Thursday, September 24, 2009

heartbreak and hope

I truly hope that these stories and those like them become more widely known - how many lives may be changed and saved!

Video is not for young children.

Friday, September 18, 2009

and now for something completely different

We've been watching "Monk" through Netflix lately, and we recently saw an episode in which Monk's assistant, Natalie, got a job that made her more famous and popular than her boss. He didn't like that very much, and one of his colleagues teased him, saying, "You're Garfunkel!" I chuckled, and didn't think any more about it. But then, as I've been listening to my Simon and Garfunkel CD, I wondered, what if Garfunkel watches "Monk"? Does he have the sort of sense of humor that he thinks that was funny, or did he find that hurtful and offensive? I can't imagine being someone famous and encountering people making fun of you when you least expect it, perhaps while relaxing to a favorite television show after a long day. It is probably silly of me to worry about it, but I just wanted to say, wherever you are Art, I hope you're feelin' groovy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Okay, so maybe Ramadan is not something that you were expecting me to blog about. However, the students at the Newman Center where dh works were recently invited to the Intercultural Friendship Foundation's Ramadan Iftar dinner, and our family decided to attend. It was really wonderful! We all had a great time meeting new people and making new friends.

First, we listened to the Islamic call to prayer, which was beautiful. Then we had a delicious home-cooked Turkish meal together. After we had eaten our fill, one of the Muslim men gave a presentation on Islam, and specifically how and why Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan. Then my husband gave a talk on fasting in the Catholic tradition. There were many, many similarities. Islam stresses not only fasting, but prayer and almsgiving during Ramadan, just as we do during Lent. Their fast is much more strict than what the Church requires - no food or drink from sunup to sundown, even water! - but they have the same exemptions for children, the eldery, the sick, and pregnant and nursing mothers. Ramadan is a week or two earlier each year than the year before, so it shifts around the calendar over time. I was thinking how much more difficult it must be during the summer, when days are long, than when it falls during the winter. Another thing they do differently is that if you are exempt from the fast, you are expected to feed another person for each day that you did not fast. So, a nursing mom could invite a neighbor to join them for the evening meal (Iftar) to fulfil this requirement.

One saying they have is that during Ramadan, Satan is chained. I think that is a great image for the effect of pious penance. Like us, they use their hunger to remind them of those in need. Samuel was struck by what their presenter said about this - that he is hungry when he fasts, but he knows that he will eat at the end of the day, but many are hungry, and don't know when they will eat again. Samuel enjoyed the food, company, and cultural sharing very much, and immediately asked when the next one will be! :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

a must-read

I've been trying not to do too much linkage on here lately, now that I've got my handy-dandy shared items widget in the sidebar from Google Reader. But, I couldn't let this one slide.

Will We March with the Death Cult?

yesterday's history/science/math lesson!

For history this year, dh and I decided that we would like to do one big, overall review of all of human history, just touching on the "main stuff", but not going into a huge amount of depth in any one area. We want to give Samuel an overall framework so that when we do study things in greater depth later on, he'll know how they fit into the big picture. We've already been doing some reading about early human migration, ancient civilizations, the rise of agriculture, etc.

I wanted to give him some visuals about the scope of time, and a Montessori- style ribbon seemed to be just the thing. There was one in the Atrium that we used to attend, and it was great for putting things into perspective for the kids. I didn't know what the scale and dimensions were for that one, so I did some math and figured out one that would work for us. So, here it is! (Apologies for poor picture quality throughout - as I mentioned here, I broke the camera, so it's like having a film camera again! I can't see what I took until I upload everything. It was too hot outside for a redo!)

Each ridge on the grosgrain ribbon represents one million years. Yep, you read that right. 1,000,000. To help give your child a sense of how many one million is, I really recommend the book A Million Dots. You're probably thinking, this is going to be a short ribbon, with a million years per ridge! Well, there are about 25 ridges to an inch, so 4 inches is 100 million years. So, it takes 40 inches to reach one billion years. So, if we start at the beginning of the universe, approximately 14.5 billion years ago...

Time keeps going...

...and going...

Hey! What's that color change? We decided to change the ribbon to brown at around the time the earth formed, around 4.5 billion years ago.

And another color change! We decided to make it green when the first life was created, around 3 billion years ago. What? The ribbon is yellow? Ah, yes, that would be because the craft store was out of green! I'll redo it when they restock. :)

And here we are at present day. Humans have been here for about one-fifth of one ridge, or 200,000 years. So, obviously, we won't be using this ribbon for marking events in human history. We'll have another one for that! But it was fun to guess when the dinosaurs were alive, when the sun and moon formed, and things like that.

If you'd like to make your own ribbon, here are the dimensions. Obviously, the dates are all approximations, so if you're off by a few million here or there, no big deal. :)

Blue (representing time from the Big Bang until the formation of the earth): 33 feet, or 10 billion years.

Brown (representing time from the formation of the earth to the creation of the first life forms): 5 feet, or 1.5 billion years.

Green (representing time from the creation of life until the present): 10 feet, or 3 billion years.

This will give you a total of 48 feet, or 14.5 billion years. Happy learning!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Waldorf liturgy?

When my son was much younger, he went through a phase of pretending that things were his babies, so I looked into getting him a doll. (He grew out of the phase before I ever got around to it, but that's beside the point.) I was particularly struck by the Waldorf-style dolls. In addition to being beautiful and handmade from natural materials, they typically have very minimal facial details. This allows the child to impart various emotions to the doll, as the face could easily seem to be happy, sad, etc. It made a lot of sense to me that to a sad child, a grinning doll would not be a comfort, but a Waldorf doll would seem to share a child's joy and sorrows.

Today, it struck me that one can draw a parallel with the liturgy. I went to Mass with my heart heavy with sadness for the recent losses in the Real Learning community. I simply could not participate in contemporary, wave-your-hands-in-the-air, tambourine-filled music. But that is what I got. It was like having a grinning doll mock my sadness.

I believe that traditional hymns are the Waldorf doll of liturgy. Certainly, there is joy in them, but it is a deeper, reflective joy that can be engaged in even in the depths of sorrow. Of course, there are some contemporary songs that would fit the bill to some, and certainly we should not ban all songs that are more overtly joyful.

I am neither a theologian nor a liturgist, so maybe I am way off-base here. But it just seems to me that this is something to consider when deciding what music is appropriate for Mass, and another reason to follow the Church's instruction to give traditional music primacy in the liturgy... one more reason to put down the tambourine and pick up a hymnal.