so if this will bother you, use the plain yogurt.  You may need a little more sugar if you use plain yogurt.  Throw everything in the blender and blend away.  We share this amount amongst the 6 of us, but it’s a go-with not a main dish.   This tastes best served in pretty glasses.

Try it out.  I bet you’ll love this smoothie breakfast.  Hope you’re having a great weekend!


Book Review — Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is the latest in a series of distopian young adult novels Eden and I have been reading.  She started out reading Brave New World and 1984, and we continued through Uglies by Scott Westerfield and Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien.  Many of the current distopia novels for young people are fairly unimaginative, playing over and over again on the ideas of eugenics — selective breeding of humans — and plastic surgery.  Divergent was more interesting to me because it focused on personality and how different personality styles affect life choices.

Beatrice lives in a world where people are divided into five factions:  Amity, people who believe in showing kindness above all else; Dauntless, people whose chief quality is courage; Erudite, people who believe all problems can be solved with intelligence and learning; Candor, people who belief in honesty and revelation of all one’s thoughts; and Abnegation, people who endeavor to live selflessly.  At the age of sixteen, each child chooses which faction he or she belongs to, based partly on aptitude tests.  They must then pass an initiation, after which their job choices are limited by their faction.  If they fail to pass the initiation, they are considered outcasts, factionless.

During her aptitude tests, Beatrice tests as Divergent.  Her tester warns her that this is very dangerous, and that she should tell no one that she has had these test results.  Beatrice choose to leave her parents’ faction, Abnegation, and join Dauntless.  Her brother, Caleb, also chooses to leave their parents’ faction, but joins Erudite.  During the initiation tests, she discovers that she is a very courageous, even fearless person.  She also begins to learn that focusing on one quality to the neglect of all others can change a whole society for the worse.

One of the surprises that made this story interesting to me was that although many parents purposely chose never to see their children again if they changed factions, Beatrice’s parents did not change toward their children although they had changed factions.  (Spoiler alert.) In fact, Beatrice’s mother had changed factions as a youth herself.  The idea of a person choosing a specific society over a family seems interesting to explore, especially as the extended family life of the past gives way to the splintered nuclear family of today’s society.  It seems realistic to think that one day in the future even maintaining contact with one’s sibling or parents would be a rarity.

The real reason I enjoyed this book, however, was the daring involved in the initiation to the Dauntless faction.  Leaping onto and off of moving trains, zip rides from high buildings and climbing to the top of Ferris wheels left Beatrice wanting more challenges.  I identified with this character not because I am daring, but because I have forced myself to be more courageous so that I don’t miss out on wonderful opportunities — like staring off the top of the high cliff in Canyonlands National Park.

This book comes recommended by 3 Floyds — Brett, Eden, and I all enjoyed it.  Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!

Kids in the Kitchen: Chickpea-Couscous Salad

With spring time starting, and summer just around the corner, we are beginning to leave our winter lunches of soup behind and turn to our summer fare of salads, wraps and sandwiches.  Last summer, I discovered many new salad recipes that incorporated grains and legumes along with the vegetables.  These help make a cool but filling lunch that also packs well for picnics.

This week, we are eating Chickpea-Couscous Salad.  This was a great recipe for Max to help make.  Adapting a recipe from The Splendid Table, and using their idea of microwaved couscous, this came together really quickly. Note:  please think of the above picture as a still life, not as an ingredient list.  After I snapped it, I realized how many of the ingredients I had left out of the picture.

To microwave couscous, just measure the couscous and water into a covered bowl, microwave on high for 2 minutes, and allow to stand for 5 minutes to finish absorbing the water.  For this recipe, I used 1 1/2 cups couscous and 3 cups of water.

Max did some of the chopping.

And just a reminder, when you have kids stirring, get a much larger bowl than necessary. Two seconds after this picture was taken, there were chickpeas all over my kitchen floor.

Chickpea Couscous Salad

Makes 12 Large Servings

1 1/2 cups couscous

3 cups warm water

1 large bell pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 large cucumber, chopped small

1  cup green olives, halved

1/2 cup raisins

2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 Tablespoon salt

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4  cup olive oil

Prepare couscous in the microwave according to method described above.  Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Allow to stand 1 hour or longer to allow flavors to blend.  Refrigerate, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Remember — I warned you about the big bowl!  This salad tastes great with pitas.  Happy Thursday!