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A Moment for my Mom.

Some of our favorite people are very far away and unable to attend my Mommy’s funeral. Love to all of you who are so far away.  You are in our hearts always.  For those of you who were unable to attend my mother’s funeral, I wanted to post a few details of her memorial.  This wasn’t everything… just what I had handy to post.

Mom’s obituary

Ann Balderston, 71 of Arvada, CO passed away peacefully on Friday, December 3, 2010.  She was lovingly cared for in her final days by her devoted children, Pete Balderston and Ann Brady.

Ann was born in Glasgow, Scotland and lived in Campbeltown up through her early adult years.  As a child, she swam along rocky shores and roamed the Scottish hills.

Ann raised a love-filled family that includes two extra children of her heart, Kurt Brady and Christie Balderston, five Grandchildren, Tyler, Brooke, Megan, Blake and Colbie.  Her life was spent cheering at baseball and hockey games, enjoying dancing and singing shows and bouncing babies on her knee.  She is survived by all her children and grandchildren and one sister, Margaret Duncan.  She is preceded in death by an infant sister, her first love Peter Lovett and her final love Edwin Balderston.

A brief graveside service will be held on Thursday, December 9 at 1:30 at Fort Logan National Cemetery.   Anyone planning to attend should arrive at 1:15 at staging area B.   In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the American Cancer Society in Ann’s honor.

Mom’s Memorial Service

It was a beautiful day.  Unseasonably warm, sunny and very spring like in early December.  Mull of Kintyre by Paul McCartney and Wings played as my brother, my husband, my son and my nephew along with other family friends carried mom in her casket forward to the sound of bagpipes playing.

A post by my friend Colleen

Handout from the Chaplain

Peace my heart, by Rabindarnath Tagore

Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.

Let it not be a death but completeness.

Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.

Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.

Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.

Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.

I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way.

She is Gone

You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she’s gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on

My thoughts about Mom…

Everything you need to know about my mom, I can tell you in one sentence.  My Mommy cut the crust off my sandwiches until I was in my twenties.  Drove me crazy.  But that was Mom.  She spared no effort or time in tending to her families needs and desires.  Even once we’d grown, mom was always delighted to help with any task her children needed help with. It was her life’s blood.  From laundry to child rearing, from listing to the woes of our world to celebrating the joys of our life, mom was always there opening her heart, her ears…her wallet.  She and Dad were the world’s best security blanket.

With a mother like mine, there are so many things to be grateful for. As a child, my friends all loved mom.  She welcomed mine and Pete’s friends into her heart as though they were her own children.  Our home always bubbled over with friends coming in and out.  Earlier this year, mom received a letter from a childhood friend of mine.  She wrote “You were such an important part of my childhood.  You always made me feel so welcome, calling me “love”, convincing me to eat beans, and making me feel extra special with a cup of hot tea and milk at bedtime.

I guess you could say that all of my memories of you are like home, of happy times in a light-filled kitchen with music on the radio”.  My friend was right.  Mom was home

As our family grew, her heart grew.  She welcomed in two more children of her heart Kurt and Christie and then doted as the grandbabies joined our family.   Geese flocked from miles around when she arrived at the park feeding loaf after loaf of bread to the birds just to delight her grandbabies.   Her patience was limitless. Her love, an embrace that held us all.

As an adult, I’ve realized how challenging it is to be a parent and she made it look easy.  As an adult, I’ve realized that my Leave it to Beaver upbringing was more rare than the finest of jewels.  Offers to adopt my mother have followed me my whole life.  She was a keeper!

Mom lived to be a mother and also a wife.  As those of us closest to Mom know, she literally lived for Dad.  My Uncle Carroll told me the other day how the reverse was true as well.  He said “I know his life before and I know his life after.  I saw the change in his live after she arrived.  It brought joy to our life seeing that.  She’s the best thing that ever happened to your dad.  She made his life.”  Together, Mom and Dad made a life.  They made my life.  Together, they created all the love in my life and together, they are united as my love lives on.

Mom was also a sister to my Aunt Margaret. And what a pair those two were.  From traipsing around Africa with toddlers and babes on hip, to hunkering down in loving companionship, quietly together during their last visit, these two shared a bond that even death and disease cannot sever.  A friend of mine wrote to me several months ago saying “My kids still talk about “how cute those grannies are”.  Awww. I will forever hold that image of your mom and her sister sitting on your couch during Blakes’ birthday in my heart.  They are very sweet sisters.”  And they are.   Prayer….Dear God, please bless my Aunt Margaret and her family as they walk a path similar to our last 9 months.  Let their hearts be strengthened by our love. Let our hugs cross the miles to hold them.  Ease their path and strengthen their hearts.  They have a long road to go and we walk that road with them in our hearts.  Bless and keep them all.

And so, I say goodbye to my mom, to my best friend my whole life through.  She cut the crust off of sandwhiches, called everyone ‘love’ and made many geese fat and happy…all in the name of being our Mom and Grandma and Granny.  I will miss her so much and yet I am her and so are you… And we will all carry her in our heart’s because that’s where she always lived anyway.

A poem by a friend of mine.  Thanks for sharing it, Jenn.

The Gift of Memory, Jennafer Elias-Reed

Memory’s flashcards embody us with the images of a lifetime.

We are warmed by yesterday’s hands helping us reach to our potential.

The voice that always knew we could when we shook in uncertainty.

We remember the hug after a skinned knee more than the accident itself.

Finding that soft place to land when the blocks seemed stacked high against us, memory tempers us, opening us to another’s perspective, allowing us to evolve and grow over time.

Lessons learned with the support of a gentle hand, memory holds us tight when we are most alone and beckons us to reach to our light within, that place where we all know love, truly– where we are yoked together despite our earthly distances.

Memory keeps our loved-ones near, wiping our tears of loneliness, illuminating that thin veneer between what is living now and what only appears to no longer be.

Then the Chaplain sang the Irish Blessing.  He had a lovely voice.  Such a nice way to close.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face.

The rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

And, I’ll never forget the sight of my brother jumping out of his car to run back and give his mom one more kiss.

Goodbye Mommy.  I’ll always hold you in my heart.


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Money math

 Ahhh, Kids and money. They go together like a wop bob a loo bop.  Nothing teaches math more quickly than money. 

Bright and early this morning, this Hero climbed up on my lap with a catalog full of his current favorite toys.  Their prices are all listed and he starts telling me how much money he needs to buy each page of toys.  He’s doing it in his head and each time came up with the wrong answer.  That is beside the point though. 

I’ve been talking to the kids a lot recently about how mistakes equal learning. If you never make a mistake, you aren’t learning. You are taking an easy path.  If you stretch your wings, mistakes are inevitable.

So while he kept coming up with the wrong answers, we worked together to find the right answer.  He had a great understanding of all the concepts such as taking away 3 from 13 so you can add ten and then re-add the 3 back in…or that if he took one set of 12 + 14 and another set of 12 + 14 that he could add that sum to itself to save steps.  Really advanced ideas. I love the way children learn math. It has so little to do with numbers and so much to do with great ideas, complex concepts.

In the end, we figured out that most of his mistakes were perfect kindy mistakes.  18 + 3 = 22 because he forgot to count the 20, ie 18, 19, 21 22…Just skipping that 0.  Or addition mistakes 8 + 4 = 11 type stuff.  The grander concepts, the higher level thinking was all right on track.  Heck, he even took some paths to his answers that made me go ‘hmmmm’.  He his ideas were solid.  Memorization of facts comes in time. Heck, that’s what calculators are for.  But to watch the Hero’s 6 yo brain wrapping around big thoughts makes my brain happy.

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Glorious Winter Day

I got to see myself as a child today.  Really. In real life.  It was time travel.  Must have been. 

I took the kids roller blading on our great bike path. It was a beautiful winter day. Warm, sunny.   So roller blading and biking was the order of the day.  The Hero is getting so good on his bike, but he still likes to stop and chatter. The Fairy on the other hand wants to feel the wind on her face and fly as fast as she can on her wheels. 

At one point, we stopped at one of our city’s sweet art displays. This is a platform with a sign that says ‘Gather people to equal the weight of 50 infants or xyz butterflies’…and basically the art sculpture would move.  Of course xyz was a number. But as a mommy and birth junkie, I knew how much babies weighed and had no clue what butterflies weigh.  The fairy and I assumed 50 8 pound babies and came up with 400 pounds. Between the Fairy, Hero and myself, we figured we had about 235 of those pounds.  So, we stalked anybody walking past and asked them to join us in our quest to  reach 400 pounds.  Not too hard we thought.  We did have two people join us.  They clearly weighed more than the 165 pounds we needed.  No movement.  We grabbed a few more folks.  Still no movement. Finally, with one more rollerblader, it moved. We had to jump up and down and think heavy, but it moved. Very exciting.  We enjoyed our adventure, our gathering of community and our mini math lesson.  Tomorrow I think we’ll figure out how much the artist thinks an infant weighs.  Thank goodness it wasn’t my infant. Ouch!

With happy hearts at our accomplishment, we headed back to the car.  I felt a woosh of time travel when I saw the fairy blading like a long, leggy deer.  Bell bottom jeans, a 70’s inspired shirt and a grace and confidence that I remember from my young ‘wheelie’ days. Only difference is my wheels were quads.  She definitely looked cooler in her blades.

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Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the day with some lovely friends.  I asked the boy reading question. You know the one…We’re reading Bob Books, but where do we go from here?  The Hero is bored out of his mind, he is not ready for the next step and he couldn’t care less about Daisy Meadow and her Rainbow Fairy books that were my secret weapon when teaching the Fairy.

Mama Kathleen says ‘He’s fine. He’s doing way more than my son was at that age.  If you give him some space he’ll make a leap eventually’.  I knew I could count on her for that.  Thanks! 

Mama Kris offered some lovely practical ideas. Some old Dolch word readers which are designed so much better than most of the early reader crap in our modern world. And, the idea that she read a page with her new reading son, then has him re-read the page. Brilliant.  Well, the hero was not real convinced.  Wish me luck. We’ll see how it goes.

Mama Blimes is asking about my spelling plan that I’ve been raving about.  I figure I’ll type it here so that when I forget to use it, I can be reminded.  How smart is that? 

My spelling plan. I’m using the Sitton Spelling ‘No Excuses’ list which Blimes herself suggested I use.  I started at the beginning with the K list, moved through 1,2,3,4, 5 and we’ve officially moved on to 6th grade words.  Can I brag? Should I get her signed up for a GATE program?  ; ) 

I followed the basic Spelling Power plan of pretesting the words each day and rotating them through. I’ve decided that 6 words is a good number for us. 5 feels wimpy. 10 too much.  But, if the words are tough I may stick with 4.  We got tripped up on a bunch of tough words for 2 weeks and I think it would have gone more smoothly with less.

Each day that we do school (no Tues), I test her on the words on the list.  Add words to take her to 6. Then have her practice the 6.  The only fancy thing I did was use a ‘week at a glance’ type notepad and jot the words on each day.   It used to have magnets but the darn thing fell apart, so now I have to magnet it to the fridge manually. How lame.  So, the idea is that each week, I end up with this on-going list of words to use as a master review.  This way I get to check comprehensive spelling. 

Then I also write the words on a post it note and leave that on the window by the kitchen sink and grill her occasionally on the words.  The main way I have her practice them is to write them each 3 times during school. Nothing fancy, Blimes and it’s the website you recommended. Don’t know how helpful this is but maybe my excitement can rub off.

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The Fairy has been under the weather and getting a massive dose of television. The Hero has been tagging along for the ride.  Try telling the 4yo he can’t watch TV while his big sister lays on the couch moaning and lapping up Cyberchase for 10 hours a day.  Talk about low tide homeschooling.  (If you aren’t familiar with the Tidal Homeschooling reference, check out lovely and wise Mrs. Wiley over at The Bonnie Glen. You’ll never look at your down days the same!)

Last night, the Fairy perked up a bit and was off cuddling with Daddy. So, I seized my opportunity to do a little school with the Hero. No way was he interested in Hooked on Pre-K Super Workbookand Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers,  so I grabbed the Scrabble: Junior Edition. This is the first time we’ve played it since he ‘got’ the whole reading thing. As soon as I opened it, I realized OOPS, it does much bigger words than the CVC words we’ve been working on along with all sorts of phonograms.  Hmmmm. “Well,” I thought “we’ll give it a shot”. 

It turned out great.  In the end, the Fairy and Daddy joined us for a rousing game.  I got to put on my creative homeschool mama hat to explain the phonograms that were confusing. This is actually one of my favorite things about homeschooling.  I do so love being dramatic.  

So, there is ‘boy’ and ‘toy’ on the board so I decided to grab that phonogram and run with it. After a little story and performance (man, I should be on broadway!) we discussed how o and y are friends and they say OY! (with a good accent) and toss their hands up like a Y.  So, he was reading boy and toy.  JOY!

The hero thought this was great fun and we all enjoyed a family game.  Thankfully, the Fairy is feeling much better today and going to out and play with the BOY!  (as I turn to the Fairy reading over my shoulder and say “Get dressed and go out and play with your brother!”). 

With JOY here at Bear-A-Boo Academy,


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I was in a bad mood. My son was in a bad mood. The Fairy, however, was determined to have a wonderous day of school.

 It all started over breakfast while reading about Richard the Lionheart.  As usual, our breakfast history reading results in mommy’s rant about how to parent warring countries (see this post for details).  Today, however, the Fairy decided to take the high road.  “Mommy”, she says “this reminds me of the Valley of Vengance”.  The Valley of Vengance is from a book called A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears.  Very cute. Very different.  I highly suggest you read it! 

 So, in the Valley of Vengance, everyone is getting revenge on everyone else and nobody really knows why they are fighting, but nobody is willing to stop the cycle.  Yes! Thank You! My daughter is very astute to see that this is so much like our warring world in the middle ages and also today.

A bit later, I swoop down to find Greensleeves perfomed on youtube. It was also mentioned in the The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 2: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance, Revised Edition … the World: History for the Classical Child) about Richard (we’re on first name basis by now).  The Fairy remembers that Richard’s friend (Blondel or something like that) supposedly sang the song at towers and dungeouns all over Europe to find his friend. And when Richard sang back, he knew that he’s found his imprisoned friend.  So, we go find lyrics.  For 20 minutes The Fairy and I belt out Greensleeves at the top of our lunges. She was still singing it that night while cleaning the playroom.

Later in the day, the Fairy picks up a junior version of Robin Hood (A Stepping Stone Book).  Instantly, she jumps up and insists I read it.  In the very first paragraph it mentions Richard the Lionheart. ‘Yes, Grasshopper, you learn well!’.  With her curiousity peaked, she sits and reads the whole book. 

 At bedtime, she starts discussing the robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.  She thinks Robin Hood is a great guy.  Or course, I have to bring up the ethical issues of robbing from the rich as well as the problems with the fudal system.  “HEY!” she says “You taught us about that last fall in co-op”.  Why yes, Yes I did!  ‘Oh Grasshopper, you learn so well’! 

Ahh, what a perfect day filled with perfect connections.  Just one more connection though…this one is out of context, but not to be forgotten.  We’ve just finished a book about puffins being returned to an island where they had become extinct.  This took place on an island off of Maine.  So, while eating dinner, the Fairy points to her map placemat and says “Hey, There’s Maine. That’s where the puffins are”. Yep-a roonie!  Thanks to Shelley for a reminder to go buy Puffin cereal. What a yummy connection. 

Making connections at Bear-A-Boo Academy,


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In our co-op, I’m teaching a class. Don’t ask what it’s called. I’ve refused to name it.  It’s something about inventions, creativity, problem solving…Ah, heck. I don’t know what it’s about.  The kids call it Contraptions.  Rotten brats! 😉  How dare they name MY class.

But anyway, it’s a great co-op class. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for one. I teach it to the big kids (7 – 13) because the little kids scare me. They are a bunch of cannibals waiting to tear off my finger nails. Really! you haven’t seen these kids. The Hero is quite a leader and he kicks butt when surrounded by a group of his peers.

Seriously though, the big kid class ROCKS! It all started with a booklet from Mindwares.  I can’t find the booklet on their website, but I’ll try later. And, the booklet itself is currently lost in my post-co-op messy car. 

So, this booklet is a list of challenges and materials for those challenges. If you have a grape, a toothpick, a straw and a rubber band, can you design a car?

Now, I’m known by some, to complicate things greatly!  But I’m working on this.  Four months ago, I took this class idea, complicated it beyond recognition and then, in a moment of brilliance (or fear), simplified it down to be the most simple co-op class in the world.

Here’s the basics. I bough everything I could think of that kids could build with.  Pipe cleaners, paper plates and cups, aluminum foil, practice golf balls,lots of masking tape, paper bags,  golf tees, toothpicks,  (these are quite deadly! Just ask the Fairy) puff balls, fishing bobbers. Ugh, I can’t remember everything. I’ll add to this list later.   And, I bought the cheepo disposable aluminum cooking tins to store it all in.

All these items go out along the wall.  Then the kids gather around me with rapt attention and we discuss some idea around inventions or creativity.  First day, we spent a lot of time on mistakes and how inventors make mistakes all the time…we don’t call them mistakes in this class, if you make a mistake it’s actually a lesson in what DOESN’T work.  Etc etc etc.  We even ate chocolate chip cookies…the yummiest mistake of all time. Um. Well, actually, the Hero, the Fairy and I ate them all for breakfast on the way to co-op.

Other topics we’ve discussed are collaboration, what invention do you look at and say “I could do that”, how many inventions revolve around gross chores. Prototype versus working model and how both are very acceptable in this class.  Hmm. I’ll have to get my folder to remember the rest and it’s lost in the car too.

Then, with much anticipation, I turn the kids loose with the materials and a challenge. The first week the challenge was build the tallest thing you can build.  Another week we found a solution for a gross chore.  Build something that flys. 

They disappear and I talk to my good friend Mama C.  for the remainder of the hour.  We drink coffee, chat and quietly mock the children’s creations while fantasising about how much better our creations would be if only the children would get out of our way.   

The children are deeply engaged in their projects each week and could easily spend more time on them. It’s delightful. They do not get to take their projects home because they eat through my materials like locusts.  So, the only slight issue someone should be aware of with this class is the clean up. Because I’m picky about organization, and also because the kids would use my entire 80$ budget up in one week, this class needs grown-ups to clean up the mess.  The kids could do it, but they’d ruin more than we do and then I’d have to buy more materials.  But, honestly, it’s just another excuse to continue drinking my coffee and chatting with sweet Mama C. 


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