Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Spanish Immersion in Middle School

My kiddo started in a dual-immersion Spanish elementary school in kindergarten in the U.S.

She went up to fifth grade, when she switched to a bilingual international school in Nicaragua for one school year.

Kinder graduation.
Now we're back at that same place we started -- but it's been a while since i talked about the differences that seem to exist now in middle school compared to the same school in elementary.

She's in the middle school portion of her K-8 school (which might change at any moment, thanks to Portland Public Schools' tendency to switch gears often), where she's still speaking Spanish in an academic and age-appropriate level, but it's a little different.

People asked a lot of questions during the younger years about why or why not to send your kid to an immersion program -- and i can attest that for myself, i didn't think much about the older grades back then either.

Like how rigorously the school district would adhere to the 50-50 split between languages we were told would start in fourth grade. (Before that, it was 90 percent Spanish in kindergarten, 80 percent in 1st, and so on) The answer: Not very. My daughter now has two classes in Spanish.

Like how many native speakers they'd be taught by. The answer: Thus far, her first three teachers were native speakers, but she hasn't had one since second grade. That is not a knock to the wonderful teachers who my kiddo has had. They've definitely gone above and beyond time and again. It's just something to note and a question to ask when you're considering immersion.

I also note the fact that there seem to be less and less participation among the middle school in culturally-focused or language-focused activities for both the kids in the immersion program and their peers who also attend the English-only program. 

It's also interesting to note how many native speakers have stuck around in the program, after these six or seven years. My kiddo's class definitely has a lot fewer native Spanish speakers than it used to -- likely because once they leave or move, other native speakers don't always know they can replace the ones who left. The district described the program as a 50-50 split between native speakers of English and Spanish, but when those numbers get skewed, the makeup of the classes -- and the support touted for non-native speakers of English -- gets lost in the shuffle too. Just another note about these programs.

I am still proud to say that my daughter is academically proficient in a second language. No doubt. But it's interesting to see how the concept has evolved over time in my mind, and how there are always ways to get better...

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Late to the second-language game? It's not too late to learn from a native speaker, and get good fast. Check out the Native Speaker Challenge and get started right away!

Amazing Parents

Every day i am astounded by how many motivated, wonderful people -- and parents -- there are out there. They come to me through my gigs on Fiverr, asking me to help promote their businesses and their ventures.

They appear on the street, in our local classrooms, and nearly everywhere i look. They amaze me and remind me that to really make change and get things done in this one life we have, we have to push the envelope and do more than commit ourselves to the 9 to 5 lifestyle where we plop down in front of the TV at 5:15.

I admit, i have been prone to doing just that this winter. After spending a winter where it's never cold, the grey skies and cold air has gotten to me.

But i'm thankful for this blog, where people creep in and find me even when i wasn't looking to be found...

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Today i want to introduce you to Angela, who changed her life and was able to get pregnant after doctors told her she couldn't -- simply by changing her unhealthy lifestyle. She's hosting a free health webinar soon, helping people uncover the root of problems such as being overweight, having trouble sleeping, diabetes, heart disease, infertility issues, chronic pain, skin disorders or any other chronic degenerative illness or disease. It's free -- so why not attend?

And then there's Johnnie, who's created Yellowbrick.me -- a wonderful resource for parents to come together, get advice, or sound off on their latest struggle. Check it out!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tween Discipline Strategy?

When you have a tween, just about the only ammo you have in your arsenal is to take something away when they don't comply with your demands.

Right now it's taking away the beloved iPod or not allowing her to go on an excursion with friends.

But this article talks about how timeouts, reward charts and taking the toys away can backfire, because it's all about exclusion and isolating the kid instead of creating a connection that can help them understand your side better.

So far, taking away things is what works. It really makes her shape up and do the dishes, walk the dog and just generally be an active human instead of someone who is sewed to her mattress.

So what do you think? What works for you for your tweens and teens in terms of motivation?

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Or maybe you're waaaayy back in the pregnancy phase and you're looking for the best advice for your stage of parenting. If so, check out this list of good books to read while you're pregnant.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Losing Team

I haven't been a sports parent all that long, but thus far, the rebelangel has always tended to be on the winning teams.
You can't always get a medal. But keep trying!


In basketball the year before Nicaragua, her team took 2nd in the city.

In soccer this fall, again, 2nd in the all-city tournament.

Not too bad.

And even on those winning teams, the rebelangel has managed to be a standout player who shows loads of hustle and heart -- two things all coaches want to see, no matter what.

Now onto this year's basketball team.

The team is a new one with a new -- and young -- coach. They're in the feeder program for their high school, so allegedly all of these girls will be playing together and going to school together through high school. But for now, they're all spread out, coming from different middle schools or K8's and hardly knowing each other at all. Some of them haven't ever played basketball. Some of them haven't ever played sports at all.

As the world-traveling feminist parent that i am, i'm cheered to see so many Latinas and girls of all colors joining the team, because it means we're making headway in overcoming the gender bias and barriers that have kept girls on the sidelines worldwide. (See my posts about girls soccer in Nicaragua for more rants on that.)

Still, a new team with a young coach and new players has resulted in one thing: We suck.

Like really bad.

Like so bad that the rebelangel told me that she couldn't remember the last time they won a game. (It was last week, but who could remember the score, when there was a fight between parents of opposing teams, that stole the spotlight?)

It's painful to watch sometimes, and to tell you the truth i often question why i didn't scout out a better team for her before the season began.

But then i stop myself. You can't be on a winning team all the time, or you're never going to know how it feels to lose. You're going to miss out on things like the joy of a victory hard-fought, the grit of learning to overcome challenges, the plain truth of the fact that life isn't fair and that even good shots get missed. I never wanted to hear my parents say "this will build character," but that's exactly what it's doing.

The rebelangel still goes out hard at every game, so for her i know it's not all about winning.

So maybe the biggest lesson here is the one i am learning.

If at first you don't succeed...try, try, try...

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Today

Ah, today.

Today was one of those days when i long for the good old days, when an ice cream cone and sunshine were all that were needed to make my kiddo happy.

There's sunshine today, but there was also fighting today.

In our house there is no fighting between mom and dad; no kids hiding in the bedroom worrying about whether they're going to get a divorce.

There's only this tween who increasingly disrespects her mother, yet expects to be catered to.

So today, i had to put my foot down and turn the car around, just blocks from where she was supposed to get dropped off for an outing with a friend. Too bad, you blew it.

Today i had to hold my ground and calm myself and remember that the kid crying next to me had done it to herself. That if i continue to let a 12 year old yell at me and then still expect to get privileges, she won't stop yelling.

I remember what it was like being that age and wanting nothing more than to hang with friends. Parents were the people who bankrolled the hangouts. I'm sure my parents did what they could to shut down any bad behavior that went with it, and now i don't begrudge them for doing whatever they had to do.

I'm sure it will be the same with this rebelangel. I just didn't want to deal with it, today...

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The time has come for me to really, truly start moving this blog elsewhere so i can really start making it work for me. I'd love any suggestions for platforms that you love! I am leaning toward Wordpress...

And if you're a business owner in need of a website, check out Blogger Local's feature -- the Top 10 lists that help you uncover the best web designers in Kansas City -- and in other cities as well! 

 Need some good parenting podcasts to talk you off the ledge? All Things Podcasts has a list of the Top Parenting Podcasts.


Friday, January 22, 2016

The Side Hustle

I have a friend whose kid recently called her out for never having money.

He's the type of kid who tends to really only speak to his mother when he wants something. She's frustrated that she can't provide enough; he meanwhile, thinks she's doing it on purpose.

Recently i've been seeing a lot of that from my kid too -- and unfortunately, a lot of times i have to turn her down. There's money for rent and gas, but not necessarily for all the other things she seems to want.

Lots of people come up with a side hustle to help them make money on the side that they can use for the "fun" stuff. For me, it seems like everything i do is one side hustle or another -- so either that doesn't really apply to me, or it applies 100 percent.

The thing is, i need to come up with a few more.

When it comes to making more money, writers tend to turn to sponsored blog posts (guilty), e-books that bring in passive income (working on it), advertisements on their sites or blogs (yup), selling an actual, hold-in-your-hand book (not yet but it's in the works), or just plain getting paid more to do what they do (always a goal!).

So i guess i'm just wondering what else is out there, because so far all of these things are still not coming together to mean not constantly denying the kiddo of experiences and things she wants. Granted, she doesn't need all of them, but i'd like to not have to say no every single time...

So what are your side hustles, writers and others?

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Want to try out the blogging thing yourself, but not sure if you'll get any responses? Want to get something off your mind? Try out OnMyMindDaily for a forum where you can post a simple post and have it indexed by Google.

Or maybe decorating cakes is your side hustle? Get some tips from Creativiu, a place that helps you improve your creative skills.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Life Outside the Box

I spend most of my days scribbling away at my computer as a freelance copywriter, but lots of people still seemed to get confused about what it is i do.

I don't have a traditional career like nursing or teaching.

I don't head out the door in the morning to a desk in a faraway office.

And i don't have a boss breathing down my neck.

Those are all good things, in my opinion!

Still, i actually do work, people.

There was a skit on one of the most recent seasons of Portlandia -- that truthful, playful bane of every Portlander's existence -- dealing with at-home creative workers. In the skit the characters contemplated going all out and doing a "five hour workday." They talked in circles around what they do, and they got mad at anyone who came into their home, accusing them of interruptions.

Some of that is indeed true, but it's not quite as funny as it all sounds.

Sometimes we do just five hours a day of work, because that's all there is for us to do.

Or sometimes that's all a person can physically handle before productivity goes out the window. People in offices might work for eight hours, but how many of those are spent in meetings, goofing off with co-workers, or in other stuff that doesn't actually get anything done? For the at-home worker, most of the fabled five hours are spent doing solid, productive work.

Oh, and the getting mad about interruptions? That's kind of true.

When you work from home, people just assume you're available for every petty thing they want to talk about. They call you in the middle of the day just to talk. They show up and want to hang out. They do annoying stuff right in your work area, because it also happens to be the living room or the dining room or the place they watch TV. Office workers may have to contend with co-workers who want to goof off, but that's nothing compared to the goofing off friends and family can involve you in.

I am a freelance copywriter and marketing and media consultant who helps businesses tell their story. It sounds pretty simple, but in the thick of the day-to-day, sometimes it gets really hard to execute...

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What do you do for work that's outside the box? Let me tell you a little about these folks:

Stephen teaches an online photography course -- and you can win free entry if you visit his site and sign up!

And Jolen has a dream of starting her own pony-drawn carnival, touring around the USA. Check out her fundraising page to help her get started!
Jolen and her #1 fan!


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bringin' It

Surely it must feel like this for every other parent on the globe, single or not.
And screen time? Don't even get me started.

You worry and stress and strive to get those important things done in the week -- only to enjoy just a small moment of satisfaction at a job well done before the next thing comes around to remind you that you can't let your guard down.

You spend your mornings scrambling around the house, tidying things and ensuring that your kid has clean clothes to wear -- even if it means a last-minute foray with the clothes dryer -- only to be reminded in the seconds before you leave the house that you forget to remind her to brush her teeth.

You scrimp together enough cash to fix the car, only to suspect another repair is creeping around the corner.

You clean up. Things get messy moments later.

How do we do this, day after day after day? How do we find the courage and the perseverance for it all?

I don't know. I guess that's what sleep is for...

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Yes, surely it must be challenging for every parent to keep their kids on the right track! Dr. Michael Tam is working to help us out a little, by offering these tips for keeping kids' teeth healthy. Thanks Dr. Tam!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Bus Diet

One day back from our holiday trip to Grandma's and i was once again left on the side of the road (OK, just my driveway) with a dead truck. After spending the pre-holiday season in regular back and forth conversations with my mechanic, and shelling out money i didn't have to fix the problem, yet another vehicle issue was definitely not what i needed.
Love the view coming home.

When your household adult "team" is "one deep," as my father calls it, this is not a fun prospect. It took a whopping 13 days to get the vehicle back on the road, and with a snow and ice storm and two days off from school for winter weather in that mix, it was not time i relished.

Still, the "one deep" adult team of this residence has to constantly come up with ways to stay positive about such setbacks, which tend to affect the entire household more deeply than the homes with a "two deep" set of adults. In other words, it takes a lot of grit to deal with a tween who whines about taking the bus, to purchase a 20-pound bag of dog food (cuz it's cheaper than the little ones) and haul it on your bicycle, and to walk for miles on icy sidewalks to pay the rent when even the buses aren't running and your property management company doesn't much care that no one else is getting anywhere on an icy day. Grit, i tell you.

But yes, there is an up side to all this biking around and busing my child to school over the past 13 days. Everyone knows that the holidays are time of overindulgence and of backpedaling on any hopes of fitness that you might have had pre-December 25. But when you're riding the bus and your bike, you tend to drop that holiday weight really fast.

First there was the up side of getting Dengue in that it made me drop pounds; now there's the bus diet to erase the effects of the holidays...

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There are other issues afoot right now, but with the lack of funds in my bank account, thankfully ID theft is not one of them. To make sure it doesn't happen to you, check out No Identity Theft, where they make protecting your identity easy.

 Yet another way to drop some weight? Morning sickness! It's not the direction you want the scale to be going when you're pregnant, but it can happen. For info on dealing with nausea and the great fun of morning sickness, check out my friends pregnancy information at Rock the Baby Bump.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Snow Day (Ice Day)

Remember when you were a kid and you waited by the TV to hear if your school was going to be canceled for the day due to snow? 
The last snow day, two years ago...


Things are a little different now. Instead of giving my kiddo the pleasure of the news, she's found out about it via Instagram or Snapchat or something from her friends, before i even bother to get out of bed.

And remember when snow days were the times when you'd bust out the sled and head for the closest hill?

There are a few things not lining up for that. First, what we're dealing with outside right now is not snow, but ice. A lovely white blanket fell this weekend, and then was quickly followed by freezing rain. In the Northwest, that spells nothing but trouble for drivers -- and walkers, for that matter. It's pretty good for people who want to ice skate to the store from their house though.

And the other thing that's not lining up: My tween doesn't want to leave her bed. Is there no longer any hope for sledding days or hopeful kids who rely on their mothers to supply them information about their fates? I don't know. Maybe the Internet needs to go out to find out.

So, so far the highest form of entertainment around here is watching the little mutt slip and slide his way down the hill in our yard, learning the ways of skating instead of walking to his potty spot...

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Need some help working with your dogs? Want to get it from a professional in the field? That's where The Dog Blog on the Minnesota Canine Consulting website comes in handy -- great information and insights on dog training, right from my home state... =)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Not one resolution, but 75,000

Now is the time of year when we're looking ahead and thinking about what we've done in the past that could have been different.
Holiday ride through Granada, last year. This year, snow.

We're making resolutions to work out more, to eat better, to be better to our friends and family and to clean up our lives. It's great to do all this, but from my perspective it takes a whole lot more than one resolution one time per year to actually make change. Me, i am no better than anyone else, and in the financial department, i'm probably a lot worse. Heck, this year we spent several months living in someone's basement so i could get back on the winning end of my bank account. Moving to another country and then back again with a kid and dog, all within the span of a year, is expensive people.

But i stumbled upon this great list of ways happier, healthier, and more successful people live, and since there are 50 suggestions, something has to stick for most people. For me, it was the idea that i need to make one audacious request per week. I seem to struggle with asking for what i want. Am i like a lot of women, who settle for the first offer and don't advocate for themselves? Is that part of the reason why we make less than men -- simply because we're not audacious enough?

Well enough with that. My goal is to make one audacious request each week -- mostly work-related. I'll pitch the story i really want to write. I'll ask for top dollar from every client. And i'll ask for extra time, extra resources, or extra something anytime i need it. And for all that, i aim to make $75,000 this year. Compared to the earnings of a writer living in Central America with her kid and dog, that's another audacious request that i'm not going to feel bad about making...

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Have a goal to read more to your kids this year? Read your bedtime stories online with iStorybooks -- with new books every week!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Game

This weekend was probably a prelude of lots of times to come. Both Saturday and Sunday, taken up with sports tournament activities. My kiddo loves playing both soccer and basketball, and you can tell she has the character for it. She's tough, plays hard, helps people up when she knocks them down, and doesn't display that ugly attitude that too many athletes tend toward. It's never boring to watch her play, because she always gives it her all. Gotta love that!

Now i can't wait to give her the hoop she doesn't know is coming -- a solstice gift that will appear in the driveway today!

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Dr. Rob Bell just introduced me to his sports psychology book, all about helping kids build their passions, how to talk to them about the games, and how to avoid "externally driven, perfectionist, and stressed competitors." I think i'm going to like this one! Check out Don't Should On Your Kids

Also wanted to give a shout out to This Dad Works Out -- a blog about a single dad who's doing his best to take good care of his daughter and stay in shape too!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hoop Schemes: On Good People During the Holidays

Money is tight this year, so to see that my daughter has something she really wants under the tree, i had to resort to ninja methods.

For one, i am a proponent of teaching our children -- and our families -- that it's not taboo or trashy or unkind to share gifts that have previously had another owner. There's way too much waste in the U.S. as it is, especially around the holidays, and perpetuating the notion that we all have to give things that came wrapped in too much plastic from the nearest department store has got to go. We need to teach the value of things, and try to reuse and repurpose quality things when they no longer have use to us as they are.
If you really want self-sufficiency, get a truck.

So that was the mindset i had when i set out to find a basketball hoop for my daughter this holiday. There's no use going out and buying one brand-new when Craigslist is often overrun with people willing to give you one for free if you simply come and take it out of their sight.

I'd seen plenty of them on that site myself -- only during the holidays, it seems a few other people had the same idea i had.

Yesterday i set out for Beaverton, where a nice lady said she'd hold the hoop she was trying to get rid of. The only problem was, she'd put her address in the ad, so people didn't necessarily have to get in touch with her, like i did, in order to come grab it. By the time i arrived 45 minutes later, someone had come and taken half of the hoop away in their car, without the blessing of the nice lady of Beaverton.

It could have ended with a simple "sorry," but the nice lady wasn't going to let it go down like that.

So this is person #1 who bouyed my perception of people this holiday season. Instead of that "sorry," the nice lady handed me a twenty dollar bill and told me to take it for gas money. This, because she no longer had the free basketball hoop she'd promised me!

When i got home i was happy but also annoyed, because my hunt for a hoop would have to start all over again and the days before the big day were numbered. Instead of wait, i put my own ad on Craigslist, asking for a hoop i could give as a gift this year.

Not three hours later, a nice man from Tigard called. He cleans out repossessed houses and just happened to have a hoop sitting around, and i could come and take it at my leisure. When i arrived, he was the one to strap it down with those ratcheting tie-downs that i can't seem to master. On top of that, he got out his other ratchet set and helped me tighten down a battery terminal that had left my truck dead in his driveway. So person #2 really gave me a few great gifts, all in a short amount of time.

All in all, this hoop scheme was a lesson in humanity. We have clashes between religions and mass shooters and dark skies that probably won't break til June, but we also have good people here, willing to do good things just because.

Now let's go hoop it up in that wet driveway, Oregonians!

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Interested in making money online? Then check out this State of the Network video.

And also check out my newest blog post on Travoge, offering trips to Tanzania and more.





Monday, December 14, 2015

Throwback: Cuteness

O man, could she be cuter?

Today we are in the throes of arguments about screen time, locking bedroom doors, and riding the bus alone downtown with friends.

A handful of years ago, we would have been arguing about bedtime and how many Christmas cookies she got to have. As parents we know that the time goes wayyyy too fast. While we are worrying about the day's work, what's on for dinner, how to get everything done and onto the couch for an evening of relaxation, our kids are growing and time is moving, moving on.

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Need some advice or help with a kid problem? Your fellow parents at Bambino Zone might be able to help!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Fake Tree

I tend to get cranky around this time of year, not because i am necessarily a Scrooge, but because i really can't stand the amount of waste that happens all in the name of baby Jesus and Santa. The disposable wrapping, the killing of trees, the kids who want stuff just to want stuff -- it all makes me a bit crazy.

For years i opted for the living tree, one that was in a pot and could be planted outdoors, because i figured it was a good way for my happy little elf to take part in the holiday while also not taking part in the crap-fest that takes over this time of year. That was all well and good, but in the end, i admit, the trees didn't always get planted. One tree sat on our porch and got used for multiple years -- until it got scorched by too much August sun.

Growing up, getting a fake tree was the epitome of vulgarity and we never had one. They don't smell nice and it's sort of absurd, when you think about it, to make a thing that looks like another living thing, but for this year, it suddenly seemed like the right thing to do. For one, there will be no more living trees dying on our porches. For another, i got this one at a deep discount at a thrift store, so i guess you could say i saved it from the landfill. And thirdly, i'll use it over and over and i won't have to feel bad about creating too much waste. When we're done with it this year, off to the garage it goes with all the skates and tools and old toys i have yet to be able to part with.

So here we are, the slightly Scrooge-y and the little blonde elf, with our very own, delightfully tacky fake tree...

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Need a way to make some extra cash before or after this big holiday?

A brand new online community is about to launch which will allow you to make money by performing simple online tasks! Check it out -- a ton of people are already trying it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Ups and Downs of this Freelance Life

I talk a lot about the wonderful sense of freedom that you get from being a freelancer, out in the world working without a boss.
These dudes. Always making a good first impression.

It's true that it's incredibly liberating and means adventure can be at your fingertips at any moment -- but it's not all sunshine and roses all of the time.

There are times of great uncertainty, when a client suddenly decides they no longer need you anymore, and you find yourself with almost no work to be had on a given day.

There are times when you make list after list trying to make sure you have all the funds you need to cover the bills -- and with that comes the sad realization that there's nothing left for that "adventure" you thought came with this job. (Even though lots of adventures are still free!)

There are things like holidays and gatherings and goings-out that you have to miss, simply because money is tight.

There are days when all you do is put yourself out there, time and again, hoping that someone will recognize your talent, your experience, and your worth. You can never stop doing that, and it's damn exhausting.

There are days when you decide maybe you'll take the "easy" way out and go out and get a job -- so you send out resumes, you even get some interviews, and then you hear nothing from people with whom you met in person. (What is with that?)

Then there are days when opportunities come out of the woodwork and surprise you, and for a little while you feel secure. Those days are rare but they make it all worth it!

Then the next day comes, some other annoying, back-stepping thing happens, and you realize you can never, ever let your guard down when you are living this freelance life. You may be able to do your work while sitting on a beach getting a tan, but you can't ever really, truly take a day off from caring about said work. There are good things and bad things about this life, and in the end i wouldn't have it any other way.

But if you're thinking about doing it yourself, you should know this as your reality...

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 What i'm really saying is, freelancing -- or at least freelance writing -- is a constant game of putting yourself out there and making a good impression and hoping it bears fruit.

If you need help in how to make a good impression, check out Larry's article, "Five Ways to Ensure You Make a Good First Impression."


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Empty Houses

And it will never be this clean again. 
Another empty house, waiting to be filled with all the furniture and shoes and junk and memories.

Another place to come home to rest, to sigh at the end of a long day.

Another refuge by the fire.

It looks a lot different than the home we most recently occupied, with its pool in a tiny courtyard being the most attractive feature. In that house, the best part about it was the place where you could go to cool off. In this house, it's the place where you go to warm up.

(I hate to say it, but i miss being hot all the time.)

Empty houses are always full of possibility and hope -- and this one certainly is right about now.

To new beginnings...

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Unpacking our stuff means reminding ourselves of all the things we threw away, donated or gave away to friends -- which we now need to replace. But we have help! For reviews about new stuff that's worth buying and other parental-related advice, check out Mommy Edition.

This house too is a home for my child, who will dream and grow and seek guidance from me here. I love what Ryan Makhani is doing to inspire kids through the site BuildMyIdea.org, where he encourages kids to be innovative leaders. Check him out there or read his most recent article in the Huffington Post. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Our Own Home

It's been more than a year since the bedding, furniture, plates, cups, towels and such that we use have actually belonged to us. It's nice to be detached from things and to realize that you don't need them in order to live a fulfilled life, but at the same time, a place doesn't tend to feel like home unless you have them.

This past year we went from the Nicaraguan bamboo house to the house on the "river" to my parents' cabin in the woods of South Dakota to the basement of our friends' house on beautiful Mt. Tabor in Portland. They've all had their charms and i've been so grateful to provide such wonderful homes for my kiddo -- but when it comes down to it, a duplex in outer Northeast Portland now feels so much more like home than any of those places combined.

There is the art, collected from a dozen trips to a dozen foreign locales. There are the teacups and saucers, the tiny glass trinkets and a set of new-old aprons from my grandma. There are craft boxes and keepsake boxes and old photos and journals that we haven't looked at in years. There are the funky pieces of furniture that other people shake their heads at. There are new things to replace old things that we sold or flung off before the big move. There are garden planters and skis and cool old bikes. There is less junk than before, but still, there will always be at least some junk. That's the way we (i) roll, i guess...

 In short, there are all the trappings of home, and it's a good thing.


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There's also nothing quite like the aromas of home -- which you sometimes don't even notice until you're unpacking your stuff.

For a home that smells so good that it's good for your health, check out the essential oils -- and their many wellness benefits -- by visiting An Ameriglish Home. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kids on Bikes

Here at home in Portland, kids on bikes are no big deal. The majority of kids have a bike or ride one on occasion, and a fair amount of them are decent riders. That is the case for my kiddo too.

In Nicaragua there are a lot of bikes, but they tend to be ridden by the kids' parents, while the kids get plopped on the middle bar or on a rack in the back. Bikes, in Granada, are a common form of transport for parents and adults -- but you don't see a lot of little helmeted cyclists riding around. Once we got there, i quickly decided that i too was not buying my kid a bike, since the drivers drive crazy and it was so dang hot that my kid was not likely to ride. Oh, and the bikes you could find were pretty bad too. I bought one brand-new and within months it had a bent rim that rendered it wobbly and a bunch of rust that rendered it unattractive and less steal-worthy.

It was surprising, then, to discover that i would soon learn to be a mountain biker from a bunch of Nicaraguan teens. This particular group were kids who had been part of a non-profit that supports them through their education, Empowerment International, and that also happens to have a bike club. I soon became a proud adult member of this club.

Every Tuesday at 5 i would rise with the roosters and get on my wobbly bike. When i arrived at the meeting point i would trade that wobbly thing for one of the group's great bikes, and off we'd go to Laguna de Apoyo or Mombacho Volcano or Lago Cocibolca -- these places where tourists might skim the surface, but never see the back ends or untrodden trails that we got to tread. It was really one of the highlights of my time in Granada.

Now that club is planning for their annual week-long Bike Challenge, where mountain bikers from anywhere can come and join these kids for days and days of adventure in some of those great spots where tourists rarely get to do more than gloss the surface.

I wish i could be there, but since i can't, you should go! Here's more information: http://empowermentchallenge.com/

Happy riding!

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Meanwhile, the fall colors in Oregon are in full effect -- something i now see i've missed after skipping it for a year. If you're in need of a pop of color inside the house, check out this 24 Hour Florist.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Rebel

Maybe we should move to the desert, where temptation is nil.
Just when you think you're off the hook somewhat, and your child is able to get herself out of bed, get ready and walk to school in the morning... when she's able to make herself a snack and even get in touch with friends to set up her own hangouts and do a lot of other stuff that makes being a parent easier... you remember that soon they're going to be a teen.

And that means they're probably going to start trying out a lot more dangerous stuff than just getting into the whipped cream in the fridge.

Like maybe they'll decide to come home from a sleepover, drop their bag by the door and then leave again without leaving a note. And not come back for two hours.

Stress much? 

Now is the time when all that talk about raising a revolutionary and encouraging rebellion comes home to roost. I want her to question the norms, but also to tell me where she's going to be. I want her to be fearless, but not so fearless that she walks around town without anyone knowing where she's gone.

She came home from her walk around town with friends, and on top of it all, she was wearing a cropped t-shirt that had her belly hanging out. She with the streak of white blonde hair and the long legs and the pretty mouth -- a prime target for whoever to do whatever...

Of course she got a talking-to and a grounding. But somehow i know this is just the beginning of the new kind of parenting -- the kind where we don't worry about her sticking her hand on the stove, but instead worry about her going to the mall and getting recruited by bad boys to do bad stuff.

Can't we just go back to the days when paying for preschool was the toughest thing on my plate??

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Parents of preschoolers, babies, toddlers and all the young'uns -- need some fun songs to entertain the kids? Check out Radio Nursery, where you'll get endless fun songs and even some support and encouragement for the wild ride of parenting.