Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lip gloss

I am experiencing some sort of weird transformation into a cave woman.  Maybe it's my age.  We are making everything around here these days.  Recently we made lip gloss/lip balm. 

It is embarrassingly easy.  I spent less on all the ingredients, which made a LOT, perhaps 1/3 cup or more, than I spend on a single lipstick.  I found the original recipe here and then "Tischlered it up!" (but in a good way).

Looking back now, I see my recipe no longer resembles the original.  Oh well -- it's awesome and I hope you'll try it!

Pretty Lip Balm
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp grated beeswax or beeswax pearls
  • 7 drops rosemary essential oil (or other essential oil)
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder (we used a full tablespoon to make the darker brown shown for the girls)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp colored, natural lipstick for color (or both cocoa and color)
 I don't have a double boiler, so I used a glass bowl set into mildly simmering water.  It worked fine.

Melt the top two together on low heat.  It takes quite a while to  melt the beeswax and next time I will add more.  Add the cocoa powder toward the end.  Do not add the essential oil or natural lipstick until you remove it from the heat. 

My first run through was not colored.  It was fine.  For the second, I just used the end of a lipstick my darling daughter had mutilated.  We love the really brown one because the color fades fast but it tastes great! 

Why would I do this? (And why you should try it!)
1)  It's super easy
2) It's fun -- like science only not stinky or poisonous
3) Since using it exclusively, my lips are no longer dry.  I think the store bought products were actually creating  the need for lip balm. Suspicious!
4) It's easy on the pocketbook.
5) It's easy on the earth.

Last note:  I originally followed the Crunchy Betty recipe, kinda.  (The cocoa one.)  It was just way too soft for me; it's hot here.  And I didn't mind the lavender but everyone else, including my hubby, did mind it. So the soapy lavender was out.  The rosemary is nice -- earthy.  I like it. 

Try it and share your results (please!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Well Rooted

The enormous change in our family 2 years ago -- going from 2 to 5 children -- threw me for a loop.  Other things were going on at the time as well and all of the stress and change left me ungrounded.  I am not saying that on the whole I've been floundering; but there have been lots of times of unbalance.  I have struggled to right myself more than I would like.

I know myself; I am a person who craves structure; the rhythm of our days has been more discordant than I prefer.  Yet I have stood in; I have been willing, on the whole, to take the deep breath, to make an adjustment (or half a dozen), to keep coming back to the truth and my true center.

I think this is the blessing of mid-life.  The storms that would have rocked our little-seedling-new-lifestyle right out of the soil in my 30s or 40s seem more able to be weathered at this phase of life.  I have the good soil now: an active faith that sustains me, practices that right me when I get pushed over, support that upholds me until I regain my strength.  I am less easily uprooted these days, no matter how tenacious the storm.

It has been a long and tenacious storm.  There is so much to be tended to with a large family and I put so much pressure on myself to do it all.  I recognize the storm has brewed - largely -- from within.  Hurricanes start at the center, don't they?

And now, I feel a shift.  My sense of purpose is deepening, I feel myself softening at the edges,  the new realities around me are taking root.  It is, in part, the new opportunity of Lent that is encouraging this growth in me, but I also think it is time.  Two years is a good time to grow in love for these youngsters, a sufficient time for the original four of us to reform our systems and our relationships with one another. 

Relationships have to be maintained, of course; we are so not done yet!  There will still be weeding and culling and reshaping the ground as we move forward as a family into the future.  Yet we are in the spring it seems, in fertile ground for setting those good roots that will withstand a future tempest. 

I stand encouraged and full of hope.  I can't wait to see what the spring brings.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How to Get Your Child Kicked Out of School

(This post was originally titled:  Wobbly Kneed and a Little About Legislated Parenting.  I couldn't resist the sensationalism.  Sorry.)

We're Texans and for us, that means we have the freedom to home educate our children with little restriction save that we conduct our schooling in a "bona fide manner, using a written curriculum consisting of reading, spelling, grammar, math and a course in good citizenship; no other requirements apply."  So for most of our older daughter's lives, that's what we've done.

A couple of years back, our oldest began attending local charter schools and taking the state mandated tests as a part of that schooling.  I did not think too much about the tests because that child's learning style and personality made her very successful at them.  I really didn't give them much thought at all.

Then last year, in an effort to assuage my doubts about whether or not I was providing adequate instruction to our second oldest, then entering 7th grade, I decided to enroll her in an on-line public charter school.  It was her idea, really.  She loves on-line anything (as amply evidenced by her gabbiness on Facebook) and she was excited by the challenge.

She loved it last year, she truly did.  She enjoyed the work but also loved being at home and having control over her schedule. She has gotten As and Bs, both this year and last.  It worked well with her ADD and need to move around and frequently switch tasks.  She loved it, that is, until the state mandated tests came around.  She did very poorly on those tests.  Parents are not allowed to see the tests; we are only told if our child passes or fails, so my ability to help her was limited.  She has above average intelligence; we paid almost $2,000 of our own money to have her tested and the result was the ADD diagnosis.  She's smart -- but has memory challenges and  these tests and the method of administration are very difficult for her.

The school responded by placing her in extra classes to prepare her for the tests.  She has to take an extra English and an extra math class, in addition to the two all 8th graders are taking.  The knowledge of last year's tests coupled with the extra classes has had a devastating effect on her self-esteem.  A formerly happy confident child is now frequently calling herself stupid.  When January rolled around and spring weather dropped in, her thoughts turned to tests and she began to worry and fret.

So I did what any parent would do, I explored our options.  It turns out there are few.  After much research, I wrote the school explaining that she would not be appearing for her test days. Few (if any) of my friends would consider me a radical.  Yet I am willing to stand against the status quo when necessary.  It was necessary. 

My knees were literally knocking as I mailed the letter.  I had explained to both child and Dear Hubby that the consequence might be that the school asked her to leave.

Today, that is exactly what happened.   The principal, who was both warm and courteous when she telephoned me, explained that in order to continue to be funded, they need 95% compliance in state mandated tests; it is hard to meet that 95% just due to truly unavoidable absences.  Because the school is "housed" in Houston ISD, our daughter is considered a transfer, so their acceptance of her is voluntary.  Therefore, if we are unwilling to take her to the tests, they must respectfully request that we withdraw her.  It was clear that I should act on this "voluntarily."   

I thanked her and told her that we had enjoyed the school and respected her teachers.  I understood their predicament but we were firm on our stand against the testing. Therefore, we would be withdrawing her.

My child was thrilled.  I am still a little wobbly kneed.  I am sure getting out of "public school" is what's best for her.  What I wonder is, what are my next steps?  If our "bright" child struggles so much with these tests, how are they affecting other kids who parents cannot offer them homeschooling as on option?  Do parents even realize the difference between the tests today and even a decade a year ago?  Since the tests are tied to both grade point and grade promotion, are they helping or contributing to the drop out rate?   As an advocate for children, is there more for me to do?

I don't have answers to these questions just now -- but they are certainly food for thought.  If you are interested in reading the letter, you can find it here