so many changes

Terran (7) has been enrolled in a local magnet school. Since he got home from his dad’s yesterday, we’ve had dinner at the health food co-op, a Hudson River walk, cookie decorating, a movie, a bacon-and-cheese-fries date, and done school supply shopping. Been a busy, but happy, 24 hours for me and the little one.

The big boys, meanwhile, have been on an epic playdate. Two sleepovers in a row. They love this particular friend and rarely seen him. They will still be homeschooled next year. Perhaps when I am not in scramble-to-figure-out-my-life mode I will write a bit about that decision.

turning towards autumn

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Having recently realized that group ritual, which I’ve engaged in for twenty years now as a neo-pagan, does very little for me except make me feel as though I’m being a good pagan, I found myself at a bit of a loss on Lughnasadh. What non-ritual observances would be right for me?

As an early harvest festival it is meaningless to me. I observe the seasonal foods at the farmer’s market changing all year round and no particularly notable difference occurs here in early August.  Corn is there new, I suppose, but such a negative for the modern person living in a world where corn syrup, a poison to our bodies, is cheaper than water. Plus, that delves into Native American traditions and I feel I must tread carefully there (even while I remain adamant that I do have a right to honor the traditions that are native to the land on which I was born and in which I grew). Maybe a corn celebration could be concocted, but I’d need to carefully consider how and there’d need to be activism involved, perhaps.

A loaf-mas would have been weird since bread is the bane of my existence. Gluten causes such intense stomach pain for my family that we have nightmares about forgetting the cause. Before we learned we had celiac disease, we were spending hours on the toilet crying, sweating, having simultaneous and violent vomiting and diarrhea, and passing out onto the hard tile floor from the pain. Given that, there is no way I am doing a loafmas.

Once upon a time I would have looked at the Hellenic celebration that roughly corresponded, but I have moved away from a Greek focus and anyway I was never comfortable with the moving of the Hellenic calendar onto the Celtic and Wiccan wheel of the year. I’ve considered doing a games day in honor of Lugh, but I am not Celtic in focus. I approach the other contemporary pagan holidays from an I-E perspective.

Speaking of I-E, what’s at the root of all that – the corn, the loafmas, the Panathenian festival and Lughnasadh games? I’m sad to say that this year I did not take the time before the holiday snuck up on me to consider that question.

When I think about it now, though, it becomes pretty obvious just by looking at what the various I-E peoples were doing at that time of year. All around Europe in late summer there was a gathering to share the bounty of the harvest that included games and had a patriotic feel. We even do it now in the states, but we call it the county fair. Maybe we’ll aim to hit such a fair next year for this holiday, but I feel glad in retrospect that I spent the past two weeks playing board games as often as possible, celebrating the bounty of new games received during all the July birthdays in our household. We thought about going to a county fair to look at the 4H entries of friends, and wouldn’t that have been perfect?

My religion has evolved and changed and come back round again countless times during the past twenty years, as I go through periods of learning new things by immersing myself in them, then back off and integrate what was most useful into my regular practice. As I write out lesson plans for my youngest son’s study of religion this year, I am struck by how much of a mishmash my religion has become and yet stayed basically the same way it was when I was twelve. As I dig through themed indexes of picture books for references to otherworldly visits, magic wells, deals with the little folk, hubris in the face of deities, old wise trees, and more, in order to provide a context for my son when we do crafty hands-on religious projects together, I realize that the reason I-E religion appeals to me so much is that it is so still here, present in all our stories and even so many of our customs. No matter what I do, there it is, in the 4H competitions at the county fair, in the corn dolls at the farmer’s market. I am pagan because my culture largely is, despite the Christian influence, and I feel that I can rest in it, do the traditional things, and call it magic and religion.

I will post my lesson plan here when it is done, though I don’t know to whom it would be useful with its combination of Wiccan and proto-I-E elements. My non-acknowledgement of the most recent holiday makes me think I had better write up a little book of shadows type thing, a guide to the holidays as our family celebrates them, but as with most ideas I have in the thick of lesson planning season, that will only happen if I remember it and still feel motivated to do it after I’ve scheduled all eight school subjects times three kids. If I ever write that I’ll post it here too. It has also crossed my mind to write out and illustrate the story of the Oak King vs the Holly King and the story of Eostre, the Bunny-Headed Goddess of Spring Equinox. Janus, Hestia and Pan are all lacking representation in kidlit, too. So much to write! It’s my sense that my religion, my understanding of these entities, and my practice is so unique that has kept me from writing this all up before, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. If I can find my religion in the picture books on the market, perhaps the picture book market would be interested to hear the folk tales that I retell my kids as part of my religion.

quiet days at home

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It’s rainy today and we are all a little under the weather. The boys have been watching Mythbusters and making projectiles from the book Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction, which Bear (10) claims is the best book ever.

::::VTHRVTHRUMBLE::: occluding whatever Bear is muttering to himself next to me.
Me: Is that thunder?
::::VTHRVTHRUMBLE::: continues.
Me: If so, that’s the longest thunder ever. No.
Bear: What?
Me: It’s gotta be the neighbors moving furniture around upstairs.
Bear: Oh, I thought when you said “No!” you meant I shouldn’t make a bomb out of matches and tin foil.
Me: Oh. Ha! No.

Ten minutes later…
Me: Where are you planning to set that off?
Bear: A safe place.
Me: Where?
Bear: Um. I might need help figuring that part out.

vocabulary skills

Bear: “Mama!”
Me: “I’m in the middle of a thing!”
“Mama!”
“Just a minute!”
“Mama!”
“Hang on!”
“Come look!”
I walk in to Bear’s room.
“Where are you?”
“In the auxiliary bed.”
I duck my head between the bookcase and the bunks and see Bear and his cat crammed into the 18″ by 24″ space on top of a blanket.
Bear: “Isn’t he cute?!”
“Yes.”
“Look at him!”
“I have seen him before.”
“SO COOT! Also, on a side note, he has an anomalous collar.”
“What?”
“Whenever I turn it the right way it turns itself back again.”

tentative plan for the second grader

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He may be in private school next year, but they are a new school and a lot is up in the air, so we don’t know for sure. If he stays home, I plan to mostly just read aloud to him. He does well with Developmental Math by George Saad, enjoys nature studies already, is working hard at learning his ukulele, so read-alouds and narration feels like all he needs, maybe with some gentle timeline and map work. Here’s what I hope to read.

I want the history and mythology he does to match what his brothers are looking at during this time.
Story of the World: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer
The Jewish Children’s Bible: Genesis
The Jewish Children’s Bible: Exodus
Christian Stories by Anita Ganeri
Parables of Jesus by Tomie DePaola
Aesop illustrated by Don Daily
The Golden Goblet by Eloise McGraw
Steig’s A Gift from Zeus
Herodotus and the Road to History by Jeanne Bendick
Stories from the Stars: Greek Myths of the Zodiac by Juliet Sharman-Burke

There are a lot of short stories in the list above. I feel eager to get these in while he doesn’t yet feel they’re babyish. I’m focusing on Israel and Greece intentionally, since Rome is a bit grown-up for him and it just doesn’t feel like Egypt is that influential/important. It’s tricky to find books about India or China or even worse, ancient Africa or South America, so I am skipping those as well.

I’m hoping to build on the interest generated by our visit to the American Indian celebration recently to keep Terran learning about this stuff, and he is exactly the kind of kid who nature stories were written for, and Bruchac made this delightful book that meshes the two, so…

Christian Liberty Nature Reader 1 & 2
Flower Watching with Alice Eastwood by Michael Elson Ross
Keepers of the Earth by Joseph Bruchac
The First Americans by Joy Hakim

Because I don’t know how much longer he’ll let me read him fairy tales…
Seven Tales by Hans Christian Anderson illustrated by Maurice Sendak

And for a bit of geography…
Yeny and the Children for Peace by Michelle Mulder
Latino Read-Aloud Stories by Maite Suarez Rivas
Facing the Lion by Joseph Lekuton
African Myths by Bee Willey

‘Yeny’ is a narrative tale about a little Colombian kid who starts a peace movement. Terran’s become interested lately that his grandmother owns a farm in Colombia but his daddy won’t let him go visit there, and this touches down a bit on what my ex is afraid of. ‘Facing the Lion’ is about an adventurous childhood in Africa; I chose it because Terran has been asking a lot lately if we can go adventuring in Africa, pretending that whenever we are in the woods.

Plus some fun stuff. We’re reading through Pippi Longstocking right now. Some of the stuff I have thought to hit with him soon includes Mrs Piggle-Wiggle, Moomintrolls, Roald Dahl, and he asked for some Neil Gaiman after seeing Coraline. We might also do some Egyptian & Roman myths if he seems interested, or some historical fiction that takes place in Ancient India or Ancient China if some pops up and calls to us. 

It is a simple plan, just a booklist, but he is little and doesn’t need much. I stacked it all up in my room. (We had all these books already from when his brothers were littler.) Even if he does go to school this year, he and I can curl up on my bed to reconnect in the afternoons, and I will read aloud.

“why do we call it homeschooling if we’re never home?”

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Yesterday Terran and I bused down to the Normans Kill, or, our favorite part of it and had a walk around. We identified lots of plants and some critters, notably failing to figure out what the giant furry spider we saw might be. Our best guess is that it was someone’s escaped tarantula because it had the wrong body shape to be a wolf spider but was the size of my fist and furry. Terran collected spiral shells like these and clambered off the path as often as I’d let him. We talked about backpacking a lot, Terran making plans for all of us. Then we walked the two-and-a-half hour walk home because I’d run out of cash for bus fare. That was pretty great too, but I have no memory of what we talked about, only that I arrived home with the sense that walking had been a Very Good Thing because it got him talking.

Today I took him to a festival held to kick off an American Indian political/environmental campaign. We did so much that I feel tired at the thought of recounting it all. Highlights were probably talking to Unity Riders and getting to sit on one of their horses, or maybe touring a reproduction of a historical tall ship and hearing the story of the original owner. There was also more tree climbing, of course. I mustn’t forget that Terran jumped in to dance all the American Indian dances, saw blacksmithing, worked with an old-fashioned foot-powered wood turning device, climbed inside a log canoe, and looked at a display on rigging. Oh and we learned to do the kind of four-bar beading that you see in American Indian jewelry. We vowed to do more of that at home.

The highlight for me, however, was running into people I last saw at a tiny country meetinghouse three or more years ago and hearing them say, “You look good! You look alive! You are doing something right, must be going in the right direction!”  When I think about how I was three years ago, well, yes. Things are much, much better, and it was satisfying to know that near-strangers could see that on my face. Also, it turns out they know Robin and are good friends of his dearest friends, so it made my world smaller. Oh and I got to meet the baby of another old friend that I just coincidentally bumped into there, and he was so, so sweet and mellow. I love babies. 

The big boys had no interest in either of these events. They’ve been hanging out at home watching Mythbusters and writing a novel. But they’ll get theirs. Tomorrow I am taking Verdi to that Arduino class, and hopefully after I’ll get to play the new game about mechs that Bear has been working on.

more geekery

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I’ve been trying to get the kids to finish up all the projects they have half-finished, so today Bear finished his potato clock (although he ended up using salt water in place of potatoes).

Terran set out to finish his brushbot. We lost one of the screws that came with the kit so he still isn’t done, though he was convinced to let it go with one googly eye missing.

“We can’t make it because we are missing one of the googly eyes.”
“We have plenty of googly eyes.”
“But not the same size.”
“Well, use one a different size.”
“But then the eyebrows it came with won’t fit.”
“Then make it one-eyed.”
“But…”
“No, listen! You can pretend it is a resistance member who got into a battle with an agent of the empire on its way to earth to deliver a super important message to you.”

Then Verdi went to do the rocket that his father gave him for his birthday, only to discover that it didn’t have a rocket inside it. Or instructions. His father shops likes to shop at yard sales. I had already bought rocket fuel, too, because his father hadn’t provided that either.

Bear started writing a new novel today too. He says the genre is science fantasy.

Terran and I are off to find a river, because I’ve got Kat Eggleston’s “Go to the water” stuck in my head. It always starts playing on my internal radio when stuff comes up with one particular unresolved issue in my life. “Where the sea is rough and the sun burns hotter, to know love, go to the water.” I know it’s probably metaphorical or something, but I can’t tell you how many problems I have solved by literally putting myself, or the problematic entities, in water. By that I mean like giving cranky toddlers a bubble bath, not sinking the bodies of my enemies in seaweed.  Somehow, at the bank of the Hudson, on the shores of the Atlantic, nothing is a big deal, all my preconcieved “shoulds” with their righteous justice disappear, and I can see the path of light and love clearly beckoning me. “It laughs and shouts where it touches land and it holds the world like a loving hand. It’s a bed of pearls on a moonlit night, full of life, no end in sight.” The novel I have in my head right now is a love story in which Eurynome and Thetys are re-imagined as seafaring lesbian refugees. Maybe I will take some time to outline it this weekend, even though I really should be making up a budgeting plan for figuring out how to afford all the math books the kids need next.

raising kids is hard

I can not convince my seven-year-old that African-American Vernacular English is not “how a baby would talk”/lesser English. Even when he hears parents in the park switch to our English and use it flawlessly to talk to me or him while in the middle of a totally AAVE conversation, he is the most stubborn little racist I have ever known. I don’t understand it. Everyone this child has ever known is a bleeding heart liberal. He was born in a black neighborhood and has grown up in a black neighborhood and went to kindergarten in a school that had as many kids of color as white kids. WHY IS MY SON RACIST? He says things like, “They talk baby talk,” so casually, completely failing to understand the implications of his declaration. He’s not trying to be mean. In fact, the only way I can get him to not say such things loudly on the bus full of black people is by telling him that such statements are hurtful.

While I’m confessing such things, my ten-year-old thinks that homosexuality is unnatural and gross. Yep, the one who had sex ed in a liberal/welcoming church, who has seen his mom have lesbian relationships, who can count on one hand the number of adults in his life who are not at least bisexual, who was read all the picture books about LGBT issues when he was a toddler.

My thirteen-year-old, at least, is positively responsive to my opinions about minorities. I suspect the younger two will grow out of it if I keep working on them. I hope so.