Monday, November 12, 2007


At Friday's UW Badger Volleyball game, our girls went out on the court at the end of the game to join the team in singing "Varsity." This is a tradition and our girls love to particpate. Typically, one fo the Volleyball Women will pick Gemma up and hold her during the singing and more often than not, someoen will throw an arm around Rowan's shoulders.

So, this week Gemma came back to find us after the song was over and excitedly declared, "Mom I have Brittney Dolgner's sweat on me!!" She was just tickled to have a Volleball player's sweat on her! (-:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Did I Mention????

Did I mention that I think Dog Parks are totally awesome places?!

Look at me - I'm having a great time!! I can run and run and run and there is a fence to keep me nice and safe. I come when I'm called - most of the time - my mom is really working on recall with me.

Last weekend I got to go on my first trip with my family to Washington Island to visit what everyone kept calling "grandma and grandpa." I decided that grandparents are very good things. This set loves English Setters - I guess they've had several of them over the years. So, they know all about my kind of dog!! I was able t work them for lots of treats!! I met their 13 year old English setter, Stormy. He wasn't totally thrilled with me, but he was nice to me.

The best part about the trip is that three separate times I saw pheasants. I went on still point and then waited until I was told I could put the birds up. Grandpa and Mama said I did great! Nobody shot at the pheasants, which is fine by me, since my family doesn't plan to hunt with me. It sure was fun though to find those birds and do my job.

Ok, this is Lance, signing off. It's time to choose on my peanut butter kong and take a nap.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Introducing Sir Lancelot Hunter

Yes, its been months since I've posted on our family blog - we've had a very full summer, including both kids' birthdays, our anniversary, the start of school, some big family saddness (death of a kind frined), but what do I post about in my first post back - OUR NEW BABY!

He's an adopted English Setter probably about 2-3 years old adopted through the amzing folks at Illinois Birddog Rescue and Midwest Canine Mutts - truly amazing people dedicated to a great quality of life for English Setters and English Pointers. Our boy's first rescue name was Hunter - he was rescued from a kill shelter in central KY. He was named again at his new rescue as Sir Lancelot, a fine name for an noble English Setter. We are choosing to call him Lance - he's also affectionately known as "The Boy" given that he's the only male in the household - oh, I take that back, apparently the hamster is male too, but it sure is hard to tell the gender of a dwarf hamster.

Of course this is certainly not the most elegant photo of this charming boy – it just cracks us up though. Do you think he’s comfortable here? (-: One of his favorite times of day is settling in on our bed while we read and watch a little TV. Lance still sleeps in his crate once lights are out, primarily to give our cats a break. They are much more likely to roam the house when they know he’s in his crate.

Suzanne, his forster mom, described Lance as being a sweet and noble boy. We think her description is 100% right on! Look at this proud and confident guy. He's very handsome too - though he still needs to put on some weight and we are anxious for his feathering to come in on his coat.

He’s doing wonderfully with other dogs too. Labor Day he joined many other dogs at the city’s first Dog Plunge at the city pool – a fundraiser for the police K9 unit. He loved the water and managed to wag his way in front of the TV cameras. He got prime footage on the 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 news on Monday night. Silly us though we were so wrapped up in the festivities that we forgot to bring our camera. In addition to wading in the water he also figured out that he could go up to the vendors and work treats out of them.

Lance has also been swimming at the beach behind our house. Unlike his retriever buddies, he’s not interested in truly swimming and doesn’t like going above his belly in the water. Waves were an interesting thing to manage. We enjoy watching him attempt to leap over them or bite at them. Thank goodness he hasn't attempted to point them! He certainly loves to let us know when he sees squirrels, butterflies, bees and the neighborhood cats!!
He’s having fun with lots of new toys. He thinks sweet potato dog chews are very yummy!! And really nothing can beat a big ole’ soup bone!! He’s a fluffy toy destroyer – working the toy over until he’s extracted the squeaker and flung stuffing around. So, we’ve moved onto rubbery toys – the kong is a hit as is his “tree branch.” The best was his first interaction with his stuffed pheasant – wish we had that on video. He went on point, but couldn’t figure out why the darn thing wouldn’t fly! He kept circling it and looking at it from all sorts of different angles.

He loves his kids!! Both of our girls have their different ways that they each dote on him He walks with us to school in the mornings and would love to just run that playground with everyone – and oh my, all those ball toys the kids play with, how can any dog resist them!! He pays rapt attention to the happenings at both girls’ soccer practices too.

Our family will start doggie classes at Dog’s Best Friend in about three weeks. We think he’ll definitely be well settled and ready for this next level of learning by then. He’s done a great job of mastering “sit” this week and will do it pretty consistently indoors. We're working on good leash walking (which doesn't include pulling the person at the other end of the leash around the neighborhood!) and consistent potty outside. Hot dogs, chicken pieces and dog roll are very high motivators!! Now when we say "good boy" he salivates and looks for hot dogs. Yep, Pavlov could have used this boy to prove his theories.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shining Solstice!!

I have finally landed at my desk after a whirlwind week with many projects still spread out before me and just a few minutes before everyone arrives at home. We're about to treat ourselves to a favorite summer time food - sweet corn - YUM in celebration of Summer Solstice.

We've had off and on thunder showers all day - a perfect transitional weather pattern to symbolize the transition of the seasons.

Shining Solstice to each of us as we hold the warmth of the summer sun in our hearts through the year through. May the sun's fire awaken in us our own bright ideas and passions and remind us to spread warm and care throughout our own "corners" of this amazing world.

Blessed Be!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

In Other News...

Besides the excitement of kindergarten graduation, the days proceeding the last day of school were full beyond compare.
Last Saturday incuded Gemma's last soccer game of the season - a tournament between all the teams from her school. Rowan's last soccer game - and the last time their team would be coached by Eric who has been their coach since they were kindergarteners. Then, it was time to pull of those cleats, shin guards and uniforms and don concert attire. Gemma had her Yamaha music concert and Rowan was to be a guest performer. The festivities ended with a late lunch at Noodles & Company.

Kindergarten Graduation

Yes, it has actually happened - Gemma has graduated from kindergarten!

Here she is - getting on the school bus for the last time as a kindergarten. Thank you to our exceptionally wonderful bus driver, Neil and bus attendant, Sharon, who not only got Gemma to school each day with kindness, care and good humor, they are also the team that drove Rowan to school each morning when she was a Lapham student.

An empty stage, just before it was filled with kindergarten singers as each of the five kindergarten classes took their turns with their songs. Isn't the stage beautiful?

Here she is on stage with her class, singing Love is Like a Rainbow. The pictures of her with the other 75+ kindergarteners, all waring their motar boards turned out a bit too dark to post.

We have many pictures with Gemma and her friends after the ceremony. I chose this one though, because it just cracks me up - each are dressed so formally, you'd think they were going to prom and not kindergarten graduation.

Gemma with her teacher, Mrs. Dickerson - to whom we say "thank you" a thousand times over for her skill, compassion, immense understanding of young children and her dedication to the art of teaching.

When given the choice about where to go for dinner to celebrate, Gemma chose Perkins (-: She enjoyed a high carb supper of rainbow pancakes with bacon, some scary-looking blue beverage and a piece of French Silk pie!

Happy Graduation Day!!

I'll close with the first part of a song the kids all sang together at the ceremony, the tune is New Yor! New York!

Start spreading the news

We're leaving today-

We want to be a part of it - First Grade, First Grade!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Incredible Timing

At lunch time today, I zipped over to Gemma's school to join her for lunch. It was her school's cookout after their Field Day events. As the "field" filled with parents, kids and staff, carrying full plates of hamburgers and othe picnic foods, many of us sprawled out on blankets, we became aware of a smell - not the pleasant smell of grilling hamburgers and veggie burgers. A smell that comes after a well eaten meal, if you get what I mean. Suddenly, it became clear to us all - the street work going on a block away had somehow disrupted a sewer pipe. YUCK! We all got treated to the smell of sewer while attempting to down our lunch. What timing!

How Do You Know When....

your nearly nine year old's underwear has gotten too small?

Well, here's how "we" know - she stops wear it and goes wild and free and doesn't tell anyone.

Over the past couple of weeks, both Jani and I have noticed that Rowan doesn't seem to have a lot of pairs of underwear in the laundry. We both share the laundry duty, so at first just attributed it to the assumption that Rowan's underwear had been in a load that we each had not personally done.

Friday, however, we were doing laundry together and one of us asked the other if we'd noticed that Rowan hadn't seemed to have many pairs of underwear in the laundry lately and we wondered if they'd been in other loads. Hmmm, it became crystal clear as we shared laundry notes, that neither of us had seen barely a single pair this past week.

Inquiring minds really want to know where the underwear is - is it being worn and stashed someplace? Is it not being worn?

Upon asking her, Rowan got very quiet and said nothing. A follow-up question, "Honey, have you not been wearing underwear?" A slight, guilty-appearing head nod. "Honey, you need to wear underwear, because...." Sunddenly it dawns on us, "Is your underwear not feeling good?" Big head nod - jackpot! "It's too tight" was the reply.

Curious as to why she didn't just tell us the undies didn't fit, she just said she didn't want to have to go shopping for underwear (she is very choosy, which I get, who likes uncomfortable underwear). A trip to Kohls yesterday afternoon yielded several pairs of nice cotton undies - Jockey and Bali - without cumbersome waistbands that have the nearly-nine year old girl seal of approval. Today, her bottom is covered by Bali - no more wild and free!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Plays, Plays, Plays!!

All the third and fourth grade classrooms in Rowan's school are doing plays as the close of their literature block for the year. They've put on about five performaances, each classroom, throughout this week, to accomodate a variety of audiences, ranging from parents to peers to siblings.

Rowan's class performed two plays - one a chapter from a Beverly Cleary book, Henry and Ribsy. Rowan was cast as Mrs. Huggins, Henry's mom. Here she is below. Cute to see her interpretation of how Mrs. Huggins might look - in a bandana and apron.

The other play was a Tansanian fable. She had wanted to be cast as a villager in the marketplace in this play. However, the villager has a very small speaking part and her teacher (appropriately so in my opinion) gave her a larger speaking part, feeling that she could challenge herself with a larger part.

During set changes between the two plays, kids performed short pieces - joke telling, instrument playing, etc. Rowan and her buddy decided to cook up a little duet - New Orleans Jazz style by playing "When the Saints Go Marching In."

The two were so cute while they rehearsed at our house over the weekend. Each girl is far along einough in her musicanship to really contribute to their shared planning - it was like having a mini "garage" band in our living room. As you can see from the picture, Rowan is playing only right-handed. She dropped the full accompaniment, because it was confusing for her friend to manage the full accompaniment. It came off as a pretty simple piece, melogy alone for each instrument - just great though in figuring out how to duet play with two very different "voiced" instruments.

Tomorrow Rowan is a "guest" performer at Gemma's Yamaha piano concert tomorrw, playing a fun Bach piece.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Where are my IT and Payroll Departments?

This is my business logo and opening page for my website....
99.8% of the time I love being a samll business owner. I love the work that I do, it has purpose and meaning for me. It's powerful to support a group of people in their learning process and to see them embrace healthy and caring ways of being together and to see them realize that they are able to do it - they are not dependent on someone else! It's great to have colleages, also small business owners, who are my closest friends, who I trust implictedly to do the level of intense work that we do together. I love the diversity of people, groups and cultures I get to interact with routnienly and the diversity of skill sets that I need to have at the ready to do my work well.
I even like doing much of the infrastructure stuff that is required to keep things moving along and have gotten quite adept at doing graphic design for my handouts and other materials, managing software and getting it to do what I need it to do, managing billing and bookkeeping, etc.
However, there are those rare moments when I wish I worked for someone else - where I could turn over some of the infrastructure things. This past week or two has been one of those rare times.
My computer is acting funky. I've done what I can in dealing with the operating system. Now its time to call in the Geek World guys to help me out there and squeak some more time out of my computer.
The company that hosts my business website and controls my domain-driven email went bankrupt two weeks ago. Their services started going off-line left and right. My colleagues and I found out about their bankruptcy only throug a competing company attempting to win over our business. After many attempts to contact our current company, we've found out its true. So, we are each scrambling to move our websites before that service goes off-line, our sites are gone and our clients have no way of contacting us electronically. I've never moved a website before, so I have no knowledge base on which to draw. I suppose it might be easy in theory, but we're each finding lots of snags as we attempt to move our sites - interfacing with the domain holder, the old host and the new host - and all of these folks are the kings and queens of using the jargon of their trade. About Friday afternoon the realization hit me - I could slowly keep prodding through this process, learning as I went and get my site up. However, I'd be learning skill sets I'd likely not need again for a long time. A placed an email to someone lots more web savvy than me and asked if I could hire her to move the site. She's hitting lots of snags too, but at least knows how to untangle them!
Thus I've pieced together my IT department. (-:
Now, onto payroll.
One of my long-standing clients, a state agency, had not gotten me a check in a timely fashion. I give clients the standard 30 days post-invocing for pay me. 30 days came and went, no check, then 37 days, then I make contact with the agency - "gee we cannot find it, let's trace back the paper trail and see what we can figure out." 45 days have now passed, "I think we've found the problem." 50 days now pass and the check arrives happily in my mailbox - without interest for late payment figured in! Imagine, for a moment, those of you employed by someone else - how we just take for granted that our paychecks will be auto-deposited or placed into our hands on the right day and now imagine that employer being 20 days late in getting you your paycheck - this is the one less-than-joyful part of self-employement. Thank goodness for a wonderful internal ally at he agency who kept nipping at the heels of the fiscal agents to figure out where the check-cutting process had goteen caught.
So Monday (yesterday) morning arrived. I am thrilled to have gotten the payment issues worked out, have the website more underway, have a computer maintenance appointment scheduled for mid-week and plan on now focusing on my client work and hopefully getting caught up on time lost dealing with all of the above last week. HA!! We had no electricity for nearly 4 hours yesterday - a good portion of my office work time!! )-: A power pole had caught fire from a falty line in the next block - lots of drama with fire trucks, police vehicles to block the street and utility trucks, pulling out the old pole, putting in the new and restringing wire. I had enough charge in my cell to at least conduct phone business yesterday while I had no computer access (yes, I have a laptop, but my files were on my desktop).
I thought, if I worked for an organization, at least I'd have colleagues around to keep me company while everything was down. (-:
Finally when the power came back on, I had two hours for work until it was time to take the girls to the dentist.
Today, ahhhh, keeping my fingers crossed for uninterrupted work time. I've already gotten lots done and taking time to blog is my little "reward."
I'm back to being happy to run my own business again.....

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Voice Messages

I get home from being with clients all day Wednesday to hear several voice messages...

VM #1 - no big deal - dealt with & deleted

VM #2 - dear friend - they had gotten a puppy over the weekend and we were over to their house, loving up the puppy. Puppy went for first vet appointment and they found out he has round worms - which can transfer to humans and are problematic for kids - vet advised that you all better call your doctor.

Oh joy! Luckly, I'm not too squeamish, so just add this to the long list of "to-dos" - call doctor.

VM #3 - the parent who runs Gemma's after school urban agriculture club - no club tomorrow - his kids are sick. They have chicken pox, despite having been vaccinated - and were at clubs during it turns out during their highly contageous period. So watch Gemma for signs of chicken pox, even if she's been vaccinated.

Lovely - two bizarre disease warnings right in a row.

Still two messages to go - I'm a bit curious to know what the next one will be.

VM #3 - Madison School Community Rec - a cultural arts class that each girl was going to take for three weeks this summer cancelled due to low enrollment. They have other things available for kids Rowan's age - not for Gemma though. What would we like to do?

Oh joy - a three week gap in the summer activities now appears on our calendar with other options filling up quickly.

One message left and I think, "please let this one have some positive closure on something."

VM #4 - another parent - the idea for sharing transportation to and from Girl Scouts for Gemma and her daughter sounds great - we're all square with that - see ya' Thursday.

HOORAY - at least I got positive closure on one of those messages.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Our Neighborhood Schools Dealt a Painful Blow

Our neighborhood is just reeling after Monday evening's school board meeting. Our state has been severely burdened with a school spending limit (QEO - qualified economic offer) made into law in the 1990's that is now really taking it's toll in the form of painful cuts to children's scrvices throughout the state. Our district has not remained unscathed - we've cut millions from the budget year after year. This year (07-08) requires another $7 million in cuts.

So I don't envy district officials and members of our board of education in their task of figuring out how to manage cuts of these magnitudes. And I've really had enough of politicians who think more about warring with others than about educating young children!!

Sadly, the cuts for this coming year have laid a disproportionate burden on our neighborhood's elementary schools, when there were options on the table which could have shared the impact of the cuts more equitably. My letter to the board post-decision speaks to my concerns for the well-being of our children, their teachers and our neighborhood.

Dear Members of the MMSD (Madison Metropolitan School District) Board of Ed,

I am writing to express my deep disappointment in Monday’s decision to consolidate Lapham and Marquette Elementary Schools into one K-5 school. While the district has referred to this move as a “consolidation,” it is in truth a school closing, as Marquette will now be closed to elementary-aged students. I fully acknowledge the incredible burden placed on the BOE of figure out how to cut millions of dollars from the district’s budget. Sadly, the decisions made Monday night will have laid a disproportionate burden on one segment of the district’s population – families and staff members in the Lapham-Marquette attendance area.

I am a long-term Wil-Mar Neighborhood resident, living in the neighborhood since 1988 and purchasing a home with my partner in 1992, a professional educator and small business owner (my partner is also an educator) and a parent to two daughters, one attending Lapham and the other currently at Marquette. I have a investment in the long-term health and well-being of central city neighborhoods and believe deeply that the re-opening of Lapham Elementary in the 1990s was instrumental to the revitalization of neighborhoods on the Isthmus. Therefore I am profoundly concerned that closing Marquette to elementary-aged students may have a destructive impact on the health of these same Isthmus neighborhoods.

As I assume you are aware, there are many challenges facing our central city neighborhoods these days - very high property values and property taxes as well as the influx of "mixed used buildings" with condos (most units not being adequately sized for families) - factors which potentially make the neighborhood less accessible for families with young children and families with lower incomes. A big draw for our families has been the school pair - vibrant, well-managed and exciting places to learn, geared to the developmental needs of children. Residents have found ways to stay in the neighborhood, despite the high cost of housing to keep our kids at Lapham-Marquette. Removing this pairing and consolidating the nearly 500 children into a small building I firmly believe removes a key attraction to young families.

I'm assuming you’re also aware that placing nearly 500 children in a building which at one point was said to have a capacity limit of about 300-350 means that children will enter the school in an over-crowded condition. If our enrollment increases at all in the next few years, we will be over-capacity and will need to seek yet another alternative for housing these kids. Again, placing children and teachers in a building so that in Year One of the consolidation we're nearly at (or at) capacity seems to be applying a “band-aide” to a problem that requires much longer-term solutions.

As I assume you are also aware, school mobility has a negative impact on children's learning. The children currently at Marquette will be expected to make a school change this coming fall - some of whom just moved to Marquette this past fall as incoming third graders and others who will be moving to Lapham for one year and then moving to O'Keefe the following year as middle schoolers. My older daughter, for example, will make three school transitions under the current plan by the time she enters middle school - once in the 2006-07 school year to transition from Lapham to Marquette as a third grader, next in the 2007-08 year to transition back to Lapham as a fourth grader and then in 2009-10 to transition to O'Keefe as a sixth grader. While I fully acknowledge that they will be moving with peers, the simple fact is that they will be moving three times - even with the best resources to support resiliency, these sorts of moves are extremely stressful for young children and confusing as well - things that are not assets to productive learning.

Another very large concern for me is the rapid time-table for consolidation. A decision of this magnitude that impacts the next school year was made in late April giving very little time for planning for a smooth transition and puts staff under incredible stress. Additionally, it seems that there is not clarity about the security of teaching positions amongst the staff at Marquette - many of us wonder if they will be able to keep their jobs or will be surplussed (yet another stressor for our students, not knowing who their teachers might be next year). We have been given a new principal - one who is not familiar with our neighborhoods, students, families and teachers and who will be returning after a leave of absence, who is now expected to help support this transition. Non-clarity of who will be working in the school, new leadership and a consolidation all targeted at one population at the same time are major detriments to our schools' resiliency and sustainability.

I understand that our current elementary schools with large student populations have assistant principals assigned to them. I am confused and concerned about why no such mention of an assistant principal has been made for the new consolidated elementary school, as it too will now be a large elementary school.

I understand the issues of needing to find a stable home for the affiliated programs housed at Brearly Street and support stability for these students and teachers. I believe some ideas about how to house these programs and keep Lapham and Marquette open as elementary schools have been (or will be) proposed for consideration. I would strongly hope that all board members will actively consider these proposals as they have the likelihood of taking the "higher ground" for the good of all of these children and young people and may provide a more true long-term solution.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy Beltane

Today is the First of May - May Day - Beltane!

It is the mid-point between Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice - the height of spring in the Solar Calendar. Beltane is the last of the three spring fertility - earth awakenings festivals.

Take some time today to help wake up the earth from Her slumber - plant something beautiful, make a May Basket for someone dear to you, dance a May Pole, notice what is blooming in your life (both literally and figuratively) and take time for joy.

Madison Youth Choir

-dateline, Madison, WI
Sunday, April 29, 2007
1:00 PM
Mitby Theater
Madison Area Technical College

Rowan's Stage Singing Debut with the
Madison Youth Choirs

Last fall Rowan expressed interest in joining the Madison Youth Choir after they made a visit to her school the previous spring. She joined an introductory choir to do some early voice training, learn group singing/choral techniques and gain a basic understanding of conductor's signals. She loved it! The intro class served as her audition for MYC's youngest girls performing choir, Choraliers. She joined forty-some grade 3-5 aged girls in February, thus this is her first performance with the choir. May 9 the choirs will be "touring" various schools and elderly residential facilities and she'll have the chance to perform again.

We are very proud of her. She's worked hard and enjoyed her experience a lot. Their closing song was a beautiful version of Shalom, which she loves. We could really hear her voice blending in with the other girls to carry the melody while two harmony parts were being sung.

We were also treated to hearing/seeing all the boys' choirs and the older girls' choirs through high school aged kids. It was amazing to hear the musicianship of each group and stunning to see how hard kids and conductors alike have worked to achieve what they have achieved. Many of the kids looked like they enjoyed themselves thoroughly, which is also very powerful to observe.

We very much appreciate both Rowan's intro choir conductor, whose gentle spirit, encouragement and skill helped Rowan's interest and love of music grow. And we very much appreciate her Choraliers conductor, who holds high expectations for the girls and gives them lots of encouraging and concrete feedback. Her musical choices were also outstanding. She also directs one of the older girls' choirs and both choirs sang culturally diverse music with strong peace and justice themes throughout.

Soccer, Soccer, Soccer!!

-dateline, Madison, WI
Saturday, April 28, 2007
9:00 AM

Panthers (Rowan's team) vs. Vipers - Sandburg Park
Lorax (Gemma's team) vs. Merkles - Warner Park

Ah, the Saturday mornings of having two soccer games to attend have begun with Gemma's "season openner" and Rowan's 3rd game of the season happening at the EXACT same time in two different parks. This will be the only time during the spring season that the games are at different times. The other games have some lead time between each so we can make the mad dash to the next field.

Go for it, Gemma!! Don't ya' wonder where the rest of her team is? Most of the time these little guys play in a pack, all hundled around the ball with their arms spread wide. Here's a rare shot of the ball and a single player working it down the field.
Cuteness factor very high all around!! These little guys did great - even managed some passing and several of their goals were scored because they worked as a team. No official score since they do non-competitive play at this stage.
So while Gemma happily kicked and dribbled away, Rowan's team was keeping up their energy a few neighborhoods away against a tough team. They played well, especially the first half, and lost narrowly.

Family Pride

Want to check out some very cute kid-drawn pictures? Then go to where you can see the ten finalists in the Family Pride Coalition's picture contest. Our girls do not have an entry - oops, Mom forgot about the deadline.

The website shows the ten finalists - ranging in age from 3.5 to 12 years, all sharing their pride in the family, which is headed by gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered parents.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Look Who Is Playing Soccer

Gemma has now joined her sister in taking on the game of soccer. She's expressed interest for awhile now though we had to work through why she couldn't join The Panthers (Rowan's team) who are all 3 to 4 years older than her, much bigger than her and who have all been playing together since kindergarten themselves.

Once we overcame this initial roadblock, she was pretty excited about joining the MAYSA (Madison Area Youth Soccer Association) recreation league. All teams are formed by kids in the same school, so they play with friends and peers and teams often stay together for up to four years.

The first order of business for Gem was checking out the uniforms. Her team name is The Lorax (all MAYSA teams formed this spring are named after Dr. Seus characters). So she thought, logically, that their uniforms should be Lorax colored. However, she approved of the red and black and once satisified with the attire, hit the play field with much enthusiasm.

Post game we went shopping and managed to find itty-bitty shin guards and size 12 toddlers cleats! We often find her these days putting on her shin guards and cleats and prancing around in her uniform.

The kids have another practice tomorrow night with first game on Saturday.

Earth Day 2007

Our Earth Day morning started out with planting Burr Oaks and White Swamp Oaks and hybrid Burr and White Swamp Oaks along the shores of Lake Mendota at Tenney Park.

The day was gorgeous, sunny, warm a soft breeze - reminding of all of what an incredible home we have and how tenderly this home needs to be cared for everyday.

I will enjoy bringing the girls to check on these trees throughout this summer and years to come.

Tatoo Artist

Rowan worked a shift at Family Fun Night and was a Tatoo Artist. Gemma waited patiently in line to have her sister do her tatoo, opting out of a turn sooner, because her tatoo would have been done by someone else. I was proud of Rowan because she followed through and stuck with her work shift while other kids blew off their responsibilities, opting to extend their own personal Fun Night experience. Rowan still got plenty of time to hang out too as her work shift did not take up the entire evening.

How Much Attitude Can One LIttle Girl Have?

Lots!! She's so proud to wear her school's T-shirt at Family Fun Night.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Little Ironies

April 9 - 13 is Tornado Awareness Week here in Wisconsin and today we are under a Winter Storm Warning, getting lots of heavy wet snow with blowing and drifting and 1/4 mile visability.

Hey, its the upper Midwest in early April

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Welcome Spring!!

On Tuesday evening, at about 7:00 we ushered in Spring here in the midwest. Our preparations for the Ostara (Spring Equinox) celebration began on Saturday with coloring eggs. Look at those gorgeous dyes - no pre-packaged pellets - just food dye, vinegar and boiling water. The colors were just great on the eggs - soft and new looking - like a water color painting.

Egg dying and decorating is deep-rooted in European pre-Christian cultures as the egg sympbolizes fertility and new life. Women who wanted to become pregnant would often wear a finely decorated egg to help bring about the hope of a new little life. Today, they symbolize the beauty of the season for us and bringing ferility of new ideas, new ventures, new beginnings into our lives at spring time.

And, of course, hunting the eggs is always great fun. Our egg hunt was last night - on our first full day of spring - in Bev and Karen's yard. Their yard and the weather were perfect examples of spring. There were left-over snow piles, all crusty with the melting and refreezing that happens when the days warm, but the nights are still cold. There were mud holes deep enough to swallow a small child from those places where the snow had completely melted and there were barren branches in the trees and bushes, waiting for the new buds. The weather provided lots of spring-time drama with temps in the lower 50's, fog, rain and then a series of good old thunderstorms. We got in the egg hunt between one down-pour and the next thunderstorm.

Of course these eggs were hidden by the infamous Bunny - again this furry magical creature has its roots in pre-Christian and Pagan traditions. The rabbit is understood to be a goddess who has taken on an animal form to bring newness and fertility (think about all of those babies rabbits have!) to the world in the early spring.

Friday, March 16, 2007


The U.S. war in Iraq is one of those things that often takes up space in my mind - it is there on a sub-conscious level and on a conscious one - my saddness and anger are quick to rise about it. However, I got an additional perspective on it the other day which blows me away - and saddens me ever further.

One morning this week we walked out of our house to get the girls to school to find a flyer from the Madison Area Peace Coalition posted on the telephone pole at the end of our driveway, declaring that there is to be a rally tomorrow (Saturday) to mark the 4th year of the war in Iraq and calling once again for an end to that war.

Fourth year and moving into our fifth!! This war started in March 2003. Gemma was 1.5 years old - she's now 5.5 years old. The magnitude of this has been sitting with me all week. We've been at war with Iraq nearly this child's entire life - and certainly as long as she can remember. This just saddens me to the bone and frustrates me to the quick!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You Are Kermit

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Peanut - a male dwarf hamster
Adoption Day - Saturday, March 3, 2007

He's not a dog (sniff-sniff from my point of view) though he's darn cute!!!

Rowan has been asking for a dwarf hamster for quite a while. We went to a pet shop we trust - no mill pets there, all hand-raised by the staff. This little guy has the sweetest disposition - very gentle, very friendly.

Look in the foreground - recoginize what those are? Yep, Luna's ears! She's very curious, more so than any of the other cats. After having to survive on small creatures like this as a young cat, I'm sure its very confusing about why we have a rodent in the house that she's not allowed to eat. She leaves Peanut be when he's in his house though - especially given that he's on bookshelf not large enough for her to stand.

The girls pooled their own money to get him and all of his accessories - a very smart investment on their part. He is well-loved.

Welcome Peanut!

Faery Family

Whose who?

March Maddness - Koester-Jess Style

It's true
*Madison just hosted state girls high school basketball tournaments last weekend.
*Madison will host the high school boys this weekend.
*Our University of Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team is ranked very high and are headed into NCAA play-offs.

HOWEVER, this si not the March Madness of which I speak. We had our own family version this past week.

First up is Rowan. She joined an afterschool league run by Madison School and Community Recreation. Initally she was hesitant to join the league since its a 3rd through 5th grade league and she hadn't played before, she wondered if she'd feel comfortable playiing with kids with more experience. After reminding her that there would be other inexperienced kids there, she agreed to give it a go, though she wasn't thrilled about the games. day came on Tuesday, she started the experience in tears, having forgotten her tennis shoes for warm-up and the coaches not being able to find her team shirt. Her classroom teacher, who is absolutely wonderful, stepped in to help and I had a moment between meetngs, so I ran to the school with her shoes so she could warm up. By the time we arrived near the start of game time, her attitude had done a 180, she was pumped and ready to play. Her biggest complaint about the expeirence was that she didn't get to play enough! Yes, she loved it!!

She's a great runner and keeps up with the ball well, knows when to hang back for defense and when to move in for offense - all skills she's acquired through her years of playing soccer. As you can see from the picture though, her next level of skill development is getting those hands ready to receive a pass or go in to steal the ball. All that soccer training has taught her to keep hands tight to her sides to avoid a handball, rather than to have them up and ready for a basketball.

Not to be outdone by her oldest daughter, Jani played basketball on both Thursday and Friday afternoons. Every year Evans Scholars ( does a weekend basketball-a-thon to help raise funds for four local organizations, Jani's program, working with homeless kids in the schools has been a recipient for many years. The agreement is that her school host a few teams to play the Scholars -
*one team of fourth and fifth grade aged kids.
*one team of school staff members.
*one team of afterschool program staff members.

The kids typically play the school staff the day before the basketball-a-thon to get in practice. Jani played that game.

She was happy to only have to play for a little while on Friday afternoon against the college folks. Don't you love her basketball playing outfit - as you can see she was thinking she might not have to play at all, decked out instead of a t-shirt in her UW Badgers shirt, jeans and tennies. She kept stats and is show here sharing those with the school's prinicipal who also played.

Now as if that wasn't enough, the girls participated in a gymnastics exhibition on Saturday morning. It was a non-competitive meet where they each got to show off their skills. Gemma's favorite activities are on the bars - the little girl has incredible upper body strength. She's also great at tumbling. Rowan loves and is really good at the trampuline and beam. Here they are getting their trophies at the end of the exhibition. Gemma is so proud of hers. Thanks to cousin Carrie and Marsha for coming to watch this event and have lunch with us to celebrate afterward.

Gosh, it appears I was the only one not doing some sort of sport this weekend. Oh well, now that the weather is shifting into spring I can get back to walking, running and biking. Rowan and I are planning to train for a spring run - probably Race for the Cure, a fall run - most likely the Canterbury Run for LIteracy and an early winter run - the JingleBell Run for the Arthitis Foundation in December.

Tampontification - Donating is Just a Click Away

Seventh Generation, a company that makes chemically safe cleaning products and dye-free, chemical-free hygiene supplies has a donation link on their website at where we each can help donate tampons and pads to women's shelters around the country. Often women's shelters can provide basic hygiene items, but are often in need of feminine hygiene things. I know when Jani collects donations for her families, rarely have I seen these things come in for the moms and older girls. And, these things are expensive and often are not covered by programs like food stamps or WIC. It's a simple way to make a donation and appears to be legit.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Adventures in Felting

Remember washing a favorite wool sweater in water that was too warm and having it shrink to the size of something a doll could wear and just being bummed to no end? Well, now shrinking wool items is an intentional art form with gobs and gobs of patterns available on "felted" items. Who knew that someone would figure out how to take a disasterous moment and making it into art!

I decided I wanted to try my hand at this - it not only produces cool results, its a great little science project and guestimation process of how big (small) will this thing turn out. I wanted to make felted cloggs (house slippers like the pricey ones you can get at REI), but thought it best to start with a less labor intensive felting project first to get the hang of it.

While surfing the website one day, I cam across a pattern developed by a high schooler for a felted lunch bag. Here's the link The idea of a woool felted lunch bag struck me as both unusual and interesting. The felt would serve as a great natural insulator and it sure could be pretty neat to look at.

So off I went to Lakeside Fibers to get some felting yarn. I settled on Cascade 220. After starting to knitt he base, I could see that the original pattern was just going to be too small to hold a kid's lunch - a high schooler's yes, a kid's lunch complete with soy milk carton and a thermos of soup, no way. So I ripped out, increased the number of stitches cast on and the number of rows. As the bag neared completion of the knitting, it was HUGE - like the size of one of those messh eco-shopping bags and I wondered if I'd made a critical error in judgement by increasing the pattern. Here's the bag before felting.
Here's the bag after felting - about 3 sizes smaller than the original knitted size - lovely, soft and thick - a nice thing to hold one's lunch, good and thermal.

It needs a button clusure yet and then it will be ready to hold Rowan's lunch - yes, she's laid dibs on it which is great because her lunch bag needs to desperately e retired!! She's going to use it for a bit and then we'll evaluate whether it needs a handle. I can easily add one if needed.

I've got yarn chosen to make another of these to donate to the Lapham/Marquette Schools silent auction coming up at the end of April. First though I am making a felted eye glass case for Jani's sunglasses.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day - March 8

Today is International Women's Day. Read more about the day and its history at The above image is from their site.

The theme for this year's IWD is ending violence against woman - wow, I would love to see that happen in my life time.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Irish Hiking Scarf Completed

On Friday evening I completed my first cable knit project - an Irish Hiking Scarf which is about 55 inches long. I knitted the scarf with wool ease and used a soy/wool blend for the fringe. Thanks to Jani for helping me put on the fringe. The scarf is a gift for our friend, Marsha. Here's a picture of the cables up close. I decided to teach myself how to cable because -
a) I didn't know how, so it was something new to learn.
b) I love how they look and wanted to be able to create something lovely
c) cabling has its roots in Celtic culture, so I liked learning something that is an old world art.

An on-line friend found the pattern at Hello Yarn - web address is

Now I'm on to making a felted lunch sack for Rowan. She is in dire need of a new lunch box - hers has served the family well - having been one Jani used well before Rowan's time. I've not felted before, so decided this was a good project for learning to felt, since the box needs to fit food - but not feet (felted cloggs are also on my list of projects to do.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Club Penguin we go...Rowan is entering into the world of on-line computer games.

Jani just got a call from Rowan, who is at her afterschool program, asking what time we plan to pick her up today. She and her friend want to get to each of their respective houses at about the same time so each can log onto Club Penguin at and their virtual penguins can hang out together.

We're fine with Club Penguin (and Webkins for that matter too) in moderation. It just makes me realize though that our little girl isn't so little anymore - she's getting more savvy about the opportunities in the bigger world.

Well, at least she hasn't asked for her own cell phone or iPod yet.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


March begins the second month of Imbolic - just three more weeks until the solar year shifts us into Spring Time. Hm, I wonder what spring will bring?

Today began much like a lion - we are right at the freezing line in a big late winter storm - lots of snow to our north and west - lots of rain to our south, along with thunderstorms. We had freezing rain, sleet and snow falling from our skies last night and this morning.

Ever wonder where the old folk saying about the lion and lamb came from?

Some astronomers believe that the answer might come from the stars - coupling the understanding of star movement with weather patterns. Tonight, if it were clear here, we could look to the northern horizon. We would see both Leo, the Lion (in the northeast) and Aries, the Ram (lamb) in the northwest at about the same height, however Leo is rising - and often early March climate in our area comes in rocky - thus March coming in like a lion. And, on March 31st, the night sky isn't the same - the stars have found new positions in the sky - with Leo overhead and Aries sinking into the west - thus going down/out like a lamb.

Well, this year, thus far, the constellation patterns and weather patterns match up, as the rising Aries in the night sky and the Lion of the weather are in cync.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wow - Idaho!

On those days when I am bemoaning the state of the political climate in Wisconsin (which hopefully is moving back toward being progressive), all I have to do is look towards Idaho to get some perspective.

A friend on an email list who lives in Idaho shared a news story with us that still leaves my jaw hanging down. This week a committee in one of their state houses killed a measure to enstate minimum safety requirements for daycares. Why, might one ask, would anyone not want to see even minimal standards for the places where thousands of little kids spend their days? Well, several members of the committee felt very strongly that mothers should be home with their chldren and that no child should ever have to go to a daycare. Because their belief in the premise of "the woman's place is in the home" was so strong, they killed legislation to create minimum safety standards for daycares!!

Now usually I work in my life to extent curiosity - to set my judgments aside until I learn more - well, its a little hard to do here as it seems to me a leap of logic that spans the width of the Grand Canyon was made here.

Hmm, if we have substandard daycare, goes the logic, than moms won't want to send their kids and they'll stay home with them and we'll fulfill our "American dream" of the little woman at home with the kids.

I'm quite sure that will work wonderfully for
*single moms who have to work to house, clothe and feed their children - if they stayed "home" with them, home could end up being a homeless shelter.

*two working parents trying to make ends meet.

*women who know they parent better when other parts of their lives are fulfilled too.

There's nothing classist or sexist in this decision is there?

My "favorite" quote from the article was from a Representative who said that he felt children who weren't home with their mothers all day would be harmed by the experience of the separation. Sure, the kids in daycares might be harmed - not from the experience of being away from mom during the day - rather from the potentially hazardous conditions in the daycare.


Monday, February 26, 2007

What To Do with 18 Inches of Snow

Measure it!
Rowan and Gemma measured snow fall amounts in three places in the yard Sunday afternoon and got an average of 18 inches of snow fall. Our official city total was 15 inches. It wasn't that light, fluffy "story-book" snow - it was wet and heavy. Sunday afternoon's snow came in the form of wet glops that plopped onto our heads!

Sled in it!

Build with it!
This stuff was awesome packing snow - great for making snow caves - here's Gemma with her feet sticking out of a snow cave the girls built.
Shovel it!
It took us about two hours on Saturday morning and nearly 3 on Sunday to shovel. Jani forged a path off the driveway to our garbage cans and recycling bin.
And shovel some more!!
Don't ya' just love the mound of hard pack that the snow plow leaves at the end of the driveway! Impressive pile of snow that Rowan is standing on, wouldn't you say?

Figure out where to put it all!!
Jani is six feet tall, so that gives some sense of how tall our snow piles are. We are due to get more on Thursday. I don't know where to put more!!

And have gratitude for one's situation!!
I'm glad to say this is NOT our car!! There were several plowed in like this on our street. Our college-aged neighbors, snow shovel-less, borrowed our shovels to dig themselves out. They had no shovels. One wonders how you can manage to live in Wisconsin in the winter without a shovel!! Borrow one form your neighbors I guess! Anyway, they did finish shoveling the snow pack at the end of our driveway as a "thank-you" for the shovel loan which was great!!

And celebrate Gemma's Half Birthday!
On Saturday Gemma turned 5.5! We celebrated with her favorite meal - pasta! The table decor is her design - a Halloween tablecloth of black with glittering spider webs, candles, our fancy flatware and her Fiestaware tea service that matches our Fiestaware dishes.
At 5.5, she has lost two teeth (both on the bottom), just brought home a great report card from kindergarten and had a blast playing in all of the snow with her sissy.
Many gratitudes!
While some complained about our big snow fall, I had lots to be grateful for-
*A nice warm home to come to after our shoveling and play time - I got in lots of knitting this weekend!!
*The laughter of kids having a BLAST in all that snow!!
*A healthy body to be able to shovel it all.
*A strong partner to help.
*Above average winter snow fall to help restore our water table, so our mother earth can be beautiful and green in the spring and summer.
*The knowledge that it is late February and Spring Equinox will be upon us before we know it!