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The Lost Art of the Scythe

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Posted on : 4:26 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,



This lovely video is of a 14-year-old girl artfully cutting circles around a tractor is available thanks to the Cooperative Scythe Network.  The sole purpose of that prestigious information organization is to teach people how to use this ancient tool, and to continue its use.  The website is incredibly informative and you will find everything you ever wanted to know about purchasing and caring for a scythe.  Although they are Canadian, they offer help all over the world, and also sell quality scythes and snaths to everyone.   In fact, they believe that peak oil will make this scene a reality everywhere.


One thing that I loved about this video is that my sister and I looked a lot like that when we were her age... long braids, barefoot and skirts and all. :)

spud!

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Posted on : 2:26 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

We're in the process of signing up for SPUD!, an organic delivery service.  I've actually been looking for one of these for a while and I've been lucky enough to find one here that is probably the premium of organic delivery services.  The way it works is this... you set a certain budget for your fruit and veggie box (our family is about $30).  You do a little thing where you rate the things you like, and you decide whether you want them to try to get local foods over shipped in ones.  It saves your preferences, and then it will automatically deliver it to your property at the interval you desire (once a week, twice a month, etc.).  You don't have to be home, and you can have them deliver it how you like ("Stick it in the green bin on the back porch!").  


You can also order other stuff to come with your fruit and veggie box, just about any organic product you can think of.  Each product tells where it is from, and as many as possible are from within 100 miles.  As far as I can tell, the prices are on par with any grocery store, and here on the Island if you order over $50 the delivery is free.  I'm not sure if this is offered elsewhere, but since it tells you how far away everything comes form to get to their warehouse, if you can keep the average under a certain number of kilometers, you get entered into a drawing every week for a free meal.

They offer two payment options, credit card or automatic withdrawal from checking but if you choose the second they need a credit card number just in case your withdrawal fails.  That was somewhat disappointing since we don't believe in having credit cards, but we might borrow someone's since it doesn't charge it.  They carry all kinds of products including soaps and locally made household products and baby items.  Spud is available in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, and in Canada in Mainland BC,  Greater Victoria and parts of Vancouver Island, and Calgary.

So far they've had great customer service and gave me a call to confirm my delivery address.  Once I make an order I'll let you know how it goes. Here's to no more shopping!  Except... today we went out and bought The Settlers of Catan and we're going to play it tonight.  :)  

Not Just Violence...Even Meanness in Movies is Bad

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Posted on : 11:24 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

We all know that violence in movies is probably not a good thing. I'm not talking about lions eating antelope, real world nature stuff.  I'm talking about abstract, human violence, the senseless kind that humans created.  We know that watching those things can have an adverse affect on our personalities. But, a researcher did a study in England recently that shows that just watching mean people can be just as bad.  There were three groups of people, a Kill Bill group (very violent), a Mean Girls group (very mean) and a group that saw the calm seance scene from What Lies Beneath.  Then they were told that they were playing a game with someone online and the loser would get a loud blast of noise, and they could set the volume of it.  The ones that saw Kill Bill and Mean Girls both turned the volume up much higher than the ones seeing the calm movie.


The researcher points out that mean behavior is much more common than violence in our television shows and movies.  Every movie and television show that I can think of shows mean behavior as being funny.  And it is proven to make people more aggressive.  I think in a way, maybe our culture values aggression.  

What's funny is that I got a book on autism from the library and it had a list of recommended movies to help autistic children recognize the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.  One of the movies they listed was Mean Girls, and as soon as I read that I had shut the book because I was no longer interested in what it had to say, lol.

Quote of the Day, and Our Toys

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Posted on : 2:06 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn. - Thoreau

It's a rainy day, a morning sickness day, a day of playing in cornmeal in baking pans. I have recently been listening to a discussion on an email list about toys... the nature of toys, the result on children, what people used to have. Here are the toys that we have:

1. Playmobile. We love German toys, and Playmobile is not Chinese, nor is it made of a plastic that is harmful. They lend themselves very easily to pretend play. We have the entire Victorian dollhouse and all of the accessories and we collect them because John and I love to play with them.

2. Duplo. These are the big version of Lego. I know that they are supposed to be for preschool, but growing up and having both, I found that I enjoyed Duplo more because you can build big stuff. We have an ENORMOUS bin of them and they are perfect for large projects like castles and cities.

3. Dress up. We have a big box of dress up. None of these items are those shiny princess things from the store, but instead all thrift-store finds like Chinese coats, scarves, belts, purses, weird shirts and other fun stuff.

4. Puppets. The girls aren't really into the puppets yet, but we have many, many animal puppets. We have dinosaurs, badgers, tigers, snow leopards, frogs, moose.... everything. We have used this to help us communicate sometimes and as they get older they are starting to use them more.

5. Board games. The only main-stream game we have for the girls is Candyland. The rest are Cranium games, cooperative German board games (from Ravensburger), the Farming Game, and Jr. Scrabble. The next games I get will be more from Ravensburger.

6. Kitchen supplies. We received a gift of very realistic metal kitchen pots, pans, and utensils. We also have a ceramic tea set. We have some plastic food as well. They build a kitchen out of books or boxes and start cooking.

7. Wooden puzzles. We have numbers, letters and a picture puzzle, but we also have a yet-unused giant wooden puzzle of America with many tiny pieces so it's for when they are older.

8. American Girls dolls. I have three original American Girl's dolls. Two of these are not the same as the dolls sold by Mattel and made in China. The original ones were designed and made by Götz in Germany, which you can distinguish by the white body. Now the dolls have a flesh-colored body. I would still buy more American Girl's dolls though, especially the Kaya doll or Josephina. The girls won't have these until they are 8 probably, and I was originally going to give them individually but I've decided to make this a group item.

9. Basket of Wooden Stuff. We have a big basket of wooden blocks, plus some little cars, rocks painted like bugs, corks, metal ring puzzles, wooden baby trains and cars and ring towers, some miscellaneous musical instruments like bells, whistles and Guatamalan flute, and other fun stuff.

And that's it for toys. We also have some educational items that we don't really consider 'toys' but are fun anyway... felts, stacking/nesting boxes with numbers, different forms of rock (including a floating rock), tangrams, a chalkboard and canvas art mat, and tons of art supplies. Plus the computer. It feels like a lot of stuff in the very small space that we live in, but it's really not in comparison to how many toys the average child has. The average American child receives 70 (yes that's SEVENTY) new toys every year.

Daniel Quinn on Gobalization

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Posted on : 11:37 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

Not Throwing Away Anything

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Posted on : 11:39 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

I was just reading an article on Time magazine's site about a guy nicknamed 'Sustainable Dave' who still makes trash but just doesn't throw anything away... he wants to see how much garbage he makes and so he's piling it up neatly in his basement.  


I think that's a great idea, and similar to the plastic-free lady who has been piling up her plastic in her living room (but who hasn't posted since January so hopefully she's still doing that).  Visual representations are good, sort of similar to this video version about plastic water bottles:


I think though, that we could do a little better than simply looking at the trash and feeling the shock value.  I know exactly how much garbage we make... 1 medium trash bag per week, plus some recycling. Which isn't too bad compared to some, but still too much.  

Back at the beginning of the 20th century, language didn't include words for this type of activity.  From Webster's 1828 Dictionary:

GARBAGE, n. [I know not the component parts of this word.] The bowels of an animal; refuse parts of flesh; offal.

TRASH, n. 1. Any waste or worthless matter. Who steals my money, steals trash.
2. Loppings of trees; bruised canes, &c. In the West Indies,the decayed leaves and stems of canes are called field-trash; the bruised or macerated rind of canes is called cane-trash; and both are called trash.
3. Fruit or other matter improper for food, but eaten by children, &c. It is used particularly of unripe fruits.
4. A worthless person. [Not proper.]
5. A piece of leather or other thing fastened to a dog's neck to retard his speed.

(Just take note of the example for #1, and also the ideas about fruit from #3.)

RUB'BISH, n. [from rub; properly, that which is rubbed off; but not now used in this limited sense.]
1. Fragments of buildings; broken or imperfect pieces of any structure; ruins.
He saw the towns one half in rubbish lie.
2. Waste or rejected matter; any thing worthless.
3. Mingled mass; confusion.

CONSUMER, n. One who consumes, spends, wastes or destroys; that which consumes.

Isn't it amazing how the term Consumer can change from one who destroys, to a person who purchases goods and services for personal use.

Quote of the Day

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Posted on : 9:37 AM | By : Nic | In :

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 we cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make
them like you. - Kahlil Gibran on children

Aquaponics in the House

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Posted on : 9:41 AM | By : Nic | In : ,


I found a really neat art project called the Farm Fountain yesterday and I'm trying to find a way to embed the movie here, but it won't.  BUT, please check out the website, especially the step-by-step photo instructions on how to make one.  


Aquaponics is like hydroponics, but without the chemicals.  You keep fish in a tank, and they feed the plants with fertilizer.  The plants filter the water keeping the fish in an optimum environment. Initially such a system is a bit expensive, especially in the form of the red/blue LED lightbulbs like the ones used in the Farm Fountain.  They are growing lettuces, herbs and other small veggies like radishes, all year round.  I'm particularly interested in growing edible tilapia fish.

Edit: HEY!  This is post 100!  

Even More About Meditation....as a 'Christian'

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Posted on : 5:54 PM | By : Nic | In :

I was going to continue my post from earlier about Zen and parenting, and add a bit about my own Christian philosophy mixed in.  Then we got busy and I had this terrible, terrible craving for meat which needed to be taken care of.


So now I've been thinking about this, and it occurs to me that many followers of Jesus would wonder how Zen, Taoism and even the Continuum Concept could be compatible, or healthy.  I tried to look up 'Christian meditation' and found many articles that said that meditation is dangerous and Christians should run away fast.  I get the feeling that many religious people shy away from something that looks to pagans and primitive tribes for inspiration, or from people like Buddhists who are simply atheists or deists.

However, meditation is a very old Christian concept.  I don't really like calling myself a Christian, but simply a follower of Jesus which is what his followers were called when he walked the earth.  I don't like to connect myself to the darker sides of Christianity (like witch burning, for example, since sometimes I feel very close to being a kitchen witch, but that's another post for another day).

But, I think many Christians would understand using the word pondering rather than meditating.  What I do during my meditation is I learn to empty my mind and focus my breathing, just like Buddhists do... but rather than trying to reach nirvana and having no-mind, there is a purpose to each meditation.  Once I reach a space in my mind which is clear of clutter and relaxed, and if I haven't fallen asleep, I will ponder something I need to internalize.  For example, if there is someone in my life who is really bothering me, I will peer into their childhood and put myself in their shoes.  If it is a time I need to go to God in prayer, I will have a conversation and pour out my heart.  When I find the time, it is based on my reading of the Bible.  I have read the Bible through several times, and it is like an old friend now.  Once you read it enough, you begin to identify with and be able to imagine having conversations with people like Ruth, or Anna.  Not in a weird way, but as a way of pondering and meditating on the lessons involved.

In the past, I have tried not to post about religion on my site.  I have always gone through searching and reevaluating and I felt like my spirituality was too immature to say anything about.  When I search out a topic, I exhaust it until I know as much as I can know without actually having a college degree, because my favorite hobby is research.  I love to research.  I can tell you the little idiosyncrasies of the Amish, and explain the monotheistic concept behind Hindu gods.

But we have been through the ringer and when you are absolutely forced to make your heart right with God, things become very clear.  Even though I love all the good from all religions and all spiritualities, it's important to find balance.  Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.  I feel that Christians who constantly live in fear of the dark side are the ones who are really in danger.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:27

Practicing Zen for Parents

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Posted on : 10:15 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

I have been practicing meditation for many years, although its not something I really talk about with people.  There is not a large Buddhist community here, and I wouldn't really say I'm a Buddhist.  Just like our eclectic homeschooling approach, our approach to spirituality is very eclectic as well.   I also wouldn't say I have a great routine, and it goes up and down but I can say now that my meditation practice has really benefited me and helps me to internalize things I want to change about myself, and the way I feel about things that are happening around me.  I think my way is more of a Zen approach.  For a quick introduction to Zen, check out this site:
www.do-not-zzz.com


I have read many books on Buddhism, not having my own guru to learn from, but I highly recommend these:



I would also recommend The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet, and the Tao te Ching translated by Feng.

I think what's so great about learning the basics of these philosophies and internalizing their principles so that they become habit is that not only does your life become less stressful, all of the Continuum Concept, unschooling, non-coercive parenting strategies fall into place naturally all on their own.  It is a gradual process to learn to not react in anger when a child rips up a book (one of my pet peeves)... it is ingrained in us in our culture to protect physical objects over the emotional well-being of our children.  I know that I don't want to react, but I do.  Practicing meditiaton evens me out and gives me the practice in controlling my thoughts and breathing so that anger does not appear.

Really, I wish it was that simple, but with practice it is getting better. :)

Free Wool Soaker Diaper Covers Patterns

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Posted on : 11:19 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

There is a list of patterns on another site but most of the links were broken.  Here is an updated list of free wool diaper cover knitting patterns.

Tiny Birds Organics (this is the one I am going to try next)

I highly recommend that if you like a pattern, copy and past the instructions into a Word document, or save the page, or write it out on paper.  You can't sell the pattern, but you can certainly copy it for your own use, just in case the site disappears.

Favorite Classical Music for Kids

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Posted on : 11:19 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

To have read the greatest works of any great poet, to have beheld or heard the greatest works of any great painter or musician, is a possession added to the best things in life. - Algernon Charles Swinburne (an incredibly controversial poet of the Victorian era)

Autumn's Favorites (she's almost 3):

Mozart
Symphony No. 25 in G Minor (a great version is from the Amadeus soundtrack)
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor
A Little Night Music
The Magic Flute
The Marriage of Figaro
Beethoven 
Fur Elise
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor
Yo-Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin doing Flight of the Bumblebee
Carmina Burana by Carl Orff
Bolero de Ravel by Maurice Ravel

A sigh of relief...

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Posted on : 11:37 AM | By : Nic | In :

I don't post politics... partly because I am currently an expatriate American living in Canada which gives me a odd perspective on things, and because nothing is ever black and white.  That being said, I know many people who are closet Ron Paul supporters, so here's a bit of relief for them...the ReLOVEution continues!

And here comes the nausea...

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Posted on : 9:45 AM | By : Nic | In :

I haven't posted very much because the morning-afternoon-night sickness came down on me quite suddenly.  It seems as though with my girls whatever I could eat during pregnancy is what they ended up liking to eat when they started solid foods.  With my oldest it was garlic, and she loves all kinds of seasoned foods, and with my other one it was bland things like oatmeal, and now she only would eat oatmeal and peanut butter if she could.  


I ate sushi (just California rolls) the other day and it made me feel terrible.  Melba toast seems to be the only thing that really tastes good.  lol good ol' Melba toast.

Goodbye Lake Mead

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Posted on : 10:50 PM | By : Nic | In :

I've been to Lake Mead twice, both during visits to Hoover Dam.  I remember there being lots of water...now it's down to half.

I can design an engine 64 miles to a gallon...

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Posted on : 4:10 PM | By : Nic | In : ,


We had a bit of a debate yesterday about MPG and this little video above resolved it.  The question was, would we save more on gas getting two VW bugs and driving around as a family caravan (since we need to fit three carseats), or in a 2000's Chevy Suburban?  I thought for sure two VW's would be more fuel efficient than one massive suburban.

The reason I thought this is because we currently drive the most wonderful little car on the planet, a 1996 two-door Geo Metro named Marshmallow.  We have now replaced the back brake shoes, and the muffler and we'll soon be doing the front brakes and the catalytic converter.  Once we do those it should purr like a kitten.  The most wonderful thing of all is that we are getting about 50 MPG.  We assumed that the VW would be comparable, and how much more cool it would be to have two matching beetles following each other around, lol.

Unfortunately, a VW only gets about 21-25 MPG.  A Chevy Suburban for the 200's gets about 18-20.  So technically, they are about the same.  Driving two Bugs is like driving a Suburban.  

Which brings me to the quote of the day...

Look at me
Look at me
Just called to say that it's good to be
ALIVE
In such a small world
All curled up with a book to read
I can make money open up a thrift store
I can make a living off a magazine
I can design an engine sixty four
Miles to a gallon of gasoline
I can make new antibiotics
I can make computers survive aquatic conditions
I know how to run a business
And I can make you wanna buy a product
Movers shakers and producers
Me and my friends understand the future
I see the strings that control the systems
I can do anything with no assistance
I can lead a nation with a microphone
With a microphone
With a microphone
I can split the atoms of a molecule
Of a molecule
Of a molecule
- The Flowbots (Handlebars)

The Zen of Pregnancy

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Posted on : 9:59 PM | By : Nic | In :

I am pregnant, which is not something we really officially announce around here... we just send quick emails to people before it blurts out because we can't keep secrets.  I am 6 weeks according to my baby ticker at the side of the blog lol.


I show right away and have already grown out of my clothes, and lucky for me my sister gave me all of her old maternity clothes which is great because she's a wonderful hippie so they all look nicer than my non-maternity clothes.  I grow so fast because I am 5'1" and 110 pounds and the baby has nowhere to go but out.

Pregnancy is like 9 months of meditation practice for me, and this time it is particularly challenging.  I spend every day keeping my muscles calm and relaxed and practicing deep breathing as a kind of walking meditation of motherhood.  I also spend every day cleaning, homeschooling, teaching diplomacy to young children, working as a part-time web administrator, and finding the time to think of more free dates with my husband.  I actually don't enjoy pregnancy at all... it is a necessary step to holding a cute, cuddly baby and seeing it grow.  But I do enjoy the challenge or relaxation.

I have had two drug-free child births.  The first one still ended up with intervention, but it could have ended up as a Cesarean if I had been drugged or had not been mentally prepared to handle the pain.  24 hours of labour is quite long enough.  The second baby actually hurt worse...I could feel that my body knew exactly what it was doing, and was much more efficient at contractions.  My body managed to cut labour down to 8 hours, with no interventions.  Total hospital time for both deliveries was 11 hours, and the only reason I was in the hospital the second time was so the midwife could meet us there and the hospital could handle the cleanup.

This time around it will be a home birth.  I want my children near to welcome this new being into the world, and I don't want to go anywhere afterwards.  I love being home.


My Little Note About Deliberate Living and the Economy

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Posted on : 9:38 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I just read that Merrill Lynch was 'bought' by Bank of America at the risk of its complete failure.  I also read today that of all the world's countries, America has the largest deficit.  It's a whopping $700 billion +.


The advice to go out and shop to help the economy is not a good idea, unless you are using your own money.  There is just so much debt that now the banks can't even handle it.  Most of Merrill Lynch's problem was in foreclosed mortgages.  Most of people who can't pay their mortgage are already in debt over their heads and they aren't making enough money.  Possibly they lose jobs to foreign workers.  

I just have to say, that for everyone's sakes, get out of debt, and live simply.  It has come to the point now that everyone is in one giant hole together, and your spending effects everyone.  Part of sustainability is a sustainable economy, and it cannot be sustainable while dependent on debt and foreign workers, foreign oil, and foreign products.

Quote of the Day

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Posted on : 10:46 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

I found this surprising quote from Temple Grandin, a smart lady with Asperger's who has been a very vocal advocate for autism.  It surprised me... I don't know why it did, but it made me look at our culture today a little differently:


"I often wonder how my education would have been handled differently today.  Some things would have been much easier because so much more is known about autism.  It is likely that my mother would have found a good speech therapist, teachers and doctors to work with me.  But the lack of structure and clear rules in today's world would be a major problem for me.  I was brought up in a world where what was right and wrong were very clear.  The structure environment of the 1950's was good for me.  Children with autism need clear rules" 
- Temple Grandin, (from the introduction to Children with Autism: A Parent's Guide)

I suppose it surprised me because today we look down on the 50's... I hear how rigid and old-fashioned, patriarchal and closed-minded it all was back then.  It brought up a question in my mind that perhaps one reason we seem to see so many children with autism may be because our culture has given our children no boundaries.  Perhaps there were just as many children with these tendencies back then, but it just wasn't noticed because they were just a little bit more comfortable in their world.

If it could only be balanced out... if we could drop the 50's nonsense about bottle feeding and crying it out, but still have boundaries, maybe we would finally achieve a perfect world, lol.

Non-commemorating

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Posted on : 8:37 PM | By : Nic | In :



Has it been this long?  And yet we are all still hurting... 
I hate commemorating such a tragedy.  I want to commemorate the heroes, rather than destruction and grief.  We have to move on, and really rebuild rather than just masking it all over.  I don't like calling it "Nine Eleven" or "Ground Zero" - code words, numbers assigned to yet another act of violence. 
On September 11, 2001, several planes were hijacked in a coordinated attack against American people using very populated landmarks.  Some were successful, some were not because of the heroism of those on board the plane.  Some say it was an inside job, some say it was religious extremists.  Some say it was a political move.  Whatever the cause, we've never moved forward.

Birth By Numbers

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Posted on : 7:20 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

The 4,000,000 births every year in the US carry these dreadful statistics: 

1 in 3 - births are a Cesarean

85% - low-risk women have fetal monitoring, which puts them at risk for birth intervention (like forceps and C-Section) and infection

$8,000 - the cost of a hospital delivery

$11,000 - the cost of a Cesarean birth

$2,000 - the average cost of a statistically safer homebirth

12% - births that are induced

8.5% - vacuum extractions used to assist labor

4% - forceps used to assist labor

19% - number of episiotomies 

165 - number of interventions used per 100 births

1 in 500 - children on the autistic spectrum

A day at our house...

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Posted on : 12:14 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

We've finally worked ourselves into our school year rhythm.  I don't like to call it a routine or a schedule, because it doesn't depend on time or a task list at all.  It revolves around the seasons, how much sleep we need, and the current needs of everyone in the family.  It is imperfect (I wish I could help meet everyone's needs every day!) but with practice it's getting better to tune in.  


We tend to be night owls, all of us, but we put the girls to bed on the floor of our room around 8pm.  Other times it doesn't happen until 10pm because we're out so there are lots of times we get up at 9am or 9:30.

The first thing we do is make breakfast.  Annie needs more sleep than Autumn (which may be part of that sensory integration issue) so sometimes we get it made before she's up, but other times we all try to work together.  This morning it was scrambled eggs made with rice milk and toast.  Autumn dealt out the plates, and Annie made the toast and stirred the eggs.
Then we clean up the house.  This means making beds, starting laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, folding laundry from the day before, and tidying up.  Usually this takes no longer than 20 minutes.  Annie's jobs are folding laundry and vacuuming, Autumn helps me operate the dryer, and they both tidy up.  Don't think this is all willingly done... it is not an option.  They are clearly told to do it because they are part of our family team, and if they refuse they lose out on privileges like video games.  Autumn is usually willing, Annie not so much.  They do have choices in the manner in which they are do these things... there is no wrong way to do it, as long as they do their best and take pride in it.  This means our clothes are wrinkled and folded in crazy ways, but that's ok.

Then we start school time.  I don't like calling it school time, but it helps Annie get into a mindset that now she's going to concentrate her mind on something.  We start out memorizing a Bible verse using a chalkboard.  I draw pictograms for some of the words, and now that she is starting to read, some of the words are simply written out for her to sound out.  She also repeats a Latin word and its definition.  There is one Bible verse and Latin word for the week.  She really enjoys this part of the day, and it's a game so it's fun... like figuring out a puzzle.
Since we still haven't gotten the rest of our books for school (like Konos and Math Wizardry), we are working a lot on reading and writing.  This has actually been a big bonus to us, because although Annie has an amazing memory and an even more amazing vocabulary, she can't express her thoughts and feelings.  I didn't realize how much this was a problem until we tried dictation .

So we start out reading an easy reader, such as Dr. Seuss beginning readers, just a few pages and I ask her when she's done.  Sometimes she wants to push herself but ends of up getting tired and frustrated so I have to actually stop her and say she's done enough.  I have to mention that last year in preschool I made phonics flashcards for her because she was ready for them and liked it, so she hasn't had to do that and is simply reading.  After reading is done, she has one of those newsprint writing books (I got all of her notebooks at the dollar store) and practices writing individuals letters (a whole row of h's for example), and two words from the pages she just read.  The words I pick are usually ones that don't follow the phonics rules, like 'the' or 'one', or are more complex like compound words.  This is because I want her to memorize those and writing them down helps that.  It's all memorization.  When she is reading a word she doesn't know, I repeat the phonics rule the same way every time.  For example, in the word 'chose', I would say, "'Ch' together sounds like a train, and the 'o' says his name because of the silent 'e' at the end."  She usually gets the clue well enough to sound it out on her own without me having to say it for her.

Then on some days we do dictation.  Right now we're dictating tiny essays about a recent topic, and haven't done any creative writing because Annie just doesn't know how to make up a story from her imagination.  Sometimes we'll play a game where I'll start a made-up story and she has to fill it in, or we'll do a Round Robin type story, but she can't just fantasize one herself.  So since we just read The Magic School Bus Blows It's Top, her essay today was about how volcanoes can make islands.  Right now I have to start some of the sentences, and then she has to try to express her thought to complete the sentence, which is tough for her.  She wants to use one word only.  I'll say, "The melted or molten rock...."  and she'll just say, "Magma."  I'll ask her what it does but she can't tell me - not because she doesn't know but just can't express it.  When we finally get to the point of expressing a complete thought and writing a whole paragraph she's very proud of her story and she loves it.

The only other thing we're doing is an art lesson on Thursday's and Fridays (the beginning of the week is Science).  I teach them perspective and shapes used in drawing like the ellipse, and shading.  Autumn gets in on those lessons more than anything because her favorite thing is art.

Then school is done.  I go on the computer and blog and work and get that stuff done.  Then we make lunch.  Today we're having sandwiches and fruit.  After lunch we either go run errands, hang out and have some quiet time, or go to the library.  Sometimes they go out to play in the backyard or play with friends.  

After school they each get an hour of computer time, which they use for Noggin or PBS kids, or a Dora game we have.  I'm trying to limit my computer time each day too.  I need to do some knitting and sewing, but at the same time I have computer responsibilities, and I have writing projects so I have to schedule myself or I get too absorbed in what I'm doing.  I try to keep it for the evening.  The only reason we limit this is because it's an antisocial and addictive activity, much the same as television (which we don't have), but only marginally better.  I've seen families ruined by computer games, and since it is a privilege to even have a computer, it is something that can be taken away.  It's the only thing they care about losing, lol.

Before bed we often watch a movie with the girls.  We don't always watch kid's movies... they both really liked The Matrix the other day.  We try to keep it pretty open what they can be exposed to... if it's something we watch, they can too.  This means that we have to be careful what we keep around and watch ourselves, lol.  The philosophy behind this is that if they can understand something enough to ask a question, they can ask and we'll answer it, no matter what it is.  If they are too young to understand it, then it's either going to roll right off their back, or we can explain why they don't have to be afraid of it.  Our kids have very few fears.  They don't like sleeping in the dark, but it's more of an uneasiness that if they needed to get up they would be blind and alone.  When we come to bed they don't mind because we are in the room.  Annie used to get night terrors because of her sensory integration problems, but they never have nightmares about movies or stories they read.  And we read the original fairytales sometimes too (the one where Red Riding Hood gets eaten!  lol), and they watch nature documentaries when the little antelope gets eaten by the lion and ripped to pieces.  They only have nightmares when they get sick, and it's always about mom or dad, lol.

So after the movie they brush teeth and get pajamas on (or Sunday dresses, whatever they really want to wear that is comfortable), and we read from a chapter book.  Right now it's Hurry Home, Candy by Meindert deJong.  His books are excellent for bedtime and a multiple of ages because he has an unusual writing style which repeats phrases in a soothing way, but still telling a compelling and serious story with heavy subjects, such as war, disability, and hunger.

Then they each have books in their beds that they can read quietly to themselves until they decide to fall asleep.  Sometimes Annie wants us to bring her into bed after we come to bed, which we'll do, and sometimes Autumn (being a lighter sleeper) will climb in later.  They climb in late enough though that we have our own time in the bed as well. ;)

And that's our day. :)

Free Date Idea... Lipsyncing!

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Posted on : 12:19 PM | By : Nic | In :

Last night our free date was really fun.  We found a very dramatic song (in our case, it was Don't Give Up by Josh Groban), put the lyrics on the screen, and used Apple Photobooth to film ourselves lipsyncing to it.  


Now if you are not fortunate enough to have an Apple (you poor, poor soul), any digital camera should be able to do the same thing.  It's deceptively difficult to make it look like you are are really singing, and my husband was much better at it than me.  I think one of the tricks is to know the timing of the song, know the lyrics, and pick a song with very distinct words (pop songs work well).

You can learn sweet skills from this classic video:



I am not posting our video, lol.

Ways to Fulfill the Need for Touch

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Posted on : 11:31 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

I've been researching alternative therapies to help Annie become more tolerate to touch, as well as to fulfill her need for human touch without her feeling uncomfortable.  My goal is to make her feel as relaxed as possible, especially since she is never relaxed.  I found a video on craniosacral therapy that I want to try:

Floor Unwinding - Watch more amazing videos here

Higher Education, Unjobbing and Big Box Stores

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Posted on : 8:59 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

Confession:

Yesterday we shopped at a certain big box store for a few essential items... deodorant, socks, razors, rubber bands, and a stainless steel water bottle.  This is the store we normally avoid and end up at Zellers (the Canadian version of K-Mart) instead.  I got 20 pairs of socks for $10, the deodorant was natural and everything except the water bottle was made in Canada or the US.

I hate that store, and we never buy clothing items there, ever.  But we still had to find cheap shoes for the girls, and ended up at Baby Gap.  I have to confess too that I absolutely love Baby Gap clothes, and I would wear everything in there if it were the right size.  Gap is marginally better than some (after some pressure by activists, which you can see on the Social Responsibility page), but while I used to have a special kind of hatred reserved for ol' Wally, it's not the store itself that is harmful to cultures, the environment, and the economy.

It's the products, which are available at any big box store. Any store that lowers prices by carrying products that outsource to countries willing to work for less, is willing to sacrifice the environment even a little bit for cost, and takes more jobs from North American workers than they give (and that's pretty much every store) is just as bad.

The problem is that when I need socks, I can't get them at the thrift store, and I can't afford the organic fair trade ones.  So my only option is to limit what we buy, and how much gas we use to get there, which is exactly what we did.  Part of the trouble is that the reality of unjobbing is that it's resourceful poverty.  We don't feel the crunch because we choose not to have stuff that other people have, stuff that we don't need.  We don't feel obligated to give our kids things that other people feel their children have a right to, like lots of toys or Barbies, or even lots of clothes.  I don't even want people to give us old kid's clothes anymore because there's just so much of it.

This is the kind of unjobbing we do because we don't really have another way to do it, although there is another way.  Low income means less opportunities for travel, cultural events, homeschool resources and makes it very tricky to stay debt free like we are.  Someday we would like to buy a house, and we want to buy it cash.  Someday we want to take the kids to Japan.  We want to have five kids, but we want to adopt a couple of those kids because we feel that is our social responsibility.  When you buy stuff at the store it is possible to be completely sustainable and fair trade as long as you have a bit more to spend.  It all takes money.

Unjobbing is a misleading term.  It's not about not having a job, or not working.  It's about working at something you enjoy rather than selling your soul for money as you work at a 'job' that you hate.  For some people (and for us right now) it's about working less, and taking a job with freedom to choose our schedule and the ability to work together if we want.  But the next step in the journey is higher education.  What an opportunity it will be to raise our kids right on a university campus.  John's going to be at school for so long that our oldest will be a teenager by the time we move on to a career afterwards, but think of all the ideas and events they will have access to.  Hopefully it inspires them to go to college too.

My Favorite Natural Homes on the Internet

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Posted on : 9:34 PM | By : Nic | In : ,


Some of my favorite alternative and natural homes:

Soule Mama's Home






Homeschoolers Getting into College

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Posted on : 8:24 PM | By : Nic | In :

We are beginning a journey as a family to help Dad go back to school.  We both have interesting educational records... he left public school in 10th grade and was unschooled.  In that time he started companies and learned everything any high school student would know, and more.  


I was homeschooled more traditionally and I got two diplomas: one from my parents, one from a well-known correspondence high school diploma program.  The correspondence one isn't worth dirt. I then applied to several universities, and got into all of them: Penn State, University of Central Washington, University of Montana, and Malaspina University-College (now Vancouver Island University).  The only college I attended was a community college in Arizona, because I had a family and that's a priority.  I will go back to school when my family responsibilities aren't so great, but now I know a lot about the college admissions process as a homeschooler.

Canadian universities don't have much experience with homeschoolers, and they don't like it, although if you are going to one of the open universities that guarantee everyone admissions then there's no trouble.  If you are Canadian it is much easier to go sit in on the Grade 12 exams so you can get a diploma.  When I was admitted to VIU, I had to fulfill the typical application requirements for a homeschooler (see below) except that I wasn't fully accepted into the program, and it was hard for them to understand what I was without actually being there in person.  If you can walk on campus to apply to a university, it is much easier.  I had to go through a probationary time in which they would make sure I could do the work, and then I would be fully accepted into the program.

American Universities knew all about homeschooling, and they were very welcoming... in fact, I felt like I got special treatment.  I had:
  • A good score on the ACT.  I didn't study (and I wish I had), but I was in the 90th percentile.  The ACT is way better than the SAT and accepted by all universities, although the top ones like Harvard and Stanford want you to take three SAT Subject Tests also.
  • A homeschool transcript.  This is just like a high school transcript but has subjective grades based on what your parents think you did.  You can add any extracurriculars you want, and your GPA is simply compared to the national scale.  Some universities have a special application so that you don't need to make an extra transcript, but it's nice to have it written out to keep it standard.  If they ask for a separate one, have your parent take it to a notary and get it notarized, which holds extra weight for legitimacy. 
  • A good essay.  The essays are probably the most important part of the application process.  Write out a really good essay about yourself, something original but not cute, something that tells how you stand out but not boastful.  Keep this essay so you can modify it for each university or scholarship you apply for.  There are many examples online.
Many people (homeschool students included) have many fears and self-doubts about applying to top universities, or any university, and often choose to go to a community college first, or a state school rather than a private one.  Often this fear is unfounded as ivy league schools are actively recruiting homeschoolers because they are independent learners, and have so many extracurricular activities.  Community college may be an easy ticket into the institutionalized education system, but it really pays to have the self-confidence to go for the big schools.  All of the top universities now offer complete financial aid packages that allow students from families that make under $60k to graduate debt-free.  I say go for it!

The Little Travelers

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Posted on : 10:19 AM | By : Nic | In :

Available at TheLittleTravelers.com :







Quote of the Day

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Posted on : 9:46 AM | By : Nic | In :


“The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” - Galileo Galilei

Continuum Concept and the Autistic Spectrum

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Posted on : 6:16 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I've been reading a great deal lately, as always, struggling to do what's best for my kids and work out where the issues come from.

As parents we started out as Attachment Parents. I breastfed for a year, they slept in our room for a year, we carried them in a sling and held them most of the time. Then we became Continuum Concept people and tried to correct all the child-centered mistakes we made as AP people.

I finished reading the book Our Babies Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith Small a while ago, but I am still thinking about it.  It made an impact on me because it helped to clarify some of what is in the Continuum Concept.  I had huge feelings of guilt after reading the CC book because I felt as though I really had followed my instincts, and yet my firstborn was not 'innately social' or happy the way a CC child could be.  I must have done something wrong I thought.


The tribe described in The Continuum Concept has no maladjusted children, crying children or special needs children.  Or very rarely, and even then they are not extremely malfunctioning or anti-social.  Where are the autistic children?  The children with disabilities?  The children with birth defects from a pregnant mother's malnutrition?  As Our Babies, Ourselves points out, the truth may simply be that when a baby is not like all the other 'normal' babies and is seen as weaker in some way, many tribes kill the baby, or allow it to die.  It is a survival mechanism.  That's why the tribe will let a baby roll around at the edge of a cliff... if it isn't smart enough to avoid danger, it becomes a liability. 

So in our culture we have many children, whether from our own toxic environment or simply genetics, who are not innately social, who have no empathy, who are absolutely oblivious to danger, and infants who resist being held even though you know that they need touch in order to survive.  It is almost like having children with no survival instinct at all.

So how does one approach raising a child with behavioral disorders and neurological dysfunction from a Continuum Concept point of view?  As I go through every day, I feel as though I am forcing my child to be hugged, forcing her to act in a normal way, so that one day it will become natural to her.  I have tried letting her discover these things on her own in a natural way, and she simply recedes into dysfunctional, unhappy, angry, child unable to communicate.  Her normal state of being is anger and anxiety about every stimulation from her environment.

The only time she functions in a relatively normal way is when she is away from me, in a highly structured activity such as a swimming lesson or a class with an expected routine.  Even then she needs special attention from the teacher as she is unable to follow the class independently.  Autistic children often crave almost constant attention from their primary caregiver, and it's exhausting because it doesn't matter how firm I am or how many times I redirect her activity, it never ends.  It is never satisfied.

I have read that around 7-8, these children mellow out a little bit and become more able to focus on their interests and studies rather than being bothered by things all the time.  That is my hope and my prayer, as I want to keep homeschooling her but I cannot allow her to drain me to the point that I cannot parent my other children as well.


Positive Videos on Autism

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Posted on : 1:22 PM | By : Nic | In :



Air Car

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Posted on : 7:19 PM | By : Nic | In :

Facing the Facts...

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Posted on : 12:04 AM | By : Nic | In :

I've decided to finally face the facts and admit fully that Annie truly has autism.  I'm not sure where she is on the autistic spectrum... somewhere high functioning, probably Aspergers, with Sensitivity Integration problems.  She has not been diagnosed with anything except the Sensitivity Integration, because she was so high functioning that she would not qualify for other services.  


It has been a rough day.  Her little sister, at two years old, is more mature and handles situations much better and Annie looks to her for leadership and examples of normal. Annie screams constantly and is violent, and I've been trying desperately to treat her as normal in the hopes that my positive expectations of her would bring her closer to a behavior that would make her part of society in some way.  But that is simply false hope.  I need to treat her as an autistic child.  I don't see autism as a 'disease' that needs to be 'cured', but rather a neurological disorder that we will have to live with and that has some valuable aspects as well... for example, her amazing intelligence and memory.

Discipline is our major issue, but I found this wonderful post at Be a Good Dad that has given us a clue, and resonated with us about how Annie reacts to her situations.  I could post many, many examples of what an autistic tantrum looks like from YouTube, but suffice it to say that most people think their child throws a tantrum.  An autistic child throws a tantrum that makes the neighbors think you have ripped all of her limbs off, and left her alone to die for a few hours at a time, several times a day.  And then you repeat that every day, forever.  There are no terrible twos, because emotional development is delayed.  While Autumn is turning three and getting over with the terrible twos in a way that I find incredibly easy to deal with, Annie is 5.5 and still in it but 100 times worse.

The trouble is that around others, Annie is able to contain herself for brief periods of time, a few hours, and function normally while internally imploding.  When she returns to our home she lets it all out by screaming about weird things, finding a comfort object that she has to hold in her hand constantly, and violence towards her sister.  Generally this is true but it happens in stores and other places as well, and people she is comfortable with. 

Anyway, I could take her to the doctor and try to qualify her for therapy, which I have heard can cause a major drain on the family as the world starts to revolve around the therapy of that child and consume time that could be spent doing quality family stuff.  Or I could continue to homeschool, arm myself with the knowledge and tools I need and give her the therapy of a loving, accepting family hopefully.  Medication is not an option for us at the moment (I have some strong feelings about Ritalin and antipsychotics for use in children), although all those alternative solutions like diet changes seem appealing.  

It's a freedom to allow myself to finally admit this.  And it's wonderful how much support there is on the internet... parents have really taken charge of this issue.

Random Things

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Posted on : 9:16 PM | By : Nic | In :

Outside My Window... the great big dark.

I am thinking... about Harvard, autism, homeschooling, and jumping through hoops at institutions and political systems.

I am thankful for... my husband who helped me today when I had simple day surgery.

From the kitchen... the empty clean of an unused kitchen, lol.

I am wearing... a gray tank top and jeans and socks.  I have a dressing on my back and arm and I don't want anything to touch it.

I am creating... a winter hat, a homeschool notebook for the year, a homeschool resource list, a blog post.

I am going... to knit some soakers too.  And do an oil painting soon.  And listen to lots of stuff on iTunes U.

I am reading... Birthing From Within, The Message, and Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul.

I am hoping... that my back and arm won't hurt so much tomorrow.

I am hearing... YouTube and podcasts on autism.

Around the house... more laundry, more dishes, more tidying up.

One of my favorite things... notebooks.  I don't know what is, but I love blank books.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Rest and feel better, eat healthy, learn more about autism.

Don't Panic! Hitchiker's Homeschool Guide to the First Day of School

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Posted on : 11:58 AM | By : Nic | In :

In the US most people have already started school, but here in Canada the first day is Tuesday, right after Labor Day.  On the Yahoo! homeschool groups I am a member of, there has been a number of panicked messages from many homeschool moms (new and veteran alike), with the same theme: "What have I done?!  The first day of school was horrific!  My children are animals!"


This is a preventable feeling, as the only panic you should really feel when homeschooling is when you're ordering books for school and you realize you have too many choices.  Here are a list of vital ways to keep your sanity and make the first day a good one (and the first week fun):

1. Pick a definite day to start.  Don't just say, "Ok we'll start sometime when we get back from vacation." Most likely the public school schedule would work best, but it doesn't really matter as long as you feel confident your are getting the required number of weeks for your state.

2. Set up a place to study that is best for the kids, and not what looks nice to you.  We will be doing school on a couch, we keep the homeschool books in a plastic crate, and our other books are nearby.  We have a craft area next to us as well, and toys are out of site but close enough for the preschooler to get to without feeling alone.

3.  Keep it simple.  Unless you are radically unschooling, you should plan what books you want to use and a general idea of how much you want to do in a day.  I find though that trying to get down to the details of planning what pages you are reading and what projects you are doing on paper for a whole year just isn't realistic and sets you up for failure.  If you don't finish a book in a year, it's no big deal.

4.  Get dressed the first day of school, and have the house tidy.  It's possible that as the year goes on you will probably be doing days in your pajamas, but make the first day special by having everyone get dressed and make all the beds and do the dishes before school.  It makes the kids treat the day with more respect and clears your own mind.

5.  If it's the first day of homeschooling ever, work gradually into a full schedule.  Only do math and reading the first day, then add handwriting, then science a few days later.  Or do a bare-bones schedule for a week, then add everything else the next week so you can work into a routine.  If you made a schedule for the day of which order to do a subject, and someone gets frustrated, scrap the schedule and come back to that subject later.

6.  Start at the same time every day.  Some homeschooling families are so busy they find this impossible and do school in the car sometimes.  But really if you get your brain used to studying at the same time each day it makes it easier.

7.  Make sure it's not all about the curriculum.  Sometimes I have seen families so into their expensive curriculum that they have no money left for the stuff that their kids want to do in their spare time.  For example, if a child really wants a microscope, make sure you haven't used up your budget!

8.  Be cheap.  Buy used, online and at library book sales.  Only buy the books that you can't get at the library unless you use them all the time.  Use the internet!  Use the computer!

9.  Be creative.  Your child hates math but loves computer games?  Get them into programming.  Even a young child can do basic programming.  Having an awful day?  Go on a spontaneous nature walk field trip.

10.  Have fun, enjoy your children.  You get to be home and learn with them.  It is a gift.  Even when they are driving you insane, you will laugh later.  You will.

Turning Over the WInter Garden and Quote of the Day

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Posted on : 9:37 AM | By : Nic | In : , , ,


Sin arises when things that are a minor good are pursued as though they were the most important goals in life. If money or affection or power are sought in disproportionate, obsessive ways, then sin occurs. And that sin is magnified when, for these lesser goals, we fail to pursue the highest good and the finest goals. So when we ask ourselves why, in a given situation, we committed a sin, the answer is usually one of two things. Either we wanted to obtain something we didn’t have, or we feared losing something we had.

 - Augustine

The painting above is by Ary Scheffer, of Augustine and Saint Monica.  I was reading Wikipedia about Augustine, and it is amazing how many minute details of his life we know about, even though he was born in 354 AD.  I love Wikipedia, because my intense and constant craving to satisfy my curiosity about everything can be instantly satiated.  Actually the entire internet serves that purpose for me, and I don't realize how many times I ask Google a question during the day until I don't have the internet.  It must be at least 20 - 30 times, lol. I wish I could that dedicated to praying or reading my scriptures.

The other day I finished up what our landlord had started and finished up a small raised bed for a little winter garden.  It is about 5 x 7 feet, and is really for the girls to work on rather than adding much to our food supply.

We'll do chives, radishes, lettuce, broccoli and spinach. These plants enjoy colder temperatures, and are relatively quick to mature.  If we do have to cover it in case of frost (which probably won't happen if we get the seeds in soon), I'm not sure what we'll do yet.