mama scout lab e-course

Monday, November 10, 2014

{review} Heidi

“Not long after, and while it was still twilight, the grandfather also went to bed, for he was up every morning at sunrise, and the sun came climbing up over the mountains at a very early hour during these summer months. The wind grew so tempestuous during the night, and blew in such gusts against the walls, that the hut trembled and the old beams groaned and creaked. It came howling and wailing down the chimney like voices of those in pain, and it raged with such fury among the old fir trees that here and there a branch was snapped and fell. In the middle of the night the old man got up. "The child will be frightened," he murmured half aloud. He mounted the ladder and went and stood by the child's bed.

Outside the moon was struggling with the dark, fast-driving clouds, which at one moment left it clear and shining, and the next swept over it, and all again was dark. Just now the moonlight was falling through the round window straight on to Heidi's bed. She lay under the heavy coverlid, her cheeks rosy with sleep, her head peacefully resting on her little round arm, and with a happy expression on her baby face as if dreaming of something pleasant. The old man stood looking down on the sleeping child until the moon again disappeared behind the clouds and he could see no more, then he went back to bed.” 

This is such a sweet book. It is one that I think you might read to yourself and think, "well, that was nice," but read aloud, it becomes something else altogether. I do not think I can finish any read aloud with out crying at least once and this classic was no different.

Heidi's childhood is marked by drastic and sometimes cruel upheavals. She is always able to look at the positive side of most situations and her friendliness, generosity and kindness are pretty saccharine compared to today's protagonists. But, I think we need a good dose of this every so often and this time of year is perfect.

Pick a week where your evenings are free, stock up on the hot drinks your family loves and settle in for a cozy family story.

We have this edition and I think it would make the best gift for anyone on your list this year. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

{review} Esperanza Rising + Smuggled

My kids book club just read Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and once again I am so happy to augment my own reading with the awesome books I am introduced to through our homeschooling adventures. 

Esperanza Rising is the story a young girl who lives a very privileged life on Los Ranchos des Rosas in Mexico, the vineyard her father owns, in Mexico.  She has servants, loving parents, and constant pampering. The night before her birthday, her father dies and circumstances quickly change. All the sudden Esperanza and her mother have to be smuggled out of their hometown and across the border into California where friends have helped her mother secure a field worker position. The late 20's and early 30's in America were a particularly tough time for Mexican-American citizens and immigrant workers for several reasons explored in the novel.

Through constant struggles and growing, Esperanza becomes like the mythical Phoenix bird, recreating herself from the ashes of her former life to find true happiness and worth. I do not think there was an adult in the book club who was able to finish the book dry eyed. Educational, emotional and heartwarming, this book is a must read (and maybe a must own for your own library).

Our group met, discussed the book, ate the fruit and vegetables that formed the titles for each chapter and made yarn dolls, a craft that shows up several times in the book.

As a family, we talked a lot about immigrants and migrant work forces. There is a large Mexican population in central Florida where I live. I worked with migrant students as an elementary teacher and college instructor. I explained to my kids that many of the struggles that Esperanza faced are current struggles. In particular, the Immokalee Tomato workers have protested and earned support in my community for their efforts to earn more money and improve conditions for field pickers.

I am lucky enough to know filmmaker and producer, Jennifer Fischer of Think Ten Media Group and she sent me a copy of her latest, award winning feature film, Smuggled.  I wanted to watch it with my kids, and after reading Esperanza Rising, I knew the tie in would be perfect.

Smuggled follows the story of Miguel and his mother as they are hidden in a locked luggage section of a bus traveling from Mexico to America. They are excited to be reunited with the family patriarch (who is apparently working in America legally and waiting for them).

The film's relative slow pace and long scenes pull the viewer into the horror of being hidden for days without sun, fresh air, bathrooms, or even room to stretch. Without giving away the plot, things do not go as planned due to one simple accident and viewers are on edge until Miguel is eventually reunited with his father.

My kids were stunned and moved by this film. I was drawn in to the drama of this sparse and direct story line quickly.

I remember when I was in 3rd grade, my favorite teacher gathered all the 3rd grade classes and told the story of her family's harrowing escape from Cuba when she was a child. She shared the actual escape (hiding family treasures, using connections and important doctor appointments in the United States) as well as the trials of her father, a highly educated professional in Cuba and his ordeal as an immigrant. She left us with the message that even if everything is lost (or taken) the one thing no one can take is your mind (ideas, thoughts, dreams). It is there that you always free.

Sharing stories like this with children changes their lives and worldview. We learn that the world is not confined to our immediate environment. That things are fought for and complex and sometimes tragic.

Smuggled is available for rent or purchase on Amazon or through Think Ten Media's website. I think it is a challenging but thankfully not a gratuitously graphic film.  I highly suggest it not only to socially conscious families - but to teachers and schools as well. The discussions and reactions from a community of learners would be so rich and valuable. And so very worth it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wellness Challenge :: Get More Sleep

Mama Scout wellness challenges took a break this summer. Or should I say, the group decided that our challenge would be to take a social media break this summer. I am not sure how well I did - but I am back with a solid challenge. 

How would you like more sleep? Really good, restful, restorative sleep? 

I know I would. So, I am dedicating my September to trying new techniques and setting new habits. 

All of this challenge happens on the free secret FB page I have set up just for this group. If you are interested in joining you have to "friend me" on FB and then message me that you want to join. It is that easy! 

I have been repeatedly been told throughout these challenges that this group is a positive, happy space for people on social media. I agree. We share ideas, ask for help and offer support. There is no inflammatory politics, religious debate or decisive content (I like a good debate - but this is not the place). 

So, I hope you will join us. We will start with setting intentions and then get going - or rather, get snoozing!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book About Me Fall class open (this is it until next year!)

(See the woman in the photograph above? That is not me - it is my friend who I went to NYC with this summer (on a whim!). We went to the  Nuyorican Poet's Cafe one night to soak in some poetry - and she ended up on stage! Unplanned, but game and awesome - she read on the same stage she had 20 years earlier. That is what this lab is about. Remembering, circling back and revisiting your voice and your story on your terms.)

+This is the only time this lab will be offered until next year+

BAM is a huge class and emotional investment that I can best offer once, each fall. 
If you are interested - this in this lab, this is it!

New this session  :: 2 more weeks of labs. In the past, participants have always been not quite ready to end our 30 days together, so I have added 2 more weeks of labs! This is new material dealing with voice and place!

Also, when you register for BAM Fall 2014, you will get a spot in my annual Holiday Lab - a 10 day reboot and intention setting lab I run each November. It is a good one, and I know you will love it!

A 6 week 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. 

This lab is only offered at the beginning of each fall as we naturally begin to turn inward. It is the prefect preparations for my spring offering, Dream Lab.

_____________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  after I did something similar with my kids. 

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 tool for self growth and exploration for women. So, I took notes, adapted and added adult themes to the project and this lab was born.

However, the adult Book About Me program has taken on a life of its own and has become a standard Mama Scout lab. It is one of my favorites and I look forward to returning to the prompts (and the new ones) each year. 

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. 

__________What do I get + how does this work?_______

+Just before we gather you will get a little welcome package of goodies in the mail to get you inspired for the lab.

+ Each day, for 6 weeks you will receive an email lab from me. Each lab contains a short essay, a meaty journal prompt, a creative invitation, copy work and additional resources to help you on your journey. 

+ We will have a giveaway each week! In the past these have included great books, CDs, art supplies, digital products and more!

+ NEW you will be enrolled in my Holiday Lab for free! This lab is offered each year in November and is a gentle and fun way to set intentions and prepare for the holidays. 

+ NEW This lab will have 2 extra weeks of prompts delving deeper into the subjects of voice and place.

+ You will gain access to one of the most positive and friendly online groups. Not only have great friendships and collaborations been welded in mama scout groups - there is a genuine, non judgmental and supportive energy.

I will not lie, it is a lot.

I encourage all participants to write daily for 5-15 minutes. Seriously, that tiny amount can shift roadblocks  and open doors. BUT even if you just read the lab material and THINK about it, you will benefit. 

Our secret FB group will allow you to witness and share stories that will shock, heal and amuse. 

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. 

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.

Register here. 

(review) Rumpus Letters for Kids

This is NOT a sponsored post. I just wanted to share something I have been loving so much!

Every two weeks we receive a letter from a children's book author through the Letters For Kids program ran by The Rumpus. These letters are funny, thoughtful, sometimes a little melancholy and always gobbled up by my group.

They are not fancy. Just handwritten or typed, double sided and photocopied. Sometime they are in color with little drawings and collages the author has made, and sometimes, they are just black and white. I love that they feel real, this is just the sort of letter I would send out to a bunch of friends (I did something similar last year when I spent time in Paris).

We read them with breakfast or at bedtime. The author always includes an address and an invitation to write them back.

This is great for :

general enjoyment
getting glimpses into the lives of writers
a writer's group or classroom
a present for someone
inspiration to write and send your own letters
supporting The Rumpus and the folks who write these letters
supporting letter writing in general

You can sign up here.

Oh! And be sure to like their FB page here.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

{writer's lab} zine making with kids

We have spent a lot of time the last few months making zines. Zines (short for magazine) are an inexpensive, alternative media that have been popular since the 1920's at least. Some might say that early pamphlet and booklet writers from the early days of the printing press were the first zinesters.

Typically, zines are hand written or typed, glued together, and photocopied. The accessible materials and publishing method have made it attractive to punks, skate culture and various fan fictions. The marginality lends zine writers a certain freedom in their creation. Since you are writing for a small audience and you can print issues as needed, the subject matter can be as arcane as you wish.

This highly specialized content makes zines perfect for kids to create. They can write about anything they want, include as many pages as they want, and distribute freely (or very cheaply) among their friends. 

I especially like that it is so much more physical than blogging or other online publishing methods (which I obviously love too). The actual writing, cutting, gluing, driving to the copy shop, copying, collating, folding, stapling or binding - all gift the zinester with the wonderful experience of actually participating in the entire process, in real time. I love that and think it is often missing in our lives. 

So are you ready to get started?

We started in our house with my zine making. I made a little zine for the Journal Jam lab I am running this summer. I made this because I wanted to send participants something real and tangible in the mail. I am smitten with real mail these days and this project was an extension of that passion. Making a zine was also on my TRY THIS list. 

So, the kids watched my process and then became interested in making zines themselves. They started making zine/workbooks for classes they were leading in our homeschool co op. My 8yo son, who is a big Keri Smith fan then branched out to making several zines of creativity prompts. 

We were also involved in a really cool, co op camp recently. One of my jobs was to create a zine of the experience. I had wanted to include the camp kids more but time was extremely limited. Instead, I listened for quotes, took notes and pictures, and included as much of the kids experience as possible.

The subject of your zine can be anything! It can be your poetry, recipes, journal entries, cartoons and art, fan based (My Little Pony, Lego, Harry Potter), open ended prompts, a story, tutorials and musings. Or all of it! 

You can write the whole thing yourself or ask your friends and family for submissions. 


Once you have a list of topics compiled and you have narrowed it down to one to start with, you....start!

Making a list of what you want to include in your zine is a good idea. 

I usually make a mock up first. That is just blank paper folded with page numbers and notes about what will go on each page. If you are doing front and back, folded 8.5x11 in paper, you might be surprised at how quickly it gets confusing. I constantly refer back to the master. 

Also, if you are going to do double sides pages, do them on individual pages and have the copy shop help you make a master from these. It is really impossible to draw, tape and write on both sides of paper and not have it bleed through to the other side. 

We like to use a wide variety of writing styles within the zine. I will print, write cursive, use fonts from the computer, utilize different markers, use a typewriter and find words from magazines. The variety can make the zine feel energized and alive or cluttered and hard to read, so work with finding the balance that you like.

Adding decorative touches is fun too. Rubber stamps, stickers, photographs, little drawings and my favorite, washi tape, can all photocopy in black and white nicely - so experiment and have fun.

When you have everything written, decorated, and organized, it is time to head to the copy shop. As much as I would like to do all the photocopying myself, I rely on help from the copy master. After talking with him, it was revealed to me that the copiers behind the counter have much better image quality that the ones used in self serve. The public copiers are all preset and have fewer options (this is at my copy shop - yours might be different). So, I work with the experts; they have been exceptionally helpful to my kids and myself.  Our runs usually range from 10-20 copies at a time.

Time to distribute. How will you share your work? We have given ours out to friends, sold them to friends, posted them on Etsy, and given them to community members. You might leave a few at the local coffee shop or in the periodical section of the library. You can send them to friends or even famous people in your content area. Comic shops and record stores might sell them or give them out too. It is up to you to think about where your potential readers might be. If you are a serious zine producer, you can list them on distribution sites, but we are far from that now.

Please leave resources and any experience you have had with zines in the comment section. If you produce a zine, drop me a line and I will gladly promote your work in whatever way I can. I would love to organize a kid zine swap at some point, so log your interest here and start writing and making!

Monday, May 26, 2014

{monday mission} buy cool postage stamps

I love sending mail and have been working on ways to incorporate it more into my labs and other online projects. Something tangible, send through space, seems extra special these days when every experience seems so digitalized.

So, this week, I ask you to head over to the United States Postal Services website (here) and order some stamps. They have a really amazing selection, much larger than most local post offices;  you will yearn to write and send handwritten coorespondance like it is the 19th century.

The USPS offers stamps with flowers, artists, dancers, political activists, musicians, writers, patriotic themes, and more. Think of the interesting meta dialogues you can start in the upper right hand corner of your envelopes!

Monday, May 19, 2014

{monday mission} hike

This week, what about taking a hike in the late afternoon? You know that time when everyone might bored and cranky....

Bring good treats, a camera and a challenge for each person to spot something wild or thrilling.

See what you can imagine lurking in the woods.

Wonder what it would be like to live in the forest.

Count the butterflies, the blooming flowers, the birds, the trees that look like something else.

Catalog the smells.

Notice the change in temperature as you move from one microenvironment to the next.

Breathe in the clean air.

Have fun and be glad you are alive and able to do this.

Monday, May 12, 2014

{monday mission} make a wall of fame

Who are your heroes?

Encourage your family to sit down one night, make a list, find pictures and hang them up for a DIY Hall of Fame that will inspire and stoke your curiosity.

Who would be on your WOF?

Monday, May 5, 2014

{monday mission} pack your dishes up!

It has been a while since we have done a Monday Mission, and I have a good one for you today!

How about, just as an experiment, packing up most of your dishes? Seriously. What would it be like it every one had a bowl, a plate, and a cup and not too much more? There would be a whole lot less dish washing for one. 

Don't go crazy. Don't give them all away. No, just pack them up and put them in a closet or your garage until the end of summer. And then reevaluate. 

We have tried this and are ready to pack up even more. In the quest for simple and slow, this is a super easy place to start. 

Let me know what you think in the comments (and share a picture if you try this!)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

{wellness challenge:: may} tidy your nest

We spent last month cleansing our bodies by experimenting with  increasing our water intake. This month we are going to move outside ourselves and clean up our space.

A big decluttering before summer hits seems like a noble and brave idea. I don't know about you, but I want to spend my summer drinking cold drinks, reading good books and finding places with adequate air conditioning.

So, roll up your sleeves, get ready to purge and clear your space of everything that is unnecessary.

You can join the free FB group here. The group is secret so if this link does not work, just drop me a note at Mama Scout and I will get you in.

I am thinking daily mini-challenges and lots of checking in to keep ourselves accountable.

What can you unload in just one month?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

{journal jam} register for a different summer

Capturing glimpses into your child's soul is maybe the most cherished aspects of creative writing and journaling with your children.

This summer, my newest lab, Journal Jam, will help you create a daily practice of exploring, communicating and jamming as a family.

For 3 full months, you will receive daily prompts that are adaptable for all ages (from verbal pre-writers to high schoolers)

Our secret FB group will become a community to share and motivate each other.

And to make it extra fun, I have created 2 mini e-books just for you (on running a kid's book club + creating a film club). By feeding our minds with great literature, art and film, we can fully support a holistic cultural literacy. I tell you everything I know about watching movies and reading books with kids and offer some great lists of resources.

I am also creating my first zine! This will be rubber cemented and photocopied just like the ones you might have made as an angsty 15 year old. The only difference is I am an angsty 40 year old! My summer manifesto zine will have lots of good ideas, recipes and just a dose of irreverence.

Finally, most Mama Scout Labs have some sort of merit badge involved. Not this lab - you guys get THREE badges to use for yourself or for your kids. In your welcome pack, you will receive a reading, sleeping, and travel badge!

And of course, I will have weekly giveaways - because that is something I love to do.

I am so excited for this lab!

I think I create and lead the labs I need most, and I am definitely as excited about working with my kids this summer as I am with YOU!

We are going to create something real and memorable.

You will always remember this summer, sitting at the table, writing and talking with your kids about serious things, silly notions and big what if's? You will create a binder or box full of secrets hopes, memories and audacious scribblings.

This is simple, slow and true.

I'll meet you at the kitchen table.

Register here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

{book club} Inside Out & Back Again

We recently read Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai for my local homeschool book club. My goal for this book group is to expose the kids to stories of brave and heroic children from around the world in stories based on true life events (with a fantasy novel thrown in every now and then).

This novel is written in short, precise poetry like prose. The protagonist Ha, recounts her life in Vietnam with her mother and brother, their frightening escape and subsequent settling in Alabama (where even more adventure awaits). 

Based on the author's real ice experience of fleeing Vietnam, we were immediately drawn in to the story and read through quickly. 

Both in my family and in the club meeting we talked about what it might be like to be a refugee, what we knew about the Vietnam War, the foods that are etched in our memories, and how we would tolerate the type of bullying Ha put up with. We located Vietnam on the map, watched documentaries about the current life of Vietnamese children and learned more about the war and our family connections to it. 

Ha longed for fresh papaya and in her honor we ate one as a group. My kids were given papaya seedling from a friend which they planted in the back yard. We also bought and tried dried papaya which figures in a disappointing episode of the story.

My family took a field trip to the Vietnamese enclave in Orlando and spent time browsing the ethnic grocery store and having a Vietnamese lunch with noodles, pickled lemonade and bubble tea. 

We love reading novels together and find them to be a major source of learning and inspiration. Literature forms a substantial base of our homeschooling and learning together. The characters and their stories become like close friends to us and we find ourselves referring back to them often, as well as making really interesting connections between all the characters we have known. 

Does your family read aloud? What are some of your recent favorite books?

Monday, March 31, 2014

{Wellness Challenge} drink more water

Hello! Did you know I run a free Facebook Wellness Tribe?

Each month we work on a wellness challenge and use a secret group to share, hold ourselves accountable and support each other. It is one of the happiest and most positive spaces online!

This month we are going to work on drinking more water. We did this last year and the results were pretty amazing. Just by upping your water intake you might loose weight, cure headaches, sleep better, think better, get rid of aches and pains.... It is really simple and much easier to work on with a group.

So, set your goal and hop over to the group where we will be sharing recipes, articles, gear and more!

Joining is a 2 step process since this group is "secret."

First, "like" Mama Scout here.

Then, drop me a message that you would like to join and I will add you in!

That's it!

I can not wait to drink myself well this month!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The winner of two spots for dream lab is.....

Click over to my FB page here to see the dreamy video Melanie made to announce the winner. Thanks Melanie and thanks all who entered. Keep an eye here and on FB as there might be some more fun before Dream Lab. Or just go ahead and sign up here. You know you want to!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

{Flash Giveaway} Dream Lab

This is fun! A past Dream Lab participant and friend has offered to sponsor a giveaway for one spot in the upcoming Dream Lab. To make it even cooler, I am going to throw in a spot!

Yep, two people are getting in for free!

If you want to try for a spot all you have to do is share a person you would nominate to be a part of Dream Lab, (and let us know why they are so awesome) in the comments below. We are paying it foreword and paying it forward (kind of like the insane giving train I was in at the Starbucks drive through the other day - they were up to 4 or 5 cars who kept passing on the free coffee)

At the end of the weekend, we will pull a name and both you and your nominee will be granted a space. Whoo!

A huge thanks to Melanie for suggesting and sponsoring this! She is one of the most intelligent and compassionate women I have met online and lucky us - she will be in the lab sharing her wisdom and keen insight! She also blogs here, so send her some love!

Enter to win for yourself, pay it forward by singing a friends praises, and let's get going making dreams happen!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

{Dream Lab} getting what you want

In just a few weeks, the latest session of Dream Lab begins. It is a 10 day lab full of all the inspirations, tricks and camaraderie I have to help you move forward in the creation of the life you dream of.

The life you wake up to happily each morning.

My labs are a bit different from many other online labs out there. I create the space for you to discover the way back to yourself in a method that connects to your creative voice.  I  guide you in creating your own journalling practice (not downloading or copying mine) on your terms.

What I do give you is a piece of my heart. Essays from my life. And prompts that are fun but hopefully challenging too. I want to crack your world open just a bit in a few short weeks. The support of the group is tremendous and I am there the whole time. When I am leading a lab, I read every single comment and respond. I am with you. I have taken so many online classes where the content is great but the "leader" is not present at all. This is not that type of class.

I am truly there during the lab because I am dreaming along side of you. We are in a caravan together. And you know how when people travel together they end up becoming good friend fast? Well, that happens in the labs.  Many of the relationships in my labs carry on outside of the labs with women creating their own groups and meeting up in real life. There are similar interests, introductions and connections that are passed along;  real connections have been born through these online gatherings.

In pursuit of my own dreams, I take classes all the time (writing, art, skills). I am taking a pretty intense marketing and business class right now. My big dream is to make enough extra money to travel more with my family. I really want to spend 3-6  months on the road. But, I do not want to get creepy about making money online. I have to craft it all myself (for now, maybe I will change someday). I have yet to hire anyone to snazzy my stuff up. I refuse to automate the social media landscape. I can sense when bloggers are using tricks to get clicks and I am trying hard to do it differently.

I recently conducted a survey to learn about my strengths. Specifically, I wanted to see if my perceived strengths were what my readers and labbers felt too. Talk about feeling vulnerable. I hate asking anyone to take the time to help me, and to give me compliments no less! It was like I was fishing around. Blech! Hard, hard hard! But, I did it. I am all about getting out of my comfort zone, so this qualified big time.

Guess what? A ton of people helped me out! And there was a big concinsious . Most people found me to be creative and curious, honest and open, and a great connecter (of people and ideas to each other). AHHHH! These are the things that are most important to me. So, I got a little boost knowing that I am on the right track.

In Dream Lab we will do the work together, push ourselves, take big (and tiny) steps, get uncomfortable, comfort and support each other and have fun. The class is a powerful 10 days - but that is just the beginning. The value is unbeatable. And if you join us, you will be too!

You can get the magic here.

Wonderful lab for guiding your future path. Snap it up if you have the chance. -Sarah

Monday, March 10, 2014

{diary} death + orange blossoms

The orange tree is so full of blossoms. 

Creamy white, fragrant and promising. 

I sit sadly under it and breathe in its scent which I believe must trigger something deep and familiar in all Southerners. 

I instantly remember open windows in the evening, after the rain, when the scent would curl secretly into my bedroom. 

And later. 

Driving miles of back roads home from college, windows cranked down, speeding through groves. The warm humid nights seem to always release the odor - until it become thick and palpable - like you could scoop it right front the air with your hands. It gets caught in your hair, behind your ears and sometimes in your tears. 

This tree, I planted 10 years ago when my children were young, in my belly or not even dreamt of. She is blooming her last song. Both of our reproductive years have come to an end. Mine from choice, hers from disease. She has greening and will be cut down and burned after this last show, this last gift of hers.

The current devastation of greening on the Florida citrus industry can not be under estimated. It is the slow death of an industry some say. Already, many groves have been bulldozed, burned and replaced with blueberries fields, peach orchards or track housing. Those that remain are being soaked in chemicals once a week to slow down their inevitable death. 

The smell of orange blossoms, the taste of fresh organic juice may be a thing only remembered by people of a certain age.

The little death to our family is monumental too. It is under her leaves that my son, at 5, first found all the stages of the lady bug life cycles. We always check under the leaves now. 

Her roots hold the body of our beloved Boston Terrier who could jump as high as your shoulders and almost mastered a back flip. 

My youngest son staked claim to the tree a few years ago and has spent time watering and weeding around it. 

The death and euthanasia of this young tree marks the death of our family's first season together. One where we planted hoped and ideas - some of which are just bearing fruit now and some sadly that have been culled. 

I am broken hearted when I walk outside and smell the blossoms that will never become juice on our table. But, in an effort to preserve her memory just a bit longer, we have been harvested and drying the blossoms to be used in teas and bath tubs. Hopefully, drawing out the heady scent long into the summer. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

{book club} The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

This post is sponsored by Grammarly.

Use Grammarly for English proofreading because...
we can't all pull off the e.e.cummings thing.

"It seems to have been the beginning of everything. The treasures of a new, beautiful world were laid at my feet, and I took in pleasure and information at every turn. I lived myself into all things. I was never still a moment; my life was as full of motion as those little insects that crowd a whole existence into one brief day. I met many people who talked with me by spelling into my hand, and thought in joyous sympathy leaped up to meet thought; and behold, a miracles had been wrought! The barren places between my mind and the minds of others blossomed like the rose." - Helen Keller

My kid's book club recently read The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. This corresponded nicely with a local play of the The Miracle Worker, as well as our family's classic movie night, where we watched the 1962 Patty Duke movie, The Miracle Worker.

The kids were enthralled with the story of Keller's life in darkness and her eventual language acquisition. They could not believe the gulf between her early bad behavior (especially as acted out in the play and movie) and her later abilities. She learned to climb trees, row boats, bicycle, read in multiple languages, identify plants, write books, and even to speak! The kids found her flowery language hard to appreciate, but overall, I they would recommend it.

After we discussed the book, we talked a lot about our senses and how they inform each other. I blind folded the kids and then served them each a snack. They had to figure out how to neatly eat a cupcake and ice cream cup (that had a lid). Then they cleaned up their area and walked across the room to throw away their garbage based on what they remembered of the room we were meeting in. This part of the meeting was a hit!

Luckily, our library has a small braille book collection, so we explored those and talked about blind people we knew. In particular, I shared about my grandmother who became blind later in life. She had all sorts of helping devices and tricks in her apartment. We also talked about service dogs and what might have happened to Keller if she did not have a family who could afford to seek out help for her.

I personally was impressed with her story and resolve to both understand the world and communicate her ideas. Her life was full of hard work and amazing teachers and mentors. As a mother and homeschooler, her educational journey was inspirational and certainly motivated me.  She writes the following of her beloved Anne Sullivan,

"Thus I learned from life itself. At the beginning I was only a little mass of possibilities. It was my teacher who unfolded and developed them. When she came, everything about me breathed of love and joy and was full of meaning. She has never since let pass an opportunity to point out the beauty that is in everything, nor has she ceased trying in thought and action and example to make my life sweet and useful."

Yes. That is what a teacher should do.

Have you read The Story of My Life with your kids?

How did they respond?

Friday, February 28, 2014

{march wellness challenge} i am so lucky...

The March wellness challenge is UP! In honor of Saint Patrick's Day and 4 leaf clovers, the daily prompt is

I am so lucky.....

Each day, head to the FB group and declare what good in your life is just plain lucky!

This is similar to our gratitude challenge a few months ago, but I feel like by using the word "luck" there is a different vibe. We are not just being reverential and humble in our gratitude, but acknowledging the pure luck of the draw. Sometimes, things are really great because we work hard and manifest our dreams. But sometimes, we are just lucky. You might even scratch your head and wonder how you ended up in a sparkly rainbow. Luck my friend!

Luck is playful and silly. It is like God winking and throwing you a dandelion to blow and whispering,  "make a wish!"

You might even find yourself trying to pass on some good luck to others.... leaving the front row parking space open for someone else, putting a quarter in the gum machine slot, you get the idea...

The FB group is always free! You can join here.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

the rink of my busy life {and i miss you little blog}

i feel like this space has been so neglected.

there are loads of drafts sitting in my queue ready to clean up and post : maybe some of those will eek themselves out to the world in the upcoming months.

where have I been?

Book About Me Lab - next one will probably be this fall
Mama Scout Wellness Challenge Group
The Mama Scout Book Club

^^^^ have all kept me busy with my limited computer time

in real life...

taxes and audits (bleh!)
surgeries and deaths
birthdays and skate park dates
social outings and classes galore
swim team, gymnastics, books clubs and as much hiking as I can try to get in

i have read about the "cult of busy" and how easy it is to fall prey. but i am not sure if i can get off this rink...3 kids and 2 parents with lots of interests and energy just make for a busy life.

but busy in the best way(s) possible.

in a few days i will announce the next wellness challenge and should have some fun lab announcements soon.

feel free to drop a line or comment on what you are up to. and meet up with me on FB


Friday, January 31, 2014

February Wellness Challenge :: Show the Love

Last month we shared our dreams. Big and mundane, I think most of us got as much from stating our  dreams as we did from hearing others',  offering support and giving hearty pats on the back.

But, it is a new month and time for a new challenge.

This month in honor of an upcoming holiday, let's share and spread love, charity and joy.

Each day, post your acts of love to our growing Facebook group.

Make them huge, tiny, anonymous, ridiculous and true. 

The Mama Scout Wellness Challenge group is an indescribable Facebook experience. You will get daily postings from women from around the world. Connecting, challenging and sharing in the beauty of life.

You can join here

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

{how to} dip net

What you need :

~ nets (we have a selection that we have picked up at garage sales, pet stores and chain stores).
~ tubs (maybe some dishpans from the dollar store or other wide tubs)
~ camera
~ field guide (search online for printouts of the invertebrates in your area)
~ journal

Dip netting is such a great way to see what is living in the bodies of water around you. I am always surprised at what shows up in the net. From leaches to huge blue crabs there is so much more to the world that what we easily see. It is a little like magic, if you ask me.

We have dip netted in retention ponds, lakes, swamps and the ocean. It is one of our favorite things to do and something I hope to do much more of this year.

Here are some tips and guidelines, but I think you will see it is easy and intriguing once you get started. 

(Obviously, be safe - whatever that means to the particular body of water you are exploring). 

Start by fill in a tub or two with the water from the source you will be dip netting from.

Use your nets to gently scoop from the bottom of the water.

Take your net to one of the tubs and empty your scoop. Look around, be careful and see what it in there. We have separated out the animals into a separate tub to observe them while dip netting.

The best place to find creatures is at the edges, near vegetation and grasses and I would assume near rocks although we have very few of those in Florida.

Always treat the creature with gentle hands and return them to their home shortly after logging and observing them. It is essential that kids are taught to treat these specimens with respect. Do not remove them from their natural habitat.

A list or chart of the diversity you find turns this into a handy little science project, but really the exposure to these underground worlds is illuminating and inspiring to the dip netter.

Have you dip netted?

What is the most interesting thing you have brought up?

Friday, January 10, 2014

{make} wax paper mono prints

Inspired by this post about plastic bag mono printing, my daughter and I spend a sick day working with wax paper, watered down acrylics, paper and a brayer.

Mono printing is a print making process that makes one unique print at a time. There is no stamp or printing plate that allows you to make multiples. One is all you get.

They are simple and fun.

Basically, we painting designs and abstracted shapes with watered down acrylic paint (sometimes scratching into them or altering the texture in some way.

Then you flip over the wax paper onto your art paper (water color, newsprint, cardboard, anything...) and rub it with your hand or a brayer. I love using a brayer because it gives a consistent pressure along the whole piece.

Carefully peel back the wax paper and see what you have.

Add more layers to it. We just folded our wax paper over onto itself as we added more details.

This activity is great because it is economical and so open ended.

Parents should be at the table playing next to their kids. We have the best time and discover the most when we make art side by side.  If you have a hard time just playing with color - what about making journal pages with spaces that you can write on later? or think about making cards, book marks or gift tag with the resulting fields of color? If nothing else you can have pretty paper for your grocery list.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

what are your lanterns?

"...and i am out with lanterns, looking for myself." 
- e. dickinson

the book about me lab is registering now. you can read more about it here.

i hope you will join us as we light our lanterns and head out on the trail. together.

i talk to a lot of women.

online, in groups, in the grocery store, at the park...and i hear the same thing, over and over.

what about me? what about what i have to say? where is my voice, my self, my passion in all this. and why i am doing this? why are my days filled with a job that is killing me, people who don't get me, and commitments i hardly even remember agreeing too? (i actually hear the exact same thing from men too).

how do i get off this herky-jerky carousel? because it does not seem to stop. and the tinny, toy piano music is driving me mad.

there are many solutions. jogging, meditating, juicing, therapy...

in the bam lab, we find our way back through careful looking, photographing, sharing our stories and writing. it is a creative, unique, highly personal and completely transformational experience.

the friendships and spin-off groups that have been born from this space have changed my mind about the power of a long distance friendship, heck, even the power of a FB group. i mean, really, i am still shaking my head in amazement.

if you have a little space this spring to do some digging in and sharing, we would welcome you with hugs and cool drinks.

think about it.

(we start the 20th of this month. i do not anticipate running this lab again until fall). 

{life lab} the chore wheel

I hate chore charts and reward systems. I do not believe that I should pay the kids to help out in their own house and luckily they are very willing to help when I ask - but it takes too much nagging energy to keep up with 3 kids, a stupidly huge old house, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 5 mice, 4 chickens, a crab and fish etc... you get the idea. 

We have tried several things and nothing works or feels right for very long. The best approach we have come up with is the chore wheel. On it, I have listed the very minimum of daily maintenance chores that need to be done. Each kid has a clothes pin that rotates around the wheel each day. The idea is that we work on these chores first thing in the morning before we go anywhere or start working on other projects. 

Things get tricky around here because we have a very full (+fun) schedule. If we can keep these basics going as habit we are never with out clothes or come home to a completely trashed kitchen. Of course, some days it does not all happen because we are rushed out the door and might not come home until evening. That is ok. It is a guideline. 

My kids get do pocket money just for being a part of the family. I also offer them ways to earn extra money here and there with extra jobs (cleaning out the silverware drawer etc.) And sometimes they just have to help clean all day. 

The chore wheel changes every now and then but it has served as a great visual and hands-on tool for helping us all keep a home care rhythm. 

I would love to hear about how your family shares the work load. Leave a message in the comments...

(a picture of our command station in progress. we have a calendar, our family values, the chore wheel, a season wheel, a family portrait and a bit of mail art from a friend. sometimes my to-do list is on post it notes on the wall too. i like that because it feels good to take them down and toss them when i am done). in the same room we have a chalk board wall and a big cork board.)

Monday, January 6, 2014

{Monday Mission} an hour for you

I have not posted Monday Missions in a while; I think I will remedy that this year.

To start off, how about something for you?

RIGHT NOW, look at your calendar and schedule one hour to do something that you love but do not do nearly enough.

Go for a walk alone.

Head out to the library/book shop and b r o w s e ........

Call a friend you have missed.

Take a Yoga class.

Read in the tub while everyone else does the grocery shopping.

Sneak away into the attack and look in old boxes.

Read your old journals.

Stroll the plant shop and buy $5 worth of something green and pretty.

Look at fabric and pattern books.

Go to the shooting range (I have not done this as I am not into guns, but I think it might be really fun).

What else?

Make it happen! NO ONE else will do this for you. Schedule and then share your activity.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

{january wellness challenge} I dream...

The January Mama Scout Wellness Challenge is....

A daily check in with our dreams.

I finished up the Dream Lab a few months ago and the next one has been planned here.

The big takeaway from the last dream lab? By simply voicing our dreams and crazy notions - we often put the ball in motion.

Daring to utter the words...I dream of.... can kick start the magic like nothing else. And to do so in a group of positive co-dreamers magnifies the power, the connection and the possibilities.

Let's get small. The tiniest dreams deserve a bit of attention....what are yours? I would like to drink my coffee when it is still warm and maybe have the floors cleared of animal hair.

And, let's get audacious. Big, unruly dreams that are scary to say out loud. Shout them to this group of strangers and friends from around the world.

Give them voice.

Set them free.

Cast them like seeds into the minds of other dreamers.

If nothing else, you can state your one sticky dream We don't care and will join the chorus and sing your words with you.

Remember, this whole project takes place on Facebook. The group is here and it is all free.

(and i have to say, this group has grown into a very safe, uplifting place. we only offer each other encouragement, kind words and any relevant resources. if you could use a dose of that sort of connection - join us.)

You are invited to dream with us!


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