Friday, September 30, 2011

I should meditate

I should. As a "religious professional" (the term sounds very stuffy to me, but it's the phrase), I know it's important for me to actually have my own spiritual practice. The spiritual practice that I've been cultivating for the last couple years (ever since Religious Educators Leadership School convinced me of the importance of one) has been a personal yoga practice. I find yoga very healing for the issues I still have with my body - how it looks, what it can do, what it can't do. I know that as I age I'll continue to have issues with my body and how it changes, and I think yoga will continue to feel healing. Some say that yoga means "to yoke", as in to connect the body and the mind, or the body and the soul.

But a yoga practice is still a body practice. I'm doing something.

Where I run into a wall is when I can't do anything. I can't just sit. I multi task all the time. I have trouble going to sleep because my mind keeps going. I feel a low level of anxiety most of the time, and rarely manage to sink into that state of flow where I am truly just present to the moment at hand.

So I should meditate.

I've started working with a new chiropractor for my neck pain and headaches, and I'm trying some traction to adjust my posture and what not. Traction means you get strapped to a weight and bent into a kind of uncomfortable position and then you just have to sit there, staring at a little timer that shows how much longer you have to go for this session.

What a perfect time to practice meditation! That was the thought that went through my head for the whole six minutes I was in traction today (I know, six minutes, big whoop - why can't she just sit still and do nothing for six minutes?). I kept thinking "I should be meditating. I should be meditating. Oh look, there's only five minutes left. I probably should be meditating for those five minutes. Why can't I hold a book over my head right now and read? Stupid traction. I should really try to meditate. This is boring. This is uncomfortable. I know - I should try meditating. I can't do it. What will I do when they work me up to more time? They said they'd go up to twenty minutes. I can't spend twenty minutes doing nothing. Oh, I know - I should be meditating!"

Maybe I will. Either way, I know that this whole traction experience is going to "stretch me", in more ways than one!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Great Cola Taste Test

This started over a discussion of whether Coke from Mexico (or Europe), which is made with real sugar, tastes better than the Coke in the US, which is made with high fructose corn syrup. Carbon swore he could taste the difference, and as we tend to do, we planned a special event around that. It's taken me a long time to remember to actually buy all the sodas needed, but tonight we finally had our blind taste test, to see if they really could taste the difference in their colas.


There were five types to sample, and I arranged them in shot glasses so no one would know which was which (except for me, so I didn't get to do the taste test).


They did pick the right sample as being the Pepsi, but the rest were pretty mixed up. My husband complained that it didn't take long before his palate was just so overloaded by cola that he couldn't taste anything. The kids got silly because they were having too much fun drinking out of shot glasses. I tried so hard not to break my poker face, but they were SO WRONG about the Mexican Coke that it really challenged me. In the end, they did separate out the fancy high-end colas from the Coca-Colas, but they never picked right for Mexican Coke versus US Coke.

So, our experiment shows that he can't actually taste the difference. :) Can you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chore time


I've been so discombobulated for the last month, with my trip to Romania, then moving to the new house. Now, I'm trying to add back in one item of routine a week - that's about the pace I think I can handle. Last week was homeschooling, this week is chores. We've been here long enough to make this place plenty dirty, but we've got all sorts of new spaces to learn how to clean.

I don't have enough of a grasp of the space and our life in it to make a schedule for chores yet. That may come later. For now, we'll just have Chore Time every morning, and I will direct the kids (and myself) to do a chore - whatever seems most pressing. At least in this way we might keep up with the dirt and the clutter. And soon I hope patterns will emerge and we will get into a better chore routine.

Kids can help - they can vacuum, sweep, wipe down bathroom counters and sinks, wash windows, and do "white tornados" where we move about the house putting things away and clearing clutter.

Next week I'll add something else back in, and soon I hope to be all put back together again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Own Family Mini Lego Competition

Our family has a standing tradition to have Sunday dinner at my in-law's every week. Last week we were talking about Brick CON, and decided to have our own mini-Lego competition. Each contestant got a bag of randomly selected legos from Carbon's collection, and no option of adding others or trading. The theme was "Holidays".


A "Nightmare Before Christmas" entry.


A Bionicles version of Easter.


Here we have a Christmas scene, with tree, sleeping child, and droid Santa with a mechanized sleigh.


And this one is more of an inside joke, with the initials of the person who made it. :)

It was fun and creative, and we had a lot of fun with it. We're talking about doing another family competition, involving Barbies and funny photographs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wangari Maathai dies

She was so inspirational, and will be missed.

UU Middle Schoolers

A fun weekend at Camp with 70 or so UU Middle Schoolers was how I passed the last few days. I only had two boys from my church that I was chaperoning, but I pitched in and led a drama workshop, coordinated the talent/no talent show, and helped wherever I could. I was pretty tired by the end of the weekend, but it was fun! Middle school is such an interesting stage, with the kids changing so fast, the big differences between kids, and the awkward energy that isn't always sure of itself. These were great kids, and I enjoyed my time with them very much.






Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homeschool Field Trips

Now that I've got the kids homeschooling again, I know I need to network with other homeschooling families to provide the "social network" that will be healthy for me and them. (Although the church is a great community for me, I'm trying to play it safe with the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" principle).

So I found a "Meetup" group that is for homeschoolers in two counties, one of which is mine, and has A LOT of members. This group is also very active, with multiple events each week that you could RSVP to and a diverse membership interested in lots of different things. I'm very hopeful that this will be a great way to meet other homeschool families, although the spread out geography is a downside.

Today was our first group field trip, and it was good. The group was too big to really jump in and "get to know" anyone, but just eyeballing folks and making snap judgments about them told me that this is a pretty diverse group and that while they may not all be "my people", I'm not going to feel like a freak in the group, either.

We met for a school group tour at a local farm and cider mill. It was lovely fun for the kids.



Our next event will be a "Math Salon". I really am hopeful about this group!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

First Day of School


We were ready to start the school year this morning. We had the spiffy new school room.


There were some workbooks.


There was a boardgame.


There was "recess" at a local park.


And there was time spent helping me with a project at church (finishing up a work-in-progress from Sunday), and a few hours working independently in one of the church classrooms while I did office hours.

A pretty good first day!

Monday, September 19, 2011

I've unpacked my camera again!


What greeted me when I got home from Romania.


The pottery I brought home with me.


I got my little puppy fixed right after I was home. No puppies from this puppy!


There was a lot of this sort of thing - boxes everywhere!


And it's gradually been unpacked and organized this week.


I love so many things about this new house.


We made one change to something we didn't love - we demolished the built-in shelves in this closet off the living room and we opened it up into a little "red velvet theater box" for our TV. We are thinking red theater curtains that closed over it would be cool too.


And it's starting to really feel like home. I love this house!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Renewing Our Commitment to Religious Education

Minister: One of the primary roles of this community
is to insure the religious education of our children.

While we do not believe in indoctrinating our children,
we have a responsibility as a community
to help them develop their grounding as religious people
that their hearts might be receptive to both life’s wonders and tragedies.

We also have a responsibility to insure they understand the values
and convictions we hold as a religious people
and perhaps even more importantly,
to insure they know and feel they have a religious home here –
a community that will accept them as the people they are.

This responsibility does not fall simply to our Director of Religious Education
or those who choose to teach in our religious education program.
It's a responsibility we share as a community.

DRE: The Unitarian religious educator, Sophia Lyon Fahs,
once wrote the following words:

All that quickens sympathetic imagining,
that awakens sensitivity to other’s
all that enriches and enlarges under-
standing of the world;
all that strengthens courage,
that adds to the love of living;
all that leads to developing skills
needed for democratic participations –

all these put together are the curriculum
through which children learn.

Those words, written so many years ago,
still convey the spirit of liberal religious education.

To that spirit, and to the dedication of all
who participate in keeping it alive in our religious education program,
we shall now give recognition.

Minister: Will the teachers in our children’s program please rise.

Teachers of young people, you stand here in the presence of this congregation.
In doing so you declare your intention to fulfill your responsibilities
as you are given the capacity.
Mindful of this challenge that is yours, let us meditate on what this means.

DRE: We seek at this time to identify ourselves with the source of all life and light.

May we be aware at all times of the high privilege
of sharing this adventure of mind and spirit with young people.

May we be conscious of the uniqueness and sanctity of every human being.
Grant us, week by week, the insight, cheerfulness, patience and energy
we need to make our relationships meaningful.

Help us with our young friends, to grow in wisdom, in faith,
in generous thinking and useful living.

Thus we dedicate ourselves to the teaching of living religion.

Minister: I ask the teachers to remain standing,
and will the young people of the congregation please rise.

You stand with the women and men
who have volunteered to share with you
the search for religious meaning in life.
In doing so you declare your intentions
to assume your responsibilities in this adventure.
Let us meditate on what this means.

DRE: We pause to think seriously of what it means to be good participants
in our own religious education.
It means bringing our best to our time together on Sunday mornings.
May we remember always that we are part of a group
seeking to know one another better.
Let us be faithful in attendance, courteous in our behavior,
cooperative in all our activities,
and may we seek to apply what we learn here to our daily living.

Minister: Please remain standing, and will the congregation please rise.

Members of the congregation,
you stand with those who have taken upon themselves
the dedicated task of teaching religion to our young people,
and you stand with the young people themselves.
They will need your help along the way.
Let us meditate on what this means,
speaking with me the words printed in your order of service.

(This part is printed in the order of service)

Renewing Our Commitment to our children’s religious education

Congregation: We seek in this time to be identified with our
children and their teachers:

May we be invested at all times in our children’s development.
May we be actively interested in our children’s program.
May we come to know the teachers and to help them as we are able.
May we come to know our children as persons in their own right.
May we work with our young people at home, helping them to think
about and make use of what they learn here.

In our daily living let us be better examples and to cultivate in each of our lives
those values we consider important for them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Book Post

I'm still here, slowly unpacking and trying to get organized again after the massive upheaval of moving. But I'm so many weeks behind on a book post that I think I should jot down a bit of what we've been reading and listening to in this last bit of summer.

I took Blacklisted from the PTA and the Song of Ice and Fire series with me on my trip, and got to borrow my husband's kindle (so nice!). I didn't like Blacklisted, mainly because it's one of those books where you either can relate to and like the author or you won't like it. If she could be one of your circle of friends, dishing it out about the reality of parenting from your point of view, then you'll probably find it funny and fun to read. But I don't think I would be one of her friends - I would probably be one of the overly earnest and crunchy/natural moms that she makes fun of - so I stopped reading the book.

A Song of Ice and Fire is a big sweeping fantasy series, with dragons and demons and magic, but the fantasy is matched with political intrigue and tragic generational and familial conflicts, and generously splashed with blood and violence, much of it sexual violence (although not described in detail but just referred to factually). It's really not for kids. I like the series very much, but it's almost too "real" to be the escapist fun summer read I thought I was picking out.

Meanwhile, the kids listened to Eragon and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh on audio CD during their summer road trip. Carbon liked Eragon a lot, but Hypatia wasn't really ready for it yet. The Rats of Nimh is just a wonderful book, and both children enjoyed it very much. It's so much better than the movie.

Hypatia has discovered her brother's old Magic Treehouse CD's, and is listening to them at night while she falls asleep. "Jack and Annie" delights her just as it did Carbon at that age, and just as he did she retains little nuggets of information from the stories - they are effective for that age whether or not they are good fiction stories. We're also reading her the Old Mother West Wind stories right now.

Carbon is now the proud owner of a boxed set of the Warriors series, and we are reading number 4. He still loves those wild cats!

Now, to get back to work on all this unpacking, organizing, and getting ready for the start of regular RE at church tomorrow ...

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's Home Ec, right?



We haven't started "school" yet for the year, but instead we're engaged in moving our household! This is going to be the "SchoolRoom", and Hypatia is really excited by the built in bookshelves. She put all the books up on them, and has been telling folks that "we have our own LIBRARY!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top 100 SciFi/Fantasy Books, as compiled by NPR

I like this list, and I thought I'd post it here with the ones that I've read bolded, and a star next to my favorites.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein *

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut *

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood **

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King *

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut **

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett ***

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy **

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke *

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist *

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

So there are some ideas for the next time I have time to read fiction! What are you shocked I haven't read? What do I simply HAVE to put on my TBR pile?

Monday, September 5, 2011

“Gearing Up” for Back to School

(This is what I wrote for the church newsletter this month)

In the cycle of the year for most families, the school schedule is a driving force. And here we are, in “Back to School Season”, with the kids going back to school, the young adults headed off to college, and an adjustment in everyone’s schedules and routines. We follow that same schedule for the church year, so there is a gear up of church activities and programs as well.

I am currently being inundated with catalogs for all my Back to School Shopping. Catalogs full of backpacks, kids clothing, lunch boxes, and art supplies are stuffed in my mailbox, along with schedules from ballet schools, the community center, the YMCA, and multiple other places my kids could go take an extracurricular class this fall. The stores are full of it all as well. And yet a friend recently commented that she wished she could “buy a good attitude at [giant box store]”.

You can’t buy a good attitude from a catalog or a box store. There is no line on the Back to School shopping list for “curiosity”, or “cheerfulness”, or even “energy and resiliency” (although good nutrition and sleep might help that one). And yet all of these intangibles will probably matter more than what brand of jeans your daughter is wearing or whether your son has a cool lunch box or not.

It’s not just this time of year that presents us with this conundrum. As our culture is increasingly consumer-oriented and materialistic, every time of year presents us with a new shopping list and a chance to go out and buy something, and most projects or goals come with a shopping list as well. Want to get in shape? Buy a new workout outfit. Want to get organized and clean the house? You’ll probably need to go buy some cool plastic containers first. But you still can’t buy the motivation or the follow-through to actually get those projects done.

So I am making a Back to School list that has nothing to do with shopping:

  • · A lively sense of curiosity and desire to learn
  • · A welcoming and safe community for all our children
  • · Trustworthy and inspiring adults in every child’s life
  • · Enough time to Just Be
  • · Silliness and laughter and fun
  • · Time spent Outside, in connection to nature
  • · Acceptance of each child’s special uniqueness
  • · Dreams to dream, ideas to ponder, and mysteries to explore

I suppose a pencil and paper wouldn’t hurt, as well, but there you have it. How can we give that to our children? How can that be there for ALL children? That is the Back to School project we should give our time and attention to. And that is what I hope all our children will find as they go back to school this month. Happy Back-to-School to you all!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hiking in Torda Gorge, Romania

We had a lovely little hike while we were in Romania, through the Torda Gorge.





Friday, September 2, 2011

Unitarian Pilgrimages in Transylvania

Transylvania was the cradle of Unitarianism, so my recent trip with some of our high school youth was a pilgrimage. Francis David founded the first Unitarian church in Transylvania, and was apparently a very compelling preacher leading to the conversion of the King, John Sigismund, and most of the population.

The city of Kolozsvar is the center of Transylvanian Unitarianism, and it is here that Francis David is said to have stood on this rock to deliver the sermon that explained the tenets of Unitarianism and was so inspiring that it converted the whole city.


The rock is kept in the First Unitarian Church of Transylvania, in Kolozsvar.


But the King, rather than mandating that all should be Unitarians, instead issued the Edict of Torda, that declared toleration for all the churches and that people could choose what religion they wished to follow. This was during the Reformation, and this was unheard of - to say that all the churches would be tolerated side by side.

Here is an embroidered version of a famous picture of Francis David speaking before the King and the court:


Here is the Church of the Edict, subsequently reclaimed as a Catholic church again:


It all only lasted a few years, however, for King John Sigismund died young without a son, and the next King was Catholic and lead a counter-Reformation. Francis David's theology was deemed too dangerous, and he was imprisoned in the fortress of Deva, where he died. The trip up the hill to the fortress of Deva was pretty amazing, but the fortress itself is a ruin:




It wasn't exactly earth-moving to see these historical places, but I did feel a sense of deep satisfaction, for want of a better word, to journey back to the beginning, to see these old places, and to think about the remarkable struggles that occurred during that time period.

Related posts from my trip last year:

Thursday, September 1, 2011