mama scout lab e-course

Sunday, December 30, 2012

25 mini-adventures in the library

We spend many afternoons at our neighborhood library. At one point our time switched from going to find particular books, to just hanging out.

For hours.

Reading, exploring, asking questions, sharing, talking....

I wanted to share a quick list of fun things you can do at the library other than just check out books. Any of these ideas would be a great boredom buster. Just tell your kid you have an adventure in mind and embrace the mission with verve. You will have a great time!

Please share the interesting, fun or just odd things your family does at the library in the comments!

You can download a copy to keep in your purse or journal here.

1. Look at microfilm from your birthday, or a hundred years ago, or when grandma was born.

2. Look for the biggest book in the library. Take your picture with it.

3. Browse the travel section, find a place you want to visit, make some plans.

4. Go to the cookbook area, choose a recipe, go the store, get the ingredients and cook it that day.

5. Everyone find a poem, read it out loud and then copy it into your journal.

6. Choose a random CD, listen to it all the way through.

7. Kind Bomb

8. Scan the books of quotes. Find a good one and write it outside on the sidewalk with chalk.

9. Bring paper and colored pencils. Draw from the easy I-Can-Draw-Books for an hour.

10. Take a present to the librarians.

11. Leave a thoughtful review on a post-it note in a book you really loved.

12. Find out what services your library offers. Ellison machine? Study prints? Study rooms?

13. Occupy! Have a meeting, writer’s group, books club, homeschool co op, adventure planning committee at the library.

14. Make photocopies of your hand, funny book titles, weird images....

15. Make a list of suggested books and media for your library to buy. Make the library YOUR library.

16. Arrange a library tour.

17. Browse books on the flora and fauna of your area. Learn to identify something new.

18. Check out the corresponding children’s or adult section to your favorite area (reptiles, art, mystery...)

19. Ask about the special collections.

20. Read a biography from the children’s sections on someone you know very little about.(I choose Justin Beiber).

21. Find a baby name book, make a list of funny name combinations, choose a new name for the day.

22. Hunt for authors with your same last name.

23. Look in the reference section. What is the weirdest reference book you can find?

24. Buy old magazines, cut them up and make happy posters, rehang in the library.

25. Make sure each kid has their own library card and bag. Do not fuss about late fees. Ever.


Are you interested in infusing your family life with more creativity and connection? Join us in the next Mama Scout Family e-Lab. We are signing up right....NOW! 

I would love to have you!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

choose your 2013 guiding word

The potential energy held in the time immediately after the holidays and before the new year is tremendous. You can hear it crackling under the surface, waiting to be harnessed and transformed into whatever you can dream up.

Each year, I eschew resolutions or life lists and instead gather my intentions around one word. I let this word being my guiding principle and use it to motivate and re-center myself through out the year.

I recently read an interview with Joy Harjo where she said, " ...writing tells the truth, but also constructs a truth upon which to build on." YES! Writing, even for the non-writer, can not only help figure out where you are at, but can construct the road map for where you want to go.

There are so many possible truths and one way to get to the one you want is to write it (or paint it, sing it, perform it...)

Grab your journal and use any of the following prompts  to uncover what your word for 2013 might be. And please, share with us!

What do I want to create in the new year?

What do I want to do and how do I want to spend my days?

What do I need to moving towards?

How do I want to feel each day?

What is the legacy I am creating right now?

What are the thoughts I am most afraid to think?

What idea makes my heart beat a little faster?

What can I give up?

How do I want to experience time?

What do I want to create in the new year? 

My word for the year is fly - which for me means to take leaps of faith and do all the madcap things I am thinking/writing/plotting about. I started last year with my labs and was rewarded in both huge and subtle ways. This year, the ideas might be even bigger and I am going to jump into to clear, blue air without a safety net. So, be prepared for some spectacular claims and perhaps some crushing failures. I expect both.

Want to work with me and creative moms from around the world? Sign up for the Mama Scout Family e-Lab

It starts January 7th and offers you 30 packed days of ideas, prompts and creativity projects to help your family reconnect and think outside the box. Troop 4 needs you and your energy!

Monday, December 17, 2012

winter solstice

Hi there. I have slowed down in this space this month as I enjoy the season with my family. Also, I genuinely feel like I do not want to clutter my little digital world any more content than is necessary. You need to be with your family - not trying to keep up with blogs and Pinterest. I seem to be getting nonstop email blasts and links to last minute sales and huge craft round ups that only give me angst.

And in light of recent, horrible national events, I just don't feel like talking too much. 

But, I thought I would share something from the Holiday e-Lab about the winter solstice which happens this Friday. If you have never celebrated a solstice, this year might be a great time to start. It can be reverent, it fits easily into whatever spiritual practice you believe in, and it is full of light and beauty.  

Solstice is the shortest day of the year and although the days will start getting longer, for many, it marks the continutation of a season of early darkness and deep winter; a time for turning inward towards home and the family nest.
Although, I live in Florida, where the winters are mild, we do notice how early it gets dark. We like to celebrate with warm dinners and games, movie nights, extra long night-time reading and lots of blankets.
This season is also an ideal time to personally turn inward. By allocating a little extra time for journaling, art making or reading, the stillness of life becomes like a cocoon. You can plant ideas and dreams that are as wispy as a gossamer thread yet can manifest fully developed when the sun returns into creatures with wings.

Solstice is a time to celebrate and study light and the earth. We inevidably study the science of the earth and its rotation around the sun and make many kinds of lanterns and light sources to make our dinners awash with flickering color.

You might want to spend solstice night with out using any electrical lights. This is a perfect night for a bonfire, bathing and brushing your teeth by candle light.  

If you want to make some lanterns and lighted crafts, I have created a pinterest board with a handful of ideas.

Our traditional solstice dinner is fondue. When my husband and I were much younger we attended a magical wedding in Switzerland where we ate lots of traditional fondue dinners. It is like comfort food to us now as it brings back memories of an amazing adventure. 

We eat cheese fondue with crusty sourdough bread and apples. And we drink wine and hot tea, which we were told would aid in digestion. 

I was going to type up my recipe, but found this sweet story with the recipe, so I will share it instead. 

What is your warmest, most comforting food? That is what you want to serve on Solstice night.

I would love to hear how your family celebrates solstice.


Be sure to check out the 2 e-Labs I am very excited to be offering this January. 

You can read more about them in the upper right hand side of this page. 

Email me with any questions! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

slow holiday

Just a few images from our house right now. We are busy, and still working on the slow, but by setting our intentions early and not over scheduling, we are able to spend more time hiking and feeding the birds, crafting and making and just hanging around. 

How are you?

Are you able to just play and hang this season? 

Is there anything on your schedule you can erase?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

mail and children :: ideas and resources

Do your children love getting and sending mail? Mine have had a deep love of the postal system since they were old enough to understand what the mailman was bringing everyday. 

In fact, my daughter even went as a ballerina-mail lady one Halloween, because ballerinas and postal workers were the two coolest jobs she could think of. 

We have been having some mail time fun around here recently, so I thought I would share some of the different ways we have had played with the mail over the years. 

Reading and writing letters is particularly useful for reluctant writers, but more importantly, the open ended and imaginative qualities are spectacular. You can create any world or character with letters and maps. The possibilities are endless. 

Here are 7 ways to have fun with the mail.

{add your own suggestions in the comments!}

1. Participate in a nature exchange

Nature exchanges can be amazingly fun. Basically, you pair with someone from a different geographical region and swap a box full of nature items from your area. Leaves, shells, seed pods, rocks and pressed flowers are among the most popular bits. You can also send a little note, a regional folk tale, photo of your family, and handmade treats. 

I have done several of these and love them. You can sign up different places on line, but I have had the best luck organizing them one-on-one. You might send out a request to some of the Facebook groups you belong to or just email someone you "know" online to ask if they would be interested. 

I am considering running one through Mama Scout this spring, so make sure you are signed up for my newsletter and Facebook page to get the information. 

2. Put a mailbox in the house (and the yard)
One of the best things we ever did was install a real mailbox in our house (the photograph at the top of the page). It is positioned upstairs in the landing between all the bedrooms and receives mail year round. We have also had an outdoor one for  children to leave messages to each other and the bigger outside world. 

These are magic making. And so easy you can do it NOW. 

And of course, be sure to use those mailboxes. I have had long conversations with my children through the mail. Something about writing the letters makes the communication different, more thoughtful and deeper. 

3. Make your own address labels, stamps, supplies and more.
This is so easy and obvious, but you would be surprised at how custom stickers and stamps add to the excitement. I just buy Avery labels in different sizes and make each kid their own return labels with fun fonts and pictures. You can also make stickers that have warnings or funny sayings on them. And of course, just coloring and drawing on the labels and turning them into stickers and stamps is fun too. 

We love making our envelopes from magazine pages. I use this template because it is little and cute. 

4. See what you can mail 
Can you mail a soda bottle? A hula hoop? A ball? A Flip Flop? Try and see! While you are at the post office asking and finagling, set up a tour for you and your friends. This classic field trip is always educational and interesting. 

5. Start a stamp collection 
Maybe it is only natural that our love of mail turned one kid into a budding philatelist. My daughter has a super cool collection handed down from her Great Grandfather. She is interested in the images and where the stamps are from instead of building a complete collection. She recently received this book and loves the creative ways it suggests collecting. 

6. Sign up for Mariposa Forest letter service
There are all sorts of subscription services for kids (magazines, craft kits...) but this is by far my very favorite. 

When you join,  your child receives biweekly letters from the forest creatures of Mariposa Forest. The letters include a gorgeous photograph and maybe a even a map. My kids were instantly smitten when we first tried a few dispatches from the forest and begged to get it year round (which they will for Christmas). 

This is one of the best gifts I can think of this year. It is imaginative, lasts all year and supports creative women (which is huge in my book!)

7. Get a copy of JRR Tolkien's book Letters From Father Christmas (immediately!).
I saw this recommended by Lori at Project-Based Homeschooling and fell in love as soon as it arrived. 

For over 20 years, Tolkien wrote his children a yearly letter Father Christmas. They included delicate drawings, hand-painted stamps, and hilarious tales of all the mischief happening at the North Pole. There are characters and languages you might now have know were up there. I promise, you will love this book. It is pure magic and a testament of the power of letters between parents and children. It might even spark your own creative project with your children. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

{review + giveaway} imagine childhood: 25 projects that spark curiosity and adventure

It seems like every Christmas there is a pile of activity books under the tree. I have bought my kids books about micro crafts,  making little warfare weapons from office supplies, house building and more. These books end up on the family bookshelf and are really a gift to us all that enriches our life and makes for a creative year. 

If I did not receive a copy of Imagine Childhood: 25 projects that spark curiosity and adventure by Sarah Olmstead, it would have been under our tree this year. 

Imagine Childhood is a treatise on the importance of a slow, intentional, creative-based childhood offering specific projects and suggestions to support the thesis. Divided into three parts: nature, play and imagination,  each  section is filled with evocative essays, hand on projects and breath taking photographs. This book is delightful for the whole family as it easily fulfills both a parent's need for soulful, inspiring writing, and a kid's need for hands-on making!

I love how the projects range from simple to complex, yet all provide the space and tools to create a dreamy, timeless childhood.  Some of the projects are classics, like making tents, sewing kites and building little boats from found natural objects. Others are more unique, like building Rube Goldberg apparatuses, constructing little adobe houses and making a 19th century magic lantern. Olmstead reframes the classics and makes them seem fresh and full of new possibilities. All the projects leave the reader with inspiration and an eagerness to spend time making and playing. 

I especially appreciated that several of the projects were more involved and would be perfect for older kids; I am always on the lookout for open-ended creative projects for olders. In fact, I am sure you will see several highlighted here on the blog in the upcoming year, as my kids are excited to try some out. 

I highly, highly recommend this book. It would be the perfect gift for a any family, but it especially deserves a place under your tree.

You can enter to win a copy of Imagine Childhood & a $25 gift certificate to the Imagine Childhood Shop

Just in time for Christmas, this is a wonderful opportunity!

To win just leave a comment sharing your favorite childhood imaginative activity.

And for good measure, go ahead and like Imagine Childhood on Facebook here. And Mama Scout here

Good Luck! I will pick a winner next Tuesday!
Congratulations Heidi!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

{A Book About Me} a new e-lab for mamas

I am so please to announce: 

A 30-day Mama Scout e-lab for 

mamas looking for themselves. 

Through list making, memory mining, visual map making and attentive looking, we will clear the path back to who we are, noticing how we have changed and plotting who we want to be. 

Who is this is for?
This lab is primarily for mamas who have given so much to their children and families that they have lost a bit of themselves along the way. A virtual room of your own, but in the form of a self-
ethnographic book/journal.

I was inspired to do this project when I did something similar with my children this fall. Over the weeks that I helped them compile books all about themselves (with lists of favorites, recording of life stories, timelines, maps and charts and more), I kept thinking of how the format could be an amazing space for self growth and exploration for women. So, I took notes, adapted and added adult themes to the project and this lab was born.

By recording the details of our lives, both big and small, through word and image, we recover our lost selves and reconstruct stronger versions of the women we want to be. 

You might be looking for the forgotten you, the submerged self, a younger or different you than who you confront in the mirror each morning. This course is to help you uncover her, find her and also redefine her. Because chances are, she has been deep in the muck so long, she might have evolved into something a little different. 

How does this work? 
Each day, for 30 days you will receive an email lab from me. Each lab contains a short essay, a meaty journal prompt, a creative invitation and additional resources to 

help you on your journey.

I will not lie, it is a lot. So much, that you would be hard pressed to complete every aspect of the lab each day. You should be able to read the lab, do the writing and plan a day (soon) when you can do the creative project (they are not terribly difficult or time consuming, but can become absorbing). We will also have a secret Facebook group where I will be at daily and you are invited to participate in. 

The creative projects are for the most part simple and inexpensive, yet novel and meant to disrupt your (and my) default thinking. I hope they will inspire you to look deeper, think weirder, and explore your life in a creative way. 

If you took the family e-lab, the format is similar but the topics and projects are completely new and geared towards you. Of course, I am sure they will have a positive impact on your family but they are meant solely for you.

As a full time, homeschooling mom, I have found online courses to be of great benefit to me. As a lifelong student, I am personally enriched and a much better parent when I am engaging my mind and creative spirit. My e-labs are the type of courses I had been searching for and could not find. So, I created them and learn next to the participants in each lab.

What supplies might I need? 
When the course is closer, you will recieve a welcome letter and a more detailed list of supply ideas. Basically, you will need a journal or notebook with paper, pencil or pen, camera and printing capabilities, an internet connection and generic art supplies. You should not really need to buy anything specific for this course.

AND at the end of the course - you will receive in the mail a merit badge! The merit badge is designed just for this course (it is different than the merit badge that the Family Lab participants receive) and is exactly like a scout merit badge but much cooler because it was made for YOU!

Please contact me if you have any questions about the course!

You can register here

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

choosing & reacting during times of chaos

My husband had a big chunk of time off recently and we have been much busier than we expected.

Thanksgiving came, my brother moved out of state, my old dog had surgery (and has cancer), I ran two e-Labs and started writing a new one, I was interviewed on the radio (you can listen here - I am episode 60), and we got chickens. 

One day we actually had 9 separate errands/appointments. 

That is typically not how we do things. 

We love the slow and deliberate. 

But amazingly, our family did not become stressed or spin out of control in a frenzy trying to keep up. 

Maybe we are learning the lessons we keep close to our hearts and scribble late at nights into our journals. Maybe.

We took deep breaths and plodded through what had to be done and sloughed off what suddenly became less important. 

A saving grace (always) was to schedule long afternoons in the woods (between all those appointments). The kind of afternoons where you lay in the grass napping and then get up and try doing circus tricks, or quietly make little museums from the debris you find scattered around. 

We also straightened up the nature table which is full of items that reflect our current interest in birds. Florida is a wonderful place to be a bird watcher and we are learning about new waterfowl as they arrive on holiday at our nearby lake. 

This month was a wonderful reminder to me, especially as I was leading the first session of the holiday e-Lab (all about creating your life and experiences with intention). 

We can not always anticpate what is around the corner. 

All the best, most orchestrated plans can blow away in an instant. And frequently, they do.

What I can control is my breath, the steadiness of my step, my ability to choose my reaction along with a big dose of humor and grace. 

How do you find calm in the midst of sudden chaos?

I am offering one more session of the Holiday e-Lab. You can sign up here

We will share ideas of simplifying, setting intentions, dealing with negative people, traditions, decorations, food and more. 

This lab is meant to help you find the answers to create the holiday that you want. It is not too late!

Oh, and the Facebook group is full of ideas and support too!

Monday, November 26, 2012

a quiet hello

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and filling. The season is here and I want to be present. I am being called to the forest and the waterways of Florida. While in other parts of the country, people are cozy-ing in and trying to stay warm, we are outside as much as possible, just looking at the light and the migratory bird that visit us each winter. We see and learn about a new one each day. 

It is actually overwhelming how beautiful it is now. 

So, this space will reflect my slight and temporary departure from here as I venture out. I will check in with the photos that I am making and a few words. I also have a few reviews to post this month. 

I am linking up lots of good gift ideas on Facebook. Make sure you "like" Mama Scout and then choose to follow my feed, otherwise you will miss the majority of what I post over there. 

And!! I am offering another session of the Holiday e-Lab starting December 1st. Please think about joining. If you do nothing but read the daily emails, I know you will dig it and I am certain it will give you many ideas to think about this season. You will also get to join the secret Facebook group where lots of good discussion and ideas are happening. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

10 alternative gift ideas

Gift giving season is upon us! Given that we are in a tight economy and many homes are over run with clutter, I wanted to offer a few ideas for the sort of gifts that you can feel good giving and that put your hard earned money to work for a better world.

For the last few years, we have scaled back our gifting and now give a big bag of goodies to each family on our list. The bag is decorated by our children in a theme they think the recipient family will like and then it is filled with a variety of the following:

Our favorite food finds from the year - We love food and always have new finds we want to share, like a certain chocolate bar or mustard or cool pop, and the best part is these items will not add clutter to a house.

Handmade goodies - We make bath salts, felted soaps, picture frames, dog biscuits, embroidered pillowcases, food items, homemade candy and more. Click here to print out my laundry soup and pit paste recipes. Also, buying homemade gifts from Etsy or local artisans directs money into the pockets of creatives (which is where I like it to go!)

Local artisan items - The local farmer's market is filled with awesome gifts. I try to load up on local honey, specialty spaghetti sauces, homemade jerky, knitted items, cutting boards, and handmade soaps. These not only make great gifts for the recipients but pump money right back into our local economy.

Books - For the readers in my family, I love searching for just the right book that I think they will love. 

Gift certificates to local businesses - I am not always a fan of giving out generic gift certificates, but love giving them out to local restaurants or shops. A GC to an independent comic shop or book store would be great for any young teen. We give out gift certificates to the historic movie theatre each year. 

Gift certificates for events - I love making up gift certificates for events. I recently gave my Dad a day trip to a photography museum and craft brewery. Not only did he like both, we have a great memory of a day spent together. 

Board games - A new board game (with lots of fun treats) will offer many evenings of fun to the recipient family, and maybe they will invite you over to play.

DVD of the year in pictures - My husband makes a DVD with music and photos from the year and we give it to grandparents and relatives who are far away. This is always well received.

KIVA loan gift certificate - This is such a great gift for the business man who is so hard to buy for. I gave one of these to my dad a few years ago and it was fun to hear the updates on his borrower. 

An item we already have that the recipient has been eying - My mom and husband have been gifting each other records from their collections on birthdays and "just becauses". Family heirlooms and special items make awesome gifts, especially if it is something the recipient has expressed an interest in.

Please leave your alternative gift ideas in the comments. I would love to hear them!

I am taking off the rest of the week to play with my chickens, eat, rub my belly and write. I will see you next week. 

You can follow me on twitter here.

I am on Facebook here.

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And as always, please feel free to email me any questions at amybarbo at gmail dot com.



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