Category: Homeschool

Chef Popo

As part of school, the Popo is learning to cook.  I print out simple instructions, lay out measuring utensils and we name off the ingredients together as seen in the above photo.  Anything hot or dangerous is still done by me, but the rest of it is solely up to the Po.  While I put together some chili for dinner last night, Popo made us cornbread from scratch:  


Preheat Oven to 425 degrees F. 

Sift together:

·      1 Cup Med Grind Cornmeal

·      1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

·      ½ (Half) Teaspoon Salt

·      4 Teaspoons Baking Powder

·      1 Tablespoons Sugar


Next add,

·      1 Cup Milk

·      1 Egg

·      ¼ (Quarter) Cup Butter

Combine and blend well.

Pour into greased 8-inch square pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.   ( Serves 6-8 )

Today we visited the Riverbank Zoo in Columbia, SC. The girls rode ponies and saw a hatchling flamingo.  They also sang with monkeys, fed goats, petted tortoises and heard a tiger MEOW.  (And I even had the opportunity to see several leopard sharks up close and personal).  The zoo is also somewhat self-sustainable with massive gardens full of veggies and herbs.  

This was our first visit in the daytime to the neighboring city to the south and I was impressed with how tropical it felt.  In only an hour and 45-minutes, we went from the mountains to a place that felt much like Florida with its native vegetation unlike anything I had seen before, as varied and bountiful as the tropics (there was a tree with leaves far larger around than the length of my hand).

The all-time cutest exhibits were the koala bear and meerkat habitats.   The koalas were napping and had curled themselves up comfy into the arms of tree-branches.  One meerkat took a fascination with me and I swear behaved as if we were doing a Vogue photo-shoot.  

When asked what the girls enjoyed most, for the older two it was the pony trail-ride (although milking the fake cow was right up there).

Our littlest giggled when the goats literally climbed the fence to eat out of her hand.  They were sweet-natured and beautiful goats with shaggy colorful coats.  And what personality!  

We crossed a bridge over the Saluda River (Columbia marks the convergence of the Broad and Saluda) and saw the old stone foundation of a bridge that was burned during the Civil War.  In the peace and shade on the other side, we rested (and remembered the automatic features of my camera).

Afterward, we visited the elephants, giraffes and the sea-lion a little boy emphatically suggested we see.  I was certain the elephants were Asian elephants for their size, but through the crowds, I read something about Africa on the signs.  We were on some kind of deck above the enclosure, so perhaps the elephants appeared smaller.  Regardless, they were gorgeous creatures caught red from bathing in the Carolina clay.  

And how difficult it must be for a giraffe to eat grass when it feels so inclined!  We saw first-hand how they do it.  

We concluded our day with a visit to Erick’s uncle’s 18th century stagecoach house where the girls enjoyed tractor rides around the property while we sat on the front porch sipping iced-tea.


On August 24th, 79AD, one day following Vulcanalia, the Roman festival for the god of fire, Mt Vesuvius erupted and buried the town of Pompeii in layers of ash and pumice.  At the time, those living in Pompeii were not even aware that the beautiful mountain dominating their horizon was an active volcano.  In fact, the hadn’t even a word yet for volcano in their vocabulary.

Charlotte, NC was one of only four cities in the United States granted permission to display for the next few months artifacts and the body casts of people, pets and even livestock uncovered in Pompeii.  

Today I took the girls to the exhibit.  I knew I couldn’t fully explain the devastation, so I did my best to help them understand what we would be seeing once we entered the exhibit by showing them a BBC film about the disaster and also by talking about what life would have been like for people living 2000 years ago.  

Inside the museum we saw frescos – (and we learned the word fresco translated into English means “fresh” and described the method of painting murals while the plaster was still wet, or fresh) – preserved by the hot ash ovens with bread still inside, jewelry, currency, and several types of amphorae which were large ceramic vessels that held oil, wine, fish or grain.  Inscribed on one of these amphora was the Latin word “Auctus” which gave rise to our English word meaning auction.  The writing also described the day the piece was sold at auction, “under a blue sky” and the name of either the buyer or the seller.  This information was relayed to us by a scholar and actress dressed as if she had just walked out of the first century.     

I didn’t realize we would be seeing the body-casts.  We were lead down a dark hall into a darkened room where only the eerie white casts of bodies could be seen.  These casts were made by Giuseppe Fiorelli who excavated the site during the nineteenth century.  According to Wiki, “During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realised these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies…”  Fiorelli devised a way of injecting plaster into the molds thus preserving the bodies of victims of Vesuvius down to the expressions on their faces.  

Even I was not prepared for the emotions that swept through me.  And my youngest begged to go home.  The sight was both compelling and humbling:   The dog chained and without hope of surviving; the couple holding each-other in one final embrace; the slaves whose legs were bound; the woman who tried in vain to cover her face with a cloth against the toxic plume; the pig whose ribs shown through patches of thick skin.  The images will haunt me for some time.  Not in the bad way you might imagine, but in a way that reminds us of our own mortality and keeps us present in the moment.  These casts are the ghosts of our history and they tell their own stories to us individually.  

A walk through uptown concluded our day in Pompeii where our cityscape, though taller, is not all that different.  We still build monuments to ourselves of marble and adorn these buildings with art and sculpture.  We walk the crowded streets full of bustling commerce.  And we walk among those more or less fortunate than ourselves in that imaginary hierarchy that means little in the scheme of things; for the slaves of Pompeii are remembered and revered alongside the wealthiest and most influential members of their society. 

Above: Bronze statues at Trade and Tryon, the Hearst Tower (my favorite building)

And I can’t leave out the gals who had a splendid adventure.  I love that Wolfy is just fixated on the Bank of America tower.  You can’t see the top when your standing at street level – it’s pretty magical for a little person.

I’m so sick of being treated like a lesser woman because I’m not gainfully employed while working as a mother to three children.  I’m not a SOCCER MOM (what the hell does this mean, really?!), or a STAY AT HOME MOM (I get out of the house plenty to walk the dog, get groceries, a walk in the park, etc.), or UNEMPLOYED (for tax-purposes only – if I were paid for the job I do, I’d be making six-figures), I used to write STUDENT as my profession because I was embarrassed to say MOTHER.  

When you get right down to it, what career is more important than motherhood?  We’re shaping the future.  Of course, I am not going to ask women not to work outside the home, but I would appreciate some RESPECT for the work I do as both a mother and person.  

I mean even those women labeled “soccer moms” whomever you are – I can only picture an AYSO soccer bumper-sticker on the back some mini-van – are individuals first before they fall under some broad-umbrella title.  We all share the same concerns over our children’s future; we all worry about things like global climate change, dental health, schools and education, crime-stats, time and yeah, even stuff like soccer schedules.  

Anyway, I just needed to vent.  I’ve not experienced much of this in Charlotte.  Actually quite the opposite!  A man behind me in line practically balled me out the other day when I apologized for taking too long getting my bags out of his way.  He said, “We should be helping you!  You’re the one balancing six bags of groceries and three children.”  No, I didn’t check for a ring.  🙂

My oldest is learning to sew.  Her first project was a sock doll, she calls Quad.  The project book, Stupid Sock Creatures, labels him “Claude,” but I think Quad suits him nicely with his four bulbous appendages. We all figured this would cheer Erick up at work, so we’re making him carry Quad to the office this morning.  That in itself; the image of my husband dressed in a suit carrying the stripped sock creature under his arm, is enough to keep me smiling for the rest of the day.

Everyone with children in Charlotte will tell you (if you also have children) to visit Discovery Place in Uptown, Charlotte.  It’s quite costly ($100/family membership), so we had not yet gone, but today we took the train to 6th St. heading for the Mint Museum of Art and after listening to the girls groan the whole way there, I decided it was time to check out DP conveniently located less than a block away.  

Wow!  With the thought that $100 might have been better spent elsewhere, we entered the long, dark corridor to the dinosaur exhibit.  A full-size replica tyrannosaurus skeleton stood at the entry mid-roar.  I actually shivered at the size of its jaws.  The girls ran up ahead to a full-size metal brontosaurus skeleton and I followed reading the placards beneath each exhibit.  

A sign up ahead advertised a “Paleontology Dig,” so I asked the man how much and he told me $2 per child.  I paid him, grumbling to myself about the additional charge for digging up plastic dino bones in a sandbox, but was stopped mid-thought when I entered a room full of neat artifacts, tables and tools of the trade along with two scientists dressed as paleontologists (though one was a biologist and the other a physicist).  They welcomed us and explained that the large buckets given to each child were full of sediment from a sulfur mine in Aurora, NC.  While watching my collection of Shark Week videos I had heard of this site, famous for megalodon teeth, and was thrilled to see buckets filled with untampered prehistoric remnants.  

The girls began to sort through the buckets and immediately found shark teeth, coral, spines from urchins, shells, and even some dino poo.  I know the girls loved it, and I was equally enthralled.  The attentive scientists helped us determine the species of shark to which our teeth belonged and then asked us if we had yet visited the aquarium downstairs?  Aquarium?  It just got better from there. We ran from exhibit to exhibit exploring, learning, observing eels and nurse sharks, touching live horse-shoe crabs and talking with parrots in the rain forest atrium complete with a two-story waterfall.  And to think there’s still more to see!  

There’s even a room dedicated to small children where you can play in water, sand, dress up as dinosaurs and, from the perspective of our kids, meet other kids.  

Afterward we walked over to Erick’s office and heard an incredible band playing on the street.  And all of this on a beautiful sunny summer-like day.

Last night on our menu: Soup with spice!  I finally decided to buy some spices: Dill, basil, lemon pepper, and rosemary, though I only used the middle two in the soup.  Yum.  




In order by age:


I asked the youngest to draw a picture of home, and she drew a spaceship:


I think your social security card should read: Do not keep on your person, unless you’re a super fly ninja guy.

Christy and I had a psychic moment the other evening. I called her phone from Erick’s phone at the same time she was calling my phone, so I interrupted her call to me. We’re still surfing the same brain waves.

Ava and I were coloring in her Mermaid coloring book and she asked me to color Ursula, the bad, bad octopus lady. While I was coloring, Ava innocently asked, “What color are you going to make her testicles?”

Similarly, I asked Erick why all the Petoskey creatures chose to live in Petoskey. Seriously, I love that the Petoskey stone necklace I wear around my neck could only come from home.

Have you ever looked at your name?  See anything?  I see sunshine in my name.

And lastly, I finally get the Lord of the Rings, though I still think it should be called the Hobbit and the Very Bad Ring. And between watching the film adaptation of the trilogy and Conchords, I am convinced New Zealand is the coolest place in the world.

We made tacos last night and proved to ourselves food does not have to be pretty to be tasty.


The living room during lessons…


Celli being a beagle… I was doing some reading on beagles and found they are one of the most loyal breeds, bonding with the pack and as excitable as a terrier.  Ours is excitable only in the morning.


The kitchen…


Some architectural features.  Did I mention I looked at a house yesterday that was so grotesque, I actually gagged?  Paneling and animal pelts as far as the eye could see…  This apartment on the other hand offers an open, airy feeling and the only animal pelt is being worn by the animal.


A little office-nook…


And this is where the magic happens…  Isn’t it the perfect example of utilitarian?  Our bed is still in Michigan along with most of our life, but soon….


At least the rooms are gigantic… And the bathrooms and closets echo that vastness of space…  (sorry about the mess)


This concludes our tour.  The girls also have a gimongo bath and closet.  Lot’s of places to hide baskets full of prizes for the holiday.  HAPPY EASTER!

Four years doesn’t seem all that long, except for that time Bush was elected to office or my first day of High School.  For four years, we’ve lived in this house. And in that time, we’ve made it home.

This wasn’t our first house, but it has most definitely been that warm, comforting sanctuary most associate with home. Our youngest child was born upstairs. I fell ill here, but I became whole again thanks to the peaceful energy permeating this place. Healing Tree was founded here. Our first solstice tree is planted out front. And the grand old maple out back offered shade and drew lace in her silhouette under many a full moon in her leaf-less winter brilliance.

Four years of growing up and now finding ourselves at the threshold of a new experience outside these walls. Oh, the tangled web of emotions! I used to think that only an old house held secrets, memories and its own stories, but as I fell tearfully asleep last night, thinking about the first time I looked out at the maple from our bedroom window, I whispered to the walls, “Will you remember us? Will you keep a part of our story?”

The winter wind blew hard against her siding and I heard a sound akin to a soft sigh or breath letting go.