Monday, December 04, 2006

LIttle News Tid-Bits

dateline - Madison, Wisconsin

Our second floor (and part of our first floor) wall repair, painting and wood work refinishing is done!! It looks spectacular!!!! Our bedroom is a very soothing muted sage, girls' bedroom is a relaxing sky blue and their playroom is a vibrant purple. The back stairs and first floor hallway have had major plaster repair and replacement done and are painted a creamy off-white. Of course, now we just want to keep going. One project leads to another...and another...and another in these old homes.

We are reassembling the house. Our bedroom is bad together as is the bathroom (also repainted a bright laurel green). The girls playroom/bedroom flip has not yet happened - we are making strides in that direction though.

Roofing isn't slated to start now until January or February.

In other news, the WI Women Volleyball Badgers won both Friday and Saturday night's first and second round NCAA play-offs. GO BIG RED!!! We were treated to a very exciting game in the Field House on Friday night - especially game one where Notre Dame stood their ground and we had to go to a 36-34 game to finally pull out the win. Saturday night found us adults at Kathy's birthday party at a lovely Bed and Breakfast Inn and Organic Farm in the country, dining on a scrumptious pot luck vegan supper. A good portion of the crowd are v-ball fans, so at 7:15 we flipped open my laptop and watched live feed of the game - even projected it on the wall using a power point projector. We watched a 3 game victory for the Badgers. We all seriously comtemplated hitting the road for Austin, TX for this Friday's game, but decided to settle for meeting together at someone's house with take-out food and our laptops and projector to watch the game together. I would like to now humbly retract any smart-ass comments I've made about people watching sports together in someone's living room, yelling with jubilation at the screen, since I have now joined the ranks of this crowd. If the women manage to make it all the way to the finals, we are actually seriously consdering heading your way, Sonya, as the finals are in Omaha!!

And last headline, I ended up in the ER on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving with a severe allergic reaction - eyes swollen shut, fat lips and tongue, still breathing, but not as easily as usual and hives everywhere. To what you ask? I have NO IDEA!! I'm still coated in hives after a week of prednisone and am now on new meds until I can see my doctor next week and get an allergy appointment on the books. I'm now the proud owner of an epi pen. I feel like I'm playing a game of chance, wondering what set off the reaction and what might set it off again.

Why We Arenb't Fans of The Pciture People

We like studio shots every so often - for birthdays and a family picture once every couple of years. We've lucked out with a fantastic local place where we end up with about 50 (literally) 4x6 shots as proofs to keep no matter what we order (for the $25 sitting fee). In the past year or so we've been less pleased (after they switched to digital) with the quality and the photographers seem less inspired (a couple are down right cranky...and our kids aren't hard to photograph, so I can only imagine them with a wiggly toddler). We talked with the manager, who apologized profusely and sweetened the deal with free this and that.

Then Picture People came to town, so we thought we'd give them a whirl. I was appalled to find out that they THROW AWAY whatever you don't buy - and they seem to print the entire package (four or five sheets per shot). The waste seemed horrible to me - not at all green!! So I talked to the managere and told her we'd be willing to try them IF they printed us a proof sheet and not all the wasted prints. Anxious for new customers (as they had just opened) she agreed. She took the pictures herself (nice energy and good photographer). We were very pleased - got the prints we wanted with minimal waste and didn't pay an arm and a leg for stuff we didn't want. We felt good about the experience.

So, we went back this weekend. I talked to the same manager gal as last time to ask her to take the pictures - sure, no problem. She was less inclined to print the proof sheet (they're well established now with booked appointment schedules, so less willing to court customers). But she agreed not to print full photo packages of each print and took way more shots than their usual handful. We were very happy with the pictures - she has a great repport with the kids and a good eye for poses.

The appointment to pick up the pictures SUCKED to put it mildly - we met with a different gal (our gal was off that day). High pressure sales - complete with the attempted guilt tripping for not wanting to buy the tri-print combo with frame. The pose they'd picked for the 10X13 they were pushing was our least favorite (we all had our heads titled - looked like we'd just come off some ride at Disney World). The woman was a really pushy - barely breathed as she's trying to talk us into prints. I finally asked her to step back, so we could think (luckiily we'd looked at our prints on-line so we knew what we wanted - and we'd also figured out who we were buying for ahead of time, so we weren't buying more than what we needed). Gal was p*ssed that we weren't all "ooo and aaaaa - we need 42 of these and 16 of these prints). We got holiday cards, so it wasn'tl like we didn't spend a chunk of change.

Then it came time to get our prints - we left the store, ran an errand and came back in the designated 15 minutes time to find red lines in our prints. Did they bother to proof the pictures before they put them in the envelope? Apparently not. So when our overly-pushy sales gal opened the envelope to review the order, there were these lovely red lines through our prints - not acceptable. So, she hasitly apologized and said she'd have them done again. Just another 10 minutes please. Now our window of time was quickly closing until we needed to hook Gemma up with a friend to go see the Nutcracker and we had to leave - should have left earlier. This now means another trip out to the mall to pick up our prints. Neither Jani nor I are fans of malls - I'd rather walk through hot coals than be in the canned music-filled mall, especially this time of year. And its a 15 minute drive - so not an efficient use of our time or fuel for the van either.

So a call to the manager about our expeirence is on the docket for today - especially given that we need to drive back out to pick up our prints. So I'd love to have pictures to show you all - however its not happening today.

Will we go back to the Picture People after this - NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 01, 2006


Our school district has a new "health" policy - healthy and nut-free snacks for classrooms, no candy or other junk foods for rewards - basic logical stuff. One day this week I sent a left-over cupcake in Gemma's lunch, figuring she'd love a little treat. That night, the cupcake came home untouched in the lunch box.

Me: "Gemma, you didn't eat your cupcake?"

Gemma: "No, because the prinicpal was in the lunch room and she looked at me funny, because I didn't have a healthy food in my lunch."

Me: "Did you ask the prinicipal if the cupcake was ok or did you just assume it wasn't because she looked at you?"

Gemma: "No, I didn't ask. She just looked at me."

I reassured her that an "every once in a while" treat of a cupcake in her own lunch was not a violation of the health policy. I put the cupcake back in her lunch for the next day.

That night, the cupcake was still in her lunch box. Repeat the above dialogue, only this time it was the classroom teacher that Gemma perceived was angry about the cupcake.

So I again reassured her that I couldn't imagine the cupcake would be an issue, though I suggested she eat it at home after supper before it got stale - it was getting a bit banged up with its many travels to and from school.

I decided it might be time to give the principal a ring to see what her insights might be. Of course it was just as I had imagined - a cupcake in one's own lunch box is not a problem.

The whole incident was just such a reminder to me that
a) these little kindergarteners are still just babes - and so literal in their interpretations - if a grown-up at school told her that they could only bring healthy foods to the classroom, then it must apply in all situations at school.

b) that we need to work with her on how to check out assumptions, rather than rely on a small tidbit of information, with her so she can avoid assuming something that really isn't there.

I felt badly for her, thinking about her trying to quietly slide her cupcake back into her lunch box to avoid getting in trouble, though the story is terribly cute. The institution of school is such a big and some days overwhelming place for these little ones.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Knit 1, Purl 2, Knit 1, Purl 2

I learned to knit when I was Rowan's age - during Junior Girl Scouts with our "knitting grandmas" (older women from our community who had generously donated their time to teach a bunch of girls this carft. I loved it then, my hands wobbly and unsure, yet excited and my eyes big with anticipation about what my first piece would look like when finished. I still remember, it was a medium blue scarf, all done in garter stitch. We dontated them to folks who needed warm winter outter wear as a service project.

Through high school I kept knitting, until I thought I was just too cool for such things and preffered partying with my friends over the click of the needles. While teaching elementary-aged kids, I often taught circles of kids - boys and girls alike - to knit and loved watching their faces as the wonder of those threads of yarn came together into an actual product.

But I haven't made anything really for close to 30 years until I took inspirtation from three women - all of whom sat in community together in the Facilitating by Heart workshop series I co-facilitate. Each brought her project with her, needles flying as we did intense work on deep listening, working through conflict and living and working from a place of integrity when working with others. Their work - both in their knitting and the profound personal work they did during the workshop series - inspired me to pick up my needles once again.

I've been having a ball, surfing the net in search of patterns for things. Lion Brand, bless their hearts, provides many free and lovely patterns. A great place to start for a re-committed stitcher. My first projects were hats for the girls, as we approach this cold time of year.
As I walked into the yarn shop (a local place - I much prefer local over chain stores), my heart just sang. The shop is tiny, a narrow strip of a place, the left and right facing walls are filled with skeins upon skeins of yarn from the top of the 10 foot ceilings to the floor. The smell and sight of it all is intoxicating. I quickly zoned in on the type of yarns I needed for the hats - thick, chunky stuff - and selected colors just right for each girl. I happily proceeded to the counter to purchase it and needles like a kid in a candy store.
My Thanksgiving weekend was filled with hat making. A pink one for Gemma (of course) a blue multi-colored one for Rowan and then two additions for two of their cousins. I thought Jani had gotten a picture of the girls in their hats, but can't find it in our photo files, so we'll have to snap another.

My next project - a hood for Jani. She just needs to choose her yarn and a stitchin' we will go.

Go Bucky

If you are looking for us this weekend, look no further than the University of Wisconsin Field House, because our Badger Women's Volleyball team was awarded the privilege of hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA play-offs.
We'll be happily snuggled all up in our RED
While visions of POINT WISCONSIN and victory dance in our HEADS!!

Our Family

Photo taken at Thanksgiving at Jani's folks' house in Freeport. For those that don't "know" us - (from left to right) Rowan, age 8, Jani, Denise and Gemma, age 5.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

'Tis The Season

...for remodeling!!

As we enter into the dark days and long nights of late fall before the Winter Solstice, we decided it was time to turn our energies inward (inside the house) and start another remodeling project in our much-loved 1886 Queen Anne house. This one is a tad simpler than the last - it involves no moving of walls, rewiring or new plumbing. We are having most of the second floor rooms repainted.

As the sun gets ready for his re-birth on the Solstice, we are excited to begin a-new in our more intimate living spaces - the bedrooms. The girls are leaving their current bedroom (a small and cozy space) for a larger room with a bay window. We offered them each their own room and they declined, saying they[d be too lonely at night without the other. A very sweet sentiment to be remembered in those moments when the sister spats are running high. Their former bedroom will become their playroom, thus relegating toys to a more enclosed room. Anyone who has ever set foot in this house knows the kid-energy is everywhere - the place looks like a Waldorf school - with kid-created art adorning the walls and little alters of stones and feathers on any horizontal surface available. However, it will be great to have the toys (all those fairy villages, Barbie condos and My Pretty Ponies) residing in their lovely new purple playroom. The girls decided to keep their night sky ceiling (a dark blue with stars) in the playroom. It will be interesting to see how the purple and blue go together. Their bedroom will be a medium blue (like the twilight night sky). They want murals of trees painted on the walls, so it looks like they are sleeping outside. Mine and Jani's room will be a sage green.

We've hired a paint crew to do the work. As much as I love hands-on things, left for us to do, it just wasn't happening. Too many other things marched themselves higher on the priority list for weekends (like playing and having a good time with the family). It was very important for us to hire folks with really nice energy, as not only do they leave paint on the walls and woodwork, they leave their energy print too. These guys are very sweet and are doing a great job. Yesterday's task was the woodwork and it looks extrordinary!!!

We're also getting a new "lid" (aka roof) on the house. Any day now the roofers should arrive.

Pictures will come as the rooms are completed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Swim Meet


Rowan with her Second Place Ribon for her 25 yard Freestyle and Third Place for her 25 yard Breast Stroke. Her favorite part of the meet - swimming - she wished she'd signed up for more heats.


Gemma wearing her achievement metal after her non-competitive swim. Her favorite part of the meet - standing on the dias to get her picture taken.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Point Wisconsin!!

Yes fans, we are at the height of University of Wisconsin Badger Volleyball season and those who know us, know that you'll usually find our family at the Field House on Friday and Saturday nights cheering on these women. One of the favorite parts of the volleyball experience for me is the grace of these young women after the games - singing Varsity surrounded by their young fans and hanging out on the court to greet people and sign autographs. Caty DuPont (a freshman outsider hitter) has scooped up Gemma to hold while singing Varsity and generously allowed a picture afterward. She's scooped up Gemma on more than one ocassion post game.

I also love the game for its wonderful excitement and upbeat fans. It would be hard to imagine being bored at a UW volleyball game and I appreciate that the fans take the emotional high ground, cheering on the team with enthusiams - rather than complaining or criticism.

Now one might say its easy to be enthusiastic, because the Badgers are doing quite well!! We are tied for the #2 position in the Big Ten Conference with the Minnesota Gofers. Our last loss was against them on their home court on October 18. Now they visit our home court on a rare Wednesday night game tomorrow night. Forget swimming lessons, piano practice and any of that usual mid-week evening rituals - we are off to the Field House for some fun and excitement!

GO BIG RED!!!!!!!! We're looking for sole posession of that #2 spot right behind Penn State!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Scootering for Social Justice

The weekend before the election, we walked a suburban neighborhood with the Fair Wisconsin Get Out the Vote Campaign. Rowan's task was to find the "no" vote identified houses (we had a list).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On a More LIght Hearted Election Day Note

We were at the polls last evening to vote. We always go to vote when we bring the kids, because we hope to instill the behavior of voting in them from an early age and because they love to go with us. Gemma usually stands on a chair, so she can see the ballot. Typically our voting booth conversations with her have consisted of how the marking pen works, how the computer records the votes, etc. Well, that was all before she learned something about reading. As I marked by ballot on the four yes/no questions, I hear her sing out loud enough for most everyone to hear "Mom, how come you marked "no" on those two questions and "yes" on those other two?" I hear lots of adult nuffled chuckling going on around me and think "oops, we didn't have that conversation about keeping one's votes private while at the polling site." This all led to quite an interesting discussion about why we make our opinions very apparent with our yard signs and with working on campaigns, but keep them private while in the polling area. Never a dull moment around here!!

Standing in the Threshold: Reflections on the Morning After Wisconsin Passes a Constitutional Ban Against Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions

Bittersweet would be the simple and rather cliché way to describe how I’m feeling o this post-election morning. I’m experiencing feelings much more intense and complex that can be captured with just one word – proud, angry, grateful, grief-filled, hopeful, rage-filled, heart-broken, exhausted, and enlivened.

My pride is huge. Even though our constitutional ban passed, my pride in the citizens of Wisconsin fills my heart. I am proud that

  • Ten thousand of us stepped forward around the state to volunteer - take time off work or give up our free time to make phone calls, walk door-to-door, enter data and basically do whatever was asked of us.
  • 450,000 Wisconsin citizens voted “no” on this constitutional ban.
  • The Fair Wisconsin campaign ads were positive and conveyed a sense of compassion and dignity – not fear and manipulation.
  • Our straight allies “outted themselves” publicly as allies and saw this issue as one of basic human rights; not just a “fringe” issue.
  • Many of us had difficult and moving conversations with friends, family and complete strangers about our private lives – our families – to help build understanding, open the doors to communication and dispel the myths.
  • Such a diversity of people stepped forward to say no to discrimination – a diversity of ages from our eight year old daughter riding her scooter ahead of us to point out which houses we needed to visit on our canvas list, to the high school aged students working the phones after school, to elderly folks who’d never worked a phone bank in their lives – across race and disability and class – amazing!!

My gratitude flows right from my pride. I am profoundly appreciative of –

  • The people we may have contacted numerous times through phone and door knocking, who treated us with dignity – thanking us for our dedication – who didn’t feel compelled to be slam down the phone or the door, who opened their hearts no matter the number of contacts.
  • The organizations that offered their space so that phone banks and staging areas could be set up around the state.
  • The religious leaders who spoke out against the ban – naming the truth about what really threatens Wisconsin families – poverty, unequal access to education, addiction.
  • The people who brought us food, coffee, water and soda as we spent hours with phones glued to our ears.
  • Those who find this work so very challenging – right out of their comfort zone – who did it anyway because they understood why it had to be done.
  • The young woman who called me while I was making phone calls. I had called her to remind her to vote. Shortly after we’d hung up, my phone bank extension rang – not a typical happening. When I picked up, it was the young woman, asking where she could go to help.
  • The poll workers who had a long day too – with our city voter turn-out high, they saw a steady stream of voters and got very few breaks in their 13 + hour day.
  • The staffers at Fair Wisconsin and Action Wisconsin who have worked insane hours, often running on empty themselves, to keep things moving.
  • The young woman who worked our call site, who enlarged all my phone lists to make them easier to read, found comfortable seating for the person with her leg in a cast and open space for someone else in a wheelchair to accommodate or diverse needs so we could be effective in what we were doing.
  • Those who I know and those who I've never met who donated money and sponsored house parties as fundraisers.
  • Again, those known to me and those not who found their center and their courage to talk about this issue and whose stories we may never know.
  • The friend who sent me a beautiful Maya Angelou poem this morning that really speaks to the bittersweet ness of this day.
  • The other friend who called to offer her support as I go into another day tomorrow of meeting new clients and working with them around the importance of respect and care of differences.
  • And still another friend who I swapped stories of pride with about our two different campaigning experiences.
  • My partner and my children – just because they are my family.

Often the big picture optimist, I also feel hopeful, because –

  • The issue of fair treatment of Wisconsin’s gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens and our families is no longer a “closeted” issue and that we have gained some amazing allies along the way.
  • I believe the tide may be turning – albeit if slowly – on our political climate. I feel hopeful to see our democratic governor re-elected, see us gain some seats back in our state legislature and see the House of Representatives again turn in a fair-minded direction.
  • The candidates here who aligned themselves with our issues were elected handily to their offices, despite being told that they would be committing political “suicide” by standing up for “gay rights.”
  • 70% of voters under the age of 30 voted against the constitutional ban.
  • So many young voters turned out at the polls, many voting for the first time in their lives. A friend who worked a polling place on the University of Wisconsin campus reported taking many pictures of students voting (at their request) for the young people to text message off to friends and family – very proud of themselves for voting.

Along with these feelings that fill my heart co-exist the ones that sadden and burden my heart.

I am angry, because –

  • The Associated Press called the results early in the game – before our polls were even all officially closed! We had one polling site still open under a judge’s order. The site (a high school on our side of town) had received a bomb threat earlier in the day. The building, including the 2,400 students, the faculty and all pollsters had to be evacuated. All voting machines were moved outside and voting continued while the building was searched for explosives. The site was allowed to stay open an extra hour to accommodate the transition out and then back into the building. That site still had ten more minutes to accept voters by the time the AP had called the election.
  • The State Elections Board distributed voter registration information that was unclear and confusing. I don't believe this had anything to do with the outcome of the election - it just troubles me greatly that with something so important more care wasn't taken in conveying a complete and accurate message.
  • The “yes” campaign” people would not let any press into their “victory” party last night – while I try very hard in my life to not run up my escalator of assumptions too quickly, it does beg the question of why this was a “closed door” event.
  • Despite having record turn-outs in many places around the state – particularly in our county which was really pushing for the “no” vote on the amendment, we still saw only about a 50% turn-out and we think this is “good.” There are places in the world where people travel miles to vote and risk their lives. There are countries that declare Election Day as a holiday to create more equal access to voting – and we’ve become so complacent that if the weather is bad, the lines or too long or we’re just “too busy” we don’t step up to participate in the political process.

My anger taps into my rage – rage that

  • This ban was even put forth in the first place – that key leaders used a “hot button” and emotional issue for their own gain. While the voters of the state of Wisconsin are starting to see these people for what they are (some of most hateful people lost their seats), they have carved out their legacy and it will take time and energy to undo the damage.
  • Fear was the motivating theme used by the “yes” campaign.
  • Ignorance of the law was used to manipulate voters. In Wisconsin before the constitutional amendment even passed, it was illegal for same-sex couples to marry and our state does not recognize civil unions granted in other states. This constitutional change just thickens the layers of pollution – illegal is illegal. And it risks the benefits we do hold through domestic partnerships.
  • Despite many logical and well-researched arguments from diverse communities (business leaders, educational leaders, some religious leaders) that this ban would be bad for Wisconsin citizens in the end, people either operated out of fear or didn’t fully examine their decision and voted “yes.” So much for logic and deductive reasoning.
  • Discrimination based on people’s differences continues to exist at all and that homophobia through jokes, slurs, emotional and physical violence is still allowed to exist in our society – in families, schools, work places and the larger community.
  • People use their religion to wield weapons of hatred. My understanding of Jesus’ teachings is that they are about acceptance and compassion (perhaps I missed something at Vacation Bible School). I can’t help but think Jesus would be jumping off his cross in a fit of rage to witness the hatred all wrapped up in his name.
  • The true threats to our families – poverty, discrimination, unequal access to education and chemical addiction still exist and people still wring their hands over what to do about these issues.

I have incredible grief and heart-ache when –

  • I look into the big round bewildered eyes of my daughters as they try to comprehend why people would even want to create a ban against our family in the first place and then why people would vote to constitutionalize it. Our older daughter questions why we say “liberty and justice for all” during the pledge when we vote to make sure it is not true.
  • I think about the elderly woman I talked with yesterday who said she’d already voted and that she’d voted for the ban – using a tone of voice that radiated “so there you go missy” and I think what her life must be like if she takes pride and finds satisfaction in the disparaging and unkind way she talked to me. Is her life experience so disempowered that she needs to take solace in making sure she lets me know she has treated badly (I am less troubled by her vote than her behavior on the phone).
  • I think of the countless hours spent defending people’s basic human rights when we could be doing other things – like caring for the sick, teaching, reading to our children, caring for the environment, singing, walking in the woods, enjoying life.
  • I think of the tens of thousands of us who dedicate our professional and personal lives to social justice as we witness backlash moments like this. To quote myself on something else I wrote awhile back “it’s like spitting in the ocean and expecting the pH level to change.”

I feel exhausted

  • My ears literally have sores on them from holding a phone to them for hours/days on end.
  • My eyes are tired from reading lists of numbers and addresses. I have renewed respect for those working at substandard wage, whose livelihood is dependend on telemarketing, after all of these phone calls.
  • I’m tired from sleepless nights wondering what the day-to-day ramifications of this will be – will we lose my health insurance, will we lose Gemma’s

And amazingly, I also feel enlivened to keep going, to take what is hopeful and what I’m proud of to gather those allies and to hitch a ride on that hoped for turn of the political tide. Often when I introduce myself to new client groups I tell them that I do this work because of my daughters and all children – that I want to help hand them a legacy where compassion and respect for all people are the norm – an everyday occurrence. So as one friend said to me this morning, “we stand at yet another threshold” and I wonder how will be walk through it and which path will be follow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Been to the polls yet today???

If it is before 8:00 this evening it is not too late!!!!

Not sure where to vote?

Not a problem. Call your local League of Women Voters or your City/Town Clerk's Office to find out where your polling place is. In Wisconsin you can register at the polls. Just bing proof of residency with you if you'e never registered before.

Not happy with the way things currently are in your town, city, county, state or country?

Then register your desires, wants, needs through your right and responsibility to vote.

Want to do more than just vote, but you assume it is too late to volunteer??

It is quite likely that you can call an organization or candidate's office of your choosing and help them out with phone calls, door-to-door Get Out the Vote canvassing or driving voters to the polls. There is always work to be done and it is fun!

...I'm off for another day of Get Out the Vote Phone Banking!!

...And I'm keeping my heart open and fingers crossed that a FAIR WISCONSIN votes NO on the CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to BAN Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Costume Parade

Gemma as Professor McGonagall in Cat Form

Here is Gemma in costume 657!! She's ranged this Halloween from the Easter Bunny, to a "fashion witch" to an old-fashioned girl, to a cat to Professor McGonagall transfigured into a cat!

Rowan as an Animungus in Bat Form

Ok let's try this. I've posted the pictures on and am uploading to the blog from here. Yes, some day I will have this technology figured out!

Here is Rowan in her self-designed bat animungus costume, spreading her wings.

Happy Halloween 2006

**Pictures will be posted whenever Blogger decides to cooperate**

It’s been a fun-packed Halloween weekend and start to the week with plenty of costuming opportunities!!

Friday night and Sunday afternoon were home University of Wisconsin Women’s volleyball games where fans were encouraged to wear costumes. To Friday night’s game, Gemma wore her Easter Bunny costume (yes, she’s been planning for months to be the Easter Bunny for Halloween!). Rowan decided to go as an animungus from Harry Potter fame (you know a human that has the ability to change into an animal). She was in her witch form on Friday night and Sunday both. Gemma was a “fashion witch” for Sunday’s game.

My folks accompanied us to Friday’s game. They were visiting from Washington Island on their way to a family wedding. They (and we) were treated to an AWESOME game with Wisconsin winning over #2 ranked Penn State. The Field House was ROCKING with excitement and I nearly lost my voice from cheering. We won on Sunday too, though it was a far less dramatic game against Ohio State.

Saturday brought us to a Halloween party hosted by friends with a daughter Rowan’s age. So there were lots of kid-friendly things to do, including decorating cookies and gourds and listening to “spooky” stories. Gemma dressed as an “old fashioned girl” for this event while Rowan continued her animungus witch/bat theme.

Trick-or-Treat evening brought yet another costume alteration for Gemma – of course. If this kid doesn’t work in theater someday, I’ll be stunned! She decided to go with the Harry Potter theme, abandoning her bunny attire and dressing as a cat – no ordinary cat though. She was Professor McGonagall in her cat form, because you see Professor M has the ability to transfigure herself into other things. Rowan took on her bat form, wearing a cape she’d made herself. And yes you can see that the girls’ normally lighter colored hair is darker than usual – thanks to black hair spray. You should have seen the ring that and the face paint left in the bathtub last night!!!

Gemma’s comment this morning as we were getting ready for school was “it’s so long until next year when we can celebrate Halloween again.” It is truly a beloved holiday for our family. It’s a good thing we are hosting a Samhain gathering on Saturday night, so we get to extend the fun (and remember the true meaning of this harvest festival) for just a little longer.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Closing Out the Fall Soccer Season with a Bang!

A true testimony to how much Rowan loves soccer - her two closing games for the fall season were played in weather that is best described as "nasty." Saturday's game (pictured above) was played in rain with temperatures just slightly above the freezing mark. Even in these conditions, you can see she still has a grin on her face. Later in the evening we were treated to 2.3 inches of snow!!! A record for southern Wisconsin in mid-October. She played again the next day in just above freezing temperatures in a field where some of the snow had melted and left behind large mud holes. Today we washed the uniform, cleats and shin guards and then we washed the washer to rid it of mud and grass.

Her team, The Panthers, won both of their games. Hard won victories by both kids and fans alike.

Ah, now just wait until those early spring games in April where we could end up repeating the whole scene.

School Violence

Recently, there was discussion on an email list to which I belong about the recent school violence incidents around the country. Below is my reply on the discussion. I chose to post it here to have a copy for my own remembrance and to share it with anyone who might find it something to think about.

I'm well beyond sad - I have huge rage about school violence. It's awful and I feel like it points to much wider societal issues that we as a people have to acknowledge and not be silent about. In this case silence truly equals death.

We've had two incidents here in Wiscosnin this school year. One in the Green Bay high school where three kids were planning a Columbine-like masacre - they had dozens of guns and bomb-making material. Another student tipped off school officials and the police were able to intercede before anything happened. The masacre was planned for the day after the student came forward. Last Friday a student in a school in a neighboring county to ours brought guns to school. Staff were able to institute a lock-down of students, but the prinicpal was killed. Then couple in the Amish school incident and the recent Colorado one. I hadn't heard the stat on 17 school incidents thus far in the school year, but sadly, I would believe it.

Does it p*ss me off that my two little girls have to practice "lock-down" drills at school? YES!! Do I want them to know what to do in case a gunner comes into their school? Of course. )-:

The Colorado and Amish school incidents disturb me a lot, b/c these were adults. It is a real indicator for me that our society still operates off a notion that adults have the right to have power over children and that males have the right to have power over females. If this cultural assumption didn't hold true, these men wouldn't have chosen schools as the places to take their "stand."

In one of Wisconsin school incidents the kid who used violence, said that he'd had had enough of being bullied and ridiculed. He indicated that he'd been called "fag" and "queer" by peers and that he'd gone to school officials and gotten little or no help. Of course his method of resolving his anger is unaaceptable. The issue of bullying is huge in schools and is a product of wider society teachings, esp. around issues of sexual orientation. Adults in schools still routinely, routinely turn their backs and rarely put their feet down abot the use of "faggot" and "queer" as slams, b/c wider society still gives lots of permission to ridicule people assumed to be LGBTQ. Walk down the hallways of most middle and high schools in this country during a "passing time" and you'll comonly hear "that so gay" or other put-downs.

And, in all of these incidents, there has been a desire on the part of the shooters for retaliation, punishment, revenge. From the get-go our society models revenge and retaliation - haveing someone to blame when things don't go the way we want them to go in our lives. LIttle kids wittness their parents blaming their bosses or co-workers for their unhappiness at work. They're in the cars when someone cuts off their parents and the parents blurt out some choice words. They watch other kids blame someone else for their bad behavior on the playground. They see people on TV (news and programming) take their frustrations out on someone else - including much of the programming geared toward kids (someone is often trying to "get even" with someone else) and they see our government take revenge on other countries. Collectively, we are a very "eye-for-an-eye" society. Sometimes I wonder if we are living in the 21st century or in the "wild wild west."

Then add mental illness to the picture, which I believe is probably a factor in all of these!

Sociatal beliefs that some groups "deserve" to dominate others + a reteliatory attitude + easy access to guns + mental illness = violence directed towards those most vulnerable in our society

The only way I personally can think of managing the rage is not to contribute to the above formula, which on the surface seems easy, but in fact is harder in real life. Of course not doing the big stuff is easy, but its the subtle stuff that underpins our societal assumptions that I have to really slow down and notice. And, for me its about "outing" the crap that goes on here in the bigger picture ways and not just wringing my hands after incidents like these and saying "wow, how could that happen" but working every single day around these issues professionally and personally. Even on those days when I feel like the efforts of my work are like spitting in the ocean and expecting the pH levels to change.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Fair Wisconsin Votes "No"

We are 18 days away from our November election. For many of us living in Wisconsin, this day holds much importance. Wisconsin residents will be faced with many crucial ballot questions. One of which is whether to amend the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage and civil unions (both for same-sex couples and opposite gender couples). We stand at a profound threshold - whether Wisconsin will continue its legacy of progessive-minded equity towards diverse populations (we were the first state in the nation to add sexual orientation to the legal definition of protected class) or whether we use our Constitution to legislate discrimination.

I have been profoundly moved by witnessing our straight allies - family, friends and strangers - around the state, step forward in support of defeating this amendment through holding house parties to raise funds for campaigning and education, door-to-door canvassing, making donations, making phone calls, talking openly with family and friends about the implications of the passage of this amendment.

Wisconsin is poised to make history on Nov 7. We are being looked to as the first state in the nation that may be able to defeat a constitutional ban. Interesting, Wisconsin has been pegged as the new "Peoria." Meaning that based on our diverse ideologies here, we have become the political pulse point on many issues for the entire nation (what happens in Wisconsin has the likelihood of replicating itself elsewhere politically according to a recent National Public Radio story I heard). What legacy to we want to be ours here in Wisconsin? My hope is one of acceptance for diverse families and compassion for all people.

It's not too late to help. If you are wondering what you might do, you can visit Fair Wisconsin's website at for
*a list of talking points for conversations with family, friends and co-workers.
*a list of regional offices around the state where you could volunteer an hour (or more) of your time.
*a link for making donations. Heck, you don't even have to be from Wisconsin to donate!!

Be sure to vote on November 7. Know where your polling place is. If you don't know, call your city or town clerk's office. They can help you locate your polling place. If you need to vote absentee for any reason, requests for ballots to be mailed to you must be received by your city/town clerk no later than 10 days before the election.

Be sure to vote on this amendment. In Dane County, the amendment will be printed on the backside of your ballot, so please be sure to flip the ballot over and mark your vote. This may also be true in other counties with large numbers of offices up for re-election, so please look carefully.

Our family is directly and deeply impacted by the outcome of this election. We are hopeful that you will hold us in your hearts, minds and spirts as in walk into your polling place and cast your ballot.

Super Music Student

Yesterday was the first of four awards assemblies at Gemma's school. She received the Super Music Student Award from her music teacher (-: Upon hearing that she was to receive the award, Gemma decclared "oh I feel so good about myself." The proud parents were there to see her receive her award and enjoy each of the award recipients. (As the school year passes, each child receives an award from her/his classroom teacher and some kids get them from the specials teachers.)

Below are two pictures - one of Gemma holding her large C Clef Sign shaped award, wearing her favorite pink velour pants outfit (not what "I" would have chosen for her to wear - but its not about me -right!). The other is a picture I came across in our photo files of her ready to leave the NICU 14 days after her birth at 3 lbs 10 oz (birth weight of 3 lbs 4 oz). I was stunned when I looked at this picture five years later and loved the contrast of seeing baby Gemma and kindergarten Gemma - both with those wonderous and intense blue eyes staring out at us.

Five Year Old Kindergarten Gemma

14 Day Old Baby Gemma Leaving the NICU for the First Time

Monday, October 02, 2006

First 5K

Rowan ran her first 5K yesterday (Sunday) in the Canterbury Run/Walk for Literacy. She's pictured above before the run with her friend, Courtney. We'd signed the girls up as walkers and they were going to walk with us moms. They wanted to run, as they both need to log 60 minutes a week of running for soccer training. I didn't anticipate that they'd run the whole 5K though. They did great, coming into the finish a few minutes before us. We walked it at a good clip. While I've become Rowan's running buddy for soccer training, I am not up for a 5K run yet; a good fast 5K walk was my speed.

As I came across the finish line and saw our rosy cheeked girl, calmly sitting on the curb, eating a banana and drinking water, I thought "wow, what a kid" and also thought how lucky she is to be able to try these things out and notice her own successes.

She wants to know when there is a run for math literacy (there is one called the Pi run in the spring) and she wants to be signed up as a runner, not a walker next time.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Last Days of Summer

Today was one of those fall days that is a sweet reminder of all that is great about summer - warm (not blistering hot), sunny, breezy and filled with boundless play and uninterrupted time.

We spent the afternoon with friends at their new home. They recently moved out of Madison, to a small community where you can get a lot more house and land for a reasonable cost - much more reasonaable than in the city. Their new digs include an inground pool!!

Rowan and Willow invented a game, using the little yellow boat, they named "Old Bessy" (where they got the name, is anybody's guess), lining it up with the water slide, sliding down the slide and into the boat.

Gemma did spurts of time in the pool. With no body fat to speak of, she chills down pretty quickly. The water slide was quite a hit for her.

All four kids are incredibly good friends who instantly bond, even after weeks of not playing together. Gemma and Sage have promised to marry one another when they grow up. Unless of course one gets mad at the other, at which time the angry one says in a definitive tone of voice "That's it! I am NOT marrying YOU!"

A good time was had by the grown-ups too. We talked non-stop, whle watching the kids have a ball, eating corn chips and guac and enjoying a couple of ice cold wheat beers.

By Tuesday, we will be looking at a high temperature of 55 degrees, a far cry from today's 80 and a true taste of fall.

Friday, September 08, 2006

First Week of School

Wow, how did it get to be September already??!!

Both Rowan and Gemma started school this week. It's been a big week for our entire family!!

Gemma is in KINDERGARTEN! The little gal just turned five on August 24 with a party extraordinaire - high tea served on china we acquired at St. Vincent de Paul for 25 cents a piece and a visit from a fairy (a wonderful children's entertainer) and now she's off to the Big K! We pondered waiting another year, given the lateness of her birthday. Our pondering time was short though, given that she seemed very ready emotionally, physically and cognitively for this next step.

It's been a big week for her. Overall she is liking school a lot. She loves the stimulation of her classroom. Her teacher, while new to the school, is a veteran kindergarten teacher. The classroom design and layout is lovely - lots to do, very kid-centric and very literacy rich and still lots of toys and games and blocks!!

As anyone who knows Gemma is likely to guess, she has her opinions about her expeirnece thus far. When we asked her after day one how things went, here was her reply -

"Well, I checked it out and I won't be going back."

When we asked her more about this, here were her complaints -

First, rest time (mandated by state law) is a "waste of time" because she wants to be up doing things in the room and not laying there on her blanket. The room is too cool to be doing stuff in it.

Second, she thought her teacher had "tricked" the kids when she told them they could look at books during rest time if they didn't want to sleep. But when Gemma forgot to get a book before going to her blanket and then wanted to get up and get one later in the rest time and was told she needed to stay put, she was sure she'd been duped.

She's displeased with the fact that she can't keep her magnetic mirror on the front outside of her locker. Her plan was to have it at eye level, so she could look at herself and check her hair whenever she walked by. Having to keep it on the inside of her locker door just messes up her whole routine.

Lastly, she was peeved that not every center in the room was open on the first day. When we explained some of the possible reasons for this, her reply was "Mom "I" can handle lots of choices. All of the centers could have been open and I would have no problem making a choice."

Luckily, more centers opened on days 2 and 3 and she has figured out to get herself books before going to her rest blanket. The mirror/locker issue sitll remains a bone of contention (-:

She is making friends and enjoying her time more each day. Today was teary - probably a "Friday" issue of just being maxed out.

The girls are not in the same school, as we have a K-2 school and a 3-5 one. So Gemma rides the bus in (as her school is across a major street. Rowan walks to school. Her school is physically further away, but no major six lane streets to cross.

Rowan has entered third grade with a lot of grace. She seems to have made just another huge leap in emotional development this summer. I also think the independence she got to experience within the loving and watchful suppport of Rainbow Family Camp also bolstered her confidence greatly. She's looking forward to many of the things that an "older kid" school can offer, like the opportunity to run for student council, help running the school store or serving on the spirit committee. The school will run/walk a mile together sometime early this fall as a community-building activity which seems really fun. Given that she needs to run an hour minimum a week for soccer training, the mile doesn't seem too cumbersome to her. She's loving the opportunity to walk to and from school. A parent walks with her - either me or our backyard neighbor and her daughter or she gets dropped off on rush-around mornings. I think she likes the opportunity to walk and talk and process her day. It's really nice for me to get this time with her too - I can tell it will be treasured time for us both.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Our Family's Chatter Bug

Gemma is our famiy chatter bug. She has very easy access to her auditory self!!

Last night I was prepping several things for our new in-home summer childcare provider and Gemma was at my elbow the whole time, talking away. I'm a good listener and can hold a lot of words, but I was getting pretty fried. Finally, she said "mom, I'm talking so much that I even forgot what I was saying!"

Along the same theme, she graduated from preschool recently and said she was so glad to be "done with that." I was suprised, as she just has loved her preschool, so I asked her more about it. Her reply was "I don't like quiet time because I can't talk then and you know how hard it is for me to be quiet!"

I can just see next year's report card with the "code words" for letting us know she's a chatter bug
*Gemma has much to share with her classmates.
*Gemma is very social.
*Gemma has a lot to say.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Family Update

I started an "update" post two weeks ago with the grand plan of doing a family update and an update on each girl, complete with picturs. HA! What was "I" thinking that I would have time to finish that in a timely fashion!!

So I've posted the family part of the update and will get to Rowan and Gemma soon. Rowan's birthday (she's turning 8!!) is in just a couple of weeks, she's finished second grade and has had lots going on that I'd like to reflect upon. So my commitment is to share about her on or before her birthday!!

Picture taken Memorial Day Weekend in Freeport, IL with some members of Jani's side of the family after we rode the antique railroad.

Our Family
After about 3 months, Jani's whooping cough is starting to mellow!! In China it is often referred to as the "One Hundred Days Cough" and I can understand why. It's interesting that I'm opening my post by talking about Jani's whooping cough. I think it has had a mucher larger impact on our family this spring than we imagined it would. I can now understand why it is considered a dangerous disease. My perception is that Jani is physically exhausted from the bouts of coughing that take her breath away or send her to the bathroom, vomiting. My heart just breaks every time she starts a coughing bout and its a relief to me to hear it not sounding so deep and chesty. If the illness is that straining in a healthy adult, I don't even want to imagine it would do to a child.

This winter/spring, we also experienced the impact of having both of our sets of parents go through medical challenges. Jani's folks are doing well. Her dad has healed from his knee surgery and the more impressive part of his story is that he (along with Jan's mom as support) has modified his eating and exercise behavior so that he can be off of all diabetes medications!! There was speculation that he'd be on injectible insulin the remainder of his life. Nothing like developing a good knowledge base and setting one's will and intention!! They leave for two months in Laos later this month. One might say they are nuts to go with their ever-changing health status and being in their late 70s. I think its pretty darn amazing.

My folks have finally returned to Wisconsin from Florida, a month later than usual. I ended up making an emergency trip to Naples in April to help out when Dad landed in the hospital again and it looked like surgery might be on the horizon. After nearly 5 months post-injury, he is healing, responding to physical therapy and has gotten his blood thinner medication re-regulated. He was not able to work most of the winter and after a long battle with Florida's workman's comp, they have been reimbursed his medical expenses and lost wages. Now that he's back in Wisconsin, hoping to get his own business back up and running, his good friends have offered to help him in whatever ways he needs. This really touched my heart to know how much his friends are willing to come to his (and my mom's support). So, they've closed up the Florida house, hurricane shutters and all and they'll hope for a better hurricane season this year (they sustained a lot of damage last year) and are happy to be back in the midwest.

Now that school is out and summer is upon us, we once again face that on-going challenge of how to manage summer childcare. We don't want to send the kids to full day center-based programs as it seems really important to have a change of pace. I still work full time and Jani has lots of summer-time school-related commitments so we still need care. A friend suggested nanny-sharing with another family, so that is what we're doing, with close friends. Our younger kids have been in care together since infancy. Our new provider started Monday and she and the kids are working through routines and boundaries this week. It's a pretty wild time. Gemma is less than pleased and is finding lots of ways to challenge D (the provider). We've been supporting D (hopefully she feels supported) with lots of strategies and I think (hope) that things will mellow once Gemma realizes that D is the provider and that she (Gemma) is not running the show!!

We'll take some time to go to Washington Island this summer to visit my folks, other family and friends over the Fourth of July. I'm really looking forward to this. I booked two weeks of vacation into my schedule in August, one week we may go back to the Island and the other will be spent at Rainbow Family Camp in northern Wisconsin.

Friday, March 31, 2006

March - More Like a Lion Than a Lamb

It has been six weeks since I last posted here!! Just a "few" things going on around here - HA! I'll update for those who are interested and unload for myself (-:

So the old addageof March being like a lion or a lamb has new meaning for our family as the whole month (and the latter part of February) has had its share of "lion-like" moments (not weather-wise), rather event and circumstances.

Both Jani and I and the kids typically have cast iron immune systems. If we get anything..colds, is typically short-lived. Even Rowan with her asthma, has a solid immune system. Well, apparently, this was the winter/spring for the creepie-crawlies to find some small crack in those cast-iron immune systems. We have spent the better part of a month with each of us down for the cunt somewhere along the way. Gemma with a stomach bug and then a cold. Rowan with a nasty virus with a five-day fever (she missed an entire week of school). Me, with just my regular sinus crud (keeping fingers crossed and a bottle of Lysiene at the ready). Jani wins the prize though with stomach flu, the dreaded virus and whooping cough!! She was "thrilled" to find that this can last up to ten weeks!! The rest of us are all being treated preventively since its so contageous.

Rowan has won the prize for the greatest drama though. Yesterday morning, while fixing herself some breakfast (yes, she wants to do her own breakfast..part of that desire for independence), she decided to vary from the pre-approved menu and helped herself to a container of chicken and rice soup. As she was opening it, the pull tap broke off and the metal lid sliced into her thumb. When Jani came into the kitchen, she was greeded with lots of blood, Rowan running her hand under water to try to clean it and stating, "Mom, I think this is bad." So off to Urgent Care we went. To ours (and hers) happiness, the cut was such that they could use skin glue, rather than stitches. So she is wearing a pressure bandage and has her arm in a sling for a few days to keep the hand above her heart to help the glue set and the wound stay closed.

We have also begun to experience the "sandwhich" effect of having little kids and aging parents. Jani's folks, in their early 80's returned last summer from several years of living in Indonesia to a rather cascading effect of health issues. Her dad had developed untreated Type II diabets which the family didn't know about until he started suffering some post-operative isues after knee surgery on Valentine's Day. So, he's recovery from the surgery (had to have a second surgery about two weeks ago as the first one got infected) and learning how to manage diabetes, diet changes and insulin shots. Amongst all of his stuff, Jani's mom had severe belly pain which resulted in emergency abdominal surgery for her. Jani spent four days with them after their return from the hospital, helping them re-acclimate to life and we've been down as a family to visit and help out. Current things seem to be calm on that front.

My folks have nearly completed all of their home repairs post Hurricane Wilma. Amidst dealing with their insurance company claims and finding a contractor to do the work, Dad fell at work in January and got a severe hemotoma which landed in in the ER three or four times and finally an extended hospital stay. Mom just called a few nights ago to inform us, that after six weeks of looking like he was finally healing, things regressed again. He's back in the hospital, getting his blood thinners re-regulated and hopefully rehabbing his hip/leg soon. The best we can do, given that we're in Wisconsin and their in Florida is give my mom an emotional outlet and keep dad company over the phone and send down goodies and grocery store gift cards.

Throw into the mix the fund-raisers I coordinate in the spring..Girl Scout cookies for Rowan's troop and a plant/flower sale for Rowan's school, preppring my taxes for the business and our personal taxes, a heavy travel schedule for me for work..and just an added treat, having one of my client groups appear on the front page of the paper..twice..and not for good reasons.

There have been wonderful moments woven into these past six weeks....

Rowan's school choir sang at the State Capitol..some wonderful peace and justice music. Very proud Mama moment!!

Gemma is registered for kindergarten..holy cow how did THAT happen that this child will be going to kindergarten in the fall?!

Jani and I have managed to preserve our Thursday night "dates" amongst the mayhem, so we still get lovely couples time. Last night we saw a friend, a jazz muscian perform while having an outstanding dinner and dessert.

Rowan's second grade has an art show premiere in a couple of weeks in a local coffee shop.

Jani and my women's spriituality group is organizing an art show of our collective works after 13 years of being together and creating art that comes out of our ritual. This is a very exciting step for us. Art show is in mid-May.

We feel well-blessed by the friends who have been so helpful to our family in these past weeks.

So..we're under a high wind advisory today...hopefully blowing the winds of change through out lives. March can march right on out of here like a lion and we'll gladly welcome the warming days of April with our baby plants peeking up through the ground, reminding us about the wonders and mysteries of life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Million for Marriage

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Today seems like yet another perfect opportunity to remind folks about the importance of equal rights under the law for all people in our country. As many states work to ban same-gender unions and others work to legalize same-gender unions, our nation is experiencing an intense "push-pull" of beliefs and assumptions. If you have not yet signed the Million for Marriage petition or educated yourself about marriage equity, please create a place of love and compassion in your heart for all and take a few minutes today to learn more about this issue, how marriage equity can benefit us all (not just LGBT people) or renew your commitment to this work.

You can check out for more information.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Facilitating by Heart

Generally I don't post much about my work life on my family blog, though I love my work and it definitely shapes who I am as a parent and a partner. This morning I'm inspired to share a little something about a project I'm so proud of and engage in a little shameless self-promotion. (-:

More than eight years ago, before Rowan was even born, some of my most dear friends and colleagues got together to develop a workshop series focused on what it really means to facilitate groups of people with care and compassion (i.e. from the "heart"). So many of our clients were (and still are) doing such important work in the world, environmentally, socially, poltically, medically), but they frequently ran into road-blocks about how to really get down to "it" so that their groups were not only productive, but sustainable, full of life and respectful of all involved. So we decided to bring together componants of our very best thinking and work into a 10 day (orver six month) experience of Facilitating By Heart.

I like to think of the series as having the longest gestational period known to human and animal kind, because it took four years from conception to birth. Rowan was not yet born when we had our intitial conversations and Gemma was 8 months old on the workshop's birthing day as we stood before our first group of 26 participants. Now, the thing is a preschooler. We begin our fourth year of offering the series in April, always to a full house with a long wait list. And, we've been able to raise enough funds through donations to sponsor 5 scholarships so folks from the struggling non-profit world can join us, besides keeping the fees very low compared to othr such endeavors done by different instructors.

And, its so powerful to keep in touch with our graduates, to hear how their lives, not just their work lives, but their home and family lives have been enhanced through their experience.

So 2.5 months before we start this year's series, I wanted to step back and admire this wonderful child of ours as much as I love and admire the two children who are a part of my life everyday.

If you're curious to learn more about "Facilitating by Heart" you can check out this link at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Department of Continuing Education's website (they are our sponsors).

And check out two other workshops we offer through this same department:

Listening for a Change

Perceptual Thinking Patterns: The Mind at Work

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Is It Funky, Eclectic or Just Plain Kitsch?

This morning as I walked onto my front porch, after dropping Gemma at preschool and taking my morning walk, all ready to start my work day, I got a good look at our front yard and just had to take some pictures. With the assortment of things, I wondered what passers-by on the bus, in their cars, on bikes and on foot think as tthey go past. Or perhaps that is just terribly egocentric of me to assume that anyone even notices (-:

So here are some pictures from our front yard. You decide, is it
*fun and funky, a reflection of our love of diversity?
*terribly eclectic?
*totally kitsch? In case you don't know what that means, its German, meaning weird trash.
*some bizarre collision of holidays?

First, there is the playhouse, which stays up year-round , because the girls like to refer to it as Little House in the Prarie and like to have adventures in it throughout the year. As some of you know, our front yard has been converted into natural prairie, thus the girls love to imagine that it is Little House on the Prairie. Rowan plays Laura and Gemma plays Mary, to correlate with their hair colors, not their ages. Since Rowan understands from the books that winters on the prairie were harsh and dangerous, she loves to go out to the little house when it snows and imagine that she is a child of the prairie in the 1800's.

Those of you who know me well may be surprised to know (or perhaps not surprised) that I'm the one who initiated having the inflatable Valentine Bear in the fornt yard. Yes, its embarrassing to admit, I love those darn inflatables. I rather liked the big inflatable heart with the huge smiey face on it (yes, quite tacky), but was over-ruled by the rest of the family who liked the bear. I really like the bear too, so it wasn't a big deal to let go of the Happy Heart.

Then there's the "few-silly" which hangs off the cast irno archway, which is adorned with rainbow colored star lights. The "few-silly" is an acquistion from Door County and it spins like a corkscrew in the breeze.

Our kitty cat Santa flag, ahhh yes, I know we're well past Solstice and Christmas. Gemma loves this flag and has bawked at taking it down. I think a Valentine's Day flag "might" be in order.

Now, this lovely artifact is completely Gemma's doing. She even spent her own allowance money to purchase this chicky of melted plastic pieces. So our front yard even has a hint of spring.

Spanning the holidays from Winter Solstice through Spring Equinox.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Why Do They Skip 15?

When both girls were learning rote counting, they both skipped "15." Why? This is one of those parental mysteries, probably not easily explained by child development or perhaps very easily explained by child development. (-:

Gemma still leaves out "15" if she's tired or in a hurry. Poor "15" hopefully doesn't suffer from too many self-worth issues for being neglected. (-:

"...10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19..."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Quote of the Week - Audre Lorde

The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.

-Audre Lorde, self-described "Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet"

When I thought about what I needed in my life this week, the notion of joy came into my mind right away..the power of joy to fill up those spaces of exhaustion or frumpiness, to remind me of what really matters. And joy has a contageous effect when shared lovingly, of building connections between people who know they are connected and between people who never imagined they could be connected.

Audre Lorde is one of my most treasured teachers. While I was never lucky enough to see her in person before she died, her words have touched me on a personal level and through my work in many, many ways. If you would like to learn more about Audre Lorde, you can check out this link which has a short biography and samples of her work. http:///

What brings you joy today?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

Hooray!! Hooray!! Blogspot is cooperating and I can get pictures to load!!

This is the picture we chose for our "holiday" cards, aka "New Years" cards, aka "you'll get a card from us soon" cards! I just love this picture, taken on Washington Island at our favorite tree (a yearly tradition for us to visit this ancient tree and take family pictures there). I don't know why we had such a hard time selecting the picture this year. This one just melts my heart. Now that the cards are printed and I have a new printer to print the letters, we "should" have them out soon.

I have a cousin who often sent hers out around Valentine's Day. I like that tradition. I think we might adopt it ourselves.

What a Diva in Training!! On my birthday, Rowan and Gemma treated Jani and I to a breakfast of muffins and a show. They hung a clothesline from their bunkbeds to their shelves and slung a sheet across it. Rowan was the backstage crew, running the boombox and the lights and Gemma did the song and dance routine in her gymnastics leotard.

Next, they were off to decorate the cake they'd baked earlier that monring under the careful supervision of Mama J. It's angel food (which I LOVE!). Can you tell they like to use sprinkles??!!!!

Later that evening, we had a dinner party of "small dishes" with everyone bringing a favorite appetizer. We sang and played the new piano, drank good wine and ate, and ate and ate. We topped off the evening with a swiss chocolate cake. Believe me, both cakes were fantastic, though I'd had my fill of cake by the end of the day.

Rowan, playing Musette at her concert. I wondered about this choice, as it wasn't introduced in class until mid-December, leaving just a bit more than a month (plus the mayhem of the holidays) to work on the piece. But Rowan knew the first time she heard it, that this was the piece she wanted to play. And she did great!! There is that strange feeling when you kid is doing something big, pride, a bit of nervousness, feeling yourself in their shoes, but knowing its their own shoes and not yours to stand in. Big stuff.

The heart melter moment of the concert was when they sang a song about mothers and gave each of us a flower in recognition of all the support and work we as parents have put into helping our kids along this musical journey.

January Happenings

(pictures to come when Blogspot lets me upload them).

Well, so much for the ease of December, when my client load is lighter and I have time to actually attend to my blog on a more regular basis and even time to read the blogs of friends. HA! Now, its January, my client load is huge, I've got end of the year bookkeeping to do, we're in the midst of a big house project, I'm the chair person for Rowan's Girl Scout troop's cookie sales, so my blog sits neglected for weeks at a time. I thought I'd start out the week with an update and a couple of pictures at least.January rolled in with unusually warm temperatures and we lost all of our beautiful snow. So gone were the days of ice skating and sledding. We got a couple of inches of snow on Friday, but nothing compared to what we had in December. While the warmer weather sure is nice on our heating bill, it leaves me wondering if this is just a fluke of nature, a bigger climate shift or global warming. It's just not typical.
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January also brought about the celebration of my 43rd Birthday. The girls had a ball planning their surprises for my special day, complete with making breakfast and a cake. Rowan gave me a box of "wishing stones" so that I could pull a wish from the box anytime I wanted. I decided to share my wishing stones with our dinner guests later in the evening, figuring why it would be fun to share the wishing wealth on my birthday. I think we've started a new family tradition with the wishing stones thanks to Rowan's creative mind and generous spirit.

Turning 43 hasn't had any major implications..doesn't feel terribly different than turning 42, or 41 or 40 for that matter. It's all relative at this point. I seem to have walked my way, in the past year or so, into perimenopause. I recall commenting awhile back that I hoped to embrace this time with lots of good spiritual energy. HA! I'm not liking the "symptoms" of perimenopause much at all and am fairly p*ssy about it..Hm, I guess therein lies the spiritual challenge, doesn't it.

A new piano has graced our home. We've been talking "piano" for a long while now and finally made the leap this month. It is really fun to hear the house filled with the sounds of a real piano! Rowan was resistant at first, in tears at the showroom, not wanting to give up her old friend of the keyboard. We left the keyboard up for her during the transition phase, but she hasn't touched it since the arrival of the piano. Gemma's feeling out of the loop, being the one family member who doesn't play and has asked to start Yamaha lessons.Rowan's "graduation" from Yamaha was yesterday, celebrated with a concert and party to follow. It was a very bittersweet day for Rowan, her teacher, Jani and I and the other parents/kids and their teacher. These kids have been together for three years!! The program began with four classes of ten kids in each and over the years 10 kids have stuck with it and made outstanding progress in their musicianship, their friendships with each other and their connection to Ms Susan. I felt so proud of Rowan, who confidently sang out on all the vocal pieces, played her solo at the big grand piano, played an original composition and played the co-lead on an ensemble piece, as well as did an improv jazz piece with four other kids. This is huge, compared to the rehearsal for the first concert where she was a puddle of tears, totally intimidated by the performance atmosphere and the grandeur of the stage. I also felt sad as this part of her musical life draws to a close and she says good-bye to kids she's seen once a week for the past three years. My hats off a zillion times to their teacher, who through her love of music, her compassion with young children and her skill of teaching, allowed each child to blossom in her or his own way. Now we're on to to private piano lessons, sad to leave behind all of that great ear training, voice training and cooperative ensemble playing and excited to find out what the next chapter is like.

Rowan's also been busy with musical stuff at school. The company, Opera for the Young, came to her school to do a performance of The Barber of Seville. Rowan and several other second-graders were in the on-stage chorus. It was a very funny rendition of the opera, with Figaro portrayed as a 1950's motorcycle-riding barber and Rosalina as a poodle-skirt wearing teeny-bopper. The chorus members were each dressed as fellow teeny-boppers, Rosalina's friends, complete with letter jackets. Rowan's been singing the songs for weeks!! I really enjoyed watching how much she was enjoying herself while on stage.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Quote of the Week - Rowan, age 7.5

2006 Resolutions

At school:
  • I will raise my hand when I have an answer and not be scared.
  • I will make new friends.
  • I will hold my pencil correctly.
  • I will be safe and respectful to all.

At home:

  • I will not complain when I practice piano.
  • I will help moms set up my playroom.
  • I will not yell at Gemma.

The End!

-Rowan, age 7.5 (school writing assignment)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Post-Vacation Blahs

We are on day 2 of returning to work and school after the winter holidays and I think everyone here is feeling like they are moving through sludge. Yesterday, we all coasted back into routine with what seemed like ease. Everyone was awake and out of bed on time. Clothes had been chosen the night before by the youngest member of this family, so no clothing crisis in the morning. Rowan was even ready to head out the door nearly 15 minutes before her bus was due to arrive. Things went swimmingly!!

Today, I think the reality hit..."oh yeah, we're back to the day-to-day routine." Getting the girls out of bed was like waking the dead. We had forgotten to pick out clothes last night, so a potential clothing crisis loomed on the horizon with Gemma, thankfully averted with a quick grab on my part of her new princess sweatshirt and sweatpants.

One thing remained constant though, Rowan was still ready to catch her bus 15 minutes early.

Oh and did I mention, we haven't seen sunshine here since pre-Solstice, a good two weeks. We have lots and lots of grey-shine. Also, the temperatures wamed up, unseasonably, we got tons of rain and the snow is all gone. We are looking at brown ground. Looking outside if like looking at an old cepia photograph..very romantic on photographic paper, very dull in real-life.

Am I trapped in an old episode of Northern Exposure?