Wednesday, December 31

December in Review

Think your reader's may have missed out on some great content this month, or they don't visit often, or you have new readers? Consider a Month in Review post. I know I can't keep up with all the wonderful blogs out there, I would hate to have missed anything significant or interesting in their lives. Just copy & paste the headings below and add your responses.

Feel free to add yourself as I would love to read every reader's reviews. Please link directly to your post NOT your website. Linky closes Jan 7th. And visit each other!

Here's a tip, set a post up in draft form and add to it throughout the month before you forget by the end of the month!

December in Review , in 1 sentence.

Summary (3 sentence max)
I think the most significant, and wonderful, aspect of December for us was living away from the Consumer Christmas Chaos, as over here it's a quiet family/religious affair, and mostly celebrated at the Orthodox one on Jan 7th. Overall, December alternated between this quietness and the Full Blown Exhausting Chaos of a teething baby. But the last day is seeing me on the mend and baby's teeth all out.

Starting my knitting adventure is exciting!

Getting 3hrs sleep a night and then adding a teething baby to the mix and then because that ain't enough I thought I would get sick too.

With our little stray dying, and then another local cat who befriended us dying, and both coming to us for their last moments, my mind has been on loss and my place amongst animals.

An insight/thought
That simplicity reminds me of what really matters.

Website/blog Find
Have a chuckle over at

Words (quote/reading/book recommendation/1 sentence review!/anything word-related)
DIY Dad alternating, "I think we can afford to finish the house, perhaps, maybe..."

Note to Self
I'm letting my healthy behaviours slip, what with being tired and all, but I can't add worse to the bad.

Favourite Tip/Idea from web
I loved Nic's mention of Furoshiki, which I had never heard of before.

Slice of home (A photo of a tiny corner of your home, or objects, that represent something about this month)

Well it's got to be my tiny knitting collection - my old hemp yarn and two cooking skewers. :)


Please link directly to your post NOT your website. Linky closes Jan 7th.

Tuesday, December 30

10 Worst Toys 2008

2008 "10 Worst Toys" List by W.A.T.C.H

W.A.T.C.H.'s annual list nominates representative toys with the potential to cause childhood injuries, or even death.

Here are a few I've picked out.

Animal Alley Purse Set
Age Recommendation:"0+"


This soft, colorful pony is sold for infants. The toy has long, fiber-like hair that is not adequately rooted and is easily removable, presenting the potential for ingestion or aspiration injuries. This hazard is not referenced anywhere on the product or product tags.

Meadow Mystery Play-a-sound Book with Cuddly pooh
Age Recommendation: “18 months+” (box) and “RECOMMENDED FOR ALL AGE GROUPS” (toy)


This... doll is packaged and sold with a “Meadow Mystery” book. Pooh’s cloth mask, once removed, poses the potential for choking injuries. Despite the wording on the packaging and the book that the product has been safety tested for children “18 months+”, the tag attached to the plush toy indicates that it is “[r]ecommended for all age groups”.

Pucci Puppies
Age Recommendation: “2 years +”


Oral age children as young as 2 years old are encouraged to play with this plush, golden retriever puppy, sold with a dog house and accessories including a bone, cookie, chew toy and food bowl. These accessories are small parts that could easily be ingested by a child, presenting the potential for serious choking injuries.

As always, we need to be vigilant and conscious as consumers and parents, and not rely on other people's recommendations, especially even that of a manufacturer.

Monday, December 29

eco-friendly knitting

Besides practicing my knitting tension, and sticking to the one method (makes total sense Lisa), I have been looking into how I can fit knitting into two of my philosophies - green and compacting. That is, friendly to the earth - small carbon-footprint, sustainable materials, organic, natural dyes. Also, minimal purchasing as I am on a 'make do and mend', and, 'buy nothing (unnecessary) new', type of lifestyle.

And if you haven't tried purling yet (Courtney, I see you hiding behind that pile of yarn there!), watch the videos over at Lisa, I have to agree (although as a total novice of course) that the Norwegian method looks very easy and efficient! Okay, one technique at a time.

Okay, so, eco-yarns are quite easy to find. Some come from organically reared sheep and alpacas, others are naturally died or even kept in the animal's natural wool colouring. And some are very nifty, like bamboo and soysilk yarns, which are very sustainable.

However, buying eco-yarn can, like many green products, be misleading. One company I came across sells sustainable yarns but they are spun in China and can't confirm ethical working conditions. So you need to check.

These are online sources I found (and I'm not suggesting all these stores or yarns are perfect in their greeness or ethical conditions, but it's a start):

The Yarn Market (USA) sells all sorts of yarns and has an eco-friendly section, that includes corn, bamboo, soy silk and organic cotton. They also offer bamboo needles.

I've previously bought my hemp yarn from The House of Hemp (UK), and can attest to it's loveliness. Although I don't think it's as soft as some wools, if that's what you're after. It's eco in so far as hemp is many times less damaging to the environment than cotton. They also sell undyed hemp yarn.

Soil Association certified organic at Organic Pure Wool (UK).

Ecoyarns is a distributor in Oz.

Himalaya Yarn offers natural hand-spun yarns and helps people in Nepal.

And here's a nice article on not wasting the yarn you already have. And one on recycling yarn from an old sweater.

Now I'm off to curl up with my current book and rest before the Wildflower wakes up. And I promise that my next post won't be about knitting. *chuckle*

Sunday, December 28

pointing up the front

The front is stoned and they started pointing it. They did it too rough though. From the photos that Frugal Father brought home, I wasn't happy with the finish.

So the next day he requested the different finish. Of course, there was much muttering and shaking of heads for a good hour. Finally, Frugal Father showed them how it was done and to give them credit, they oohed and aahed and there was general agreement that it was a good finish.


However, the next section they attempted still wasn't quite right, so either FF will do it himself or will have to follow them around with his tools.

But this is great to see the pointing. And there's only about 1/4 left to stone, which also happens to be the easier of all the sections. FF is searching for stone on our land wherever he can find it. A tight budget means we can't just go buying new tone because the workers would like it.


Also, you should note that the stone won't remain that lovely golden tone, it will turn a dark or light grey, depending upon what sun it sees.

practicing purl

Yesterday I tried purl. Is it supposed to be the exact same thing as the knit stitch, just executed differently?

Anyway, if so, I think I found this easier than the knit stitch, although the way I eventually worked out how to do it probably isn't very elegant. But it works. And Lisa said that, "There are like a thousand different "right" ways to knit...", so I'm going with that. :)

I also discovered why my stitches were so tight. But I still have little control over the tightness (tension?). Of course, this is practice right.


Okay, next time I see that old knitting lady, I'm going to say hi. With DIY Dad's help, I'll arm myself with a few choice phrases. Such as, "I'm learning to knit", "May I watch", and, "Is there any heating in this place and a cup of chaj would go down very well thank you". Lisa, hope that answers your question about the language!

CK, welcome, so much fun to find other new knitters out there. Purple would have been my colour for a scarf too! And thanks for reminding me to put up my 'goodreads'.

I'm going to keep practicing for now Docwitch, although I'm eager to start a scarf. But my stitches are too messy and uneven right now. I've just been trying out the basic techniques and now I'll need to focus on making it look neat. Enthusiasm is great, but I think I need more than 3 hrs of knitting before starting anything *chuckle* I pick things up very quickly, but doing things well is a who-----le other story.


In other news.... the house is coming along nicely, the stonework is about 3/4 done, and the rest is the easier part. They started pointing it up yesterday. pics at other blog
Due to cost of flights, we've decided to push back our UK trip to late January.
I have a cold, that I'm fighting tooth and nail, so that the Wildflower doesn't catch it too. Like I need that on top of teething woes and usual sleep deprivation. Although the teething is easing. Burning lots of eucalyptus oil and gargling with tea tree and drinking ginger chaj (tea, in the local lingo).

Saturday, December 27

the knitting nutter

I'm such a nutter. I have to share with you just how nuts I am.

When I get an idea in my head my enthusiasm wants to execute it yesterday. So once I had decided on knitting I wanted to get on with it. Not having needles, etc, etc, I opted for watching the videos (thanks guys, is very good). I figured I would at least get a feel for the techniques and learn some jargon.

Of course, that wasn't enough. So I grabbed a couple of wooden spoons and my weaving yarn (hemp), and tried the casting on technique. Can you imagine? At least I'm able to recognise the craziness of my ways. That's something, right?

That was of course all well and good until I attempted a knit stitch. Suddenly, I remembered the chopsticks! Oh the joy! I had to hunt for them in the still-packed boxes but found them.

I had some fun with those but the severe tapering wasn't helping. And then I had another brainwave, skewers!

So yes people, I took two kebab skewers, cut off their tips, and used those. I mean, they're just like needles, albeit very thin ones. It got me thinking about all those women from poor places or from long ago who made do with whatever tools they had to hand.

Of course, this was not the easiest way to begin a knitting journey was it? Tiny needles and very thin (jargon?) yarn, only 2ply. Very intricate work, but I got the idea of it. Now I've found my 4ply yarn and am trying it with that.

Look at this gorgeous piece of mess. How fab is that?! It looks even worse in real life, but I knitted!


So I know how to cast on and do a knit stitch (apparently the continental way). I'm totally confused about how to begin a subsequent row, as the loops don't look right. I've joind the forum on the above website, hopefully that'll help. looks interesting for patterns and inspiration, thanks Lisa. I'm still looking into books. A child's books sounds useful, and I could leave it for the Wildflower if she's ever interested. I wish I had someone to learn from Anthromama and Maria. However, I have no idea if they do classes for such things here, and it would be in a foreign language anyway. I went for a walk and met an old lady knitting while she attended her shop. I started to watch, she smiled, but then she had to answer the phone. I wonder if she'll think it strange if I just sat there and watched her every other day? lol

Friday, December 26

injected into children

  • paint thinner
  • coolant
  • formaldehyde
  • mercury
  • aluminium
  • anti freeze

  • dye
  • detergent
  • phenols
  • solvent
  • borax
  • disinfectant

  • MSG
  • glycerol
  • latex
  • glutaraldehyde
  • sulfite and phospate compounds
  • sorbitol

  • polyribosylribotol
  • Amphotericin B
  • casein
  • dead animal tissue and blood eg. cow, chick embryo, monkey, sheep, pig, dog, etc
  • aborted human foetus cells
  • mutated (more virulent) human viruses

  • bacteria and bacterial endotoxins
  • antibiotics
  • mycoplasma
  • GM yeast
  • viral DNA

Some of the ingredients in vaccines.
How can we possibly know their full effects, short or long-term?

Read for a fuller list and explanations.

Wednesday, December 24

a yarn or two

Okay, as recently mentioned I've decided on knitting. Thanks lovely bloggy friends.

How did I come to that decision? Well, as usual, I listen to the world around me. After writing that post, I went about my day and knitting just popped into my mind. I found that interesting considering that I have never even contemplated it before, and it had always felt like an old lady's craft. But something about it felt right. Then I read the responses and knitting came out on top. And then I stumbled onto blogs of which three were knitting-focused or mentioned knitting a lot. Don't you just love synchronicity.?

I was dutifully educated, on those blogs and many other sites, that knitting is anything but an old lady's craft. There are some gorgeous and very hip (I never use that word) items out there!


So bloggy friends, now I need two things, two recommendations. Firstly, a website and secondly a book. I have googled +knitting +beginners, and have read things like;

The gauge, or the number of stitches or rows per inch, normally is determined by the size of the needles and the weight of the yarn. Always work a gauge swatch to see if your tension equals the gauge specified in your instructions. The test swatch should ideally be at least 4"/10cm square, using the yarn and needle size
called for in the pattern.

This is a beginner's site, on the first page. I need help with: rows per inch, work a guage, tension, tension equals the guage, test swatch, yarn, needle.

Okay, the last two I'm okay with. But seriously. Needing a beginner's site means I haven't a CLUE so, walk me through it, take my hand dear website owner. I need Knitting for Extra Dumb Dummies.

My Mercury is in Virgo, so I need to understand the details (so that then I can ignore them and do my own thing).

So if you have a true beginner's site you can recommend, please do. If you know of a really simple, how-to book that would be great too. I always love an excuse to buy another book.

Oh, I guess thirdly, what is the bare minimum I'll need to start my knitting adventure?

Some time later:

Oh, just found a few vids over at expertvillage. I understand guage now. Still, would love those recommendations...

Tuesday, December 23

a waste of wrapping

One thing I really dislike about Xmas, and any day that includes giving of gifts, is the waste in wrapping and cards. I don't give cards and over the years I've asked others not to send us any. I try to salvage wrapping paper and when I wrap presents I try to use the minimum of sticking tape, so that the person could reuse it if they wished.

I like that more and more people are beginning to think about wrapping. Including me!

Nic shared a really great idea for wrapping gifts. One that essentially uses a cloth as part of the gift, or simply to be easily reused.

I came across this website today, FuturePresent. Designers have been challenged to think up creative ways to wrap gifts. The site showcases their ideas.


I hope more eco-minded people give some thought to their choice of wrapping, not just the type of gift. For me, it needs to go beyond recyclable wrapping paper, to using materials that can be reused.

I personally like the idea of using the main gift and the person's likes as a wrap. For example, if the person is a keen cook and you're gifting them something for the kitchen, perhaps using a kitchen container with a big kitchen string bow. You get the idea.

Let the creative juices run wild!

simple solstice

I was lamenting the lack of an elaborate meal, a solstice cake, more nature inside the house. It just didn't feel the same. When you have a teething baby, everything falls by the way side.

So on the solstice the Wildflower and I went out for some fresh air and to languish under the midwinter sun. What a glorious sun day. Wrapped up warm, we sat by the bayside under the large comfort of an adriatic pine tree. Pressing our faces up against the rays, soaking up whatever sun the Winter relinquished.

And I lamented a little. And then as noon felt to approach and I breathed in the Moment of Stillness, something struck me.

For years I had spent the solstices as a time for connecting to a powerful moment in nature. Nothing more or less. Over time I had added a little more and more. It was still a fairly simple time, but I had recently been considering what else we might do as the Wildflower became old enough to fully participate. What happened to the simplicity?

What was I lamenting?

Since when did the solstice become about my rituals and traditions? Since when was it about the decorations or the meal?

It struck me that my solstice was becoming like many celebrated Xmases - where the paraphernalia became the holiday. And I wondered at the many people who did not celebrate Xmas but the solstice instead, and at those who were interested in celebrating the solstice, and wondered about the whys of what we choose.

It struck me that the solstice ought not to become a substitute for Xmas. For it wasn't. That we needn't think it required many rituals and decorations to somehow legitimise it. For it doesn't.

That's not to say I won't be cooking an elaborate meal or baking a cake or decorating some more at the next cycle. It means that what I had thought was a missed solstice, was actually a gift to me. A chance to reconnect with my own reasons for the days of the winter sun. It means that I knew that what I wanted was to instill awe of nature and connection to it in my Wildflower. That the trimmings were only symbols, nothing more.


It struck me that there was nothing to lament, but everything to celebrate.

Sunday, December 21

suspended solstice

It's solstice today, but I ain't celebrating.

I had less than 2hrs sleep last night. On top of her usual sleepless nights, the Wildflower has her first teeth showing through, awww. So she needed extra cuddling through the last two nights. I haven't the strength to put together an elaborate meal or bake a wonderful cake. So tomorrow, Hypnos willing, I will cook and bake. Today, I will blog some fun and will take a long walk into the woods with the Wildflower when she wakes from her nap. That is solstice enough for me.

Idea from the Doc, (won't take the award but will do the Qs), thanks for giving me a fun blogging post to do.

7 things to do before I die

  1. Sleep in the grand canyon
  2. Go on safari
  3. Learn to knit and create wonderful things *
  4. Write a book
  5. Bring out humanitarian, compassionate, and generous traits in my daughter
  6. Make much more of a difference
  7. Play a musial instrument to a competent level
7 things I do now

  1. Stay strong
  2. Wear scarves just because
  3. Dance alone
  4. Count almost everything
  5. Wear my heart on my sleeve
  6. Weed whisper
  7. Function on less than 3hrs sleep a night
7 things I can't do

  1. Whistle a melody
  2. Sit in my own tepid filth (take a bath)
  3. Sleep in a cold, damp & cramped nylon abode and call it fun (camping)
  4. Keep my mouth shut even though I know what will come out will likely get me into trouble/fired/lose a friend/be flamed online/get punched in the face/deported
  5. Ignore a homeless animal
  6. Watch a film that's already started
  7. Wear socks to bed no matter how cold I feel

7 things I find attractive in the opposite sex (in no particular order)

  1. A great sense of humour - offbeat funny, or at least get my own offbeat funnyness
  2. Supportive
  3. Intelligence, the nerdy or geeky sort
  4. Sensible & practical
  5. Carefree/optimistic
  6. Compassionate
  7. A bottomless sense of curiosity for the world

7 things I say most often

  1. Love you
  2. ETA?
  3. Hello chook
  4. Pick up some bread on your way home
  5. Eency weency spider....
  6. Follow your intuition
  7. mama loves you

7 celebs I most admire

Erm, none? Ok, I'll play along. I admire certain aspects, how's that? And celebs can be anyone famous, alive or dead, right?

  1. Martin Luther King (rip) for being audacious and eloquent
  2. Stephen Fry for being super intelligent and yet claiming text message 'speak' is totally great.
  3. Princess Diana (rip) for not being a Royal lemming
    This is
  4. George Michael (I know!) for giving tons of money to charities and doing so quietly
  5. The Dalai Lama for not believing the hype
  6. Johnny Depp for going against the flow (but DIY Dad says this one should really go under a Celebs I most fancy list)
  7. Can't think of any more.
7 favourite foods

  1. Dark chocolate
  2. Cake (although chocolate cake would be top, and it has to actually taste of good chocolate, none of this chocolate-coloured cake crapiness)
  3. Lasagna
  4. Burritos
  5. Tiramisu
  6. Strong cheese
  7. Dulce de leche

* If you've read the recent S, s, s, s, & s post, then, yep, this is what I've decided on, knitting, more another time....

Saturday, December 20

Jessica Alba or Jessica Rabbit?

I don't want my daughter to struggle with food like I did.

Why those in the business think we want to look like Jessica rabbit is beyond me. These pics have been leaked out for Jessica Alba's Campari contract. She looks just fine and fabulous in the original shot. She has a FIVE month old baby!


As I'm raising a daughter, this is a very important issue for me. The images girls saw when I was growing up were difficult enough to emulate, but today they are truly impossible as so many are digitally reworked. I want my daughter to grow up not only confident in her skin, but also media aware.

If you're the mother of girl/s, do you have any tips for me? If you're the mother of boys, do you/will you, talk to them about how women are portrayed?

Growing up, I never spoke to my mother about body image, and like other children, so many upsets or concerns were kept to oneself - you just don't think it's something to talk about. But I was lucky that at least in my childhood I was comfortable in my own skin, despite not being particulalry pretty or slim, compared to other girls in my school.

But after 15, I struggled. It all started when a boyfriend mentioned how wonderful a particular singer was because she had lost all her weight. I had thought she was beautiful before. He was hinting at my weight. And let me tell you, I was not over-weight at all, just not very slim. I was average.

And then I started to notice all these women that before had been from another world and therefore irrelevant to me. Because now there was a self-image connection, and now I was entering an age were I could identify with them that little bit more.

Today, there are more celebrities under 21 than when I was growing up. Really young girls who are not only pretty, but often glammed up to look older on occassion.

It has taken me years, heck, a couple of decades, to be at a place where food doesn't rule my life, but every day is a healing day. There was a time I hated my body, hated myself. If I can spare my daughter from that, I will.

Friday, December 19

feeds & finds



Question of the week:
Why is abbreviated such a long word?

udder talk

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

When in England, the talk on a building site usually consisted of sport's scores, beer, what you were doing on the weekend, and celebrities (usually large-breasted female ones). All to the drone of traffic.

Well, the closest we come to that here is a neighbour chasing away a roaming cow from our plot whilst the stonemason comments on what a 'good looking cow' it was.

translated conversation
stonemason: (looking underneath) ah nah, the udders are no good.
neighbour: they're fine
stonemason: they should be a good thumb's length (offering view of his thumb for reference)
neighbour: nah, no need to be that long
stonemason: (shaking head in disagreement)

stonemason: 'spose you would get a good xkg amount out of her
neighbour: yeah, yeah, organic, healthy, good quality meat
stonemason: aha, aha

Cow's response: a bit personal isn't it.


There's no doubt where we are.

Thursday, December 18

cloth diapering

There seems to be a number of mum bloggers making the decision to cloth diaper. That's great to hear. Amy is doing a series of posts about her experience, which I imagine would be really helpful to many mothers contemplating the change. And over at Adventures in Babywearing, Steph has taken the plunge at baby number 4, and is documenting her experiences, much on video.

It's funny. But for me, it wasn't an issue. I mean, it wasn't anything that occured to me to blog about or document, because I couldn't imagine not using cloth diapers. Whilst for many parents disposables are the default with cloth as an ideal, for me, the issue was a little different.

I had liked the idea of elimination communication (or potty whispering, I like that). I wasn't daunted by the idea at all, so you can imagine how ordinary cloth diapering seemed to me.

But when baby came and I was so sore from surgery and the breastfeeding was going all wrong, that's the last thing I was interested in. And now? I just can't imagine doing it.

The idea is the you're so tuned into your baby's cues that you know when she wants to wee or poop. Well, I am in tune with her. I know when she is about to poop and I know when she is having a wee, though can't predict that. I also realise that not having her wear diapers would force me to be even more in tune.

But how the heck do you not get peed on? And at the risk of TMI, there have been farts with follow-through that not even Nostradamus could have predicted. There's only so close to poop I want to get people! Another thing, it's damn cold here. I couldn't have her naked and by the time you get even the lightest piece of clothing off, the deed is done.

Here's the Wildflower in a modest video getting her cloth diaper on. Nice and easy clip on pre-folds, Onesies, with a cover. You need to click the tiny play button on the bottom left.

I have used a technique of EC, to make a noise or use a word when she 'goes'. This way, when she eventually uses the potty or toilet, there will be a word that she'll associate with going. The idea is to make the transition easier. I also change her immediately after a poop, so she learns to dislike a dirty diaper.

I don't know, I'm in awe at mother's who do it. I wish I could muster the courage. Now that's something I would like to see documented. I can't get my head around the logistics of it all.

And this isn't as weird as it sounds at first. Tribal mums have been doing this since forever. But they have the advantage of organic learning from other mothers.

I will look into it some more, although not sure if I'm too late at 8mths. Would you be game to try something like this?

Resources: diaperfreebaby, ooh, jusy found babiesonpotties video... I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, December 17

nature words extinct

I was going to blog about something entirely different but then I read about the following and just had to post about it.

You've heard of the Oxford Junior Dictionary right? Well, like all dictionaries, it is updated to include new words or changing definitions. Including slang words is common practice. Afterall, a dictionary isn't a collection for elitist word lovers. It's a mirror of our society.

But when contemporary words replace perfectly good words, and worse, words referring to nature, then what does that say about our society?

Oxford University Press has cut terms such as heron, budgerigar, doe, magpie, otter, acorn, clover, ivy, goldfish, piglet, beetroot, sycamore, willow, almond, panther, porcupine, raven, newt, carnation, leopard, melon, rhubarb, and blackberry.
How's this for a slap in the face? The electronic Blackberry was inserted instead. Other words they included were; blog, MP3 player, voicemail, broadband, as well as vandalism, allergic, curriculum, and celebrity.

There is something about this that makes me feel so sad.

From the criteria they use to select words, one is which words are commonly misspelled. Oh! That makes sense now. I can see how blog is so much more difficult than budgerigar.

And you notice something else? A favouring of abstract concepts over terms reflecting the tangible environment. You see it? An outdoor life touching, sensing, moving, jumping, catching, frolicking, towards an indoor life of entire worlds exiting in a digital box. Where goes the simple life for our children?

"This dictionary is not designed for children to use as they progress higher up the school years, and should be regarded as an introduction to language and the practice of using dictionaries," said a statement from OUP.

I'm glad about that. I was concerned it was in the dictionaries for older kids too. It's good to know that it's to introduce the language world to our children. It's quite important they know the term broadband early.

I conservationist and advocate for nature connection claimed,
"If you can't name things, how can you love them?"

I don't agree with that statement. Things are before we name them, and often a deeper connection can be formed if language is kept at bay. But that aside, dictionaries are a source of learning for most children and excluding terms of nature does not help to support a link to nature.

Do you feel this issue is important? Does it matter that much what goes into a dictionary? Or are kids going to learn terms anyway? Is it a matter of principle? Who would remove such a cool word as newt?

Tuesday, December 16

solids, snow, skiing, seismic, & sewing, (sort of)

How's that for alliteration?

I loved all your comments yesterday. Thank you for remembering my sidebar note, not to take me too seriously. *grin*

Solids (delayed)
The Wildflower has actually had some food, but still doesn't seem very interested to me. Now that she's over 6 months we're really getting it from all sides. Fortunately, I'm a confident mum. That doesn't mean I'm confident I'm doing everything right, it means I'm confident in my intuition and I'm confident that if I'm not doing it right I'll learn from the experience, and baby won't be too psychologically scarred in the process.

I'm also just generally amused at human behaviour and step back from it in a philosophical sense to chuckle. I love that after the statement, 'she should be on solids", when I ask, 'Why is that?', there is a blank stare.

That speaks volumes. How much we do and believe from unconsciousness. I haven't had a single person give me a good reason why. It's fun watching the faces contort in an attempt to process my audacious question. *wicked grin*

Snow (distant)
Apparently we've had a snow flurry up at the homestead, but down here, it's still a balmy 10C, and still plenty of green on the trees. Although, for a cold-blooded (or so DIY Dad claims) creature like me, it's cooooooold. But then, the blogosphere has put me straight.

What with all the snow such at homes of recently found bloggers, Sarah's place in the UK, as well as Zenmomma's, Tara's, and Kat's. And then Sara told me just what Cold really means, and put me to shame.

Growing up in coastal Australia meant that my Winters were all about storms and sun showers and occasional golf-ball-sized hail storms. Never snow. Snow was something seen on American Xmas shows. How fluffy and fun it appeared. In England, I was rudely introduced to snow by slipping on black ice and spraining my ankle. Not fluffy at all. I felt duped.

Over here, we get sleet and occassional light frosts, but up at the homestead, we were introduced to the conditions last Winter, when we couldn't get the car up the icy mountain road and had to care-ful-ly turn back. I'm looking forward to our adventures up there.

Skiing (never)
My friends are trying to convince me that I will love skiing. I am patiently trying to have them understand three truisms about me.

  1. I would rather poke myself in the eye. Repeatedly.
  2. I don't do damp, cold, or sports. Apart nor in partnership.
  3. If I ski, I will break a limb. My own or one belonging to the person who convinced me.
Seismic (soon)

There's been tons of earthquake talk around these here parts. Apparently there is a big one predicted - 11 on the R scale is big right? The epicentre being about 45mins away. *gulp*

They had one here about 1978ish. Which is why many of the old stone houses are now ruins.

Somebody said it was supposed to happen a few days ago. We all held our breaths and mentally listed what we would grab first. (it was the baby, not the laptop, honest!)

Sewing (considering)
Well, actually, crafting in general. But sewing was alliterative. (didn't mean to over-excite you there oh crafty one).

I'm just so inspired by all the bloggy craftiness out there. And as we're moving towards a simpler and simpler life still, I know that making gifts will become part of our lifestyle, rather than the occassional whim. So this is where I turn to you, dear bloggy friends.

So, which craft? (grin) I mean let's look at the evidence.

  • I'm not good with details. I'm good at spotting them, but not good at creating them. I'll go nuts with anything intricate.
  • I can't sit at something for too long. So a pick-up-as-and-when-you-feel-like-it sorta thing works best.
  • I'm a 6 on the 1-10 creative scale. Meaning I don't come up with much on my own, but once I have something to get me going, I can be very creative.
  • I tried crocheting once and I loved how therapeutic it was. But just how many crocheted top/blankets can one use in one life time?
  • I do (did) weaving with hemp, but that's really tiring on the hands and takes forever to produce something and then suddenly you have all the woven jewellry you can use.
  • I have a baby. So candle making, etc, is out for now.
  • I have limited resources.
  • I like the idea of something I can do whilst sitting by a wood stove

So nothing concrete today. What an almost-ness post.... perhaps it isn't really here either...

Monday, December 15

everyone's an expert

It happens to all us parents. I know it happened to you, right?

Some time along the road of parenting, when your child is between the ages of zero and 3 yrs, you will get the best advice ever known to humankind. There will be no other advice that compares. Not before and never again. This advice is pure gold. It is backed by intensive research and experience. The kind where, 'my mother did it, and my mother's mother before, and her mother's mother's mother'.

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a mother or mother-in-law that will begin handing out this advice right from the moment you give birth. You might be so fortunate as to have it dished out whilst you're dishevelled, groggy, recovering from labour or surgery, and trying desperately to understand if your new baby is latching on correctly. Oh, you are the luckiest of us all!

Perhaps you were fortunate enough to get it during those newborn days. You were instructed on how to bathe, change, and feed your baby, because you just weren't doing it the way her mother did it. And if you were especially fortunate, you were shown how you should be holding her. Silly you, thinking you could hold your baby.

Oh how I envy the parents who had colicky babies! For you are the ones who receive advice by the truckload. And the best part? You usually receive it from someone over the phone whilst the baby is screaming blue murder in your ears.

Perhaps like me, you had to wait a little longer. My moments of advice joy came when my baby was around 7 months old. I was smart enough to do just the thing that brings on advice - I listened to my intuition and my baby. Perfect. And so it started and now, lucky me, at almost 8 months of age, it's in full swing.

Like all this advice that we so desperately want as new parents it comes in handy concise morsels of wisdom.

'You should be feeding her solids'.

I love that word! It just makes everything so crystal clear. There is no room for error or my losing my way. I should. That is all. Thank you!

That's right folks. I'm not talking about ordinary tidbits from friends and family. No, this is the GOOD stuff. This is the 'advice' that really says, 'you're doing it all wrong'. This is the stuff that us parents thrive on. It's the stuff that truly makes us better parents, like no reassurence ever could.

Haven't you started her on solids yet? She really should be having solids by now. I think she looks hungry. She'll probably sleep better if she ate solids. I think she sounds hungry for solids. Please feed her solids. Just a bit or banana, so little! I bet that's why she isn't sleeping well. My baby started solids at x months. Try to feed her some please. She isn't on solids yet?!

I love that last one too. It's the indirect-yet-not-so-subtle approach. The person is shocked but refrains from giving direct advice. Your methods are so extraordinary, it has invited actual shock. Too kind, really.

So parents, if you are sadly missing out on all this expert advice out there, then go ahead, use your intuition and read your baby's cues. You will surely invite it into your life, to be enriched thereafter.

Oh, and if your child is out of the baby stage, don't be sad. New advice will soon follow when you start disciplining all wrong.

Sunday, December 14

House build

Well, we're working against the weather now of course, but the stonework is coming on - slowly but steadily. The workers are total wimps. The slightst chill or drizzle and they're moaning and whining like toddlers. And the next day they'll fein colds to not come in. phht!

But, we're happy with their work, which is the most important, and they are plodding on. As I said to Frugal Father, we're doing jusy fine.

As you can see, the window surrounds are also in. Just the upstairs to do now.


While it's still hovering around 10C down here, up at the homestead someone said there was a snow flurry. Yikes.

This is a pic of the back field on a misty day a week ago.


Should we buy a foghorn?

Saturday, December 13

my solstice

The solstice is around the corner and Amy, after her daughter's wonderful thoughts, asked me to elaborate on how I celebrate it. So I thought that I would share a little more about it. Although there are a gazillion websites out there about the day, I'll share a little from my pov and what the solstice means to me.

Firstly, the solstice is an actual event in nature. That is, it's not a day that is created by humans to celebrate something. It's the moment when the ancient peoples said that the sun 'stood still' (sol-sun, sistere-stand still), because at noon it appears that it doesn't move. Before calenders and clocks, people relied on the seasons, the sun and the moon, to mark the passage of time, and thereby also times for the garden, animals, and life events.

This naturalness and the association with a simple way of life that was connected to nature is important to me. Although there are cultures and groups who have attached religious significance to the day, including some ancients who often associated natural occurences with divine Beings, it is nevertheless a totally unreligious day.

This means two things. For the unreligious it's a day where one can 'celebrate' without any religious connotations. For a religious/spiritual person, it can be a day that is easily adapted to personal beliefs and philosophies.


For me, it begins with a deep understanding of our connection to Nature and subsequently the interconnection between the whole web of life.

So the sun has been declining in the sky. At the solstice we experience the darkest days. Will the sun return? We will have the days of warmth once more? As the solstice moment passes, so the sun will begin its ascent. In other words, the darkest of winter is here and from now on the days will lengthen and the sun will return, a promise of the Spring and Summer to come.

You can see how we can take this natural occurence and attach to it a variety of meanings. The death and rebirth of deity. A philosophical time of ending the Darkness and heading towards new Light. It is also a moment of great Balance. It can be a time of what Was to what Will Be.

Also, it needn't all be about the sun either. Some people focus on the Winter aspect. I very much connect to the Winter energy. For some cultures its the beginning of Winter whilst for others it is midwinter. This will affect the significance of the days.

So for me, it's a time of balance. In that moment when the earth holds it breath, I breathe in the energy of Perfect and Fragile Balance. It is a moment of great power.
It is a time to do as Winter does - to let go of the old and to prepare for the new. Shed the old ways that have served their purpose, and prepare for what is to come, the new ways to better serve the future purpose.
It's also my new year. As the sun is reborn, so is the 'year'. Out of the Dark is born the Light.

In much the same way that a variety of meanings can be ascribed to the event, so can rituals and traditions.

I collect parts of nature to invite into my home. I collect the winter shedding (so I don't cut anything). I collect whatever is local and thereby significant to the land. I leave it in its natural state though I might string things together. This is a symbol of the connection to nature as well as the shedding of the old. I include a symbol of the sun/rebirth. This year, as the Autumn oranges have been recently harvested, I have included many oranges and mandarins. This collecting can be a lovely ritual of wrapping up warm, finding a quiet and beautiful location, and searching together.


The night before I light a black or dark blue candle as a symbol of the dark, and then on the day I light a light-coloured one as a symbol of the new light. It's also a meditative action of stillness and contemplation. I'm considering perhaps starting a ritual of lighting it every night for a week or so before. In our first home with an open fire, I placed a large log in the fire that would burn for at least a whole day. I will do this again at the new homestead. As for the 'night before' and 'after', the solstice moment happens at a precie second in time, but as the ancients, without clocks and fancy equipment that went ping, I mark the few days around the solstice, and decide myself which will be the main day.

I'm very fluid in my ways, so I don't tend towards fixed rituals or things like altars. But altars are certainly a common way to display those bits of nature, along with pictures, photos, food items, etc.

I cook a lovely meal that includes colours symbolising the solstice. I have in the past invited a few friends. I leave foods for the wildlife as a way to 'thank' nature for its cycles of death and life. I think I might make it a practice to do something like the bird feeders Denise makes with her boys . I think this is a great idea to do with kids. I also take time to do some important spiritual work for myself.

If you are new, or newish, to the solstice, and wish to add to your celebrations, I recommend looking into your ancestral line. There's a good chance you will find that your ancestor's culture marked the solstice. These traditions are inherited in your spiritual blood. It can then become a way to mark the event but also to connect to your heritage.

Friday, December 12

feeds & finds

Was somebody paid for this study?

The menopause could be nature's way of diffusing tension between a woman and her mother-in-law.
Others argue that menopause evolved to allow women to spoil their grandchildren.

A “signature of autism” found in brain activity may eventually become a biomarker to improve classification of the disorder and aid in treatment and therapy planning. Unique brain wave patterns, spotted for the first time in autistic children, may help explain why they have so much trouble communicating. Using an imaging helmet that resembles a big salon hair dryer, called magnetoencephalography (MEG), researchers discovered what they believe are "signatures of autism" that show a delay in processing individual sounds.
The [helmet] is able to detect autism in children who are as young as one year of age. Most autism isn’t detected until the earliest age of two so this would be a big step in getting the behavioral therapy necessary to help these children learn better ways of communicating.

A study has found that the more children play outside away from TV and computers, the more they laugh. And notably, "children were probably less safe in terms of paedophilia and grooming in the online world than they were out on the street."
Children and Nature

That, "heavy media exposure leads to negative health effects in children" certainly isn't new, but what researchers from Yale University have done is to compile findings from 173 of the strongest studies in the past 28 years. They found that,

In 80 percent of the studies, greater media exposure is associated with negative health outcomes for children and adolescents. The strongest relationship was found between media and obesity. Of the 73 studies that examined the relationship between screen time and childhood obesity, 86 percent revealed a strong relationship between increased screen time and obesity. Of the 14 articles evaluating media and sexual behavior, 93 percent found that children with greater media exposure have sex earlier.

A toy you buy as a Christmas present this year, could be illegal by the time 2009 rolls in. A study shows that,

One in three toys contains "medium" to "high" levels of harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and PVC.
Lead was detected in 20 percent of the toys tested, some of which contained quantities that exceeded the federal recall standard used for lead paint.
The new CPSC regulations would make some products currently being sold illegal to sell two months from now. Experts insist the new regulations, while a good first step, do not go far enough to protect our children.

Studies are showing that more children are using alternative medicine and therapies, especially for chronic conditions where parents feel orthodox medicine has no answer for them. As much as 12% of children and teens use alternatives.
And of course, someone always has to throw in there that these alternatives are not fully studied and tested. Yep, thanks for that.
washington post
New York Times

As always, watch what you're kids are doing and sharing online. Sony was sued for collecting and disclosing personal data about 30,000 children without informing their parents.
LA Times

A report by the United Nations Children's Fund found that maternity leave provision in the UK is "inadequate" and less generous than in many other countries including Slovenia and Iceland. It claims the majority of babies spend most of the day in nurseries or with childminders.


Lots of ideas and a free newsletter for Kids Cooking

Fun word art for kids (and big kids) at Wordle. Here's my quickie.

Totally frivolous.

Never mind your priest, mother, best friend or tarot card, nobody knows you like google knows you.

According to google, this is what I need:
  • Monica needs a job. (parenting IS a job)
  • Monica needs a Bicycle Master Plan (uh-oh, it's seen my butt wobble)
  • Monica needs another dress washed! (look, I've been planning to get to my laundry, it's just the baby stuff is never-ending)
  • Monica needs new holes in her skin (this is either a comment on my pores or something much more sinister *blink*)
  • Monica needs Australia (been there done that.... or have I?)
Type, 'YOUR NAME needs' into google search, how well does it know you?

Thursday, December 11

first aid

When you mention a first aid kit many people think of school or their workplace. But a first aid kit at home could save us parents a lot of trouble and anxiety. And for someone who thrives on common sense, I see it as just plain practical to have items that might normally lay around the house, all in one easy to find place.

Over at Simple Makes, Lori posted about her kit and wondered what the rest of us included in our own.

adhesive bandages
cloth bandages
sterile gauze (various sizes)
tea tree oil
lavender oil
wound mix (essential oils in base oil)
arnica cream
pure aloe vera gel
bug off spray (essential oils in water base)
witch hazel extract
cooton balls

tea tree oil
wound mix (essential oils in base oil)
grapfruit Seed Extract

I also have lots of herbal remedies and teas in the cupboards, but this is my little quick-where's-the-x thingy-for-this-cut-as-I'm-bleeding-buckets-all-over-the-floor kit.

I might add more heavy-duty items when we move up dem der mountayns.

Wednesday, December 10

gathering for the solstice

Yesterday was a gorgeous day of wintry sun, just the sun I like. I wrapped up the Wildflower and we strolled along the bayside to see if anything wanted to come home with us - for the Winter solstice arrangement I make every year. This was the first such expeditions out with my little girl. I wasn't sure what to expect. In England it had been cones and large oranged leaves and holly.

We found many pine cones and pine leaves, and a handful of some type of nut. Also an orange-berry plant that was almost a mediterranean version of holly. I will go back for that one as only a small group of berries had fallen. But it felt like it was calling to me. We also picked a few sea-smoothed pebbles and stumbled across a sole weather-preserved pomegranate.

Someone I know asked why we just didn't get a big tree, to decorate with tinsel and baubles. I explained that we didn't celebrate Xmas so it wasn't relevant. And although this had a similarity to it, I enjoyed the naturalness and simplicity of the found bits of nature. It was the tree idea in its origins.

Over here, and in DIY Dad's family, they celebrate Xmas on the 7th of January, from the Orthodox calendar. Although the Mr celebrates he is a non-be;iever, so it's only about tradition. Every family goes out in search of their oak branch or branches. I remember last year seeing branches sticking out from the back of almost every car a couple of days before. They also sometimes pin a small oak branch on the front of the family car. Of course, they would deny any pagan connections, *chuckle*

It's a simple symbol. Unadorned. It's the tree idea back to its origins.

The solstice has no religious connections, it is not encumbered with beliefs. It is nothing more than the cycle of nature. Connecting to nature, we connect to everything that is Life. Connecting to its cycles is connecting to our own rhythm and process of being human and being of nature too. To remain in the connection, we do not take the growing, but instead only what is fallen.


So in a similar way to the Orthodox oak branches, and to the original Christmas trees, we invite nature into the house. To symbolise the change of the seasons. The relationship of light and dark, of Light and Dark, of cold and warmth, of growth and rest, of death and rebirth.

I'm very okay with the lack of glitter and plastic.

Tuesday, December 9

can't watch, must watch

I began with, 'aww, poor kid', to almost wetting myself giggling.

ad free

I think if you've been reading my rants rambles fine words any longer than a few days, you would know how I feel about advertising, marketing, consumerism, insidious marketing tactics, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Well, I recently received my 3rd offer to 'mention' a product in a post. (Although I have few commenters/low following I seem to get an okay number of hits. But it freaks me out that they somehow know this *shivers*) Anyway, in exchange for this mention, I would receive said product for free. One of these products was okay by me and I would have loved to have received it. But I declined.

And I was pleased to come across this little site that found me just at the right time, expressing my sentiments exactly.

A few snippets:

Many bloggers say they will not let the ads affect the editorial content. I question this statement. Can you guarantee that? And knowing that other people are offered money to "mention" a product on their site don't you start to wonder whether someone is recommending something in an unbiased way? We live in a culture where advertisers directly influence and in some cases control and create the culture at large. Honesty of the writing is affected when corporate interests are paying the bills. This has been proven time and time again in the case of periodicals, films, and television. The more ads that appear on blogs the less we will all trust in honesty of the medium as a whole.

What about taking advertisers money and giving a large portion to charity, thusly transforming the negative into something positive (effectively thumbing our nose at the corporation)?

It seems at first glance a viable option, but as I sit with it I still have some problems. This has to do with what kind of energy I want to put out into the world, and that I choose to be accountable for all of it. I do not wish to contribute more to the rampant consumeristic culture that we already find ourselves in.

I believe that advertising in our culture should be subject to appropriateness and restraint (as previously mentioned). And I think it is important for us to question it's use and it's impact on us at every turn. I do not see my questioning as a negative thing but instead a positive one that empowers me and (by sharing my journey) potentially others to live in a conscious manner and make educated decisions.
So this is the little logo you'll find, on my side bar.

Sunday, December 7

early reading skills (part ii)

Following on from an earlier post, ay, ay.

Early humans talked. Whether it was a grunt or a click or a consonant+vowel+consonant, they made sounds that achieved the purpose of communication. Then one day, some girl needed certain items to finish off her casserole but the cave and the baby needed attending. So she sent out her hunter. But being male, his memory was rubbish so she came up with an idea, The List. And thus written communication was formed. Well, something like that....

My point is that first we spoke and then we wrote.

But the written language has been around so long, that we view it as a Reality that is apart from the spoken word. It exists therefore it is. In this perception, we bring children into a room, sit them down, and share with them the Reality of the Written Word. And then we ask them to learn this Reality to spell by showing them the 'dead' squiggles on the page make sounds all on their own. This is phonics.

In other words, we've gone from an intuitive and fluid visual representation of spoken language, to a method by which we squeeze the spoken word into the fixed written Reality. Some kids are visual-verbal learners and some are just plain fortunate, in that they learn to read, write and spell despite this illogical process that we've created. I certainly learnt this way. But the evaluation of a teaching method ought not to be simply if it works, but rather whether the learning is intuitive, organic and enjoyable too.

The opposite of the phonics approach is to show a child that the sounds in the language they already know, can be represented by pictures (a letter or group of letters).

So rather than insist that CH makes a sound. We say, hey, you know that sound you're making without even thinking about it? Well here is a picture you can use to represent that sound. Language spoken + language written becomes a unity.

Try to imagine you can't read. But not so well imagined that you would no longer be able to read this post, ahem. Let's take a sound you already know. A sound that you don't have to give much thought to at all, because you just use it.

We'll take the middle sound from boat. This is a sound you already know.
Now I don't show you how to spell boat, and I don't confuse you by insisting that O is for orange and A is for apple. Instead, I show you what picture-sounds can represent that middle sound.


So that's five pictures (or picture sounds as we say) that can represent that middle sound in boat. It's crucial to view the above as a complete picture rather than separate letters. Early readers do this very easily. (I will discuss this further in future posts)

When a child hears the word though, they hear th and ough. If they have learnt the pictures for the sound boat they have 5 possible ways to spell though. This might sound like it could be confusing, but it's actually doable for the child. Much more so than trying to learn the spelling for one specific word, from hundreds of words.

In learning the pictures for the sounds of his language, the child has a mental toolbox (43 groups of picture-sounds) that actually works. It's a method that allows the illogical language a better chance to unfold.

Children understand symbols long before they understand printed language. A drawn circle can represent a ball or the sun. Children understand this with little effort. But we can use their initial understanding to teach language. Makes sense doesn't it? If we present picture-sounds as similar symbols, they understand just as easily. So like the circle, they can learn that one symbol can represent more than one sound. Such as ow can be used for cow or show.

A child can learn that one sound can be represented by different symbols, much the same way that they can label differing pictures all as representing a flower. Such as the previous list of boat sound representations.

In this method we don't really teach the child spelling, not so explicitly. What we give is a method, or tool, for the child to learn how to spell on their own.

In part iii, the child creates.

I recommend The Reading Reflex, and the UK Version.

Saturday, December 6

exercising with baby

I would like to lose a few pounds, okay, several if you must know. I don't know about you, but the cold dark days make me want to hibernate and curl up with a book (or my laptop). The lack of exercise has begun to, ahem, show. So with a friend's own goals recently shared, I decided to add exercising at home, along with maybe less cake.

Now, I'm not an exercise person at all, but I enjoy dancing. Sooooo, I put on the cd player and did squats and made-up stretches with the Wildflower in my arms, much to her delight. Then whilst she was in her bouncy swing, I danced around like a loon. We managed 45 minutes like this, great! Although she wasn't too impressed with all my moves, and the poor child had to put up with my music choice that happened to be 80's flashbacks.

A great way to get fit, lose weight, get some endorphins pumping for happy chemicals, and entertain a baby.

The Reportoire.

Stretch those saggy relaxed muscles.

Get the blood moving.

video deleted - Duran Duran The Reflex

Sweat IT!

Slow it down.

Bring it on home.

And streeeeeeeetch and relaaaaaaax.

video deleted - Spandau Ballet 'True'

Friday, December 5

on a brighter note...

One Day from Brighter Planet

Email from Brighter Planet;


As the holidays near, Brighter Planet is getting into the spirit of giving.
Yesterday we launched the One Day campaign. We're donating a day's worth of our premium offsets to those willing to conserve during the holidays.

Because of your past help with our 350 Challenge, we'veautomatically donated 136 pounds of offsets in your name.
Congrats, you're carbon neutral for a day!

We'd love for you to help spread the word, so we've allocated 25 One Day gifts for you to divvy out. Paste your special link below into a blog post, twitter, facebook, email, etc. Just be sure to tell everyone that it's first come, first serve.
Go over here.

Hard as stone

The stone is climbing up the rough build. Still under half-way though and now they're working against the weather. So we take each day as it comes.

Stone is just so amazing. It hasn't the obvious beauty of flowers or trees, but its permanence, its strength, its ancient history running along its veins, makes for wonder. I feel that to live in a stone house is to breathe in that ancientness every day.

Here's the head stonemason working away. Notice all the safety precautions? Hard-hat, goggles, gloves, also hard shoes...... in the stonemason's circle, eyes and toes have been known to be lost.... you would think.....

blue day

Ah darn it. I had a very blue day yesterday and still this morning. Despite my philosophical take on the sleepless nights, my body still wants it of course. I'm feeling the strain of it all. My body's chemistry is very messed up. I'm exhausted and feeling run down and tearing up for 'no reason'.

Add to this a recent event. A little scrap of a kitten that has been living downstairs in a storage room and frightened silly of people, adopted us. Over a couple of days, I had her taking food from my hands and eventually laying on her back purring contentedly from belly rubs. She ate as if she had never seen food before and I thought she might have worms. After a few days of our food scraps I realised that she just didn't trust that food would always be there. Eventually she trusted and she actually turned some down.

Then when DIY Dad came home, she got a belly rub and followed him back to the car. Fancy that. A cat that was terrified of people just a week ago was following him for more attention.

And she got run over by a passing car.

Somehow, with what appeared to be broken back legs, she ran to the only home she's ever known, our place. By the time I came out she had taken her last breath. It was just a day away from me taking a photo and blogging about her, our little Scraps. We're both huge softies when it comes to animals. I take these losses hard, despite accepting that's the cycle of life.

This of course brought up all the feelings of our beloved dog Mishko that we had to put to sleep just 3 months ago.

I know, sorry, this is a depressing post. But I'm here to be authentic. And that was me yesterday and this morning, tearful.

But in the cycle of life, sad is not permanent, sad is always in the experience of becoming happy.

Thursday, December 4

ay, ay!

As an English Lit. tutor, I soon became frustrated with trying to teach children to read English. What a ridiculous language. With many other languages, words are spelt in a way that reflects the way you say them. In English, we add extra letters just for the fun of it. I mean, come on, someone was on the wacky weed when they decided the spelling for thorough or tough or lamb.

I was never a fan of teaching the alphabet either. Just how does knowing that the letter A made an ay sound help anyway? How did it help in reading dad, speak or can?

For me, teaching the alphabet is one of the most wasteful learning we can do with a child. But most of us were taught this way, I know I was. All knowing the alphabet really achieves is to help the child recite the alphabet. However, it can also be an obstacle in reading.

When you actually think about it, how counter-productive does teaching, 'A is for apple' seem? It just goes against the child's inner logic. But I started teaching this way myself!

When I lived in England, I found this incongruity so fascinating, along with the incredible variety of accents, that I took a degree. I learnt all about why the language was so ridiculous. Tons of fun but it didn't help me teach reading more effectively.

Then I came upon a book Why Children Can't Read. It changed my entire outlook. It was one of those times when what you have felt intuitively is made plain and tangible. The general premise is that we're teaching children the English language in a way that is nonsensical.

You see, we try to teach children an illogical language logically. To make matters worse, some educators in want of something to do, come up with all sorts or rules. You know, like, i before e except after c. And every rule has an exception, so it isn't really a rule at all and thereby only remotely helpful to an experienced reader. To a beginner, this is all extremely frustrating. And I would bet that many children give up on books because of this frustration alone.

I then took a course in phono-graphix. I don't claim that every child will learn this way. I just want to share with others a different way to guide children in their reading. I tutured over a dozen children in this method, including a few with dyslexia, and it worked for them.

One very important teaching of this method is that we do not approach letters as if they make a sound. This is a strange idea that we teach children - A makes the sound ay. It doesn't though, it's just a letter - symbol or picture.

Here's the crux of the method.

Instead of teaching children in-congruent spelling, we start with something they already know, their language. More accurately, the sounds of their language. Then we show them which picture sounds can be used to represent that sound.

So a child who speaks already has the sound 'ay' in his or her head. We teach them that the picture sounds for that sound are - a, ai, ay, and a-e (as in take). It's perfectly okay for a child to misspell, or use the incorrect sound picture. If the child is using from the set of the sound, he is learning.

Of course there is more to it than this, but that's the gist of it.