Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday - lend a "hand"

Within the circles of our lives

we dance the circles of the years

the circles of the seasons

within the circles of the years,

the cycles of the moon

within the circles of the seasons,

the circles of our reasons

within the cycles of the moon.

Again, again we come and go,

changed, changing. Hands

join, unjoin in love and fear,

grief and joy. The circles turn,

each giving into each, into all.

Only music keeps us here,

each by all the others.

In the hold of hands and eyes

we turn in pairs, that joining

joining each to all again.

And then we turn aside, alone,

out of the sunlight gone

into the darker circles of return.

“Song (4)” Collected Poems -Wendell Berry

hand imprints on the new church wing

New space for our community. Hand prints of all, marking this space and blessing it, for these generations and for those that will follow us.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's like a whole new house!

I can be a bit weird sometimes, so my way of reacting to loads of stress and packing and moving at work is to come home and move all my stuff at home. Basically, I really needed: a) to establish a sense of control over something, b) to finish something, and c) to have some place feel like a haven when work has just spit me out of my space there.

So, after four trips over to church today to pack and move and take things to Goodwill, around 5pm today I started to work on my house.

A couple old before shots:

Story of my stuff, installment 2

more story of my stuff

story of my stuff, part 4

And here's our new house!

our new entry way

our new office

our new living room

looking at the new arrangement

I still have a huge mess of stuff from my old office at work, that will have to live here at home for at least a month. But - I now have a home office! By taking that IKEA bookshelf and turning it 90 degrees to the wall, I created a room divider, and separated space for an entry way and for a home office. The living room space is now focused on the piano and doesn't have office stuff mixed throughout, which we all agree is much nicer and more relaxing.

It doesn't feel like we lost any floor space, but we gained what feels like two whole rooms worth of "living space".

And I had an outlet for my anxiety and frustration tonight, which we all agree was good for the whole family.

Tomorrow - well tomorrow is probably going to be crazy. But when it's done, I get to come home to this!

The Phantom Tollbooth

We've just finished listening to The Phantom Tollbooth on audiobook, and I am in love with this book now that I've heard it again from an adult perspective. And although the book has plenty for adults to chuckle about, it captivated Carbon as well with it's wild and crazy adventures and wacky characters. Oddly enough, this book has a checkered history for me and the kids:

1. I received two copies of it for one of my birthdays, and was too young to realize that saying "but I already have this!" was rude. So I was shushed and told I'd been rude, and that emotion became associated with the book in my mind.

2. Carbon was given a copy as a gift and then somehow lost it. I hate losing things - and it was that same book that I remembered being embarrassed about as a young child myself!

But we got the audiobook from the library and listened to it in the car this week, and it's a wonderful fable about learning and life. Just look at these quotes from the book:

Whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course. Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in a pond; and whenever you're sad, no one anywhere can be really happy. And it's much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer.

-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


Expectations is the place you must always go to before you get to where you're going. Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations, but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not.

-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

And remember, also, added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you'll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.

-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


... for one of the nicest things about mathematics, or anything else you might care to learn, is that many of the things which can never be, often are. You see it's very much like your trying to reach Infinity. You know that it's there, but you just don't know where-but just because you can never reach it doesn't mean that it's not worth looking for.

-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
Why, can you imagine what would happen if we named all the twos Henry or George or Robert or John or lots of other things? You'd have to say Robert plus John equals four, and if the four's name were Albert, things would be hopeless.

-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


A slavish concern for the composition of words is the sign of a bankrupt intellect. Be gone, odious wasp! You smell of decayed syllables.

-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


But it's not just learning things that's important. It's learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.
-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


You must never feel badly about making mistakes, explained Reason quietly, as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.
-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life.

-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Friday, January 29, 2010

How they play ...

Spiderwick's fieldguide

Carbon's fieldguide

My kids don't have trouble entertaining themselves. A few of their recent games:

1. Making their own Fieldguides, inspired by The Spiderwick Chronicles

2. Hunting for fairies, also inspired by The Spiderwick Chronicles

3. Burning dolls at the stake and building imaginary campfires with branches and twigs that fell from one of our trees in a recent windstorm. I don't know what inspired them to tie up their dolls and pretend to burn them at the stake. (Peter Pan, maybe?)

burning her at the stake

4. Digging for dinosaur bones in the yard, and they did find an old rusty cookie sheet that we must have lost during last summer's BBQ season

5. Treasure hunts, with maps they draw of the house

6. Make-it-up-as-you-go Chess, which Carbon wins every time (imagine that)

7. Pirates. It never seems to get old

8. Census/Senses-Taker, inspired by The Phantom Tollbooth

They don't know the meaning of the word bored.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Food, Inc.

On Tuesday I watched the documentary Food, Inc. Very much like The Omnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, and a bit like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, this film examines how the modern food industry affects our health and the health of the planet. For those who haven't read all these books, this documentary is a great introduction, and for those who are already pretty "up" on this subject, it's a good summary.

For me, it was a good reminder. Oh yeah - I really wanted to do more about this. Sure, I already buy organic, at the Farmer's Market, have my CSA subscription, and my bakery share subscription, and at our local co-op. We don't drink soda. I have a large garden and grow some of what we eat.

But there is so much more I could do.

Meat. Oh, meat. See, we still want to eat meat. But we don't want to be supporting a system that is cruel and disrespectful to animals, workers, and the environment. One idea the family is floating around is to only buy our meat from local butcher shops from now on. That would be good. There is also a ranch near here that has organic, free-range meat that you can go "visit" if you want, and you can subscribe to a meat CSA for chickens or you can buy a 1/4 or 1/2 of a cow or a hog and then put it in your freezer.

We also should eat less meat, period. More vegetarian meals - more beans! I don't want to just replace meat with dairy (besides being lactose-intolerant, I see various ethical/environmental problems with heavy dairy use), or with "fake meat" made from soy. No, I think beans is the way to go.

And then the Whole Foods concept is also really important, and when I get busy it's too easy to let it slip. Basically, whole foods is when you shop for real, basic, whole foods, not for processed or "value-added" food products. Buy the tomatoes, not the tomato sauce. Buy the cucumbers and the vinegar, not the pickles. Buy the veggies and beans, not the can of soup.

I don't have time to take it to total extremes (I'm not going to churn my own butter, basically), but I enjoy canning and preserving and cooking. I own a large extra freezer. So I could do a "cook ahead" day, maybe with the whole family helping, and premake tamales, soup, muffins, etc. and stick them in the freezer.

Food, Inc. ends with these words:

You can vote on this system, three times a day.

What you buy, what you eat, does make a difference.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Farewell to a very important human

TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

-- Howard Zinn

This great historian, author of A People's History of the United States, died today.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thinking about our impact

My husband and I just watched the documentary No Impact Man, about a New York family trying to live for one year with no net impact on the planet. There is also a blog and a book. It's an idea that has long inspired me, to live lightly on the planet, and this film is both interesting and inspiring. The verdict from my husband: this guy is interesting and not too whiny.

The film also got us talking some more about our lifestyle, and what we can do to make it less harmful to our enironment. We both agree that to be truly no/very low impact would require one of us to be dedicated to survival as an almost full-time job. But there is still a lot we can do, and what is stopping us is just habit, or laziness, or fear of looking "weird" to other people.

The One Small Change challenge is still a good way to go for changing our lifestyle for the better. Focusing on one change a month gives us time to digest it, talk about it, and learn from it. This month I've learned a lot about my shopping habits, as I could not shop. Sometimes I just want something new, for no good reason. Being forced to put that desire into recycling, crafting, and recreating has been very satisfying. We won't continue on with No Buying after this month is over, but I do want to make some kind of a waiting period or something, so I'm not allowed to buy anything until it's been on a list and deemed to be necessary. My husband and I will talk about the purchases before either of us makes them, which will definitely cut back on how much we buy (and spend).

Our shopping list so far:

red quilt binding
seeds for the garden
an entertainment cabinet, to finally hide all the cords for the TV and DVD player
possibly a new DVD player - we think ours is dying

Transportation is a big one for us, and in many ways it's the hardest to solve. I really wish I could be a bicycle commuter, but Carbon has outgrown the trailer for my bike and is still not ready to ride his own bike through traffic. I also don't commute so much as run errands for the family and for work. Hauling lots of large cumbersome stuff along with two children, without using my car, is a major challenge. I would love to buy a Joe Bike, but my husband points out (validly), that we have several large expenditures planned this year, with trips and a bathroom repair, and an expensive bike is not fiscally responsible. Especially when I already own an expensive bike. I need to use that bike whenever I can, keep working on getting Carbon road safe on his bike, and explore how much I could get around with the kids on the bus. I think this will be our One Small Change for March.

February's One Small Change is going to be No New Plastic (but Carbon negotiated a Lego Exemption). We will try to eliminate the flow of disposable plastics through our home, including containers that go into the recycling. I fully expect that I won't be able to completely eliminate the plastic, but I'm going to try. It's going to effect grocery shopping a lot, but we've been brainstorming ways to get around the plastic, such as going to the butcher counter instead of buying meat vacuum packed on styrofoam, buying from the bulk bins, and getting creamer in wax paper cartons intead of in plastic bottles. No more of my beloved International Delight. :( We're up for the challenge!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday - bittersweetness

Today I arrived at church at 7:30, and began to set up the classrooms. Our RE space is far from ideal - that's why the church is building a new wing. I have to do a lot of rearranging and moving of heavy furniture to achieve a workable arrangement.

We've been working on this building project for years. I've had So Many Meetings about the floorplans, the lighting fixtures, the windows, the everything. So many people have put so much of their time, energy, money, hopes and dreams into new space, and it's almost done.

We just found out that we have to vacate our classrooms for 4-6 weeks because of the construction, and that means no RE for the next month. That is huge.

But after so many years, another 6 weeks of incovenience is a small hurdle to jump - so I hope everyone will be patient.

What is the bittersweet that I refer to in the title of this post? Well, it actually makes me kind of sad to look at all these things that I have been working on and with for so long, and to realize they are about to be moved out or torn down. Sure, the next space should be better. But I loved this space - even though it sucked in a lot of ways. I put a lot of myself into this space. And we are about to move out of it.

Good. Sad. Incovenient. Hopeful.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Family Picnic

If the (emotional) going gets tough (for Mom), the tough get Going! The class I was going to be working today was canceled, so I had a Saturday off! (Which wasn't scheduled to happen until February).

We packed a picnic, and headed off to a beach State park that wasn't too far away, but not so close that we had been there before. This beach turned out to be covered in oysters, but it isn't oyster season so my husband wasn't tempted to take any home. Some other time we could get a permit and collect some for his dinner. :)

Scenic Beach State Park

looking for fish to catch

Getting extra wet!

A quick trip out of town isn't a silver bullet for emotional distress, but it doesn't hurt.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Emotional Winter

It may be warm and unseasonably spring-like outside, but I am still stuck in some deep winter here. People sick and dying, living with construction at work and having to cancel my program for at least a month, at least one person a day reminding me that I've forgotten something I was supposed to do for them, and just general over-worked caregiver syndrome - it's all getting me down - waaaayyyy down.

A week-long nap sounds lovely at the moment, but that's just not an option. And there will be no mental health shopping spree for me either, since it's still Buy Nothing Month. I've tried to fight it with some sewing, and perhaps tomorrow I will fight it by going out and turning compost into my garden. Maybe I'll call and get an appointment for a massage.

And there's always this, to remind me of the brighter side:

Ice cream boy

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quotes for today

What has gone sour is an entire vision of planetary connection and relationship. Treaties to make peace between Israel and Palastine, to heal the earth from carbon dioxide, to ban land mines, to create an international criminal court - all spinning down the sour drain, with too few supporters to make the imperial corporations and the one remaining superstate accept their authority. It's wintertime for decency.

--Rabbi Arthur Waskow in The Tent of Abraham

Each tradition developed its own formulation of the Golden Rule: do not do unto others what you would not have done to you. As far as the Axial sages were concerned, respect for the sacred rights of all beings - not orthodox belief - was religion. If people behaved with kindness and generosity to their fellows, they could save the world.

-- Karen Armstrong in The Great Transformation

Monday, January 18, 2010

More books!

At this rate, I think we will be way past 100 library books for the year!

Hankie alert - The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a Holocaust story, written from the perspective of a naive German boy. I cried, then I watched the movie, and I cried again.

And now I am reading Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths by Karen Armstrong. It's a very detailed, but fascinating, history of Jerusalem.

For our homeschooling:
1. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
2. Lord of the Cranes by Kerstin Chen
3. Los Tres Cerditos by Merce Escardo i Bas
4. Soy Demasiado Grande by Lone Morton & Rosa Martin

For Hypatia's bedtime stories:
1. The Magic Nesting Doll by Jacqueline K. Ogburn (beautiful illustrations, and an interesting Russian fairy tale I was unfamiliar with)
2. Poppleton Has Fun by Mark Teague
3. The Boxer and the Princess by Helme Heine (a parable, rather obvious and heavy handed I thought)
4. All Night Near the Water by Jim Arnosky
5. Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg (the change in scale to see life from an ant's perspective was fun)
6. Nate the Great: San Francisco Detective by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
7. Let's Do Nothing by Tony Fucile (cute and very fun)
8. Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins

Audiobooks in the car:
Little House on the Prairie , which we all loved but I had some trouble with the issues around the Native Americans being too scary for the kids and not really developmentally appropriate for Hypatia. We had to pause during the prairie fire bit, because she started crying "I don't want to die". Goodness.
The Spiderwick Chronicles: Books 1-5. A bit spooky, actually. Carbon has been sleeping with a wooden "club" under his pillow for the last two nights in a row. Goodness again!

That makes 15 more library books, + 28 from earlier this month = 43

more recycled clothing

recycled jeans into a skirt

Hypatia, being the smallest, is getting all the hand-me-downs and make-agains. This skirt that she's wearing was made from a worn-out pair of Carbon's old jeans. The yellow patches are there because there was a yellow patch sewn over one knee where Carbon had ripped it, and then the ankles had been pretty well shredded by his rough play.

I'm trying to get through the mending basket and actually do something with all of it. Carbon is so rough on his pants - I've sewn patches on three pair, cut up one that was beyond hope in order to make the patches for the others, sewn one pair into the quilt I am making him, and then made this skirt for his sister.

It's no wonder I have a hard time finding pants for boys at the thrift store! They get worn into rags.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday - Superheroes: Bible People

a crocodile almost gets the baby!

This was the third week of our winter "pillar" at church, and my 1st-3rd graders have been using a curriculum called Superheroes: Bible People. I am quite enjoying this curriculum, but it is giving me a run for my time! The prep items have included creating a "costume box" so that the children can dramatize the Bible stories, making a burning bush prop, and creating cardboard box Arks for the children to decorate as the Ark of the Covenant.

Pictured here is Carbon taking part in the dramatization of the story of baby Moses. There weren't any parts he wanted, so he chose to be a crocodile in the river. But the crocodile was nice and let the baby float by - so that was good!

What will next week bring ...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In Honor of MLK Day

I get "saturday nerves" sometimes, worrying all day about Sunday, and whether my plans and bits are all going to go well. Today I am worrying about the Chapel I am doing tomorrow with the kids, in honor of MLK.

I have two resources I am using:

1. Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr. is a simple biography I will read to the kids

2. King For Kids is a CD with some of his best speeches remixed with some music

And I've worked out a script, which is fairly simple. But I'm still nervous! I guess I (and my family) are just going to have live with the Saturday Nerves as a job hazard ...

Oh, and in case you are interested, here's my script:

MLK Day Children’s Chapel
1. Welcome and Opening Words:
Let our love shine forth
From this sacred place
That others may know
That here they will find freedom,
Acceptance, community, and love.
--Dorothy May Emerson

2. Chalice Lighting and Joys and Sorrows

3. Song: This Little Light of Mine

4. Offering, with words by MLK from King for Kids

5. Story – Happy Birthday Martin Luther King

6. Meditation –

Wouldn’t it be great if we walked around surrounded by our souls, so that they were the first things people saw
Instead of the last things?
Then people would judge us by who we really are
Instead of how we look.
There would be no more thinking certain things about people
Because of the color of their skin or how tall they are
Or how much they weigh or how old they are.
Then people would work at making their souls more attractive
Instead of their bodies and faces.

Imagine people knowing by your soul that you really need a hug.
Imagine people helping each other and their souls changing colors or even glowing.
--Tess Baumberger, adapted

7. Song – We’re Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table

8. Closing and dismiss to classes

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thinking about my space

I've had space and organization on my mind a lot recently. This smallish house, with its 3 bedrooms and 1200 or so square feet, should be enough space for us. But you throw in homeschooling, two parents who sometimes work from home, and crafting and sewing, and it becomes too messy for my mental health.

I just keep trying to make it better. I need a place for everything, and everything in its place, and I need better ways to hide certain things that just never look tidy.


children's bookshelf

baskets for mail and mittens

basket for armchair reading

Gotta love baskets! A basket for mail, a basket for reading materials, a basket for everything!

And then there's a spot that just needs to be reworked altogether - some new furniture is in order I do believe.

problem area

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Our gymnastics night

Two classes, back to back. So, first the boy has to sit and wait, then the girl has to sit. Our total time in the gym is 1 1/2 hours. I've learned to pack a snack, the Leapster, books, and something for myself to do. Sometimes I do mending there, sometimes I knit. Sometimes I read a book. Sometimes I read out loud to the kids. As long as I plan ahead, it is a lovely evening. And the kids both love their gymnastics class!

Hypatia's gymnastics class

big jump!

Carbon on the balance beam

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

more from the sweater

Today, as I was about to throw away the sleeves from my old sweater, I thought I would try to make some doll clothing from them. A bit of hand stitching, and we have a Groovy Girl doll dress to match Hypatia's sweater dress.

more recycled sweater bits

matching dresses

Monday, January 11, 2010

recycling sweaters

If I start with a worn out sweater from my wardrobe (which I got at a thriftstore last summer), and I cut off the arms and sew darts in the neckline, then take in the sides, and sew on a few decorative buttons, what I get is a sweater dress for Hypatia. Yay - what was basically junk (stains, stretched out, blah), is now a new dress for her.

recycled clothing

a new sweater dress

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday - don't forget to feed their bellies

One of the parents at my church recently shared with me that she and her daughter had gone to tour the local Mormon church after missionaries had visited their door. She took her daughter (4 years old) because the girl had expressed interest after that door-to-door visit. They got the tour, and afterward the mother asked her daughter what she had thought of it.

"It wasn't as fun as I thought it would be." answered the daughter, and - "there weren't any cookies".

True confession: when I was in army training I attended the Protestant church service just because they handed out donuts afterward. But, I actually did find comfort and transformation in certain aspects of that worship service while I was there.

Is it petty to "bribe" people to come to church with food treats? If it was really the only reason they came, then yes. But we need to remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

If a person hasn't met their survival needs, they can't worry about the others. So, if a child is actually not getting enough food, their ability to think, learn, and grow will be inhibited. I don't believe any of my children are starving or malnourished, but there is the second level of needs.

It is not comfortable to be hungry. It's not comfortable to go for too long without a snack, and it's certainly not comfortable to meet over a meal time without serving food. As a hypoglycemic, I really appreciate the need for regular ingestion of food.

So, meeting everyone's needs for survival and comfort, we can then move on to their psychological needs (acceptance, emotional safety, etc), then self-actualization, and finally "peak experiences" - of what we could call "experiencing the holy".

For these reasons, don't forget to plan for some food! The "snack parent" of the week is fulfilling a very important role, and the meals we plan for youth group and young adult meetings are very important as well.

I think I'll go have a snack ...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A bit of our homeschooling, in pictures

A friend was recently over, dropping off her son for a playdate with my kids. Looking around at the projects and kids' artwork on my walls (and ceilings), she said "oh right - you're homeschooling".

Yes, we are homeschooling. Here's some of what it looks like:

buddha book

botany lesson

new art supplies

Friday, January 8, 2010

A few thoughts about fairy tales

There was a time when I would have told you that fairy tales were not developmentally appropriate for children. After all, all that violence, all the children losing parents and sexist stereotypes, all of that must be bad for children, right?

And yet I myself have always been fascinated by fairy tales, and I graduated from the Brothers Grimm to Robin McKinley to adult/mature fairy tale interpretations. Fairy tales stick with you, they resonate, and they can be very powerful.

I now believe it would be a mistake to leave those fairy tales out of our childrens' educations. The very fact that they are powerful, in a dreamlike way, gives us the chance to explore our basic human fears, needs, and uncertainties. We should recognize and discuss the metaphors: the heroes quest as a metaphor for growing up and finding your own identity, the endangered maiden as metaphor for the fear of first menstruation and entry to womanhood, the rescue of the frozen maid/young man as metaphor for the cycle of the seasons, etc. I'm not alone in seeing "Little Red Riding Hood" as a story for girls in puberty - Susan Kim writes about that in today's Huffington Post.

And if you read widely, you can avoid the Disney sexist stereotyping. In the last few weeks I have read The Snow Queen and The Magic Nesting Doll to my children, and both tell the tale of a girl rescuing a frozen boy, both through her loyal love but also through her bravery. The violence is no worse than most contemporary entertainment, and the fact that "good" almost always defeats "bad" and there is a "happily ever after" is actually more developmentally appropriate for kids.

What do you think? Should we teach our children through fairy tales? What are your favorite tales?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Books, books, and more books

On my husband's Kindle: Dune. He's only read it, like, 100 times or something.

Recently on my nightstand:

World Made By Hand by Howard Kunstler. After peak oil, after "The war in the Holy Land", and after bombs have apparently gone off in LA and Washington, D.C., life goes on in a more pastoral way in rural New York State in this novel. I quite liked it, and appreciated that it examined life after "the end of the world as we know it" without going into full on Mad Max territory, by which I mean that I could still believe in and like these people.

Carbon's Read-Aloud: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Since this one is HUGE, it will take us awhile to finish.

Before Harry Potter, we read The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I love that book, and it was nice to finally share it with one of my kids.

Following up on The Mixed Up Files, we read Introducing Michelangelo.

For Story of the World:
The Wisdom of the Crows by Sherab Chodzin and Alexandra Kohn (very good Buddhist tales)
The Prince Who Ran Away by Anne Rockwell (loved this story of Siddhartha)
Elephant Prince by Amy Novesky (only so so)

For Sonrisa Spanish:
Los Cinco Patitos by Pamela Paparone
Oso Pardo, oso pardo, ?que ves ahi? by Bill Martin
Diez Perros en la Tienda by Claire Masurel
Three Friends/ Tres Amigos by Maria Cristina Brusca & Tona Wilson

For Five in a Row:
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack (a classic, and our first stab at FIAR)

For Sunday School and Church:
The Full Belly Bowl by Jim Aylesworth (a very good story, which I used for a Story for All Ages)
The Three Questions by Jon Muth (another very good story, with a Zen flavor, that I used for a Story for All Ages)

For Hypatia's Bedtime stories:
Light by Jane Breskin Zalben (a lovely midrash tale)
What's Coming for Christmas by Kate Banks
Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
Under the Christmas Tree by Nikki Grimes (poetry)
Who Would Like A Christmas Tree by Ellen Bryan Obed (sweet year round tale of a Christmas tree farm)
Hogwash by Arthur Geisert (a book without words, but very cute)
Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs by Ian Whybrow (a favorite of the kids)
Wake Up House by Dee Lillegard (poetry)
The Snow Queen by Susan Jeffers (good)
Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog by Mini Grey (the kids loved this)
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Big Grey Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift (kids loved it)
Gilbert in Deep by Jane Clarke and Charles Fuge (kids liked it)

Audiobooks in the car:
Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan (very, very good)
Tales from Bunnicula, Books 1-4 by James Howe (it inspired Carbon to make up stories)
Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: the Nixie's Song by Tony DiTerlizzi
Ivy and Bean: Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows (we all loved it)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quick update on Buy Nothing Month

It's only the 5th day of this challenge, and here's what happened so far:

  • OK - I'm not going to go without espresso. There are important rituals in my life that involve drinking a mocha, and that will continue.
  • Carbon bought something. It wasn't big (a $3.00 bouncy ball with a skull and crossbones on it), and he did have the money from Christmas, and it was his choice.
  • My husband "accidentally" bought a book on his Kindle. Apparently he couldn't tell that he had moved from "free preview" to "purchase".

But there have been times I felt the urge to buy and didn't:

  • Hypatia ripped two pairs of tights, and I wanted to buy her some more. Instead, we will do the wash faster and get creative about wearing pants under her dresses.
  • I watched Julie and Julia and I really wanted to order Julia Child's cookbook. But I didn't.
  • When I took Carbon to see Peter Pan, I strongly felt the urge to buy him a toy in the gift shop. He bought that bouncy ball, but I resisted buying anything else.
  • I had a work meeting in a cafe adjoined to a fair trade shop today, and I felt the urge to purchase something - anything - from the shop while I was there. We briefly browsed, but bought nothing.

Five days down, 25 to go.

Reading and Writing in the Content Areas

narration exercise book

It's funny how easy it is to forget what you know, and fall into habits of convenience or habit. I know that reading and writing can, and should, be integrated into content area learning. In other words, you should be learning to read and write in a real context, usually as you learn something like history or science.

But, despite knowing that, I've fallen into the habit of only using primers and workbook pages with Carbon, because that was what was sitting there in front of us. Luckily the book Every Child Can Write reminded me of the truth I already knew.

Now we have a "Narration Notebook" for Carbon to use with his other lessons. He selects whatever he wants to write about from the lesson he's just had read to him, and he draws a picture and then writes at least one sentence. I'm helping him spell words, but having him give a stab at it before I automatically spell it out for him.

This is so much better than racing from a history lesson to a random handwriting workbook page to a random Bob Book. Why was I doing that?

Monday, January 4, 2010

One Small Change and 12 in 12

I love all the great challenges that people will put out at the beginning of a new year. I like the idea of having a personal project or challenge and then using your blog as a platform to talk about the challenge and keep you going on it.

So far, I already signed up to do a Support Your Local Library challenge, with a goal of reading 100+ books from the library.

Now I've seen two more cool ideas, which I think can be combined for me. Handmade Homeschool has invented her own challenge, called 12 in 12. Basically, you pick things you want to do each month, and she has picked three areas to concentrate on. I like the idea of three areas of focus, and I'm going to hold up three areas of my life that might otherwise be easy to let slide.

My three areas will be: Environmental Impact, Social Life/Marital relationship, and Go Outside and Play. All of these are important to me, but they don't stand up and scream for attention the way that the kids or my job or a dirty house does.

For Environmental Impact, I'm joining another challenge called One Small Change. The idea of this challenge is to make one change a month to improve the environmental impact of your family lifestyle. I was already doing a Buy Nothing Month in January, so that is my One Small Change for this month.

For Social Life/Marital relationship, I want to have one non-church event a month on my "social calendar", and I want to have at least one date with my husband. What exactly counts as a non-church social event is still not clear to me exactly, however. I feel like playdates with my kids shouldn't count, but this month I am going to a college-friend's babyshower - does that count? I think it does.

And for Go Outside and Play I want to do just that - a hike, camping trip, beach walk, or other fun outdoor activity a month. It will not count to just take a walk around our neighborhood, or to just go to a local playground or park for a picnic.

Fun! I'll keep you all posted as to my progress.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday in the life of a DRE

Today I arrived at church at 7:30, carried my sleeping son into a classroom that has recliners in it, and began to set up for classes.

There was furniture rearranging (some very heavy), that I do every Sunday to transform one large room into two small classrooms.

Then I set up all the class altars, with pretty cloths, chalices, baskets of stones and bowls of water. This is one of my favorite tasks of the day.

Some classes needed media set up, some needed art supplies organized and arranged. One needed a story basket carefully ordered and set out.

People begin to arrive, and there are greetings to make, conversations about our holidays, our families. There are also people who want something from me - I dash off little post-it notes to myself if I can, knowing that I am likely to forget things on a Sunday.

Families begin to arrive. There are children for me to greet, hug, or meet for the first time.

Teachers arrive, and I show them their supplies, make sure they are all set for class.

The church service starts, and I quickly review my Story for All Ages and try to center myself for storytelling.

I go in and tell my story of the day, from memory.

The children and teachers are sung out of the service, and we all go down the hall to classes together. There is a new family to settle into classes, my own son to extract from the nursery and put in his class, and one class whose teacher suddenly had to go to the bathroom.

I visit in all the classes, helping as needed, taking attendance, and taking pictures.

The church service ends, and parents arrive to see what their kids have done. We have new curricula starting, so several parents linger to look at materials and talk to the teachers. I mingle, tidy for the next class, thank my teachers as they leave, and briefly circle the coffee hour to greet the rest of the congregation.

As the next service starts, I review my story again. Some teachers come in late and just wave at me to say they are here, and the snack parent passes me with her bag of snacks, headed for the kitchen.

I tell the story again, and once again follow the children and teachers down the hall. A committee has set up a meeting in the wide spot in the hall, so I briefly talk to them. Space is at a premium right now, and we laugh about the improvised meeting rooms.

I check in with each class, and take attendance. One class is rather large and rowdy and there is only one teacher today, so I stay and help with classroom management. When that class is done, there are new parents to meet and get them to fill out registration forms. I say thank you to the teachers as they leave, and then young adults are arriving looking for their group leader (me).

Because I was busy with the rowdy class, I didn't start the young adult lunch cooking, but I run and pop that in the oven and on the stove. I quickly pull a table and chairs into one of the classrooms and the young adults sit down together.

As young adults is starting, one of my youth advisors comes in and says the other youth advisors have not arrived yet. I tell him to come back and get me if he really needs me. The young adults today include two new folks, so we spend some time on just introducing ourselves. I serve them lunch, and we continue with conversation about faith, worship, depression, whether humans are the only life form with consciousness, etc. Everyone is so open and ready to share, and it is an honor to just be there and listen to them. They need someone to listen to them, I think.

I am interrupted a few times during young adults, by my son and by youth advisors. I get up and deal with each interruption, then return to the group (and my lunch). The minister comes in and joins the YA group for a bit, then leaves, and we wrap up our conversation.

Now I head off to check in with the youth group, but pizza has just arrived for them so they are distracted. I take attendance, and the minister and I briefly confer before he leaves.

My son has managed to make a big mess while he was alone and I was busy, so we spend some time cleaning up the classroom (again). We also add the young adult dishes to the dishwasher and turn it on.

For the final half hour of youth group, I join them and deal with business matters such as forms for youth attending a Con (youth conference with youth from other area UU churches), putting youth events on the church calendar, and confirming details for an upcoming fundraiser.

I get two youth to volunteer to stay back and wash dishes, and then I have some more paperwork to do related to the fundraiser. Everyone leaves, and I make a circle of the building. There are a few more post-it note reminders to leave for myself, and then I gather up work to take home - books to read, forms to fill out, some thank you notes that I can write at home. One more circle of the building, to turn off the lights and check all the doors are locked, and then my son and I gather our things, make two trips to the car, and then head home.

It's 3pm, and I am exhausted.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An excellent "date"

ready for a play

He was well-dressed, with his trademark sense of style and his favorite orange polka-dot bow tie. We had a nasty drive up I5, but it was made better by Starbucks and a storytelling game. And then the play was really excellent, quite possibly one of the best shows I've ever seen. He laughed, clapped, oohed and aahhed, and raised his hand to ask questions of the actors after the show. After, we drove home and took the rest of the family out to dinner with us, and he told his dad all about it. How Peter flew with wires to lift him up, how Tinkerbell was just a light but how things on stage moved when she "touched" them, how the crocodile costume and dog costumes worked, and how they made a "real splashing sound" when Hook jumped off the plank.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Living with the seasons

As Christmas is coming down, our house is looking so barren. But not for long, because this year we are going to honor other holidays and pay attention to the turning of the seasons. And because of my family heritage and history, we lean heavily toward the celtic holidays. Feb. 1st is Imbolc, and there is Valentine's Day, St. David's Day, and St. Patrick's Day for us to look forward to.

In January, the kids and I will do these holidays activities:

Brigid's Cross

Brigid's Crown

Paper flowers

pop-up groundhog puppets

paper hearts galore

And books I would like in the holiday stack include: Brigid's Cloak and Groundhog Day

Yet another christmas project revealed

woodshop box

Carbon made this at a Beginner's Woodshop Class at a cool place in town called Whittle. The man who runs the shop is really good at giving low-key help and suggestions, and letting the kids do as much as they can all by themselves. The handle shape is a snail, that I helped Carbon sketch on his wood and then Carbon cut it out all by himself.

When we went in to paint it, Carbon asked for pink and purple paint. Immediately, I knew what he planned to do with it, as those are his sister's favorite colors. It's a real gift, something he made with her in mind, and loved giving.