Monday, November 30, 2009

a bit of our homeschooling - music

piano practice

I have Carbon working on piano, using the Bastien piano books. My mother taught me rudimentary piano using Bastien books, and I enjoy repeating this process with my own children. We will need a more competent music teacher eventually (in fact I'm eyeballing a music class for homeschoolers 4-7 years old that is a combo of recorder, piano, and choir), but for now we are doing fine.

I'm convinced that music and other disciplined, pattern-based movements (dance, etc) are wonderful for brain development. There is some research to back this idea up, but my conviction is based on my personal experiences. All the time I have spent focused on patterns and rhythm, in the "zone" of concentration, has always felt good to me. So now I work with my son, and then I do my own piano practice. Just a tiny bit of what we do here.

The Best Picture Books we've read recently

music appreciation books

Bach's Goldberg Variations comes with an audio CD, so you can listen to the music and read this story of a poor orphan boy who also happens to be a child prodigy musician, all at the same time.

The Circle of Seasons by Gerda Muller is a classic book with lovely illustrations of each of the four seasons and how the years go round and round.

Rome Antics was one of our SOTW selections, but it stands alone as a fun book about a pigeon taking the "scenic" route through Rome's famous sights before finally winging home.

I decided to brave another Elsa Beskow book, and Christopher's Harvest Time was much more to my liking. The story is simple, as a lonely boy meets "September" and sees all the spirits of the plants in his garden, but the illustrations and dialogue are rich. Hypatia loved the "songs' which I had to make up tunes for as I read, and she has requested that I make her a doll just like one of the illustrations:

a doll request

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Sunday

Advent Sunday

We don't normally pay this much attention to Advent, but this year we are giving the Christian holiday more emphasis because it is our Yule Play.

I grew up the child of lapsed Presbyterians, and we never went to church or anything. But I do remember my childhood Nativity scene, which was a small porcelain set with a golden halo around baby Jesus's head. I wasn't supposed to touch it, but I would sneak over and "play" with it, rearranging the figures and pretending Mary was singing to the baby. Bringing the Playmobil nativity set into our church classes has rekindled those memories for me, as I watch the children play with it.

Of course, mine was a precious item that I wasn't supposed to be touching, so I treated it with great reverence and care. This set is much more accessible to the kids, and they are treating it with, shall we say, less reverence.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A bit of our homeschooling - Story of the World

For our history studies, we are primarily using Story of the World, which has a well-written book that skims over the surface of world history, and a companion Activity Book. At this point we are almost done with Volume 1, and hitting our stride on how to use this curriculum.

When we first began using it, I tried to do all the suggested activities and crafts in the Activity Book. We built a lean-to shelter when we read about the first Nomads, we made clay tablets and scratched cuneiform into them, etc. But then we had all this stuff, that had cost some money to get the supplies to make, that we had put effort into making, and it just cluttered us up. It also took a lot of time to make those crafts and gather the supplies. So we have abandoned the activities, unless one looks really special or fun.

The other parts of the Activity Book are: review questions, narration prompts, suggested further reading, mapwork, and coloring pages. We do all of these, in our own way.

Our rhythm:

1. Sit down and do the review questions for the section we did last time.
2. Read a new section.
3. Get out the globe and the mapwork and review where we are in the world.
4. Do the coloring page if it appeals to the kids.
5. Free play time with legos or playmobil to do a re-enactment of history. The picture above was a roman fort, in case you can't tell.
6. Over the next few days we read the suggested picture books and any others that we found at our library.
7. That will bring us back to review questions and oral narrations.

Depending on how many picture books we were able to find, we will either do several chapters a week or take a couple weeks to do a chapter. I don't enforce historical accuracy during the re-enactment play time, because I think they need to process their reactions to the history as much as memorize it. Some of the history is distressing - war or the collapse of a civilization or something - and the kids do have emotional reactions to that that they need to process. Children process things through creative play and art, so I give them time to do that.

By simplifying I always have the materials on hand, except for the picture books, and that is very important for this busy homeschooling mom. This system is working very well for us, and I already have bought the next volume of SOTW - medieval times are going to be fun for the playmobil re-enactments!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gluten free Thanksgiving

a community supported bakery

We served a Thanksgiving dinner for 14 last night, and it was all gluten free. It also had to have components that were egg and dairy free.

Gluten-free life has been pretty easy for me since I joined a community supported bakery. The concept is similar to a CSA farm share, in that I paid upfront for the "season", and each week I pick up my "share" (see a typical week's share above). I was very excited to find out that the bakery would do either a gluten-free or a vegan share for the same price as a "normal" share.

For Thanksgiving, I made a few special orders: pumkin pie, apple pie, an olive loaf. So I was well supplied with beautiful gluten-free desserts. And my father brought his speciality, which is a dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free cheese cake. It is delicious (I think it's all tofutti and xanthan gum, but he keeps the exact formula a secret).

My mother is raising heritage turkeys this year, and the day before Thanksgiving my siblings killed and cleaned a turkey for us. The turkey meat was much richer in taste and muscle than we are used to with store-bought turkeys.

We had a very full house, and a lovely dinner. Much to be Thankful for.

Our Thanksgiving Table

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Been Reading - Charles and Emma

I should have posted my review of Charles and Emma: The Darwins's Leap of Faith yesterday, as it was the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of the Species, but I didn't think about it yesterday.

The book has been much praised, and for the most part it deserves that praise. It is a well-researched biography of Charles Darwin and his wife Emma, based largely on their letters to each other and journals. The Darwins were a very loving couple, but they differed from each other greatly on religous matters, and that is the area that the book mainly focuses upon.

I think the author did a good job of not taking sides on the issue, and leaving us to see both Charles and Emma as having a sincere and legitimate point of view. The personal details also shine a lot of light on why Darwin took so long to publish his theory of evolution, as he struggled with his unwillingness to cause controversy and pain to his religious wife and friends, and as he struggled with poor personal health and the death of several children.

For really young readers, this book might prove too long and dry, but middle and high schoolers would get a great deal from it. Reading the book inspired me to imagine a religious education curriculum for my church, looking at Darwin (who grew up a Unitarian), different creation myths, evolutionary process, and the modern controversy of evolution vs. creationism. Wouldn't that be a rich study for my 4th-5th grade class! I hope to put something like this together in the next few years.

In the meantime, I have a few picture books about Darwin and evolution from the library that I will read to Carbon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Field trips

It's salmon run season around here, and we took the kids out to watch them struggle up the creek and spawn. It's a study and teaching creek, and the salmon stewards had an underwater camera set up so we could all see the real action. When we were there a pair of salmon had parked themselves right in front of that camera and were doing their business!

the fall salmon run

salmon viewing

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our homeschool days

I am asked frequently how I balance work and homeschooling, and what our days look like. We basically have four types of days:

1. Our "full homeschool" days, when I am focused mainly on school and housecleaning (2 days a week)
2. Our "half homeschool" days, when I do office hours at church (3 days a week)
3. Saturdays that I don't work and we have family day
4. Sundays and some Saturdays, when I work and the kids either go with me or stay home with their Dad

Today was "full homeschool" day, and it looked like this:

  • We all got up tired, around 8 am
  • We had breakfast together and I read a history book about Rome to them
  • They spontaneously decided to build a roman fort out of legos, and played together for awhile with a roman storyline
  • We went outside and cleaned out a raised bed in the garden, and the kids collected worms and grubs
  • They set up a habitat for the worms so they could keep watching them inside
  • We went to the YMCA, and they played in the playcare room while I worked out
  • We went to the library, and the kids picked out new books and movies for the week
  • We went to Goodwill to buy a "disposable" soup pot that I can fill with soup and give to the homeless camp for dinner tomorrow, and the kids picked out sweaters and Christmas nick-nacks
  • We listened to an audio book as we drove around
  • I took them out to lunch at an independent burger place
  • Carbon did his Math-U-See while Hypatia practiced counting blocks
  • I read them a non-fiction science book from the library
  • Hypatia cleaned bathrooms (with my help) and Carbon took out all the garbage and recycling
  • Carbon did his five minutes of vision therapy
  • Carbon and I each practiced piano (I give him a little lesson and then I practice my own pieces)
  • Carbon read me a Bob Book
  • The kids and I made soup together for dinner (they really are good little cooks)
  • Carbon worked on cleaning his room
  • They each got a bedtime story read to them

A fairly typical homeschool day around here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

picking our next read-aloud

I was trying to interest Carbon in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, so I told him it was a story about two kids who run away from home an stay in a museum. We had other options, but he was leaning toward this selection.

Then he said "I can't decide, my heart and my head are saying different things."

I asked him what he meant, so he explained:

"Well, my heart tells me that a heart is for love, and that I shouldn't hear about kids running away from home, because it would be bad for love. But then my head is saying 'hey, don't worry Carbon, you would never run away'.

When I asked him which was going to win out, the heart or the head, he laughed and patted his head. So The Mixed Up Files it will be, and it's good to know that Carbon would never run away.

Sunday - Here comes the Yule Play

Today we start rehearsal work for our Yule Play during the religious education classes. This is a very long tradition at my church, to do a play with the kids in December.

Here is the newsletter article I wrote about this year's play:

A Christmas Play
One of our stated goals for Religious Education here is to give our children a basic level of religious literacy. This means that we will recognize the stories, beliefs, traditions, holidays, and history of different faiths and religions, so that our children have the understanding and the language to engage with other religions and with people of different faith traditions.
This year our Yule Play is part of our religious literacy effort. I have noticed that our children tend to not know the story of Christmas, illustrated by a child asking me last year “what’s up with that baby in the pile of straw in front of that other church?”. Although many in our congregation come from a background where we can assume a basic knowledge of Christianity, this is not true of our children. They are not coming from another faith tradition, but are rather being raised in this tradition of Unitarian Universalism. And for much of its history, the UU tradition has been a Christian tradition, with its own interpretation of a human Jesus and a loving God.
Our children still need to know the Christmas story, of the birth of a baby that is remembered and celebrated every year by people all around the world. And we can celebrate that birth, remembering the words of the Unitarian Universalist religious educator, Sophia Lyon Fahs:
Fathers and mothers –
Sitting beside their children’s cribs
Feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning.
They ask, “where and how will this new life end?
Or will it ever end?”
Each night a child is born is a holy night –
A time for singing,
A time for wondering.
A time for worshipping.

While still maintaining our OUUC tradition of writing an original and humorous Yule Play, we will also be honoring this spirit of Christmas with our play on December 13th. Additionally, the RE program is collecting food for the Salvation Army that day, so please bring non-perishable holiday food to church that morning.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

funny kid story

Tonight we had to go to the mall and hang out for a long time while my husband was getting himself a new cellphone (his own birthday present to himself). They are already set up for Christmas there, which we are not allowed to do here at home until December 1st. And we hardly ever go to the mall or other major stores, so the kids haven't seen any early Christmas stuff until tonight.

So the kids were excited to see a sign with a picture of an elf on it (it was advertising pictures with Santa coming soon). Hypatia ran up to the sign, folded her hands over her heart (like namaste) and bowed to the sign.

And then she lifted her hands up, like a priestess worshipping an ancient icon, and then she folded her hands back down and bowed again.

It was so strange a thing to do - so very strange and funny. When I asked her what she was doing she said: "I am consulting the Oracle of Christmas."

Oh. Well that explains that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Committee work as a spiritual practice

One thing that happens a lot at church are committee meetings. Lots, and lots, and lots of committee meetings. We talk. And we talk. And we debate. And we send a round of emails. And we talk some more.

This is the process, and how decisions almost always get made at church. And for all of these decisions and this work I have no control. This is a big thing for me, because I'm a bit of a control freak. I have strong opinions, and I am strongly attached to success.

But I have to let it go. In the end, it's not my church, not my space, not my program, and not my success. This is a group process, and all I can do is say my piece. It is an ongoing practice for me to work on letting go of attachment, whether it is to the color of my office (which the minister reminds me is not really "my" office, but is "the church DRE office"), the activities the youth group engage in, or the number of people who show up to family game night.

I still care - I have to care. I have to throw myself, heart and soul and willing hands, into a process but all I can do is try. I still have no control over outcome, and therefor I better not feel attached to it.

Here's somebody who says it better than I can: Monkey Mind has a "Small Meditation on Letting Go of the Results".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My "mom" job description

Sometimes I marvel at all the areas of responsibility that are covered under my title of "Mom". Things such as:

  • nail trimmer
  • hair dresser
  • personal shopper
  • archivist
  • photographer
  • dietician
  • reader
  • driver
  • cook
  • nurse (both for when they are sick and for normal monitoring of health routines)
  • recreation director
  • matchmaker/playdate maker
  • mediator
  • cheerleader
  • judge and jury
  • lifeguard
  • librarian
  • cleaning service
  • role model

No wonder it's so exhausting!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What we've been listening to

Despite losing some conversation time with the kids, I still love what listening to books on CD in the car does for us. They make for nice calm family drives, and it tucks another learning activity into time that was mostly just wasted before.

In the last month we've listened to:

The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, read by Jim Weiss. Short, funny, and full of wonderful language ("he was a man of infinite resource and sagacity"), but the CD only lasted us one day of errands.

Freddie Goes to Florida by Walter R. Brooks, read by Jim McDonough. In this Freddie installment, the animals decide to migrate to Florida for the winter, so it was perfect for the turn to cold weather around here. I like McDonough's reading style, which is not too dramatic or full of silly-voices, and it's a long book so it lasted us for over a week.

The Stones of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston, read by Simon Vance. The Green Knowe series is about a very old house and how the children who have lived there are able to journey through time and have other magical experiences. We've read most of the series out loud in the past, so this installment was nice to find on CD.

Catwings by Ursula LeGuin, was sweet, but very short, so we listened to it all yesterday and today.

Any suggestions? It looks like we will keep on doing this, so we're going to need to find more titles!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Conversations with kids: beliefs

With my kids, the best conversations always happen in the car while we are on our way somewhere. And recently we've been listening to books on CD in the car (which is so lovely, and so restful for mommy while she is driving), which tends to make them not talk (which is lovely when talking = fighting with each other). I had forgotten about the wonderful conversations, however, and it wasn't until today we didn't have a new CD in the car that I remembered what we were missing.

Hypatia was talking about fairies, and I was honestly only listening with maybe 1/4 of my attention. Then Carbon got really mad.

Carbon: "Mom, she keeps telling me about these fairies, BUT FAIRIES DON'T EXIST."

Hypatia: "Yes they do, and if you don't believe in them they'll GET YOU."

A horrible sibling fight was about to ensue. So I intervened with a question:

"Carbon, can you prove that fairies don't exist?" (Empiricists out there, forgive me for asking for proof of something's non existence, which I do realize is incorrect)

He replied that, yes, he could. When challenged as to how he was going to do that, he said he would travel all over the whole world and check everywhere.

Another question for him: "Can you really do that?"

No - no he cannot.

Next I asked Hypatia if she could prove that fairies DO exist. She claimed that she could, on the basis of her being a "fairy expert". So I had to point out that "take my word for it, because I'm an expert" just isn't adequate proof.

So, in fact, no - she cannot.

And that led me to my point, that she could believe what she believes, and he can believe what he believes, and each should respect the other's beliefs while at the same time not feeling compelled to share them.

Perhaps we will need to turn the CD off every now and then, to allow space for these conversations, since captive audiences make for better talks.

Sunday - "active" activities

A member of my congregation recently handed me a 2003 copy of UU World magazine that had an article in it about making Sunday School "boy friendly". The article said that the basic format of most Sunday School lesson plans (read a story, talk about it, do a craft project) was too passive and didn't interest boys as much as girls.

As I was reading this article, I thought about my classes. We have far more boys than girls from the 3rd grade and up, so our classes are very boy-dominated. And yes, we read a story in almost every class. But no, the boys don't seem to mind that. What we do, though, that is good for both boys and girls who are more active or kinesthetic learners, is that we do a lot of games and activities that get the kids up and moving or working with some kind of manipulative (like blocks).

Church and school don't have to be totally passive experiences, and we can learn a lot from active games. There are several good resources out there for classroom games that are actually meant to teach something (like cooperation, listening skills, etc), so we should all be making our classes more active, also-known-as-boy-friendly.

(here is the 1st-3rd grade class making a "web of life" by tossing a ball of yarn to each other)

making the web of life

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Won't finish reading - The Great Transformation

The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong, is interesting but Huge. I mean, this book is both physically Huge (far too heavy to read in the bathtub or on the treadmill) and spans a Huge topic. The author examines the Axial Age, or the few hundred years that saw the birth of the major religions of today. So it spans the whole world, some very deep religious concepts, and hundreds of years of ancient history.

Since I don't need another book that feels like mind-numbing (although interesting in places) homework, I'm going to send this one back to the library.

A quote from the beginning of the book:

We all look for moments of ecstasy and rapture, when we inhabit our humanity more fully than usual and feel deeply touched within and lifted momentarily beyond ourselves. We are meaning-seeking creatures and, unlike other animals, fall very easily into despair if we cannot find significance and value in our lives.

Other bloggers are saying:

The International Association for Religious Freedom


Journey Home

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Picture Book Post

Lily's Garden by Deborah Kogan Ray follows a girl in Maine through a year of gardening and writing to her grandparents. There is a page for each month, and a little sidebar of facts about different foods or a recipe. It's a wonderful book to start talking about where your food comes from or to inspire some home gardening.

Bird, Butterfly, and Eel by James Prosek, is a lyrical science book about migration and life cycles. A great book for this time of year!

When the Root Children Wake Up by Audrey Wood, is a retelling of the story Sybelle V. Olfers, with new artwork by Ned Bittinger. Although the story would probably fit best in a Spring basket, it portrays the entire cycle of the seasons so it could work at any time. Hypatia is loving books about fairies right now, but she wasn't quite convinced by this one, as she kept asking "are these real fairies?".

Rainy Morning by Daniel Manus Pinkwater, is a totally ridiculous and funny story of an older couple taking in first one animal, then another, then another, then people, on a rainy morning. The book really made the kids laugh.

Clouds by Anne Rockwell, was a selection for our science study about the weather, but it really stood out for quality. I generally like all of Anne Rockwell's books, and this is no exception to that rule. A great explanation of clouds, with great illustrations.

For Veteran's Day

Thank you to all the veterans, and I appreciate and honor that you did your duty. A personal thank you to my husband and my friends who have served in our recent wars in Iraq and Afganistan.

But here is another thought for the day:

Armed for Conflict

When injustice threatened our innocence
we clamped down our breastplate of certainty,
protected hearts aching for justice.

We put on righteousness
as a coat of armor,
sharpened angry words,
thrust spears of judgment.

After the battles we
counted our casualties
mourned our losses,
then cried,
"Peace, peace."

And there was no peace.

-- Stephen Shick in Be the Change

Monday, November 9, 2009

7 Years

camping in montana

9 years ago we met in the National Guard.

7 years ago we were handfasted.

We lost a pregnancy. We bought a house. We had a baby. He was activated and went to Iraq for a year. We had another baby. We dealt with depression, with stress, with lack of money, with long hours at work, with chronic illness.

We comforted each other, we drove each other crazy. We laughed together, we yelled at each other. We had adventures together, and we argued over who should wash the dishes.

A marriage is so many things, and is possibly the most difficult relationship you will ever have. He is the sandpaper of my life, rubbing me into a smoother, wiser, more mature person. And he is the witness who sees the most accurately who I am, as I change over time.

Happy Anniversary, my dear. Here's to many more years of ups and downs and fulfilling our dreams and experiencing the unexpected. Together.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday - storytelling

I really never would have predicted that I would end up with "storyteller" as part of my job description. Sure, I did theater as a child and youth, but I thought of myself as dancer first, singer second, actress a very distant third. And storytelling is really it's own beast, not exactly acting.

When I was getting my Masters in Teaching, we did a very short look at the teaching methods of other cultures, and I remember reading a book of "teaching stories" of Native Americans. It stands out in my mind from the whirlwind of "stuff" we did and read, partly because they were stories.

The human brain is wired for story. If you can make your message into a story, folks will have a much easier time remembering it. In all the years I have attended churches, there is only one sermon that I remember vividly, but there are many stories that have stuck with me.

Today I told "Pandora's Box" at the church service. It's a simple story, but one of my favorites. I chose the story to go with a message from a guest speaker who conducts interfaith "blessings" at places where violent crime has been committed. The end bit of "Pandora", where she catches and holds on to Hope, after all the bad things have gone out into the world, was the part that made me think of this story to go with that message. And after the service many people came up to say that they had loved that story, or that they still remembered reading it as a child.

I think we need stories, and I am very lucky to have a job where I seek them out and pass them on.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Children's chores

kids chores

We created a new chore chart today, as our previous norm has been that I do all the chores around here. Of course, little kids can't do many chores without support from an adult, so this move will not reduce my workload. Actually, the new chore chart will probably be more work for me, but I am investing in the future here.

So now the family has chores:

Carbon will clean his room, take out the trash and recycling, scoop the dog poop in the yard, clean a bathroom, and wash the dishes once a week.

Hypatia will clean her room, help scrub the kitchen floor, clean a bathroom, scoop the kitty messes in the garage, and wash dishes once a week.

My husband will clean the litterboxes, wash the dishes once a week, and make breakfast on Saturdays.

I want to build healthy habits, instill a sense of responsibility, and pave the road for more equity in the future. So I hope this goes well!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Family Game Night

I don't think there is anything better for family bonding and fun than playing games together. Well, maybe read-alouds - they are tied at the top of my list.
Unfortunately, though, Carbon seems to have inherited my extreme tendency to be a bad-loser. I have trouble not having a little hissy-fit if I lose a game, but I don't stress when I'm playing kiddie games with children, so the kids haven't seen me be a bad loser. So maybe there is a bad-loser gene in my DNA, but regardless my son gets very mad if he loses and he stalks off from the table declaring that it was "no fun at all".
Cooperative games are best for us. There are some truly cooperative games out there, but we also find that we can play many of the Ravensberger games semi-cooperatively. "Rivers, Road, and Rails" is Carbon's favorite, with it's cooperative puzzle building a crazy twisting road system.
Even very young children can play this game, so it is perfect for families and mixed-age groups. But you need a big table!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My little critic

Ah, kids. They listen to what you say, and sometimes they say it right back to you. Sometimes it feels like it is my own inner critic being voiced through my son's mouth.

We had a lesson at church that I had done, where they read Horton Hatches An Egg to the kids and then we had an activity to make decorated bean shakers. Not my most brilliant lesson plan, but you know how those brain associations go sometimes. Horton Hatches An Egg -> egg shakers -> rhythm band activities -> let's make bean shakers!

Carbon's in the class, and he said during the lesson: "this is a fun activity, but it really has nothing to do with the story, Mom." The volunteer teacher gave me such a look!

Today I "cooked" for the first time since I came down with the flu a week ago. I threw together some polenta, a jar of marinated roast peppers, some pepperoni, and melted mozzarella cheese on it. A sort of polenta pizza bake.

Carbon picked at his dinner and then said "I don't think I should be eating this unhealthy food. Dairy is not good for you when you're sick."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Picture Book Post - Elsa Beskow

Elsa Beskow is a swedish author of picture books, many about fairies. I see her books in Waldorf stores and catalogs, and on lists of recommended books for seasonal book baskets. And I know people who really love these books.

I just don't quite get them, myself. The illustrations are lovely, yes. And perhaps the prose feels odd to me because it is translated - maybe something is lost in translation. But the plot lines feel like they amble without a point, and then characters act in ways that don't make sense to me. I just feel like I'm missing something.

But Hypatia likes the Beskow books we've read so far, so I'll keep checking them out and scratching my head in mild bemusement. Am I the only one that doesn't get it?

So far we've read The Sun Egg and Woody, Hazel, and Little Pip

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Spooky Stuff

halloween spook factor

Halloween is all about the spooky stuff, and it's fun. My husband prefers Halloween to Christmas, and we have almost as many decorations stored in our attic for this holiday as we do for the other.

So why do we enjoy all this fake blood and gore and seemingly celebrate nastiness? Why do people enjoy horror movies and haunted houses?

I've done a little research, and the prevailing theory seems to be that it is an adrenaline rush followed by endorphins from feelings of relief. It's an explanation I can believe - so these movies and stories are like emotional roller coasters.

A little bit of spooky stuff seems like harmless fun to me. I draw my line at the more sadistic stuff (like Saw), and personally I have a low tolerance for scary things. But I can see the appeal.

Here's the Spooky Stuff we've enjoyed this month:

Who Said Boo?: Halloween Poems for the Very Young by Nancy White Carlstrom, wasn't exactly spooky by adult standards, but Hypatia enjoyed the illustrations and the poems lend themselves to very dramatic readings. Be ready to yell "Boo!"

R.L. Stine is for the junior crowd what Steven King is for the adults, and the DVD of Goosebumps: One Day at Horrorland managed to creep out the whole family.

Coraline was almost too much for the kids, and I probably should have previewed it before letting them watch it. This is some very creepy animation! They ended up watching it huddled under a blanket on the sofa with me.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan was a stretch for me, because I HATE zombies. They freak me out - I wasn't even able to watch Shaun of the Dead because I found that too scary. But I heard that this was a very good YA novel about post-zombie apocalypse, and I got it from the library. I couldn't read all of it, and had to skim through some of the zombie attack scenes, but I thought the book was really good. Teen angst and love triangles and the last people alive, surrounded by a world full of zombies! My husband, who has read and seen most of the zombie stuff out there, wasn't blown away by this one, but he did say it was "pretty good".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Too sick for Sunday

The flu bug hit us hard, and I have to stay home today and miss work at church. I feel extremely lame, but I don't want to spread this flu around to the whole congregataion.

And the worst bummer is that I had a story planned for service that I'm not going to get to do now (I think no one is going to do it, I'm not sure how the minister is planning on covering my absence). It was a cool story I wrote inspired by the book The Tenth Good Thing About Barney:

When I was a child, I had many pets: fish, hamsters, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, and dogs. I loved my pets very much, and I learned many important lessons from taking care of my pets.

What kinds of pets do you have?

One of the things I learned from my pets was that everything that is alive will also die. Pets don’t live as long as people do, so over the years I loved a pet, and then I had to say goodbye to it when it died.

Have any of you had to say goodbye to a pet?

My favorite way to say goodbye to pets is to bury the pets’ body in my garden. At my house now, my children’s pets are buried in the garden.

(Bring forward the little tray of dirt and the spoon.)

I dig a hole in the earth, and then we say goodbye and put our pet in the hole. I have some stones here that we could pretend were our pets we had to say goodbye to. Would any of you like to say goodbye to a pet by putting a stone in this dirt?

At my house, after we say goodbye, I cover the hole back up with dirt. The amazing thing is that we wouldn’t even have dirt if living things didn’t die. All the dirt on our planet is a mix of minerals, or rock, and organic stuff that came from living creatures that had died.
When the first life came up out of the ocean, there wasn’t good soil for plants to grow in. The plants had to gradually grow across the land, and when they died they helped to make the soil that more plants could grow from.

So what happens in the garden, after we say goodbye to our pet?

The pets become part of the soil again, and in that spot where we buried them, we can see their bodies become part of new life.
(put some flowers on the tray of dirt)

When I see the flowers growing in that spot, it makes me happy to remember how connected all life is, and how even though I had to say goodbye to my beloved pet, now they are part of the beautiful garden.

Would you each like a flower, to remember your pets with? Here is one for each of you, and now you can go back to your families. Thank you for helping me say goodbye again.