Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
On this point we cannot be too earnest. We must shun the spirit of sectarianism as from hell. We must shudder at the thought of shutting up God in any denomination. We must think no man the better for belonging to our communion, no man the worse for belonging to another. We must look with undiminished joy on goodness, though it shine forth from the most adverse sect.
The angels and pure spirits who visit our earth come not to join a sect, but to do good to all. May this universal charity descend on us and possess our hearts; may our narrowness, exclusiveness, and bigotry melt away under this mild, celestial fire.
William Ellery Channing
"The Bond of the Universal Church"
Found in Great Companions V. 1
Monday, October 26, 2009
So we listened to a very well read CD of The Van Gogh Cafe. It is a charming story of a cafe where magic happens - simple magic such as a cat that falls in love with a sea gull and very strange magic such as food that cooks itself and poetry that predicts the future. A ten year old girl works there with her father the owner, and she "sees everything" with her calm gaze taking in the world and all the people who come in to the cafe.
The story had another magical effect - it kept the kids spellbound as we drove around town! We had a few "driveway moments" when we had to stay in the car until a bit of resolution had come to the story, and we were all sad to come to the end of the story.
After the book ended, the CD ran the "credits" and said "written by Cynthia Rylant". Carbon exclaimed "Cynthia Rylant!? She's my favorite!" He hadn't realized why I checked out that story, but of course she is his favorite. He adores all the Henry and Mudge books, and when either of the kids plays with our dog they call it "playing Henry and Mudge". Carbon will also inform you that she wrote The Lighthouse Family books.
I think Santa may be slipping a Cynthia Rylant book into somebody's stocking this year ...
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Children’s Chapel 10/25-2009
1. Opening Words:
Life is a gift for which we are grateful.
We gather in community
To celebrate the glories and the mysteries
Of this great gift.
2. Chalice Lighting
For the things we know and the things we won’t,
We light this chalice
For questions that have answers and those that don’t,
We light this chalice.
For friends who get knocked down and get up again,
We light this chalice
We light this chalice for peace and for friendship and love in our world.
We light this chalice
---M. Maureen Killoran
3. Song – When I breathe in
When I breathe in, I breathe in love
When I breathe out, I breathe out peace
(Keep going as a chant)
4. The story of air
In the beginning, our planet earth was not surrounded by a pillow of air. There was no oxygen to breathe. But then something happened. Small plants in the sea learned how to make energy from the sun, and when they did that they breathed in carbon dioxide and they breathed out oxygen. Then the plants moved to the land, and they kept breathing out oxygen. But there was a problem, because after awhile there was too much oxygen! Many species went extinct and died out because so much oxygen in the atmosphere was toxic for them. The earth was out of balance.
Then something else happened. Life evolved that could breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. That life became animals, and when animals came out of the sea and onto the land they breathed in oxygen, and they breathed out carbon dioxide. And the plants kept breathing in the carbon dioxide, and breathing out the oxygen – and they were in harmony. Air in, air out.
5. Song – from you I receive
From you I receive,
To you I give,
Together we share,
And by this we live.
(keep going as a chant)
6. Meditation on an orange – by Thich Nhat Hanh (in A Pebble for Your Pocket)
7. If needed for time, yoga
Friday, October 23, 2009
Well, it turns out it most certainly is in this article about bans on clotheslines. Just one more reason why I wouldn't want to live in a managed community, but it does make me wonder. Is how you wash your clothes a sign of poverty? Is there a class issue at play here? (I expect there is). There is definitely an environmental impact.
Here is how I do laundry now:
I do not sort by color anymore. Too much work for me, and I don't see my clothes all turning pink or anything, so it seems OK. There is one laundry basket in each bedroom and one in the laundry room, and I am just always running whatever is looking full.
- I wash everything in cold water only, with environmentally friendly detergent. I have an energy star, front-loading (water efficient) washing machine.
- In the summer I have a retractable clothesline across the yard, and a folding laundry rack that I set out on the patio. This usually means I don't use the dryer at all in the summer. In the winter I use the clothes rack indoors. The only place it fits is in our living room, so some folks have said things like "that's so country of you" which I interpret as a slight. Oh well, whatever. To keep up with the flow of dirty laundry, I do have to use the dryer in the winter. We don't have an energy star, but we do have a fairly new and fairly efficient dryer, and I keep it vacuumed out so it will run with more efficiency.
- I fold on top of the dryer, and then I carry the piles to everyone's room. Every now and then I get the kids to help me fold, but mostly I am the only one who does. I put everything away in the drawers also, for everyone. (I know I should be getting more help, but my husband is a hopeless case and the kids are still struggling to open their own drawers).
- Socks go into a shoebox on a shelf above the dryer, and later I will sit and match socks. Ironing goes into a basket and waits for once a week ironing, and anything that needs mending goes into another basket.
- I iron all my husband's shirts for him. He doesn't know how to iron (crazy - how do you not learn growing up?) whereas I grew up ironing my father's shirts as one of my chores. My husband's preference would be to take his shirts to the cleaners, but he would need me to do that for him. I would rather iron than run extra errands, actually.
- Most of my mending comes from Carbon, who is rough on his clothes. I darn his socks and sew patches (lots of patches) on his pants.
- And I have a very few things that need drycleaning, so I get that stuff cleaned about twice a year. My love of cashmere sweaters is my undoing, and I am aware of how bad drycleaning chemicals are for the environment. We have one place in town that advertises itself as "organic and environmentally friendly" and that's where I go.
Laundry is a daily chore for me. I am always just trying to keep up with it so it doesn't overwhelm and then require more dryer use. My goal is to keep my family dressed decently on the minimum possible amount of energy, water, and consumables.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
For Carbon's math practice, we use the Math U See program, and I really like it. We've been taking our time moving through the primer, as I believe in mastery of math facts and I don't see any reason to rush him, but really this program is fantastic.
There are base 10 blocks that you can buy to go with the workbooks, and the blocks are very nice because they are ridged so you can count how many units are in each block and the ridges sort of hold together almost like a lego brick, so they are very satisfactory for Carbon to handle and please his tactile senses.
But even if you didn't have the blocks, the workpages are laid out with wonderful visual cues for the math problems. It's clear all along that the numbers represent a unit of something and the number line and place value have been beautifully shown as well.
And while Carbon is working on his math, I give Hypatia a pair of dice and have her roll them and then "build" that number from the blocks. It's always nice to have a way for the toddlers and preschoolers to stay occupied while you're trying to work with the older child. :)
Math is one of our easiest subjects right now, mostly because there is no stress in following this program. We love it!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Art instructors warn students of the deadly danger of prolonged unprotected use of certain chemicals that produce spectacular artistic results. Cutting flowers mindlessly may cause similar longterm dmage to the soul. By separating the blossom from the plant and the earth, we may become numb to how our actions can sever the link between earth, sky, and humankind. Albert Schweitzer told a cautionary tale. A farmer, he said, may rightly cut a thousand flowers while producing feed for his cows. If, however, that same farmer on his way home wantonly cuts the head of a single flower growing on the road, he injures life.
Stephen Shick, Be the Change: Poems, Prayers, & Meditations for Peacemakers and Justice Seekers
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
But not this year. I am really trying to actually continue caring for my garden, year round. Yes, there are more sewing and knitting days than gardening days during this half of the year, but I'm going to go outside on all the gardening days I can.
Today I harvested potatoes and beans, and made a surprise harvest of tomatillos that had been hidden by my ridiculously huge broccoli patch. I don't have any memory of planting tomatillos this year, but I do remember planting seed last year and being disappointed when they didn't come up. So they surprised me!
I also planted my garlic. I harvested so much garlic this year that I am trying out replanting from my own rather than buying any to plant. So there is one little patch of garden set to go for next year.
The rest of the beds will need some work before I put them to bed for the winter. I need to dig up the good rich ground my chickens live on top of, and stir that in to the soil. Chicken poop is very hot, so it will need the winter to cool off and be ready for planting in the spring.
It seems like it's good for the kids too that I'm trying to keep us going outside. We all need the outdoors - it's so much healthier for us.
This week's garden:
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I noticed something as I moved from classroom to classroom today, checking in and working with three different age levels at once. I noticed that we have fallen into a pattern in all of our classes, despite using very different curriculum in each.
In our pre-K class we are using a Montessori-based method called Spirit Play, in our 1st-3rd grade class I wrote my own lesson plans for "Dr. Seuss and Our 7 Principles", and in the 4th-6th grade class we are doing Toolbox of Faith from the UUA. All different, but they are all sharing a balance of activities in common:
1. Welcome and small liturgical element (lighting the chalice)
2. Joys and Sorrows, a chance for the kids to share and receive support from each other and the teacher
3. A Story
5. Activity - game, art, etc.
6. Clean up
7. Closure of the class circle
The ages are all at different stages, but they all are following this outline right now, and it seems to work very well for us. Today I could walk from a room where there were little 3 year olds painting and doing yoga into a classroom where 1st-3rd graders were trying to do jigsaw puzzles with blindfolds on with a partner telling them where to put the pieces, into a classroom where 4th-6th graders were making duct tape lunch sacks. Earlier in the classes I would have walked from a story of a lazy bear into a reading of "Horton Hears a Who" into a story called "Answer Mountain".
It's very moving, to see them all in action, and to just feel the happy hum of energy in the classrooms.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Carbon was trading his bionicle parts at homeschool park days, but he didn't have enough pieces and I felt bad for him after an older boy traded him two launchers for an entire figure. Ebay seemed like a logical source to "bulk up" his bionicle collection, but I was unprepared for how much some people are willing to pay for these toys! After bidding on many lots, we finally got one. And to be fair, I also bid on a lot of groovy girl dolls for Hypatia. And then, since I was now hooked on ebay, I bid on a few lego sets and got a Harry Potter set.
At that point, I had to pull the plug on my computer. No More Ebay!
Friday, October 16, 2009
For homeschool, we've been reading:
From Lava to Life the sequel to Born with A Bang. Here we have the Earth story, from it's molten beginnings to the end of the dinosaurs, told to us by the Universe and with spiritual overtones.
The Dawn of Life is a the cartoon version of the story of life beginning on Earth. Without the tone of spirituality, this series tells the same story with a comic tone.
Tikal: The Center of the Maya World is a well-illustrated account of the ancient cities history.
For fun we've been reading:
Don't Forget the Bacon is a funny story of trying to remember what to buy at the store, that had the kids talking about it for weeks. They would turn to each other and say "don't forget the bacon" likes it is a little inside joke for the two of them.
The Ticky Tacky Doll is a sweet story of a beloved handmade doll, and a very wise grandmother.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets . Carbon loved this one even more than the first, and I love to see him playing Harry Potter games.
And I've been reading
The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. I finally read this, and it is a lovely book. Mma Ramotswe is obviously inspired by Agatha Christie's lady detectives, and Botswana is painted in loving prose.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
As the name implies, global warming is a global problem, and it is going to require that we all come together to solve this problem. There are personal habits we can change, but we also need political will to make a change.
The science is real. The problem is real. And it's actually not that hard to understand:
It's scary. It's a BIG problem, and it will affect our children and the entire future of our species and our planet. But this is no time for despair, this is a time for Action.
1. Change some of your habits, and lower your carbon footprint. Reduce the amount you use your car, reduce the amount of disposable stuff you use, reduce the amount of energy required to heat your home.
2. Support forests. Trees and forests offset some of our gases, and deforestation is part of the problem. Drink shade grown coffee, donate money and effort to places like the Nature Conservancy, tell your lawmakers you love forests, look at how and what you are eating to see if forest was cut down to make grazing land for your hamburger.
3. Support political efforts to make global political changes. This December the world leaders gather in Copenhagen to once again discuss a treaty on global warming. Let them know how you feel. Participate in a 350.org action on October 24th, to send a message that we want our leaders to cap CO2 levels at 350. You can find a local action here.
4. Blog about this today!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
It may be a little easier if we know ahead of time that some of the intensity we feel as we try to help our own children with their hard times is very likely related to what we went through ourselves when we were children. Even if our childhoods were relatively problem-free, growing always presents us with difficulties to be overcome ... and the memories of these difficulties are so easily awakened as our children encounter similar difficulties of their own.
Many Ways to Say I Love You: Wisdom for Parents and Children from Mister Rogers
by Fred Rogers (one of my personal Saints)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
There are many educational methods that teach children some kind of handwork: Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Montessori, and others. Doing something with your hands was something I was taught as well, along with an attitude of "never sit idle" that encourages me to sew or knit or embroider while I watch TV or sit and listen to our read alouds at night.
For little kids, having something to do with their hands has many benefits. They are learning coordination, concentration, and focus. It can also help little squirmers sit still and listen while you read to them. Carbon's current handwork is the knitting mushroom, and he did enough with some of my old yarn that he got to go to the yarn store and pick out his own ball of yarn - he selected a lovely bright red wool.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Yesterday we stood and held hands outside our state Capitol, and we sang:
Standing on the side of love,
arms linked together,
our hearts beat as one.
Emboldened by faith
we dare to proclaim
We are standing on the side of love.
We canceled our regular Religious Education classes so that all our families could come out for our public witness, supporting full equal rights under the law for GLBT families and couples.
Did all of the kids understand what this meant? Did they understand the details of the laws we were talking about? No.
When the minister asked who had ever loved someone, and then asked them to imagine what they want for people they love, and then asked them to imagine extending those same things - that same love - to everyone, they understood that.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I was impressed with the hotel, and with the fact that the families mostly seemed so happy with each other. It made me wonder, to see so many dad's playing with their kids and that even when the parents were tired or frazzled, they were smiling at how much fun their kids were having. I suppose that isn't realistic, to have those family dynamics all the time. But still - it's nice to see.
Friday, October 9, 2009
This is a grown-up version of a saying I used to quote: "Never assume malice when stupidity could explain it". That saying was very helpful to me when I was younger, especially as a driver. If someone tailgates you or cuts you off on the road, they probably weren't "out to get you" - but you can go ahead and roll your eyes and think "idiot".
Now, I try to not think of people as "idiots" anymore, while still assuming they hold no malice. Even if this is not always true, even if I am sometimes "turning the other cheek" to a person who really was acting without good-intentions, I still choose to live as though my fellow humans are innately good people.
Yesterday my nanny recounted an interaction between my children. They were both playing, when Hypatia said she needed to go to the bathroom. Carbon, as soon as he heard that, shouted "I need to go pee too!" and sprinted to get to the bathroom before she could. The nanny was unhappy with him for doing that, and she was telling him through the door that that was a mean thing to do, and then she told Hypatia that she was sorry her brother had done that. Hypatia answered "he must have really had to pee to make him do that".
My nanny was surprised at that attitude from a three year old, but I recognize it as my "assume good intentions" philosophy. (Of course, Carbon's "me first" attitude is another issue altogether).
How we live is how they learn.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
This is going to be easier for me than it will be for the rest of the family, but I've got a few ideas already:
My husband could make something like this treehouse, with our jigsaw and materials we already own or have out in the yard. I just have to help him remember to take the time when he has a chance between now and december. Hypatia would love this!
I don't know about our woodworking skills, but if we could build one I think Carbon would like a wooden castle, kind of like this.
I have a few decorative plates hanging in my kitchen, and my husband could take Carbon to the Painted Plate place in town and Carbon could paint a plate for my collection. (Is that stretching the definition of handmade? I'm not sure.)
My husband likes to keep his tshirt drawer smelling nice, and the kids can work on their handwork to make decorative sachets for the lavender I have hanging to dry right now.
The kids could also make a new handprint Tshirt for their dad, or a handprint bag or pillowcase for me.
Projects I could do: embroidered pillowcases, quilts, doll clothing, knit hats and scarves, stuffed animals, pillows, personalized bags.
*** Santa will still be coming to our house. But we've never had Santa do more than stuff the stockings, so the kids will just be getting store bought stocking stuffers.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
She plays with them, which they think is Awesome.
And, she makes cool shirts for them, which we all think is Awesome.
Look - Hypatia is in there with the Disney princesses!
So, yesterday was her 27th birthday, and the kids made her cards and a cake - because she's Awesome!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sacrificio, sacrifice, spilled from the lips of Italian-American women of my mother's generation like sugar poured into espresso as they resigned themselves to sweeten life's bitterness, usually at the expense of their own desires. From the point of view of a daughter whose mother stepped back, allowing me to step forward, I had no use for this servile female role. Inherent in any act of sacrifice is both beauty and destruction - the surrender of self to aid another - but I could see only loss in the equation, and questioned how anyone could spend a lifetime caught in this interlaced pas de deux. It wasn't until I became a mother that I better recognized how sacrifice, and its essential component compassion, are integral parts of life because no one is ever fully independent unless living in a fictive neverland of the never young, never sick, never old.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Hypatia likes repetition (she is a preschooler, after all), and she likes to hear the same story over and over again. I thought it would be nice to read many versions of the same story, to fulfill her desire to revisit the story but also to introduce some new material at the same time.
Cinderella was my first thought, as I knew that the story has many multicultural versions and lovely retellings out there. She likes the story, so this has been a fun exploration for us.
Adelita is a retelling by Tomie dePaola, set in Mexico and intermixing some spanish phrases in the text.
Turkey Girl sets the story in the Zuni culture (southwest native american), and has a different (not happy) ending.
Abedeha is the Phillipine Cinderella, adding interesting details but not changing the story much.
We also read a very good non-Cinderella book last week: Child of Fairie, Child of Earth is a sweet happy twist on the "stolen by the fairie folk" story, with lovely illustrations and told in verse.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
After the story, the class discussed the story and the principle and were thinking of times that they had lived out that principle.
"When the door popped off my sister's toy, I put it back on for her", Carbon said.
A little girl talked about holding an ice pack on her sister's head after a fall.
Another girl said "when my neighbor loaned me her skate board, I took really good care of it."
Then the conversation turned to Horton and the bird Maisy. The kids had a bit of a harder time with the fact that Horton was kind and loyal, and Maisy was mean and lazy, and yet Horton was kind to Maisy. The conversation turned to times they hadn't wanted to be nice to someone, times when they thought someone didn't deserve kindness.
As the kids fell silent, many of them frowning, the volunteer teacher (with a great sense of timing - he was great with them today) softly said "but that's why it says everyone. Because sometimes it's hard, but those folks might need the most kindness of all."
When I eavesdrop on that kind of an interaction, I really love Religious Education.
Friday, October 2, 2009
"Water flows and fills the tiniest crevices without judgment. It brings life equally to nematodes, slime molds, roses, great whales, and human beings. There is no judgment; it simply brings the world to life. So may it be with our love; so may it be with our families; so may it be with our communities. And may we find peace, liberty, and justice filling the days of our lives and spreading outward."
Our Seven Principles in Story and Verse by Kenneth Collier
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Of course, what I think people mean when they say "socialized" is "normal" - as in mediocre, non-threatening, and easily understood and dismissed. We fear "weird" people, and we fear that somehow it is terribly bad for children to be individuals and not members of a pack.
My kids are not weird, I'm afraid. You know how I can tell? Today was allowance day, and they each knew just what they wanted to buy. Ever since we've been going to the homeschool park days once a week, Carbon has been admiring the older boys with their giant collections of bionicles. They sit there at the park and trade parts, and Carbon really wants to join in. So, today he bought bionicles and star wars legos (he needed clone troopers to "build his army").
Hypatia still plays on the playground equipment and pretends to have secret hide outs in the bushes at the park, but she also had a toy she really wanted to buy. Our next door neighbors have four little girls, and they have lots of "Little Pet Shop" toys. Hypatia bought some for herself today, and is planning on bringing them out in the yard the next time the four houses in a row here with kids in them all seem to converge in our front yard.
Alas, no desires for books, science kits, or other nerdy things. They also don't feel drawn to donating their allowances to charity. They want the same toys their friends have, and those toys are mainstream, plastic (crap).
How socialized of them.