Tracking Time

wheelofyear2018Two weeks ago, I hand-drew a pagan wheel of the year. It included four seasons, eight sabbats, and the twelve months of the Gregorian calendar. I labeled everything in ink, and gave it to my son to color in as he saw fit. It took over two hours to work on, because he had a number of questions about each season, sabbat, and month, which allowed us to really delve into how we track an annual cycle.

He was especially concerned that the colors be accurate, and being unsure of much of it, turned my questions about how he felt during certain seasons or holidays around, asking me what colors they conjured for me. Some of my answers affected the colors he chose, but others were entirely of his own choosing–especially December. When I mentioned that Yule, the longest night, was in December, instead of coloring it pine green or holly berry red, he chose black for the darkness of a long winter’s night.

WheelofDays.jpgThe project was so successful, he wanted to “turn” the wheel every day, and was frustrated that he’d have to wait for May to end before turning it to June. So, I found a circle divided into sevenths, printed it out, and labeled it. Gods help me, I momentarily forgot how to spell “Wednesday” and had to print out a second copy to correct it, but once labeled, he set about coloring it with the same seriousness he had the annual wheel.

It took almost as long, because our discussion turned toward the history of the names. Now he only refers to Thursday as “Thor’s Day,” but he refuses to call Friday “Frigga’s Day,” because he thinks it should be “Fries Day” (hence the red ketchup and yellow mustard colors on the wheel). Between discussing mythology (Norse, Greek, and Roman), how days “feel,” and the importance of getting it “right,” he spent over an hour on it.

Now he looks forward to announcing turning the day wheel and having me check it. Sometimes more than once a day. ūüėČ

My next goal is to have him make a moon phase calendar he can adjust daily, but haven’t come up with a decent project that will work as a daily calendar, though I did like the cleverness of this moon phase cup project, but want to make something with him that can be stuck to the fridge with a magnet like the other two, because anything made with a cup will get shuffled, damaged, and eventually tossed out from neglect. After that? The solar system!

EDIT: Apologies, I meant to upload a blank copy of each, but it appears I never scanned (or failed to save the scan) for the hand drawn wheel of the year. Here, at least is the template I used for the wheel of days.

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The End of Spring

Dragon in a Hat at a Puerto Rican restaurant.  Hat by Sweetheart Toppers

Dragon in a Hat at a Puerto Rican restaurant. Hat by Sweetheart Toppers

Spring may have ended on Beltane (May 1st), but for us, our spring activities came to a close Monday when my son’s final Tiny Treks adventure celebrated at the instructor’s house.

Monday was the last day of Tiny Treks. We went to the main teacher’s house and saw her bunny and played in her backyard and …

… and C insisted we had to go onto one of the boats. Not the paddle boat. Not the kayak. He wanted the canoe. Understand, I haven’t been in a canoe in thirty years. In fact, it’s probably near the anniversary of my canoe trip at a summer day camp when I was 7. I loved it when I was a kid; I felt like a god of the water. I sat at the back and led our boat safely around the bend.

Finding a life jacket big enough for me wasn’t easy, but there was one. Sort of. It closed, but my breasts pushed it up at a 45 degree angle. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to paddle, so I sat up front. C and another child sat in the middle, and her mom sat at the back. Neither of us knew what we were doing, but we made a good pass around Cottage Lake, and even landed back safely at the dock from which we started not too long after. There was an almost-collision with the paddle boat, but we all stopped and drifted together, then gave the paddle boat a shove to get them off and moving.

It was exhilarating, a little scary, but I’m glad I did it. C is elated. He LOVED it. He wants to go again.

So there you have it. 30 years after my first canoe experience, I finally had my second. And we all survived.¬† Someone took a picture of us, but I haven’t yet heard back about getting a copy of it as proof.

On the same day, my daughter completed an online orientation and registered for fall classes at the community college where she’ll begin her Running Start journey toward both a high school diploma and an Associates degree.¬† Since it took longer to register due to miscommunication from three different counselors, she wasn’t able to get her desired courses.¬† The first quarter REQUIRED course was full as a stand-alone class.¬† They did have it as an integrated studies course, though, so instead of Engl 101, she’ll be taking a combination of her required class and a psychology course, along with the Japanese we thought she’d not be able to get into first year.

So it’s done.¬† We pay fees toward the end of summer, buy books in September, attend a third orientation (how many times can you use the word and still leave it with any meaning?).

Spring of this year has gone, and in some ways, the spring of my daughter’s life is heating up toward her many years of summer.¬† Come fall, my focus will be far more focused on my son, and I’m already trying to find a routine that we can settle into for both seasons.

My partner struggles as well with this closing of a chapter, where we collaborated on educating our daughter together.¬† Most of her studies will happen at college, and though we’ll be around to answer questions and offer guidance, this is a journey she’ll be walking mostly on her own and the responsibilities and consequences will be far steeper than those she’s experienced at home.¬† We’ve scheduled eleven weeks of home prep — my partner wrapping up what he most wishes to impart upon her, and me working with her on the final books I think she most needs to read (and the essays she needs to practice).

Good bye, spring.  Hello, summer.

Autumn Outdoor Adventures

The autumn chill is setting in, at least for most of each day, the farmers markets are abundant with harvest foods like corn and squash, and the rain has brought relief from the worst drought Washington state has ever seen. ¬†Though it’s getting colder, the afternoons are still generally warm and unseasonably sunny, so we’re taking advantage of them. ¬†Some of these may seem old hat standards, but I challenge you in each one to find something new within your own sphere of resources.

Little hands feed tomatoes to piglets at KIS Farm, Redmond, WA.

Little hands feed tomatoes to piglets at KIS Farm, Redmond, WA.

FARMS

Every year we, and many other families, head out to local farms. ¬†For some people, it’s the only time of year they visit a farm, when most growth has died back, and the last of the bounty is ready to be claimed, especially in the form of future jack-o-lanterns. ¬†But hidden around every community are farms which prove undervalued gems. ¬†Take a look at a map of farms in your area — Google Maps is great for this — and try to find the one absolutely closest to you. ¬†If you’ve been to it before, skip it and move to the next closest. ¬†For us, we recently discovered that we’re just a FIVE MINUTE DRIVE from an incredible resource: KIS Farm.

They’re not only a good source for farming needs, including livestock feed, but they’ve got a lot of livestock on site for children to come and experience. ¬†Learning is central to their mission, and there are even parent-child preschool classes each season! ¬†We’ll be signing up for one in spring, if I have my way.

We cuddled¬†chickens, fed piglets, and took a walk by a hidden stream. ¬†KIS Farm has been on Avondale for about three years now, but everytime we passed it, I just dismissed it as a place that didn’t concern us unless we needed some good soil. ¬†Boy how I was wrong! ¬†This is going to be our default field trip spot whenever we don’t have a lot of time in the future!

We’ll still be heading out to our favorite corn maze this year (as we have in years past), and in the next couple of weeks, I’m determined to head to Woodinville Lavender to take a quick tour and grab some of their fragrant harvest, though we’ll be sure to visit when the flowers are in bloom.

“The bee is in the lavender, the honey fills the comb.”

Kushiel’s Dart¬†by Jacqueline Carey

HIKING TRAILS

You’re not likely to find a lot of berries left on trails this time of year, but with many trees turned red, orange, yellow, or gone bare, the changed landscape can make even the most familiar of hikes seem a new mystery to explore. ¬†Whether you’ve got a favorite, well-worn trail your family visits again and again, or your’e just heading out for your first time along a strange path, keep note of what you see. Mark places on a map or in a journal that seem particularly noteworthy. ¬†Come back again in winter, spring, and summer, to see how each has changed.

And don’t worry too much about weather. ¬†Unless there’s chance of real bodily harm (e.g. lightning strikes, flash floods, hurricanes, etc.), around here, I’m teaching my kids¬†the old Scandinavian wisdom, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”

GARDENING

Spring may be four or five months off, but there’s no reason to let the garden go unnoticed. ¬†There are plenty of spots that need care this time of year, and children can be a great help. ¬†Though we don’t have much luck with bulb plants thanks to our neighborhood slug thugs, we do find it’s the best time of year to plant winter greens like lamb’s lettuce (a.k.a. mache, corn salad), to cut back overgrowth from the summer, and to plan for the next year’s plantings. ¬†This is also the time of year for nurturing the soil with cover crops, natural fertilizers, and compost.

We’re doing a lot of work in our yard to reshape it and take claim of more land from the forest surrounding us. ¬†Next year, if we keep working through fall and winter, we should have plenty of space to play with, and plenty of structures to use to do so. ¬†We’ll be employing a lot of permaculture techniques such as keyhole gardens, herb spiral, vertical planting, and bermaculture (planting on a mound in which several logs have been placed to rot).

ROLEPLAYING

Dresden Codak’s Historical Preenactment Society T-Shirt “Because the best history has yet to happen.”

We talk a lot about roleplaying here, in part because we’re consummate gamers. ¬†I had to stop gaming for the most part because I’d actually shown signs of addiction in my teens and early twenties. ¬†But when it comes to having fun with my kids, live action roleplaying is a fantastic way to teach history, culture, creativity, strategy, and so much more. ¬†It engages our bodies, gets us outside, and gets us interacting in cooperative ways. ¬†There are enough game systems¬†out there now, that you can do more than historical reenactment or high fantasy, though both are quite fun for their own merit. ¬†You can be vampires, werewolves, urban wizards, modern fairies, a starship crew, and on and on.

Or if you want to buck most systems and just create your own fun adventures outside, might I suggest taking a page from the web comic Dresden Codak and engage in some Historical Preenactment? (Though I do recommend, if you’re new to roleplaying, at least look at the rule systems for a given game, so you can have a basis upon which to play. ¬†Make certain it’s a LARP or Live Action Role Play game.) ¬†Let the kids extrapolate what the future holds, and play to their imaginations!

CLIMB A TREE OR SOME ROCKS

I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to climbing things, but my daughter has loved climbing up vertical surfaces since she was her brother’s age. ¬†At one and a half, she scaled a bookshelf almost to the top before I could stop her. She loved climbing walls (supervised) and climbing trees (whenever I wasn’t looking, or she was with friends) through her childhood. ¬†My son isn’t big on climbing so much as riding, but he’s also not old enough to participate in the Tree Climbing classes presented by a local teacher. ¬†If you’re in the Seattle/Eastside area, I’d recommend checking out Katie Oakley. ¬†She’s both an amazing tree climbing teacher, but also a swim teacher to little ones (she works at the pool my son used to take lessons). ¬†Make sure, whatever you’re climbing, to wear protective clothing, good shoes, and reliable safety gear.

NATURE SCAVENGER HUNTS

Whether you’re gardening in your back yard, hiking through trails, battling in the park, running through mazes of corn, or just taking a light stroll through the neighborhood, take a look around you. ¬†Start looking at what has fallen in the Fall. ¬†Make a game of finding one of each of a type of object (e.g. one acorn, one red leaf, etc.) with which to create a collage, or gather several of one item (e.g. whole, fallen leaves, tiny pine cones, etc.; leave the nuts for the critters that need them) in order to make pressed art. ¬†When I was little, one of my favorite projects was ironing leaves between two sheets of wax paper and hanging them as ornaments.With my son being so young, I think we’ll be making leaf art for the next few autumns because I adore it so much. ¬†We also need to replenish our tiny pine cone collection, since he tossed our former one all over the floor and they were crushed or soiled as they are wont to be when thrown on the floor and left to tiny feet and paws.

VOLUNTEER

Whether your children are small or working their way through high school, volunteering your time as a family can be a rewarding adventure.  Clean up a local park, fundraise or hold food and clothing drives in the community, or help out an elderly or disabled neighbor with their yard work.

And speaking of clothing drives: the homeless in our communities suffer most in these cold months, and while many people who donate food, sweaters, and pants, too often the most needed goods get forgotten: ¬†socks, sleeping bags, hats, and mittens in all sizes (children are homeless too). Women could use donated sterile pads, and families with infants need diapers. ¬†If you can go door-to-door or hold a local drive, you’ll be doing a great service to those most in need.

Welcoming Spring: Book Recommendations

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At the end of my recent post at Hearth, Heart, & Home, I offered my pagan readers a short list of five picture books to encourage children to tend the earth and grow something. I’ll expand on each of them here:

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono – I can’t promote this book enough. With simple woodblock prints and an easy, yet profound tale, this is a treasure. I reviewed this before when my daughter and I first discovered it, recommended by a summer camp she attended.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney – This tale tells a similar tale as the one above, but this is of Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady. Having fulfilled her first two life goals, she sets about attempting to achieve the third: to make the world more beautiful. When I discovered this in a bookstore, I cried at the end and was compelled to hand over my money to the book clerk.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown – this is the tale of Liam, an unusual boy who takes walks in a bleary, industrial town, and accidentally becomes a gardener. The plants are patient with him while he figures it out. The transformation of his town is told more in the art than the words, and each jovial illustration has much to see. Look closer with each read. There’s bound to be something you missed before!

The Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall – A family’s annual cycle of life comes full-circle in this tale of a man selling his family’s handmade goods.

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman – Wesley bucks the trends of his peers and seeks to start his own civilization based on certain facts he’s learned from school. See his summer science project come to life as he grows Weslandia.