Sunday, December 31, 2006

All Quiet on the Holiday Front

Well, things have been really quiet here in blogland. We spent 7 days in New Hampshire with Grammy and Grandpa, which was great overall.

However we all got some sort of stomach flu, so that at any one point in time at least one of us had either vomiting or diarrhea. Luckily on Christmas day everyone felt OK, and we were able to fulfill SillyBilly's wish to cut down our own Christmas tree.

I had true intentions to post here while on vacation, but it never happened.

On a completely different note: anyone have any opinions on blogging with WordPress?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What I'm doing instead of wrapping presents...

I found a link to these incredible Goddess dolls on Strollerderby. I've never seen something so original in "Waldorf" style toys.

Whoever can make a cool little doll out of Kali (complete with skull necklace), Tethys (with tentacles and cowries) or Boudicca (torc, woad and all) is simply awesome.

I've been thinking a lot about how the Waldorf world is a bit stuck in convention and dogma (another future post), so it's refreshing to see someone branching out a bit.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yet another meme...

I'll have to add memes as another reason to blog! This one courtesy of White Thoughts.

Yourself: wheezy

Your partner: unsettled

Your hair: shiny

Your mother: silly

Your father: happy

Your favourite item: shell

Your dream last night: lonely

Your favourite drink: coffee

Your dream car: biodiesel

Your dream home: tidy

The room you are in: stuffed

Your ex: none

Your fear: inadequacy

Where you want to be in ten years: farm

Who you hung out with last night: Anthropapa

What you’re not: slim

Muffins: chocolate

One of your wish list items: space

Time: naptime

The last thing you did: breathed

What you are wearing: angora

Your favourite weather: cold

Your favourite book: magical

Last thing you ate: chocolate

Your life: transitioning

Your mood: curious

Your best friend: Anthropapa

What are you thinking about right now: blogging

Your car: surviving

What are you doing at the moment: breathing

Your summer: green

Relationship status: working

What is on your tv: dust

What is the weather like: cloudy

When is the last time you laughed: 11:30

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What's a Blog For?

I've been trying to figure out why anyone blogs. Here's what I've come up with:

1) To keep in touch with friends and family, especially with pictures.
2) To express their opinions.
3) As a creative expression.
4) To disseminate information.

Those are all nice reasons, but what's missing for me is true dialogue. I love reading comments on this blog (LURKERS: please quit hiding and tell me what you think! I know all those ClustrMap hits mean something.) I love posting comments on blogs of friends and strangers alike.

Maybe I'm just missing something about the technology, but blogs don't seem to engender real dialogue. Perhaps threaded messages work better, I'm not sure.

The Blogger function where I get an email every time someone comments here is great, except unless I have that person's email address already, I can't respond to them other than commenting in my own post.

O ye 3-4 readers, what do you think? Why do you blog?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wasting time instead of making Christmas presents...

Congratulations. You are 38% dork.

Almost, but not quite, entering the realm of dork-dom. You know that computers are capable of some nifty stuff, and you've even tried to partake in it. Ultimately, however, you enjoy natural lighting too much to really clinch the title of 'dork'.

The dork/nerd quiz
Quizzes for MySpace

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

2-year-old non-sequitur land

We like to expose the Huntlings to many cultures and religions, so they're familiar with Jesus and Buddha (I have to read up a bit more on Mohammed), Christmas and Hannukah, etc.

Yet the following comment from Napoleona still amazed me:

We're sitting at the dinner table, talking about nothing in particular that I can remember, when all of a sudden we hear a little girl voice say

"The Buddha said, life is suffering."

Whoa nelly, we've got a live one.

Monday, December 11, 2006

...On a stack of Bibles?

I just read about the incoming Muslim Congressman who is already under fire because he wants to carry a Koran at his swearing-in ceremony. I can't help but comment.

Asking a Muslim to swear an oath on a Christian Bible would be completely illogical, because the Bible is not sacred to Muslims.

Now, we here in the US have a powerful cultural image of our politicians taking oaths on a Bible. However, as the Monitor points out, this is actually a cultural image (from the swearing in of the President) and not an actual requirement of office.

Au contraire, it would actually be a violation of the US Constitution to require anyone to swear any religious oath: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

I feel that I have to quote Dennis Prager, something I would not normally do, in order to most aptly express the opposition to Keith Ellison's consitutionally protected religious expression:

"Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."

Last I checked, America has about 300 million people. Saying that "America" is interested in only one thing is ridiculous. Does Prager think we work on absolute consensus here?

I agree that a nation can have shared values (shared by a majority and/or historically in that culture). And I agree that the Europeans who first colonized this country were Christians.

However I disagree that for the US the Bible is the only religious document that expresses our values. President Bush's first campaign focused on "compassionate conservatism." What better to teach us about compassion than the Dhammapada? Where can we find a better guide to ethical, generous charity than in the Torah?

Prager again, in a more recent response: "The Bible is the repository of our values, not the Constitution ... and I'm asking him to honor that and include the Bible along with the Koran."

Last I checked, things like freedom of speech and religion, both protected in the Constitution, were American values.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Books We Love

As we are surrounded by gifts at this time of year, I have been thinking about one of my favorite things: books. We are a big bookish family. SillyBilly, who is 4, wants to read but can't yet. We're not pushing him, but if he wants to, he will (I learned when I was 4 as well).

So, I've been thinking about desert island books. The ones we couldn't live without.


Anything by Shirley Hughes
These books are marvelous for young children. Alfie and Annie Rose happen to be just about the same ages as my children, so we delight in reading about their adventures. The books have a lot of humorous situations and detailed illustrations. We love Out and About for its seasonal poetry and images.

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
These stories are very funny for kids and parents, and are short enough to be good bedtime reading. Frog and Toad are sort of like amphibious toddlers: they can't stop eating cookies, they have tremendous misunderstandings, and they love both a good walk outside and a warm bed at night.

Seasons books by Gerda Muller
We especially like these books because they have no text; we can make up stories and talk about the detailed pictures afresh each time. They are large board books so that they are sturdy yet not too "babyish" for big brothers to read!

Anything by Jan Brett
These books have very detailed illustrations and are full of good humor. Often there are little surprises, like the animal-shaped mountains in Daisy Come Home, or the hedgehogs that appear at least once in almost all of her books.


Any fiction by Wendell Berry
The stories about the fictional Kentucky town of Port William make me laugh and cry, sometimes on the same page! The characters are so well developed that I believe these are real people that Berry knows. The stories are beautifully intertwined and reflect a deep love for traditional farming communities.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
I keep coming back to this book time and again. I love how the characters are so richly drawn, written with both humor and sympathy for their foibles. The three protagonists could not be more different in background and personality, yet they forged friendships that lasted decades.

Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea

This book is full of Irish myth and legend in a contemporary setting. Some of the characters are unforgettable: a talking earwig who thinks he's Napoleon, and the gods Angus Og and Brigid disguised as tinkers Patsy and Boodie. The plot is full of adventure and good bit of horror for a "children's" book. I also like the beautiful and tender way the older brother looks after his little sister.

Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
I have read this, along with the subsequent Green Mars and Blue Mars, again and again. I'm not a huge fan of techie science fiction, but these books balance the science with intriguing socio-economic ideas and enough plot to keep things going. I'd say the first book of the trilogy is the best.

Belinda by Anne Rampling (Rice)
Pure, unadulterated escapism. An erotic/romantic suspense novel about rich artists living in Italy, San Francisco and New Orleans. I read this when I don't want to use too many brain cells to enjoy myself.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Equal time for goofballs

Because little girls can be just as silly as their brothers...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Random goofy pictures of the boy...

because he's been away with Grammy and Grampy for a week and I miss him!

A boy and his dress

I just finished reading this article on gender confusion in small children (from a link at daddytypes).

Wow. What to do? I'm torn between the idea that a young child should be supported emotionally, and the idea that as parents part of our job is to teach our children about the culture in which we live. What's the happy medium between self-esteem and social ostracism?

My son has expressed the desire to wear pretty clothes, including his favorite red flowery dress. However he doesn't say he wants to be a girl, and most of his other chosen activities are typically masculine (as defined in our culture) such as playing with tools, toy cars, going to Home Depot with Anthropapa, and trying to sneak in gun play whenever he thinks I'm not looking.

We decided to compromise on the dress-wearing thing. I told him it was for "dress-up" time only, when he and his sister put on play clothes, fairy/butterfly wings, funny hats, etc. And the other boundary is that we only play dress-up inside the house. I feel like I'm protecting him from negative social judgments, while giving him a safe boundary in which to express that part of himself.

However, I have also made a point to tell him gently that "where we live, usually only girls wear dresses." (We did know a man back in California who would regularly wear sarongs, but I don't think SillyBilly remembers that!)

I feel like I'm helping him learn what is expected in his cultural milieu. But am I making him feel bad about himself at the same time? The NY Times article said "Studies suggest that most boys with gender variance early in childhood grow up to be gay". I've felt strongly from before his birth that I will support and love him in whatever paths he takes -- though we joke that we won't support him being a pimp, killer-for-hire, or right-wing Republican : ) -- but am I subtly telling him that wanting to be more feminine is wrong?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Holiday traditions

It's that time of year again. The time when I struggle to create traditions for our family.

I struggle because there are too many conflicting sources of symbolism, ritual and custom to choose from. I grew up with a completely secular Christmas celebration. Now my mother celebrates Hanukkah, and in the Waldorf community many people celebrate both Advent and the Twelve Days of Christmas/Holy Nights.

One year before the kids were born, we combined Advent and Christmas by putting up a live (in a pot) Christmas tree at the beginning of Advent, and each week added decorations based on the kingdom for that week (mineral, plant, animal, human). That was nice, but impractical now.

With the kids we've started having an Advent calendar, and on their nature table I will be adding the kingdoms each week until it's time for the Nativity figures. We're not religious, but the Nativity is such a basic image of life, birth, light, family, etc. that we've chosen to incorporate it.

The symbols of Christmas are so rich, and so full of ancient wisdom. I love to sing old songs like "Green Grows the Holly", "The Holly and the Ivy", "Deck the Halls" for the kids because they are so full of winter images, pictures of the triumph of life over death. And then the more religious songs are wonderful too. Rebecca sits oh so still and gets a far-off look in her eye when I quietly sing "Silent Night" to her. Even if she doesn't understand all the words, the mood of the melody says something to her.

Then there's Santa Claus. Not an image that has remained unscathed in our materialistic society. However someone once reminded me that he could be seen as a visitor from the spiritual world, flying about the starry heavens bringing gifts from above. So for now, Santa brings the little things in our stockings, and the presents under the tree are gifts for each other. When the kids get a little older I'll bring in the relation to the gifts of the Magi a bit more.

Now that we live in a cold climate, we've started to focus more on snow and winter. Last year we made borax snowflakes, a very cool craft. Candles and strings of lights pop up all over the house to drive back the darkness of the winter.

Another part of the struggle is that we have been away from home every Christmas. We're always with one set of grandparents or another, so it's hard to feel that the home celebrations are complete. We're not home for the last week of Advent, or the week after when I would put the Holy Family and the Three Kings on the nature table. The Advent calendar goes unopened, unless we bring it with us. We've not had a Christmas tree since we're not home to attend to it (and it would just become a big, messy cat toy.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006


It's funny how little comments can stick with you. Over the holiday weekend, Grammy asked if we ever worried about putting our kids' pictures and names on the internet, because of "predators".

I've never given that much thought. Perhaps I'm naive but I just can't imagine anyone taking the time to track down some random child. I know my kids are gorgeous and brilliant, but what could follow from someone reading this blog?

But then Anthropapa pointed out that all of our favorite parents' blogs use pseudonyms for themselves and their kids. So I'm wondering, what level of privacy is necessary? What are the assumptions behind the privacy of information on the internet? What are the actual risks?

Any thoughts, O my loyal 2-3 readers?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thinking Thanksgiving Thoughts

We're starting to get ready for Turkey Day around here, busily stuffing the fridge and doing strategic cooking planning. It will just be 4 adults and 2 kids, but we'll still cook the whole shebang. We decided on a mostly native foods menu this year, with turkey, bread stuffing, cornbread, wild rice, green beans, peas & pearl onions, cranberry sauce, apple pie and pumpkin pie. Lots to give thanks for.

I got a little book for the kids about Thanksgiving, but what a hard decision. There were many to choose from at the local chain bookstore, but most of them are either too cartoony, or don't seem to be telling a story even remotely close to the real history. The one I chose seems to be trying to tell most of the bits that would be comprehensible to young children, without the religious persecution, Manifest Destiny, King Philip's War, native peoples ravaged by smallpox, etc.

I did find a cool website about The First Thanksgiving, as part of my research into my latest burning question: Puritans vs. Pilgrims. I thought that they wouldn't be called Pilgrims until they left Europe, and that they were called Puritans in England.

Turns out in England the initial Protestant splinter group was called Puritans, which then split further into an even more radical reformist group called Separatists who sailed on the Mayflower, then in early Plymouth they were First Comers, then Forefathers and then Pilgrims.

I also learned that the first settlers were heavily indentured for many years by merchant investors, and that they had already moved to the Netherlands more than 10 years before sailing from Southampton, England. There is no evidence that the Pilgrims landed on any rock in what was later named Plymouth.

Anyway, now I need to find a little ritual with the kids to help them remember what they are thankful for. Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

But then, they make up for it...

Tonight before bedtime SillyBilly made a little bed on the floor for his most beloved friend, Banjo the puppy. He then proceeded to sing lullabies (Oh How Lovely is the Evening and This Little Light of Mine) in a quiet, off-key, little boy voice. He also played the pentatonic lyre very gently and softly to complete the bedtime mood.

Tantrum Land

Well, we've reached a new phase in the Anthrohaus....tantrum land. Napoleona has decided that it's her way or the highway, about every living thing. Today at Target she wanted to ride in the giant carts with two kids' seats in the front, and when I said no she started freaking out. Those behemoths weigh about a thousand pounds and invariably one wheel has given up the ghost. So using one is pretty much like steering a water buffalo through quicksand, and I just wasn't up for it.

So now my challenge is, how do I work with her to 1) calm her down so her shrieks don't pierce my eardrums, 2) get her to listen to what I am trying to say, and 3) remember to not freak out the next time, all without resorting to major violence?

She is pretty stubborn, but luckily she's only 2 1/2 so I can still rely on some mother's helpers: distraction, her complete lack of rationality and logical thinking (oh yes, that's actually helpful sometimes), and my newest friend, Consequences.

We've been becoming more and more acquainted with Consequences lately...

"If you can't stop screaming and sit calmly in the cart, we will have to leave and go home."
"If you hit your brother again, you will go sit in your room."
"If you step into the brook and get wet, we will have to stop playing and go inside."
"If you don't start using nice words and an inside voice, Mama's head will explode and you'll have to clean it up." (Haven't actually used that one yet, but it's been tempting.)

Sometimes distraction works well: "Hey look, those seagulls are eating up all the french fries that lady just dumped out of the back seat of her car!"

Sometimes irrational thinking works: "If we keep our house neat and clean, the monsters will be repelled by its beauty and stay away!" (Caveat: I'm not big on scaring kids into submission, so I tread carefully with this one. I have never said "If you don't clean up your room, the monsters will come for you!"...but I have been tempted.)

And then there's the bonus action of the big brother egging her on or having a tantrum of his own....

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Light and Dark

I’m finding myself a bit melancholy this autumn. I think in some way I’m experiencing a true autumn, in that the profound changes in nature in this part of the world in this season have really penetrated my emotional life. Though I don't celebrate any festivals honoring the dead like Samhain, All Soul's or Dia de los Muertos, I still find myself thinking about people I know who have passed over the threshold.

Since this area is primarily mixed deciduous forest, we have incredible leaf colors. Burning scarlet maples, yellow walnut and weeping cherry, and every color in between. Our feet scuffle through thick layers of rotting leaves on the forest paths near our home, and the little brooks become clogged and even dammed by the piles of leaves. After rainy days, mushrooms pop up through the earth, and after windy days the paths are littered with sticks and branches.

Though we are blessed with the bluest skies of the year, our attention seems drawn down to the earth along with the falling leaves. The warmth and light of the sun now decreases in the heavens and comes closer to the earth, in the bright colors of falling leaves and autumn harvest foods such as pumpkins and apples.

Autumn seems to me to be a time of hard thoughts. In summer we are more physically active, outside most of the time, and full of the same abundant life forces we see in nature. In autumn, those life forces are dying away in the outer world, and we must struggle to maintain our inner light in the face of the coming cold and darkness.

In Waldorf/anthroposophical communities, we celebrate an unusual yet ancient festival, Michaelmas, at the end of September. In the Bible we can read in Revelation about Michael casting out the dragon from heaven down to earth. This image corresponds to the modern struggle between spirit and materialism, light and darkness. The scaly, cold, earthly dragon opposes the fiery angelic spirit.

I see a correlation between this casting down to earth of darkness and the festivals of light at this time of year. We are surrounded by jack-o-lanterns, bonfires and candles for the dead on Samhain and All Soul’s Day, the lamps of Divali, and lantern walks for Martinmas, another ancient festival celebrated in our community.

Two nice quotes about autumn:

St. Martin recognized the divine spark in the poor man of Amiens, and gave it the protection of his own cloak. When we make a paper lantern, we, too, may fell that we are giving protection to our own little “flame” that was beginning to shine at Michaelmas, so that we may carry it safely through the dark world.
-All Year Round, Druitt, Fynes-Clinton, Rowling.

The season of hope and promise is past…We are a little saddened because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment. The prospect of the heavens is taken away, and we are presented only with a few small berries.
-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A knotty knitty problem

Maybe it's the trees almost devoid of leaves, bare branches against darkening skies, and the cold winds blowing from the north hurrying us indoors. Maybe it's the time change, where more hours of the waking day seem to be spent in darkness, within the small pool of light that is our home.

Or maybe it's that Christmas and Hanukkah are only a few short weeks away, and I've committed myself to many home-made presents this year, but right now...

It's all about the crafting.

I have about 42 projects going on at once, including knitting a sweater vest, a pair of mittens, a hat, and a teddy bear sweater; a truly cool knitted/embroidered/latch-hooked farm landscape for the kids about 1/16th finished, and one cross-stich project as yet unbegun. I also want to make a flannel dress for Napoleona, a sweater vest for myself, hem about 10 pairs of pants for Anthropapa....

It all started back in August when I was visiting my mom. When I found out she didn't have a Hanukkah sweater for her favorite holiday teddy bear, I promised to make one for her. Then Anthropapa gave me some red wool yarn for my birthday. Then I found a funny little cross stitch project to make for one of the grandparents. Then I took a class on knitting in the round at the Sunbridge Craft Studio so I could learn to make mittens for the kids. Then Anthropapa complained one too many times that I never knit him anything, so I had to start on a sweater with some great yarn I found on sale. Then at the Eurythmy School Rummage Sale I found a cool book about knitting fantasy figures and landscapes (knit a castle, how cool is that?), which included the farm landscape that just begged to be created.

It's all snowballed into a bit of crafting hell, where something I love to do is slowly but surely being overshadowed by a looming deadline. Anthropapa kindly let me off the hook (ha!) by saying he didn't expect a whole sweater by Christmas, and I know that really the kids don't need the farm landscape right away either. But still, that's a lot to do in the few weeks I have left.

I can't decide if it's just a problem of short attention span and lack of focus, 2 weeks gone by either sweating out a fever or visiting with grandparents, or just that I need to learn to knit much, much faster.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Whomped by the Flu

For the first time in my life, I got the flu. Yes, you read that right, I have never had the flu, ever. Always big snotty colds, but nothing else.

Now I've made up for lost time. Fever of 102 for 3 days, 100 for a few more. Chills, aches, and now that oh-so-special dry hacking cough. And major fatigue on top of sleeplessness.

Now, I know I should be grateful. Wise anthroposophical heads have decreed (just kidding, it's all about the freedom) realized that fevers are our friends, bringing profound transformations to body and soul. Particularly for small children, they are key to healthy development and allow the child to "burn out" their inherited physical bodies in order to create new ones for themselves.

As I lay in bed for days, sweating and staring out into space when I wasn't dozing, while Papa took badly-timed time off work to take the kids out of the house so I'd have quiet, I thought about being grateful, but I was too miserable.

I've never had a real fever before. I'd seen them both in Papa and the kids, and knew what to do. When I felt cold and shivery despite a wool hat and sweater, I pulled that blanket right over me. When I wasn't hungry for 4 days, I ate a little applesauce to keep me going, otherwise nothing. Drink lots of water, sleep as much as possible.

I think that if I could be, I'd still be in bed. But, with toddlers, that's not going to happen.

Plus, now Papa's sick.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Outdoor Autumn Fun

Somehow autumn is always a busy time for us. Not summer, but autumn. Right about the beginning of October, weekends start filling up.

Last weekend we decided to take a day off from chores, errands and such and take a little family jaunt. We went up to Bear Mountain State Park, about 30 minutes north of us. It turned out to be a pretty awesome day. We drove up the Palisades Parkway, probably one of the prettier highways I've been on. Fall colors, woodchucks rooting around by the side of the road, and best of all, no commercial vehicles allowed.

After checking out the information center for maps, we noticed the indoor merry-go-round. Couldn't pass on that. Napoleona hung on for dear life, but Duncan had a good time. In addition to carousel horses, the ride features locally indigenous animals like deer, otters and bears. SillyBilly, true to his strange little self, chose a turkey.

Then we ambled by the Bear Mountain Inn, unfortunately closed for restoration, which has (to my jaded, stuccoed California eyes) charming Adirondack-style architecture. The Inn was one of the first examples of "park architecture," using materials found on site such as stone for the foundations and chestnut logs for the posts and beams.

Then after a snack we walked over to the zoo. All of the animals there are native to New York and have been injured or orphaned. The kids enjoyed the grey and red foxes, swans, frogs and toads...and then there were the turkeys and deer. We witnessed a turkey pecking and chasing a deer away from the food bin...I always knew turkeys were full of themselves! Probably the most interesting were the three black bears. They had many toys to play with; we saw one bear work very hard to get a small metal keg out of a hole in the ground.

Then it was time to walk back toward the Inn, where we stopped by Hessian Lake for an apple snack and a potty break.

We were excited to learn that the oldest section of the Appalachian Trail runs through the park and zoo. SillyBilly has had a mild obsession with the AT after Papa told him about it recently. Then we took a drive up to the summit of the mountain, which by then had become very crowded with people coming for the Octoberfest activities.

Needless to say, there was some snoozing going on in the back seat on the drive home.

And now, some gratuitous pictures of the kids, just because they're cute and autumn-ey. Besides leaf crowns, we've been raking, raking, raking. Then jumping and throwing the piles around and raking them again. During one of the jumping and throwing phases, SillyBilly yelled out, "I'm Mother Autumn!!" as if he were personally responsible for the leaves falling from the trees.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Babes, V

SillyBilly: I want to go into space. To look at the moon and find moon rocks, and look at meteroids and shooting stars.

And I want to go camping on the big trail. [Papa had told him about the Appalachian Trail.]

I would get into a rocket in a big hole in the desert, and burn off into space: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, HKHEEOOHH!!!!

Napoleona: And I want to go too!!


So we're sitting in a Starbucks in lower Manhattan, having a snack after going to the Status of Liberty. The following conversation occurred after seeing a tour bus with an ad for the Bodies exhibit, and having discussed Egyptian mummies recently:

SillyBilly: Mama, is that a mummy?
Mama: No, it's a body preserved with chemicals.
SillyBilly: Did they use oil?
Mama: No, they don't use oil and resin anymore.
SillyBilly: What's resin?
Mama: Sticky stuff from trees, like on pine cones. Remember how at Christmas the Three Kings bring gold, frankincense and myrrh? Frankincense is a special resin they used to use. [Now that I read up on it, it was myrrh they used in embalming. Oh well.]
SillyBilly: Maybe they used that on King Tut.
Mama: Yes, that was a long time ago.
SillyBilly: Was that before God made the world?
Mama: No, there wasn't anything before God made the world.
SillyBilly: Does God die?
Mama: No. But some people like Hindus think that the world is created, then lives, and then is destroyed. And some people say God is dead.
SillyBilly: Who?
Mama: Nietsche.
SillyBilly: Who's he?
Mama: A philosopher.
SillyBilly: A philosoraptor?
Duncan thinks for a while about all this....
SillyBilly: Frankenstein is a special resin.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Buddha or Bombers?

On our trip to Manhattan last weekend, we passed by the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The sight of a huge aircraft carrier with at least 5 fighter planes on top, and a submarine beside it, was extremely exciting for SillyBilly.

I'm not sure where his interest in airplanes, cars and such has come from. Sure, he is part of a family with military affiliations -- one grandpa was an Air Force Major and another taught jungle warfare in the Army -- but we certainly do not focus on these things.

In fact, we try to teach non-violence. How to balance the seemingly genetically ingrained boy's love of machines with peace and love?

Any thoughts from my 2-3 loyal readers?

And for extra credit, anyone know of a good picture book for small children about Buddha? In my attempts to expose the children to the world's religions (not too difficult: we live near a large Hasidic community, 2 grandmothers are Christian, the next-door neighbors are Wiccan, a Buddhist nun lives in the dorm next door, etc.) I've found lots of bibles and Jewish holiday books, but nothing good about Gautama.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Michaelmas time

Autumn is, hands down, my favorite time of year. I'm all about wearing warm clothes, raking leaves, and eating pumpkin pie. It's also the time of my birth, though September 11 is no longer such an auspicious day.

I'm still new enough to the East Coast that I cannot help but make constant comparisons with California, where I grew up. The parts of California where I lived, Los Angeles and Sacramento, do not have autumn really. Summer extends far into October with only slight cooling and the threat of rain by Hallowe'en.

By contrast, we are in the thick of autumn here. Leaves are turning more colorful by the day, temperatures have dropped precipitously, and the chipmunks, sparrows and yellow jackets have a new urgency in their activities.

In anthroposophical circles, now is the time of Michaelmas, where images of the Archangel fighting the dragon abound. We think about courage in the face of the year's dying away, and of the spirit conquering the forces of materialism. The shining, pure, upright, courageous hero overcomes the dark, sullied, cowering dragon.

In my children I see the picture of the will transforming substance: they love nothing more than to dig in the earth, break sticks into firewood for the gnomes, and to hear stories about brave knights conquering evil foes. It's a challenge to balance teaching about non-violence and to support their need for heroic archetypes.

So, last autumn we talked about how Michael doesn't really kill the dragon, he tames him and shows him the way to goodness, truth and beauty. A bit heavy for little ones, but they seem to take in what they can and digest it in their own time. The image of transformation is a strong one in early childhood, as the child transforms his whole self through growth and maturation.

This year SillyBilly for the first time has expressed fears of monsters and witches. We talked about how monsters and mean witches hate beauty and kindness and love. So, we do a little transformation of our home from daily mess to evening neatness, to help keep the monsters at bay. And I explained about good witches who help people with medicines made from herbs.

For me, talking about these things with my children is a little like autumn itself: a little of this and a little of that. On the one hand we have knights and wise women, on the other we have dragons and monsters. The air is chilly but the sun is bright.

These are the words to one of our favorite Michaelmas songs:

When I conquer within me fear and wrath,
Michael in heaven casts the dragon forth.

Firmly on the earth I stand,
Michael's sword within my hand.
When I conquer fear the dragon's chains I tightly bind,
Michael's light within my mind.
When I thrust against the monster's pride,
Michael is at my side.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Give Me Liberty

On Sunday we went to see the Statue of Liberty. Or, as I found out, the statue entitled, "Liberty Enlightening the World".

Oh, the irony.

I had a hard time not getting completely choked up looking at that big green mama. It's an amazing sight. That is one strong arm holding up a beacon of freedom to the world.

Though I'm not a particularly political person, I felt a bit embarassed about the USA standing there among all the tourists speaking Italian, German, Korean, etc.

It seems like we're not doing such a great job of enlightening the world with liberty these days. And those huddled masses, yearning to breathe free? Well, I'm not sure the breathing is much freer over here actually.

The free pamphlet from the National Park Service describes the mood of the country while "French intellectuals" planned the statue: "Nationalism, prosperity, and new technology brought forth an era of monument building." Strikes me as similar to today's mood, except instead of monuments reflecting pride in our nation's founding principles, we have a proposed 700-mile fence along the Mexican border and increasing Islamic radicalism as a direct result of American arrogance.

I noticed that the base of the Statue of Liberty is remarkably militaristic in style. According to the pamphlet, the base is indeed Fort Wood, built in 1811. Perhaps another symbol, like the bald eagle, of American aggression?

Like I said, I'm not normally overtly political, but I couldn't pass up commenting on such an experience.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Autumn Craftiness and Nature

It seems like just at the beginning of September I am bitten by the craftiness bug. I start dreaming of all those beautiful things I could make for my family, if only I could have a room devoted to crafts and all the time in the world! In the past have made blankets, sweaters, hats, dolls, slippers and socks out of yummy soft wool.

Then there is wool felting, which this year I started to do with the kids. They really enjoyed working with soft wool in warm soapy water! Napoleona especially was into the tactile sensations; I would look over at her and see her gently stroking her little wad of wool.

Here are some of our recent creations:

SillyBilly made a butterfly! OK, I helped a bit so that it didn't fall apart.

SillyBilly made a bird sitting on its nest on a branch. Squint a little, you'll see it...yellow bird, red beak, green nest.

Napoleona made a red bird flying through clouds under a yellow sun. Again, squint a bit.

Napoleona handed this to me and said, "Mama, this is for your blog." How could I resist a blog blob?

Now for the Mama section:

The kids like me to draw seasonal pictures for them to decorate their room. This is my latest autumn scene.

This is a picture of our nature table. Complete with gnomes, gourds, squirrels, plus acorns, grasses and pine cones we picked up on our walks. I made the green and yellow gnome from felt and raw wool, and the squirrel from a kit.

SillyBilly proudly displaying the crocheted gnome I made for him. Made from a pattern in Knitting for Children.

A bit about the nature table:

Young children do not grasp nature intellectually, but unconsciously accept its laws. When we bring the external world indoors, creating a seasonal table in colours and in tableaux without the use of words, children become aware of nature at work in their surroundings.
-The Nature Corner, M. van Leeuwen & J. Moeskops
We are so lucky to live amidst a beautiful forest where we can take daily nature walks. We see wildlife--Will we see Chippy chipmunk on that rock again today?--and beautiful plants--Look at those red leaves in the sun!--and experience the textures of nature--Let's dig in the sand by the brook, throw a stone, break a stick in two!

SillyBilly and Napoleona beg to go outside and play or take walks. When we do, we find many treasures that make their way home in our pockets to be placed beautifully in the nature corner. We just today watched from the kids' room as a gray squirrel found the perfect place in our backyard to bury an acorn.

Right now, the corner is on a shelf so that the children cannot easily reach it, but can see it. Soon they will be old enough to carefully add and subtract things on their own. But for now, sometimes Mama arranges things, and sometimes little gnomes come and do it when the children are elsewhere!