mama scout lab e-course

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

{make} your own currency

Hello - I have been in full on adventure planning mode lately!

We had so much fun with a recent activity, I wanted to share. This would be a great project to tuck away for a day when you need something quick and engrossing.

One of my son's birthday gifts last week was a treasure box with a leather journal, compass necklace, wax letter sealing set, colored rocks and jewels and a money making set. The whole thing was a hit, but I think the money making kit was the best.

A variety of wooden disks from the craft store, some sharpie markers and watercolor paint were all we needed to create funds for a new quest.

We had so much fun coming up with designs, numbers, and even a new name for his
currency (they are all "chings"). He invited his siblings to make chings too - so now he has a wide variety and their adventuring play just got a little more interesting!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

{mama prompt} :: oral histories

an occasional series of quick journal and creative prompts just for mamas

interview your mom or grandma about child rearing in their times.

and here is something to make you smile today...

  No Man's Mama by Carolina Chocolate Drops on Grooveshark

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Paris, what will we do?

We are leaving for a month to get perspective. To think and sleep. This is not a typical vacation, no. Just like James Baldwin told a half a century ago, we need leave to understand ourselves and our own culture better.

So, when people ask me about our itinerary, I start getting itchy. I want my kids to see "everything" and we should travel out of the city and maybe pop over to London too, right? I mean, we are weird homeschoolers who can turn a trip to the dentist or watch repair shop into a full blown field trip. We are good at extracting any learning opportunity around.

But sometimes we know better.

Which is why we do Paris, or any place we travel, a bit differently.

We will certainly see some big sites and museums, but probably much like we do when we are home, during off hours and only as long as it holds our interest.

The emphasis will be on what we want to do, not what we should do.   

So, our itinerary looks like this:

We are going to the oldest pastel making atelier to buy art supplies from the same family that Degas and Cassatt used.

My daughter and I will window shop and buy nail polish to give each other manicures.

We are going to the bird and flower market for my son.

We are having a birthday picnic for another son under the Eiffel Tower.

I am loading up on European office supplies and my husband will bring back as much food as he can. We are the type of people who bring back flour, salt and pistachios.

We will eat Lauderee macaroons on Pont des Arts. The kids have already picked their flavors.
We will see what is left of the stuffed animals at Deyrolle.

We will spend a lot of time food shopping and park walking. Puppet shows, organ concerts,  street musicians, and people watching will be our entertainment.

My husband and I will alternate mornings to ourselves. Solo wanderings, cafe sitting and writing will be a balm for our very, very tired souls.

My kids are learning about a handful of important French historical moments. We have read about Joan d'Arc, Monet, Jacques Cousteau, and the French Revolution. If they come back with real connection to any of these characters (or someone altogether different), the trip will be a success.

It would be so easy to suck the excitement of discovery out of this trip for them (and us). By filling every day with an activity and expectation, we sell the experience short and miss out on the real life changing stuff. Instead of seeing a wide swath of the surface of Paris, I want them to know a handful of locales/flavors/experiences deeply. And being that we a family of 5, if we all have a few things to investigate the sum will be wide enough.

I see travel as a way to open up and reconsider the things we think we know so well. Our own culture, our ways, and our selves. The exploration and the process of seeing with new eyes is the golden nugget, not clicking off sites and memorizing shallow facts.

More than seeing the Mona Lisa, they need to know the way the chestnut leaves flutter in early spring, so light and delicate as if they were made of silk.

We need to enter fromageries and have our breath taken away. By both odor and variety.

I want my kids to turn a corner in the urine-soaked metro only to be moved to tears by an orchestra playing Pacabel or a gyspy kid playing the accordion.

And I want us all to experience something so new and unexpected we did not even know we were looking for it. 

So, for the next month or so, most regularly planned broadcasting in this space will be disrupted. I will post from Paris, some images and few thoughts.

If you too are a francofile, and would like to receive some mail from me, I am offering a subscription letter service. I will be writing a dispatch from Paris each week. The letters will include stories, tips, observations, recipes and little bits of ephemera. It is a new project for me, and I am really looking forward to it! You can read more and sign up here.

And please feel free to send me any tips or blog posts that you think would be useful.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

how about a DIY summer camp? oh, yeah!

I am so excited to be a part of the Natural Nesters awesome At-Home Summer Nature Camp! She has amassed an amazing group of contributors who will offer so many activities, recipes and ideas around weekly themes. 

Here is just a sampling of what is included. 

I think this would be perfect to do with a group of friends. Maybe a weekly camp play date with all the activities sorted out for you? 

With themes like An Edible Garden, The Night Sky, At the Beach, a Spot in the Shade, Ponds & Frogs, Rain, Wildflowers & Bees and Sun Fun, there will be something for everyone in your family. 

The entire full color (did you see the samples pages above!?) eCurriculum mails out May 20th. 

At only 39.99 for a whole summer of activities, you can save on other camps and make a truly memorable summer connecting with your kids.

And, I love that you can customize your can depending on the weather and local events. This is going to be so much fun - I can not wait to get mine!

Click here to view more details

{mama prompt} :: night

an occasional series of quick journal and creative prompts just for mamas

when you wake up in the middle of the night, what is your deepest worry? 

Monday, April 15, 2013

the biggest memories are of the smallest things

We are getting ready for a big trip, a monumental trip, a trip that can quickly get mangled up with all sorts of expectations. It will be wonderful and I am grateful.


I am constantly reminded that most of our very biggest and most cherished memories are of the mundane. Everyday activities that are just a little bit more magic because of a turn in attitude and fun (and that turn is often elusive for my addled mind).

And they are nearly always free.

The other afternoon, we took our journals down to the local lake to draw and write and mediate. The weather was warm and windy, as balmy as Miami, a real feast for our senses.

A few drops began to fall, so we reluctantly gathered up our supplies and started walking the half mile home.

Then the heavens opened. As the sky was pouring rain and my kids' hearts were releasing joy. They love nothing more than to get caught in the rain. The brisk walk home was filled with constant chatter and stealing away into strangers' carports and eaves to catch our breath.

When we reached our home, they could not bear to stop, so they danced in the rain for the next 20 minutes, while my youngest sang at the top of his lungs. Whenever he is happy, he sings Star Wars and Christmas music mash ups.

I realized or remembered for the millionth time, to slow down, allow for the unexpected and embrace that which is, not lament that which is absent.

My mantra for the past year has been "all in." And I fall short from this tiny missive daily.


everytime I fully experience the space we are in completely, with all my senses - reality is refocused into a surreal realm, where dreams and possibilities peak out with a shy little wave to let themselves be known.

All children need this more. A big part of this blog's mission is to capture and record and remind myself how it works for us.

And, I love to hear how it happens in your world too. Together, we can change the world - one tiny magical moment at a time.

Friday, April 12, 2013

{family lab} space and environment

I often think about how space and environment impact our lives. I dream about living in monastic conditions, sparse and cool, with lots of earth tone linens, and maybe a breeze. But obviously, with three kids who are home all day (and the side of my personality that likes to gather things), this fantasy does not come anywhere near a workable reality.

I find it hard to keep a balance between an empty space which my kids thrive in and the cluttery mess of homeschooling, various projects and collections that can not be parted with.

But living with children is not just about managing clutter or mess.

Several years ago, I hosted a group chat at an unschooling conference about domestic space and how it is used in homeschooling homes (I think you can extend this to creative homes). We did not talk about cleaning, other than a general grumble, but investigated interesting ways of using space to create a home where free thought and creative pursuits flourish. In our home, our formal dining room is the learning lab (a project space) and we forgo a guest room to have a sewing room. The pantry shares space with art supplies, there is a mailbox attached to the wall near the bedrooms for communication and a indoor hall swing is used daily. Chalkboard walls, closets that are turned into secret play spaces and a designated hole digging area in the yard makes our space kid and big people friendly. When I switched my thinking from household management to creativity facilitator, I had more fun solving our challenges and my kids benefited.

Cleaning wise, what works in our house is that I try to keep the center of the house clean(ish), asking the kids to help return belongings to their rooms periodically. If I can have a big, uncluttered view of the living room, I am less antsy. 

I have also shifted my thinking over the years. A coffee table piled high with books and comics is not a mess, just evidence of a family who loves to read. A messy kitchen? Evidence that we love to cook and eat all day. But, their rooms are their domain, and for the most part they are messy unless we are having a sleep over or friends over. I have learned that what looks like a mess (or even trash) on the floor is often the remnants of an exciting project or adventure. 

I would love to connect with you on this. How do you make your space conductive to creativity? 

What was your room like as a kid?

Was it neat? Messy? A shared space?

How does your childhood home compare to your child's? Give as much detail as you can.

Today, no matter what the condition, photo document your kid's space

I love this challenge so much and do it a few times a year. You would be surprised at how much 
you will treasure these images later. 

When your kids are away or not paying attention, walk around the house and photograph 
traces of them.

Especially the messy parts:

their shoes lined up (or thrown around).
the half built block towns

what their bed looks like in the morning

what is on their desk or bed stand

how they have their bookshelves arranged
how they leave their toys in the sandbox/train table/playroom

Share any photos that you feel comfortable with on FB. 

Today, I wanted to share the moving and at times heart breaking book Where Children Sleep by James Mollison. He recorded, documentary style, the bedrooms of children from around the world. As you can imagine the variety of environments is wide. Take a look and consider sharing it with your children if they are are older. 

Luckily, you can read the entire book online. Just click on the title of the book above. 

Another photo project about kids around the world and their favorite toys can be viewed here

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

{mama prompt} :: boob tube

an occasional series of quick journal and creative prompts just for mamas

what was your favorite television show when you were a kid? what do you remember about it?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

{family lab} walk to explore

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
                       ~ John Muir

We like to walk.

And look.

From the time my kids were babies we tried to take a walk most days. As the kids are getting older, and have higher stamina, I have realized how essential the habit is. Not only does it diffuse physical energy like mad, but it loosens and frees their minds.

As soon as we start walking, whether in our neighborhood or in the woods, they start talking and talking.

The most amazing realizations, confessions and connections bubble up. 

Then they start planning and scheming and wondering. It really is amazing. At the same time their thoughts are expanding and taking in everything around them, they will also hyper focus and notice the smallest and most profound things, like an ant trying to carry something that is so much larger than itself, or a bit of paper that has fallen from someone's pocket and is laying on the side of the road barely lifting in the wind.

They are like a snowball, gathering detritus and momentum as they go. The power of this holistic practice has ensured that it has become one of the pillars of each day.

Today we are thinking about walking and looking.

Sit in a chair in your living room or bedroom and write down every single thing you can see for 10 minutes.
Does just noticing your environment change your experience of it? If so, how?

Invite your children to do this prompt with you if you think they might be interested. Many times, I will just sit down and start working on a project and then my kids become intrigued and want to play along.

This afternoon or evening, take your family for "looking" walk.

Decide what sort of treasure hunt you will do (texturecolor, flower, dog, anything...) and decide how you will document it (photos, collecting bits, drawing).

The intention of this exercise is to look deeper and pay attention to details. Yes, there is a hunt going on, but if you keep the mood relaxed and low key, so many other things will be noticed.

As soon as we start walking our minds loosen and we begin to talk and make connections. While some kids might grumble at the mention of a walk,  as soon as we are out the door, resistance melts away and camaraderie reigns. 

The hunt is just the means or reason for the walk. You can look for anything you want - and do not underestimate an older child's interest in this sort of project- as my kids get older they just become more sophisticated in their hunts.

As I mentioned in the welcome letter, approach this project with a collaborative intent Tharp writes about. Maybe a kid wants to decide what to look for or how the walk should be recorded. Also, this is not an excersie to do once and check off a list, it really can become an essential family practice. The power of walking, strolling, ambling together a a family can be transformative.

And I am always pointing out that every time we go for a walk we see something different. Every. Time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

{announcing} dispatches from Paris - real mail, from far away

My word this year is FLY and this May we are literally flying to Paris for the month. 

All five of us. 

I worked in Paris several summers and have visited on my own as much as I could, so it is a place I love deeply and yearn for achingly. I can not wait to share some of its quiet secrets with our children. 

I am also "flying" with my ideas, no matter how crazy or off the wall they seem. So, I have decided to offer a letter subscription while I am there. Why? Because I love getting mail and thought you might too! 

What am I offering? A handwritten, photocopied letter from me each week, tucked into a French envelope with a stamp and mailed all the way across the ocean to your mailbox.

I am drawn to low tech forms of communication the more time I spend on the computer. I want to experiment more with mail trades, zine publishing and public art.

I will fill you in on the adventures of my creative family, share some ideas, recipes, resources and probably a few funny stories. You can be sure there will be at least a few bits of ephemera tucked in the letters too. A leaf or feather, maybe a metro ticket or found grocery list - what ever presents itself on my wanderings.

This project is like a DIY Kickstarter project. It will help fund everything (food, museums, metro tickets) times FIVE! And it will help keep me accountable to you and my own heart about the trip. I will notice more details because I will feel like I am bringing you along with me. I will share about the grocery stores and the old women, about how much things cost, what is in bloom, and what the honey shop is like. 

Are you game? 

$20 for a weekly letter from Paris, all May 2013.

Subscribe here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

{mama prompt} :: paper boats

an occasional series of quick journal and creative prompts just for mamas

fold a paper boat, write a wish on it, let it go into a pond or the ocean. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

{wellness challenge} breathe

This month we are going back to basics. We are going to focus on breathe and slowing down our internal engines.

In the Facebook group I will be sending daily reminders to breathe, breathing techniques and some mediation resources that I really like.

That is it!

I hope you will join us in slowing down and filling your lungs with restorative oxygen!

*Do not forget, you have to be a part of the Facebook group to participate. Everything is done over there.  And feel free to invite anyone who might be interested. 


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