Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our blog!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Favorite Gifts this Year

Thought I would post a list of our favorite gifts this year if anyone out there is looking for gift ideas for kids. Liam and Patrick are almost 4 years old.

silk cape (nova naturals)
face crayons (nova naturals)
doll sling (nova naturals)
doll (nova naturals)
soccer uniforms (sporting goods store)
remote control truck
stickers w/ their name and photo from shutterfly
play dough tools and play dough (nova naturals)
books--they absolutely LOVE the froggy books by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz
fisher price fp3 player and various music CD's and books on tape (magic cabin pirate and knight stories)
connectagons (magic cabin)
moose and bear pajamas from grandma melanie and grandpa bob

snuggled w/ mom



A few recent pictures of Claire. Looks like she is auditioning for the sound of music! I have really been enjoying all of baby carriers this time around. I used them a bunch with the boys but I couldn't really keep them in them for any length of time because I had 2 to hold! So Claire is snuggled in most of the day. My favorites right now are the wraps. I think these are perfect for a baby through at least 6 months or so. I love my friend's product the sleepy wrap because the fabric is wonderful--short and so stretchy and strong. I am starting to use the Ergo a bit more, but probably will continue to use the wrap almost exclusively for a while more. Sleepy Wraps make an awesome gift for a new mom--www.sleepywrap.com! Thanks, Elizabeth and Robert!
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Christmas Photos




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Well, i thought I had more photos than this, but I guess I took mostly video. i will try to find a way to post a video but that may take me several months!

We had a wonderful Christmas at the McConnell House! It was very nice and low key. I feel like this year we had the perfect amount of presents and all of them were a big hit! Last year I was so excited for the boys first Christmas that they could really comprehend that I went way overboard with gifts. It didn't seem like a lot, but it sure was as we opened gifts into the evening and I even put some away to give them at a later time that year. They wanted to play with every gift immediately after they opened it last year and they even lost interest in opening any more after just a few presents!

I thought these photos were so funny. For the last 2 days Liam and Patrick have been wearing their new soccer uniforms including cleats and shin guards, capes, their baby dolls in a sling, and their new mp3 players. Plus we have been playing with face crayons as well. I wasn't sure how much they would play with the dolls, but I think they were a fantastic gift because they can emulate what I do with Claire. So far their dolls do almost everything that Claire does including napping in the sling and nursing.

This year I felt conflicted about what to do in terms of Santa. Last year I was sure that I didn't want to introduce this myth to them. They ended up seeing the Polar Express--what a wonderful movie!-- which they really enjoyed this year as well so they just assumed there was a santa. Anyhow, I have been reading a bunch of Waldorf books and after reading them have felt that we were not encouraging the boys' imagination very much. Matt and I are both so literal with them. I began to notice that whenever I told them a magical story that Liam would just light up. So we have been reading a lot about elves, trolls, and fairies lately! I decided that we would continue to encourage the Santa myth at this point. Here is one article I have read about santa and how to approach it with children: www.naturalchild.com/jan_hunt/santa.html. My issue with doing the santa myth in the family is that I do not like lying to my children and wonder how they will feel when they find out that I have done so. But I wonder if doing santa is lying? i guess this differs from telling them stories about fairies in that we are saying that santa actually interacts with us and all of these other magical creatures do not. but what is reality exactly? how do i know there are not elves and fairies? my dad is getting very worried at this point.

We did enjoy the season though and have been celebrating and preparing since Thanksiving which was a very nice way to do it. Usually, I am so last minute, but taking it slowly was very nice. I know the boys enjoyed it as well.

As I said, I have been reading a lot of Waldorf stuff and have really been wanting to focus on creating tradition in our family. I want to enjoy the season plus help create special memories for my children. I have been thinking a lot about this and some of the nuances here with leading an unschooling life and following traditions. I think one difference is that I am wanting my kids to be an integral part of the process including whether or not they want to participate and let them choose how to participate. This year they were very enthusiastic about most everything. I am trying, though, to re-examine my beliefs around how things "should" be during the holidays. For instance, one thing I struggled with was that the boys were not super excited about giving gifts. We did have a fun day of making ornaments, but then they were not as interested in actually following through with giving them to people. In fact, Liam wanted to keep all of them so we could put them on our tree! Ultimately, we did end up giving some as gifts, but I got into a spot where I wanted to force them to do this and felt they "should" want to do this! I let that go, though! Matt had a tough time because he wanted them to wait for Christmas to open all of their presents. I really thought about this and decided it was their choice. The gifts that arrived were for them so I did not want to dictate when they should open them. Why would I force them to wait until Christmas? We would all be miserable! If they didn't have gifts to open on Christmas Day and they were upset about that, they could make a different choice next year or not.

And now we await New Year's Day and the boys' 4th birthdays! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

claire and patrick

weaning day

after almost 4 years, i weaned the boys last week. it was a sad time for all of us, but it was time. unfortunately, patrick found an alternative to mother's milk, the "mother's milk" of his ancestors! maybe this isn't funny to joke about, but on his last night of "chi-chi", this struck me as really funny.

recipe update

last weekend i posted about making pumpkin spice muffins and homemade pasta from my favorite food blog, the nourishing gourmet. well, they both turned out really yummy! i was so happy to find a healthy pasta recipe! i didn't think it would be possible to actually soak the grains used for pasta, but it worked. here is why i soak,

Sunday, November 2, 2008

chicken update

so it's been adventure all summer raising these chickens! matt tells me that we can take them all to a local farm and he won't make any comments such as I told you so! it's been a learning process. it was all pretty easy until i sprained my ankle late in my pregnancy and after that, well, i was pretty darn pregnant w/ my big baby girl and struggled to get up the hill to the coop. then the poop everywhere just started to annoy the heck out of me. we were hosing down the patios twice a day and apologizing to our guests when we had to wipe to poop off their chair before they sat down. so grandpa bob arrived and i pleaded with him to build me a fence to keep the chickens up on the hill by the coop. he was so kind to comply and spent a whole day of his visit putting it up for us. i couldn't ask matt to do it because he wasn't so thrilled about us having chickens in the first place-- this was my project. I guess one needs to have a bit more practical knowledge to be a farmer--lesson learned and a big reason to unschool. unfortunately matt is the one w/ the practical skills, but not the one who wants to undertake my little projects. so then our next dilemma was how to keep them up on the hill once our short 3 foot fence was in place. we clipped their wings several times, but they still managed to fly out. so matt clipped them very short and yay, they were contained! this happened over a period of several weeks. unfortunately on the day he last clipped them, a fox came into our yard in the middle of the day and grabbed our Americauna and had a nice feast for himself. then i realized, oh my gosh, i have totally disabled these poor chickens and now they are sitting ducks for neighborhood predators. so i decided to give guinness a job--after all the poor dog has been completely ignored since the boys were born until just recently when he has become the tormented--let's chase guinness around the house and grab his tail, let's pretend he is a bear and spear him, let's ride him like a horse--you get the picture. anyhow, i put him on duty up on our hill. the poor dog. he sat there all day staring at our house. this seemed worse then being tormented by those twin boys in the house. like the chickens, he found ways to escape. so now i have relieved guinness of his duties. we just try to keep an eye on the yard while we are here and don't let them out of the coop if we are gone for the day. it actually allowed my dad to live out a "real cops" fantasy last weekend when John Reali very quietly and calmly said, "the fox is back" after he saw it grab a chicken and start to run across our yard. he didn't want to alarm the kids because he envisioned them looking up at the same moment the fox was feasting. So my dad jumps up and races out the door heading for the fox. he runs up the hill, trips on our stepping stones and nearly falls hard--thank god that didn't happened-- and chase the fox into the next yard. what was he going to do? yell at the fox? tell him to never return? break out his bow and arrow? not sure, but it was hysterical! thankfully, the sight of big jim running at him convinced the fox to drop our chicken, who was thankfully unhurt.

I also must add that I say thankfully only because i want those eggs! i have to say that I have really developed no affection for these chickens. i know, i am a bad person. I am thankful for those eggs and the chickens for laying them, but the girls are by no means pets to me. they were when they were cute baby chicks, but now they are scary large birds. i say scary because they are so skittish and squawk and fuss when i try to pick them up and it does creep me out a bit. i inherited my dads phobia of birds apparently. plus they are strange looking animals. thank goodness for our chicken whisperer!

but, really having these chickens has been worth it for the joy they bring to liam and patrick, especially patrick. what a wonderful learning experience it has been to raise them-- from building the coop, caring for the chicks, feeding them, checking for eggs, eating the eggs every morning, sharing the eggs w/ friends, accidentally killing a chick, discovering we had a rooster and needing to find it another home, running around the yard trying to catch them at night, etc.

i have posted a picture of my favorite chicken, a favorelle, who is so funky looking!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

nightly rhythms

for the past few weeks we have spent time after dinner in the same way. i love the idea of getting into a spontaneous rhythm in our family, but am also getting more comfortable with chaos as well! I like what i heard eckhart tolle say about the natural chaos of nature, versus how as humans we like to place order upon it with our neatly manicured gardens and landscapes because this type of order can soothe the overactive mind. so i guess having children puts us in greater touch with the soul! anyhow, back to our rhythyms. liam and i have been spending our after dinner hours in the kitchen. liam really loves to play in the kitchen! i like that the boys are really developing different interests. tonight liam and i ground grains for flour. we are soaking some of the flour for tomorrow morning's breakfast to make pumpkin spice muffins w/ streusel topping--recipe found at my favorite food blog, the nourishing gourmet. we are also soaking flour to make homemade pasta--a first for us! recipe also found at the nourishing gourmet. will post pics and results tomorrow! patrick and matt spent their evening putting together puzzles. Patrick is on a puzzle kick. he loves them! he is feeling very proud that he now puts them together on his own while matt watches him.

Happy Halloween!

This year we decided to attend a Halloween Journey at our local Waldorf school. I have been avoiding the issue of trick or treating now for several years and by gosh, they still don't know what it is! I feel partly guilty about this if I am to consider myself an unschooler, but on the other hand, I haven't lied, I just haven't told them about it. I am still not sure why we celebrate Halloween in this way by giving kids a bunch of chemical and sugar laden "food?" I just don't see these "foods" as treats in any way. My dear grandmother who has struggled with Type 2 Diabetes for years says she feels sorry for my kids because they don't eat sugary foods. Huh????

Anyway, I really do want my kids to make their own decisions about as many things as possible so that they can learn by experience rather than having someone control them to such an extent as they don't know when they are tired, hungry, sick, etc. I don't want to set up the dynamic of forbidden foods because this could create big problems down the line, but what I try to do is to keep our home stocked with super healthy and nutritious and yummy foods. It has dramatically helped that they have been exposed to these foods from the very beginning so they have a taste for them and actually enjoy them. We have never given them "kid" foods so they do like a whole variety of foods. Our snack and sweet foods are just as nutritious as our main meals so I feel really good about allowing them to eat whatever they want whenever they want. When they ask for a bowl of ice cream before dinner, no problem! It's homemade and made of fresh raw organic cream, eggs from our chickens, vanilla and maple syrup. Seriously, this is a health food to me! The same goes for cookies, muffins, pancakes--essentially the sweet, carby foods. The grains are whole and soaked, the sugar is natural and I use real butter and fresh eggs. I even make my homemade candies! So I often see my kids sit down to a meal of savory foods such as meat, beans, veggies, etc., along w/ a sweeter food such as the ice cream and actually eat it all. It still rather shocks me! When I was a kid if I were told I could have ice cream for dinner, that's all I would have eaten. Forget about the other stuff! The other thing is that we don't label the sweet foods, desserts or treats. They are just like all of the other foods we eat. We don't withhold them based on the boys' behavior or what they have or have not eaten during the rest of the day. All of this, I believe will really help them in the long term-- a strong foundation of healthy foods during their formative years, plus not all of the baggage around sweet or "unhealthy" foods.

Some other things that help are that we don't watch tv so they are not inundated with advertising, plus we shop only at the farmer's market, local farms, and the local food coop.

However, all is well and good when they are in my house, but what happens when we are out in the "real world" as my dad likes to say. Well, this is where I have some work to do! I really want to let go of my issues around them eating unhealthy foods and allow them to continue to make their choices. Something that helps is that most of our friends eat similarly to us and our town is really health conscious. I don't want to be freaking out on the sidelines when they are chowing down on some sugar and chemical laden food. I want to let this go. I know eating these foods every once in a while won't be harmful, but I am a bit worried about them losing their taste for the healthy foods because unhealthy foods have very strong flavors and really bombard the senses so that more natural foods can begin to taste bland and not very exciting. Plus, they are addictive. I also think they have enough of a foundation that they will remain healthy even if their diet changes. After all, the body is pretty amazing.

So for instance, matt brought home a bunch of sugary cookies today from the farmers market and i placed a limit on the amount they could eat because they have colds. if they hadn't had colds, this is where i would want to let go of my hang ups and let them eat as many as they wanted. When we have done this in the past and I don't freak about it, they rarely eat very many! I try to do the same when we are out. They can have what they want to eat and how much they want. I would, however, make suggestions if they were eating what I deemed to be too much of an unhealthy food, but guess what? That hasn't happened yet! I know it will eventually, but so far they have amazed me with their ability to self-regulate. I have mentioned at home, that I would like them to eat some more protein. Liam tends to be my carb boy. Sometimes he agrees, sometimes he doesn't. The thing is, though, that we talk about all of this. They ask me why people eat certain foods and why we don't. It's all an open discussion. They understand as best they can why I make the choices I do around food.

I definitely control their food intake and will eventually have less hang ups about it, but I'm not sure I would ever let go of all restrictions in this area, at least while they are young. This is something that radical unschoolers do--no limits on tv, games, food, etc., and I really admire and understand this perspective. I am just not sure I will get there or if I want to get there when it comes to food.

Wow, much more to say on this subject, and will probably post again. Wasn't this supposed to be about Halloween?


I was so surprised last friday when my family showed up at my door! what an awesome birthday surprise! Matt had been planning it for a few months and i was clueless! he hired a photographer, we had a lovely brunch at our favorite restaurant, the kitchen, had a catered meal on saturday night, juggled 6 kids, and drank lots of wine and beer! thank you, family!

Our Friends

We are so happy to be hanging out lately with the Antunovic family. Mama Elizabeth had us over for yet another gourmet meal the other night. just had to take a photo! and patrick has not stpped talking about the fact that Isabella wants to marry him because she said i have the sweetest smile as ever! we also spent the day at our house a couple of weeks back making grape juice, chocolate pumpkin cake, and salsa--what a combo!


my spidermen and my little irish boys!

brotherly love

liam and patrick just love claire! they truly enjoying being with her and love to help. in the morning, they stay in bed with her while i brush my teeth, get dressed, etc. and even change her diaper if she needs it. she follows them around and i can see it won't be long before she is speed crawling after them!

Visit from the Youngs

We had a wonderful visit with Matt's parents last month. The boys enjoyed spending time with them playing, listening to stories, building fences, and doing all sorts of arts and craft activities that Melanie brought along.

Isn't this Sweet?

Have a made a plug for co-sleeping here before? I do think it's one the best choices I have made as a parent. Don't get me wrong, it's been tough at times, too, but so worth it. I really feel connected with my children all day and night long! I love being able to respond to them instantly. It just seems a bit strange that we long to sleep with our partners and often sleep with our pets, but think it's wrong in some way to sleep with our children? The downside has been that Matt and I have struggled to maintain our connection which obviously is so important, but we have to work to find other times to connect and it all works out.

Harvest Time

I am starting to love this time of year! It used to be a sad time--returning to school and the weather getting colder--but now I am truly appreciating the abundance of nourishing foods and welcoming the slower pace that fall and winter bring.

I just had to take some photos of the vegetables we harvested from our garden and purchased at the farmer's market. Gorgeous! I have been busy preserving by fermenting and freezing veggies. This year I have my freezer loaded with frozen peaches, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. We also bought a 1/4 cow from a local farm . We will save squashes in the basement and store "keeper" apples in our garage. I have made a bunch of apple cider and will also dehydrate apples as well. We also signed up for a winter share CSA from and picked up our first veggies last thursday. This CSA will last through the end of Decemeber.

I am really trying to eat locally as much as possible which means eating with the seasons. It feels really good to do this! My kids understand where their food comes from and at what time of the year foods are harvested. I am not sure what we will do January-June, but we will figure it out! Actually, another farm grows greens in the winter in their greenhouse so I think we will be all set with veggies-- It might not be eating with the seasons, but it's local and it's nice to have some fresh vegetables every once in a while.

the chicken whisperer

I often find Patrick outside cuddling with one of our chickens. It is so sweet to see this! He has really taken on the responsibility of taking care of our ladies. The chickens have been laying now for about 2 months, and he still checks for eggs several times per day and he is my guy to get them all in the coop at night.