Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

A great chance to have a little celebration of our Irish heritage:)  Here is what we got up to yesterday.

We read books

Irish dress-up with disco decorations in the back.  
We have disco decorations from my mom's 70's themed birthday party that was supposed to be this Saturday which we had to postpone until September.  

Mama got time reading the daily bible guide put out during Lent though our church.

Daddy lead an online book group with kids from all over the US.  Let us know if you want to join its every day from 2-3 EST.

Daddy worked upstairs, we thought we would keep it real with the picture of the totally messy play room turned home office between 9-5.


5 year old and I went out for a walk while Daddy read books with older kids online.  Good call, the 5 year old was having one of those days and going out for a walk made all the difference for both of us.  We saw and touched pussy willows, saw and did not touch a squished chipmunk and found the very first forsythia flower opened on a bush near us.  

I will try to capture more things today.  What are you up to?  Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Day In The Life

I have has so many friends asking me what this learning together at home thing looks like that I am going to try to put a bunch of photos up from our days.  I am not great and remembering to take pictures all the time so I won't get everything, but maybe this will help.

Koala Crate from Kiwi Co.

Making Apple Pie from a recipe in the book Pie by Sarah Weeks

Making Soap from Doodle Crate by Kiwi Co.

Using Lego design paper to make a Lego set to enter for a Lego competition online

Programming a game on Scratch

"Reading" with hands and feet :)

Piano with Hoffman Academy online

Working on Latin with book Getting Started with Latin

Brainstorm of Special Projects we all want to work on during this "Extra Time." Please e
xcuse the spelling mess it was a quick brainstorm.

5 year old's writing and number work

Books we read

Mommy can we make cupcakes
Instead of my normal, "cupcakes are really for birthdays" response I said, Yes!

I love this picture because the side of 6 timetables flash cards my 8 year old was using and the nail polish my 5 year old was using are there too because that's just how it is, its all in there- mix and stir.  

Zoom chat with friends

And they ended their day with a zoom chat with friends from our co-op that we would usually see.  The kids all shared projects they had been up to music they made, Scratch projects, pets and just laughed and played around with this new format of connecting.  

We of course did many more things too but this was what I managed to capture in photos.  I will try to post more over the next few days.  

How about you what do your days look like?  Post photos and words and in the comments below.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Making the Most of "Extra Time"

The words "Extra Time" can occur as a blessing or a curse.  I know, I have felt them as both.   In the waiting room at a doctor appointment when they are running late and there will be some "extra time" before we see the doctor.  Or when a class is canceled that my kids were really looking forward to and we now have some "extra time" to fill before doing our next thing.  Or when my husband has been away on a business trip, over a weekend, and my kids and I will be having "extra time" together.  During those times, "extra time" does not land on my ears as a pleasant greeting, it comes as something to be endured, survived and escaped if at all possible.  That said, I have also experienced "extra time" as a second chance like in a soccer match or on a video game.  Or as a blessing on an assignment due that I had not yet completed.  These words can mean both things.  For whatever reason this aspect of our time of "social distancing" and having everything canceled is occurring to me as the latter "extra time;" the blessing.  In the former, when it has occurred as something terrible to be endured, there have been a few occasions where someone has made a great suggestion that has shifted my whole view or we've just stumbled into something fun and the whole experience of the time has become something, I at least, never imagined it could be.

My hope is that through offering some ideas of how to engage with your kids and learn together the burdensome "extra time" might be lifted from your shoulders and the blessing of this "extra time" might land with you in your family.  Family Learning Adventure exists to support families in learning together, because we have found that learning things together, taking risks and diving into things as a family is an amazing way to connect and grow.  At the writing of this post, my kids are 5, 8 and 13 so these things are written with that bias.  However, I believe most tips can be either used as-is or easily adapted for those with younger or older kids. My message to parents, as we go into the unknown, is "we can do this." It's different, and its a new challenge, but we can find our way through this.  I would love to hear how you are using your "extra-time".  Let's learn from each other.

Seven Tips for Connection

1. READ - If you can, sit on the couch and read with your kids every day.  Grab a pile of picture books, listen to an audio book or podcast together, grab a kindle or read a chapter book and grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea; get comfy and read. If your kids find it hard to just sit while reading get out coloring books or paper so they can color or fiddle with something while you read.  See resource list for links to a booklist or online reading options if you are short on paper books or just need more than you have.  Just read and enjoy together, and talk about the books. DON'T QUIZ KIDS; talk about it like you would talk with other adults about a book you have both shared.  If it makes sense play with the content or bring it up other times.  I remember a day when we read a book about a bear family and then ended up playing bear family much of the day.  There are other books we have read we never spoke of again.  After reading one of the Harry Potter books they wanted to put on a play in full costume.  If it makes sense, join in with the play, if they really want to play without you, respect that too.  Sometimes projects come out of books, sometimes they don't.  Don't force an outcome; just see what arises and enjoy reading for reading sake.  Read to your kids no matter what age they are.  I connect best with my teenager when we read a book together and can talk about it.  It's one of the things I am really looking forward to in this "extra time" is being able to pick a book just for he and I to read and enjoy together.

2. CREATE ART - Sit down and do some sort of art together.  Raid your art supplies; even if you have just markers, some copy paper and scissors you can do tons of things.  I have several art sites listed below (Art for Kids, You Are an Artist and Creativebug).  My library offers Creativebug free of charge which has great classes to do together especially if you have older kids, check your library's offerings. You can also find tons of how to draw/paint/sculpt/fold etc stuff on YouTube.  Maybe you have some really cool art supplies you bought sometime but never use - take those out and play with them. Again don't focus on the result just play and enjoy the process of art - YOU CREATE ART TOO! Don't assign a project and have the kids do it; get in there and do it too.  Resist the urge to say things like "I'm bad at drawing", adults love to say those things that are not helpful for kids to hear.  They give parameters to art like some people are good at it and others are bad, then they start wondering if they are any good at it.  Just get in there and do it, its all about the process not the finished product.

3. GET OUTSIDE - If you can, get outside for a walk, run, bike, wander, nature sketching, cloud drawing etc. I have some tips on nature sketching below. If you really cannot get outside at all get to a window, sit in the sun that comes through and look outside.  My cats always find that spot where the sun comes through a window pouring onto the floor, and sit there.  It's nice to be warmed by the sun.


4. EXPLORE INTERESTS - Take some time to talk about what everyone is interested in, and how do they want to spend this extra time.  Are there projects they have wanted to do but never have time?  Are there skills they want to learn like a special drawing skill, how to program on Scratch, how to make a triple layer cake or how to get to the next level of their favorite video game?  One of my sons wants to build and enter a Lego creation in an online Lego competition.  Try to resist offering the thing YOU think they should learn and see what THEY are interested in.  Get really interested in what they are interested in.  Watch, ask questions and learn about them and what they like about this thing.  Share what You would like to learn about during this time; maybe how to write a blog, do lasagna gardening, Indian cooking, how to play a song on the guitar.  Schedule time each day for you to each work on the things you want to learn about, write it on a white board or piece of paper all can see so you all know that there will be more time for this tomorrow.  For young kids who may change what they want to learn about 100 times a day, let them and when they say "I really want to do X tomorrow" draw a picture of that in a place they can see it so they know there will be time for what they want. Don't make this into a presentation or book report just enjoy learning for learning's sake and share how you are learning from each other.  Also, don't make it a competition - no prizes for completion; learning something you wanted to learn is more than enough of a reward.  People are all different in how they want to learn about things and the pace they want to do it at.  A competition can rob them of their own individual way of approaching THEIR thing.

5. PLAY GAMES - Take time to play board games and card games.  We found we started playing a lot more games when we took an afternoon and organized our game closet (here is an image of someone else who has done the same). We now have most of the games vertical instead of horizontal so you can see all the names of the games.  The small ones we have in a plastic bin at the bottom.  Many, we have to put rubber bands around so stuff did not fall out.  In the process of organizing we taped up boxes that had split and found all those pieces at the bottom that had fallen out and put them back in the games they should be in. Since then kids go much more regularly to pick out games and we all play more.  Another idea to do with games is to "strew" which is a fancy word for leave it out and say nothing about it and see what they do with it.


6. TAKE ON A D.I.Y. PROJECT - This is a fantastic time to MAKE SOMETHING.  It really could be anything and I have some links for some household supplies and baking recipes, but really anything.  Making something yourself is not only practical now, since going out to stores is not as easy and things may not be available, but it also it gives kids and adults the sense of being capable in a whole new way.  Recently my husband and I replaced the side mirror on my minivan and the headlight on his car.  I cannot tell you how good we felt about ourselves after we got it done (through watching YouTube videos).  It was not just that we saved a ton of money; we felt great about ourselves as makers and producers in a world that is so plagued with consumption.  Here is a short list of ideas: bake bread, make playdough, making cookies, build something with wood (maybe a bird feeder or book shelf), make toothpaste, sew something, repair something, start seeds for a garden, make a bird feeder out of a milk carton, make broth or soup, give hair cuts, build something out of Lego that can be used for an ongoing purpose or do a home repair yourself.  TIP: take on something you DON'T already know how to do--you be the learner too and take it on together.  There are so many online resources and someone has done whatever you want to do and you can find how to videos on YouTube for pretty much anything.  If needed research books online through your library's online database and look up in the information that way.  Take a RISK do something new together.

7. WATCH TOGETHER - There is no doubt Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu will be making tons of money during this time.  We'll all be watching more.  Consider watching something together.  Recently Frozen I and II have been big in our house.  We have all watched them together and talked about them.  With our older son, we engaged in the story line and what the writers were doing with it with our daughter we played dress up.  We have listened to the soundtracks on YouTube and printed out song lyrics and piano music.  Other things we have loved as a family are BBC nature documentaries like Blue Planet and other David Attenborough nature films.  We are looking forward to watching a documentary on Curiosity Stream called Cornfield Shipwreck, its about the remains of a shipwreck found in a Midwest cornfield and the story about how it ever could have gotten there.  Over the years we have watched hundreds of Curious George episodes together and after about 11 years of watching them I can still say I like them.  Movies and shows can be a really great way to connect when you can find the space to engage together.

What are you doing to make this time special?  

Leave a comment below or e-mail us we'd love to hear from you what is giving your family life, helping you connect and thrive during this time.  

Resource List

Start with your library's website
Our Library Offers all of these resources for FREE.  Check with your library to see what digital resources they offer.  I offered links so you can see what these are, but you will need to go through your library to get free access to these or other digital resources they offer.

Other online resources:  There are tons of great things out there.  These are things our family has tried and loves and finds great to support families connecting with each other.  Many can be done by kids by themselves but they are really great to do together.  

Hoffman Academy - Free piano lessons, you can upgrade but you can get a ton for free.  You need a piano and a computer.

Starfall-  Phonics, and math skills for kids Pre-k 3.  You can get lots of things for free and you can also subscribe for more.

Epic- A kids digital library aimed at kids 12 and under.  Its a paid subscription but you can do a 30 day free trial.

Khan Academy - Has classes on tons of topics for FREE a really amazing resource.

Bedtime Math - Great resource for "real-life" math problems they have books and a website with daily math problems and they divide them into problems for very young kids, elementary age and challenge problems for middle-schoolers.

Mystery Science - Great Science resource has topics for kids of all ages from short mini lessons to full "class" explore lessons.  They are offering a bunch of stuff free right now and have links for that.

Sparkle Stories - A subscription site for original audio stories.  They have 1000's of audio stories for kids from age 3 up though the age I would think kids get the most use is 5-8.  They are a paid site but you can do a free trial.  Their stories are particularly sensitive deal with lots of topics to support kids social and emotional growth are very thoughtful and really good.

Around the World Stories-   This is also a paid site but I believe you can get some free stories or a trial as well.  They are by a family who picked up and went traveling around the world and told fictional stories about each place they went using the real setting of the place so you learn lots about a country while also having a great story.  They have a Europe set and and Asia set.

Art for Kids- There are lots of lessons you can get free and you can also subscribe to get more.  They are art lessons that take about 15 minutes each drawing or painting specific things you can scroll their list which can be separated by age. He draws with his child that is in that age range.

You are an Artist - Nana who is a lovely grandma gives chalk pastel lessons on all sorts of things you can find several on YouTube and at their site for free and there is also a subscription option.  This is the link to a Baby Yoda one.

Curiosity Stream- has lots of great documentaries, its a paid site.  Amazon Prime - also has lots of great documentaries as does Netflix and Disney+.  We are big fans of the David Attenborough nature documentaries like Blue Planet and all those that followed that.  They are very good and don't have the extra drama that National Geographic adds in to the American made ones (but that is personal taste:).  There are so many great documentaries out there to watch and learn things together as a family.

Outschool - Offers paid online classes on tons of topics.  Some classes are one-off others are a whole semester.  We have taken classes on history, Lego, Engineering and drawing.  There are tons of classes on there for anything people want to learn about.  They are geared mostly towards kids.

Animal Live Cams - There are tons of these sites this is just one but we can spend so much time watching live animal cams I don't know why but we just love them.  Several Zoos like the San Diego Zoo have these too.

NASA space cams - Here is the earth live from the ISS, we find this fascinating, if its dark just wait a little while it will be light again soon.  NASA has other great videos too.

Make DIY Household Supplies.  Just look up things online and go for it, its fun to make stuff together.  Some things work, some do not but its a fun process.  Here is one of the many sites that has DIY recipes for things like lotions, deodorant and face masks.

Bake - anything, even if its a flop- its fun.  There are tons of recipes online here is one of the many sites that has baking with kids recipes.

Cook - Something new together or turn over the kitchen to your kids and see what they make.  Give yourselves challenges to use only 5 ingredients or these 4 things and make a meal.  There are lots of reports coming out of China that people are having a lot of fun with this while being cooped up. Here is a link to a friend's blog at Nourishing Foundation she has lots of great healthy recipes.

Have a Tea Party or Spa Day - bring those homemade baked goods or DIY beauty supplies and have fun with them.

Nature Sketching -Go outside and sketch nature, not what you think a tree or bird looks like but actually go sit outside and really look at something and try to draw it.  All you need is a paper and pencil and a willingness to really look at something for a while. If you cannot get outside look out a window and do the same.  You do it too!!

Read Together - Choose and book and read it as a family.  Right now we are reading Little Women after dinner together.  We clear the dishes and the kids get some paper to draw on or another quiet thing to do and we read a chapter.  We are looking forward to watching the movie together when we finish and going to visit Alcott house since we live in the area.  Your library will have lists of great books and there are many lists out there.  Here is another one we have liked a lot for great read-alouds.  She also have a podcast about reading aloud, why it's great and tips on how to make it happen in your family.  Read Aloud Revival  this is a link to take you to the book-list.

Create Stories - Our biggest hope from our own Tales from the Moosiverse Podcast, is that it will inspire other families to tell stories together.  We get so much from telling stories together.  Start telling a story and then pass it off let the next person tell the next part and keep going.  What will that character do next?  Where are they?  What does it look like, sound like, smell like there?  What obstacle will they overcome?  Who will help them?  What will they learn?  What will they do next?  For specific story prompts you can listen to the Tales from the Moosiverse Podcast and at the end of each episode Ian gives writing prompts. There are also tons of other sites out there that give writing prompts just search "writing prompts". 

What other great resources have you used to connect with your kids?

Let us know leave a comment below.

Have fun!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Throwing Spaghetti and Adding Fuel

When Ian and I met we were in college and working at a summer camp in Colorado. He had come from England and I had come from Massachusetts to work there that summer.  One of the first things I learned about Ian was that he is a writer.  After camp ended, he had planned a week-long writing retreat, on his own, in Washington D.C.  I remember not just being attracted to his fine looks that summer but being truly struck that he was truly committed to becoming a writer and was taking a whole week to sew into that dream. 

Fast forward 22 years,  We have three amazing children we got married somewhere along the way, we have traveled, bought and renovated houses, worked various jobs, learned so many things… but Ian still longs to be a writer.  Don’t get me wrong, he has tossed much kindling on that fire over the years; taking writing nights at Starbucks, taking evening classes on writing, telling bedtime stories to our kids every night for 5 years. Kindling is great!  It takes a small fire to the next level, it builds the fire but at some point you need to add some fuel logs or it will burn out.  Once you add fuel, and it catches, the fire is at a new level.  So what is the fuel we choose to add to Ian's writing career?  It's probably not what you would think...

We say to the kids, “lets start a podcast with the stories daddy tells.”  Of course, they think that is great, who does not want their own family podcast but wait; who knows how to do that?  We'll figure it out.  We start watching YouTube videos, fall in love with an intro song, then life hits we decide its actually time for us to move so buying a new house and moving then takes up the next 18 months of our lives.  The podcast takes a backseat.

The fire is not out and our resolve grows to make this happen.  Side note: I have this view of things that if some people can do that thing (whatever it is) then I must be able to learn to do that thing too.  I know other homeschooling moms that have a podcast if they can do it, I can do it.  I credit the “I can” attitude to my mother who is the biggest “I canner” that I know.  So, for better or worse we set off to make a podcast!

In October 2019 we launched a Kids Story Podcast Tales From The Moosiverse based on the story saga Ian has told each night to our family.  We had no idea what we were doing.  We did not know how to record, how to edit, what a podcast hosting service was or that it existed, we did not know how to fund it or how to publicize; we just did it.  

Like tossing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks, we pulled off the first 13 episodes having to buy only three microphones (because we broke not one, but two).  Some people learn all about something before they take the first step, they truly research it and find out all the best ways to do everything.  I have found after 22 years together that we are not that kind of people.  We tend to find out just enough about something to get started and then figure it out as we go.  I am particularly a “just let me do it and I will figure it out” kind of person.  Now I can see where my 4-year-old daughter gets her zest😊.

I don’t know what you are like when you jump into the water and really have no idea what you are doing but I have this tendency to pretend like I do.  I am that person who is really drowning, or at least struggling out there in the lake but has a smile on my face when I am doing it like “all okay over here, how are you?”

We figure out a website, a podcast hosting site—that took a few tries.  We watch endless videos on how to use Audacity and find in the end we need to get the help of an audio engineer because it just does not sound right—oh that is because you cannot drop a microphone on the floor or it does not work anymore (who knew?) .  Oh and you should never leave the microphone set up in your living room on top of the book shelf in case your children decide to have a pillow fight and ooops there goes another one….

We are getting into a grove and develop a strategy where Ian writes, Angel reads what he wrote, Ian edits, then Angel reads the story out loud to our kids at bedtime (Ian listens so he can hear how it sounds when someone else says it).  The kids give feedback, Ian re-writes, Ian records, Ian edits, we all listen to the first cut, the kids make comments, Ian records again, we double check then send it to the audio engineer to make final edits and add the music etc..  Breath and Repeat.

 We set up a “recording studio” in our bedroom closet which Ian can only use when there is not a child who has decided to come into our bed and sleep; foiling the evening’s recording plans.  Ian is still working full time so recording time is limited, but week after week we somehow keep squeaking out an episode.  Then Ian gets the frog cold.  No not a cold transmitted from a warty frog he picked up in the brook but the cold that makes him sound like said frog.  That makes recording a little tricky especially when half the episode is done.  This is why people do things like plan and record the whole season before starting.  Well, per usual, we are not those people.  We muddle through with some froggy sounds but still mange to produce the episode. 

We are about ¾ of the way through season 1 when a friend asks what our goals are for the podcast.  Goals?  Honestly, we had not though of it.  I guess that people would not hate it and maybe someone would like it.  We take his advice and make up some goals.  Our 12-year-old yells out 2020 downloads by 2020.  Could we do that?  I have no idea, but it sounds good.  We wrapped up the first season on Christmas eve and then took a break.  We looked at the stats on New Years Day and we had exceeded our son’s goal by quite a lot.  Wow something stuck!

We decided we needed to throw some more spaghetti.  What other dreams are lying dormant?  What if we got them out of bed, tossed them in the shower and did their hair, what would happen?  Do the dreams of a 22-year-old still get to come to life in the context of having 3 kids, owning a house, being responsible people who do practical things?  Okay, let’s scratch that last part and see what happens.  Maybe rather than being responsible and practical we’ll see what happens when we listen to that voice inside and try to take a step. 

Do you have dreams that feel like they are asleep?
Do you wonder how to pursue your dreams in the midst of also being a parent?
Do you have stories of tossing spaghetti against the cabinet?

We'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spring Poetry by Angel Jackson

Over the past few months I have found myself making up lots of little poems (or parts of poems really) in my head as I have watched nature.  As a kid I spent tons of time in nature and I loved it but I have to say it is as an adult that I have really learned to observe, watch and be enthralled by nature. The whole world that is going on all the time outside.  We can so easily miss it.  It's like a secret garden available to all, I love it.  Today is my birthday and I got an hour to head over to Starbucks (BY MYSELF), to get my free birthday drink and write in my journal.  While there I challenged myself to write down a couple poems that have been percolating.

I have never been a poet but hey, we are always learning!

Spring Run
Old knees, cold knees.
Can I be so bold knees?
Please release that creak and groan.
I would like to run, not moan.

Snow in April
Warm days,
Light abounds.
Water splashes on the ground.

Winter reaches,
Gets a grasp.
Holds on tight, but it won't last.

Fits and starts,
Spring comes slow.
Winter does not want to go.

Gentle hands,
Release his grip.
Time for Winter's southern trip.

Spring slow,
Warm love.
She gets her strength from up above.

Pale colors,
Growing strong.
Her gentle love, her arms are long.

Shadows lengthen,
Days grow long.
She looks to hear Summer's song.

Tulips red,
Hydrangea blue.
Spring, a gift to me and you.

Joy so fresh,
Love advances.
I want to run, my steps are prances.

Pink flower,
Yellow blooms.
The lilac gift to moms who swoon.

Leaves out,
Solid green.
She hands her baton to Summer's queen.

Okay that's it for now just a little poetry for Spring.  We are full of hope for the new growing season and excited to learn what it has in store for us as a family.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Found! By Angel jackson

I have been meaning to follow up on the 'wild yeast' post for a while.  It has been fun making sourdough bread.  I made the starter by mixing water and AP flour and leaving it on the counter and adding equal parts of flour and water each day.  It took 6 days but the mix got bubbly and sour smelling--wild yeast found!

Here are some pictures of the endeavor and the website I used.

Here is the starter:

Here are a couple loaves of sourdough bread from this recipe.

The recipe I have used takes parts of 3 days to make the bread once you have a starter.  That sounds long but I have actually enjoyed it.  There are small parts you do every day and slowly the bread takes shape and mostly it sits there and does it on its own and I just add a couple things here and there.

Making this bread really puts me in touch with what the Israelite's faced in Exodus when they did not have time to make leavened bread.  It takes time, and if you are in a rush this bread will not work.  I kind of like finding those things that take more time this one has really been fun

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Finding Wild Yeast

by Angel Jackson

I have recently gotten back into baking bread for my family.  Years ago I made bread all the time but with some health issues of my own causing me to go gluten free 3.5 years ago I gave up bread making and the the bread machine sat in our basement untouched.  A few months ago I remembered that I like making bread whether I eat it or not and I care that my family has good bread so I cleared some space on the counter and brought the old beast up.  Since returning to the kitchen it has refused (out of pure spite from being forced into a dungeon for years) to make a good whole wheat loaf.  Without fail, if I bake a whole wheat loaf in the bread maker it does not rise or wont rise fully, here is today's loaf.

No it's not supposed to be a quick bread!

Fortunately my family is willing to eat dense bread probably since every so often I make it by hand and it rises fine.  I have experimented this year with the 5 minute-no knead bread which has worked beautifully in any combination of white or whole wheat and was a fun new way to make bread, but its not a sandwich loaf. The boys like it most when I forget about the second rise and the dough over-rises all over the counter and drips on the floor.

To try to treat the bread machine as a machine with scientific properties instead of a true beast I started to chip away at the different things that might be going wrong with the loaf.  The boys got involved at this point wanting to know what exactly is yeast and how does it work.  Fortunately YouTube had a nice video for this.  As they watched the video I found the most basic bread recipe I could using boring old white flour and newly purchased yeast from whole foods.  I actually have never purchased yeast there so I thought I would try a new kind.

Now I had changed two factors something I was told never to do in high school science classes but hey new flour and new yeast and ---wait for it, that's right a big puffy all baked in the bread machine white loaf.  Ah well it must have been the yeast.  No, not the yeast, as the loaf you see at the top was the very next loaf.  My 9 year old saw it and said "wait what happened I thought it was the yeast". At which point I decide to abandon all science call the machine a true beast and learn how to make sourdough bread.

Why sourdough, I don't know just something I have always wanted to do and why not at this point.

That is when I come across "wild yeast", this is new to me but as I have now read, and somewhat knew, yeast is everywhere (NOT JUST IN THE GROCERY STORE under the name Fleischmann) and lives on all flour.  This yeast, however, is different than store bought yeast.

Yeast bought in the store will "proof" in a matter of minutes if put in warm water with some sugar. It will stay good in its packets or jars with no attention from us (other than a recommendation to store it in the fridge and don't keep it "too" long).   It doesn't take a lot of work and works well and quick, but you have to go to a store to buy it.

Wild yeast is the opposite.  It's everywhere you don't need to go anywhere to buy it but you do need to find it.  Once you find a place you think will have some you need to spend 5 days feeding it and letting it proof, sometimes this process fails and you need to start again.  Once it has proofed you can then spend a lifetime or many lifetimes caring for it, keeping it alive and vital.  If wild yeast is given the right conditions and time it will come to life and--make sourdough bread:).

I do not come from a family where a live starter was fed and cared for generation after generation and passed down to me.  No, this one I am going to have to start on my own and why not now.

Trying to proof wild yeast (my sourdough starter)

Finding wild yeast is more to me than a bread starter though, as you have probably gathered.  For me, finding wild yeast is the moment with my family where we discover something that has been there all the time, something we did not even know existed but we give it the right time and conditions and we see it come to life.  It is truly my favorite times.  It's the natural places we discover only a few miles from our house that we never knew were there.  It is the mulberry or goldfinch posts I made last year. It is Ian's writing passion. It is my older son's drawing or my younger son's singing.  It is spending enough time together to see things come to life.  It is paying attention to what is actually going on.  I am looking forward to finding wild yeast in 2016!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Montgomery and Montgomery, Chapter One

This is the first story of the Montgomery and Montgomery series I mentioned in a previous post. Read more about how it connects with Family Learning Adventures here.

And I'm looking for feedback! Especially if you're a parent of a 4-10 year-old, or or if you spend time with kids that age. Over the last 15 months I've been telling my kids a series of stories about Montgomery the Moose and Montgomery the Mouse, two characters who get up to many surreal adventures including a whole cast of characters. I've started to type up a few of the hundreds I've told, and would love you to try the first one out on your kids, and give me genuine feedback if you do. Did they like it? If so, what did they like? If not, why do you think that was? Did you enjoy reading it to them? Did they read it themselves? Would this be better with illustrations? As a picture book or just occasional illustrations? Could you imagine reading a whole series of these stories with your kids? Feel free to post your thoughts below, or email them to And if you do read this to your kids, THANK YOU!


Chapter One

Deep in the woods in Maine, Montgomery the Moose was looking for his favorite food - chocolate.

He often found some small pieces - or even giant candy bars - when humans stayed in the woods in strange fabric houses. They must not like the houses very much, he thought, because they always took them away after a day or two. Sometimes when the humans were away from their houses, he would try to go into one to see what they were like inside, but it never really worked; he tried going through the doors that people went through, but he couldn't seem to open them. He pushed, but the whole house would move. So he pushed again, and it moved some more. So he pushed again, and this time the whole house collapsed. Then it was quite a fun thing to walk on - very soft and made fun popping noises.

But today he couldn't find any small fabric houses, so he just sniffed around where he'd seen houses before. He sniffed the ground and found some nuts and raisins, so he thought he might find some chocolate chips nearby. So he sniffed some more and found some.

He opened his mouth to gobble them up.


What was that? 

"Don't eat me! Please!"

Montgomery panicked. The chocolate chips were talking! He got so scared he jumped up in the air. But since moose don't jump very often, they don't know how to land, so he collapsed in a heap on a nearby bush and smushed it down into a flat cushion.

"I didn't mean to scare you. Sorry," the voice said.

From his new position on the bush cushion, Montgomery focused his eyes and looked over to where the voice was coming from. He saw some chocolate chips, but he also saw something else; a small, white mouse.

"It's just - you were about to eat me," the mouse said. "And I don't really want to be eaten."

"No, neither do I," said Montgomery. "And I wouldn't really want to eat you either -"


"- I was just trying to eat those yummy chocolate chips that people leave for me."

"Ooh, me too!" the mouse said. "Aren't they good? I knew I'd find some here because I smelled some nuts and raisins, and they usually go together."

Montgomery nodded. He could tell he'd found someone like him.

"Would you like me to take you somewhere where there's always chocolate?" offered the mouse.

"Yes, please!" Montgomery replied. "Is it around here?"

"Pretty close. Well, close for you, I suppose - you have much longer legs than me. Maybe, if you wouldn't mind, I could ride on your back to get there?" he asked.

"Yes, of course," said Montgomery, happy to make a new friend.

The small creature climbed up Montgomery's fur and onto his back, eventually settling on his head. He felt comfortable and warm in his fur, and Montgomery was happy to have him there. As the creature told him which direction to go to find chocolate, Montgomery felt glad he had met his new friend, and wanted to learn more about him.

"I've never see a creature like you before; what kind of creature are you?"

"I'm a mouse," replied the mouse. "What kind of creature are you?"

"No, I'm a moose," Montgomery replied. "You're not a moose; you're way too small!"

"No, I'm a mouse," the mouse replied. "You're not a mouse; you're way too big!"

"Wait - what did you say?" they both asked at the same time.

"Moose!" "Mouse!" they spoke over each other again.

"Ohhhhhhh..." they both said.

"Well, my name is Montgomery," said the mouse. "What's yours?"

"Wait, how did you know my name?" Montgomery asked.

"What?" asked the mouse. "I said my name is Montgomery. What's yours?"

"Your name is Montgomery the Mouse?" Montgomery asked, almost unable to believe it.

"Yes," Montgomery the Mouse answered, losing patience. "Now that we've got that figured out, what's your name?"

"My name's Montgomery too," Montgomery the Moose replied.

Montgomery the Mouse didn't say anything for a few seconds.

"What?" he asked finally.

"My name is Montgomery the Moose."

"Hahahahaha," Montgomery the Mouse laughed. "I don't believe it! That's crazy!"

"Hahahahaha," Montgomery the Moose laughed. "That is crazy..."

As they continued walking, with Montgomery the Mouse pointing the way, they kept laughing at the coincidence; anytime there was silence, one of them would giggle a little, and then before they could stop it they'd both be laughing so much that a few times Montgomery the Mouse fell off Montgomery the Moose's head and tumbled all the way to the ground. After making sure he was OK, they'd both start laughing again, and by the time they got where they were going it was starting to get dark.

"OK, here we are, Montgomery the Moose," said Montgomery the Mouse, emphasizing his name and pointing at a series of wood cabins facing a lake.

"Thank you, Montgomery the Mouse," said Montgomery the Moose, returning the favor. "But I don't understand, where's the chocolate?"

"It's inside these," Montgomery the Mouse replied. And now that it's getting dark, that's the best time to look. We find a place without lights on, and then go inside."

"But how do we get in?"

"Simple - there are always holes somewhere," Montgomery the Mouse said. Look, I'll show you," he said, sensing the doubt in Montgomery the Moose's voice.

He led them both around the side of a cabin without lights on, and climbed down from Montgomery's back, running straight up to the side of the building, and in through a small hole. He came back ten seconds later, saying "Yep, this is a good one. There's lots of chocolate in here."

"But I don't think I'll fit through that hole," Montgomery the Moose said.

"Well, you might be right. What I do when it's a tight squeeze is to just run fast at the hole, and before I know it, I'm through the hole and on the other side," his new friend said. "I'll go back in and get us some chocolate." He ran back through the hole.

As Montgomery the Moose waited, he thought about what his friend said. "Hmm, that hole does look like it would be a tight squeeze," he thought to himself. "And I can run pretty fast..."

He backed up, and squinted his eyes as he focused on the small hole at the bottom of the cabin's wall. Then he closed his eyes and ran right towards it, tipping his head down to make sure his big antlers didn't stop him from squeezing through the hole.


Montgomery the Mouse stood motionless in shock as he looked at the rubble in front of him. The chocolate he'd been holding in his paw dropped, and more fell out of his mouth.

Montgomery the Moose opened his eyes and was thrilled to discover he'd made it through the hole and was standing right in the cabin's kitchen.

"Wow, you were right!" he said to his new friend. "That was easier than I thought!"

Montgomery the Mouse didn't know what to say, and stood still in shock.

"Ooooh, chocolate," Montgomery the Moose said and started munching off the floor. After a minute of eating, he looked around while his friend still couldn't move. "Wow, they left this kitchen a mess, didn't they? And look at that hole! How did I think I wouldn't make it through that? It's much bigger than it looked on the outside!"