Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter Solstice

We were invited to celebrate the Winter Solstice by a friend, this year. We have never marked winter solstice with participation in any ritual, but I don't think I'd want to miss it again. It is a really beautiful way to get in touch with creation/nature and pause to think about the upcoming season and what you would like to see fill that time. Marking solstice has pagan roots (as does bringing a live tree into your living room!) but is truly an ecumenical concept. The Winter Solstice is the longest or 'darkest' night of the year. Historically it was a gathering in which people comforted one another with food and music and 'called back' the sun to give them longer days.

Whatever you believe, nature has a way of bringing that all together. I believe in God, and was able to connect this clearly with my belief system.

There were kids of every age, beautiful, seasonal decorations, and a bounty of food.

The fire was central to the celebration - remember, we were calling back the sun!

Our friend, Jane Ann, lead us in a ceremony of releasing fears and singing.

The best part of the night was the drum circle.

I really enjoyed marking the season this way. It helped me take some moments to pause, pray and as always when Jane Ann is involved - play.

After this 'longest night', the next day, the boys attended a Winter Solstice class informing them of all the attributes of the forests this time of year and take a winter hike with friends.

I learned that although the solstice marks the first day of winter, the earth has made that turn that starts bringing longer days and that means we are headed - straight for Spring! Happy Solstice, everyone.

Monday, December 12, 2011

NYC on a Balmy Day

The forecast was predicting 60+ degrees (the Saturday after Thanksgiving!) and the calendar was empty. I am sure Dennis could feel it coming. 'Sooooooo, what should we do tomorrow?' What's on your 'list' he asks. It didn't even take too much bargaining before he said yes to the High Line Park in NYC. I have been wanting to go for quite some time, and have even had friends who've beat me there and so I had to be jealous for a while.

The park is linear, because it is built on an old, raised freight line that runs from the Meat Packing District to about Chelsea with plans to open one more segment. There are beautiful plantings (we missed to the best of season, I think), bridges, pathways, brick, boardwalk and even a lawn.

We managed the distance easily and walked back to where we started on street level next to the piers. We passed Chelsea Piers and took in some sites including the skatepark, the Hudson River and a big grassy park.

Since this was all going so well, I suggested a subway ride that would get us to Central Park. I'd love to get proficient (or at least functional) at riding the subway to destinations in New York. Shortens all the distances.

Central Park was great. It is truly amazing that amidst all the city noise and tall buildings there is this park. It is so huge it will take us many trips (yeah!) to see all that I want to see.

This Silver-Robot man sounded and moved just like a robot when the kids put money in the box he was standing on.

Hecksher Playground is a giant, cement castle-like playground built right into the gigantic, climbable rocks.

Wollman Rink. We didn't skate - but we can't wait to.

We were really hoping to find Balto.

The kids rode the carousel, saw bunches of statues (William Shakespeare, Robert Burns), we saw jet black squirrels, huge, old trees, interesting people, and lots of street musicians. The list of what we didn't do is long. Guess we will just have to go back.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

He's 3

If there was a job description listed in the paper, and Sean was the perfect little applicant, here is how it would have read:

Infant wanted. Need to become accustomed to extreme amounts of noise. Ability to be flexible as far as napping and meal times. Pleasant disposition in all situations including long car rides, being toted from activity to activity, and a mother that frequently forgets your diaper bag and bottles. Need to be able to live in a house full of legos without ingesting them and play with Star Wars guys, matchbox cars, pots and pans, Nintendo DSes, and other total (age)inappropriate toys. Skills including escaping your oldest brother's embrace, sweet-talking brothers into reaching high objects, and telling mom that dad said yes, and telling dad that mom said yes, a definate plus.

If you are intersted in being doted on, not only by two parents, but three older brothers, sleeping anywhere you wish, having ice pop appetizers for breakfast and being referred to as the most adorable thing that any of us have ever seen - this job is for you!

That job description never existed, because there was no job! When I found out I was pregnant with Sean, I could not fathom getting through nine months (the way I do pregnancy) and how in the world I was going to fit this baby into the already Crazy Costello Clan. Then, it all changed. He was born, and all was right with the world. When I first visted him in the NICU, he was at complete rest, arms splayed and hands gently open with his head @#!*% to the side seemingly enjoying the warming lights. I looked at the nurse and said, "he's just not like my other baby's - he's different." I ask him, often, 'where did you come from?' and he claims to have been at Grandma's house. "She sent me here", he says.

I ask him to not grow up. He says ok. But they're empty promises, today he turns 3.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Great Nerf War

A few weeks ago, the boys were invited to participate in a Nerf battle. It was to take place at family's home that is new to homeschooling. If it was an effort to make new acquaintances, exchange information, talk about educational philosophies, eat yummy treats, romp in an awesome yard and have a bunch of fun - it worked!!

It really couldn't go wrong. Kids eager to aim at each other, a perfect venue and then the natural course of events unfolded. All types of interesting converations came pouring out of us parents. There were discussions about what classes, clubs and interests the kids were following. Books, websites, message boards and Yahoo groups that support the educational choices people were pursuing were shared. Changes and challenges were discussed. I know I left feeling connected and encouraged and remembering why we choose this lifestyle of learning.

Our hostess could have invited us for an "Informational Meeting" or a "Parent Support Group" or just a Great Nerf War that would yield the same results.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Simple Lesson

I don't own a science curriculum. Or a spelling curriculum. Or a vocabulary curriculum. Does that mean that The Boyz aren't learning any of these things?

This morning, Mikey brought down an old, little book called The Spotted Salamander. He read it out aloud to me. It talked about the signs of spring and melting snow. It described the physical characteristics of the spotted salamander, his habitat and diet. It described mating rituals, reproduction, and the development of the baby salmanders. The book described parts of the food chain and other land and pond animals. The nicest part is that is was written as a story.

The story touched on real experiences that Mikey has had. It talked about skunk cabbage, which he had been introducted to at Cub Scout Camping this fall, and rising tree sap that was covered in a nature center class he had taken.

Mikey sounded out words that were challenging for him, we taked about some common spelling rules and some sounds that 'break the rules'. Among some of the words he stopped at, and we defined were 'waken', 'thrusting', 'thawing', 'beneath', 'shrill', 'remaining' and 'roused'.

The book had beautiful illusrations and he enjoyed the story.

If you ask Mike if he learned any science, phonics, vocabulary, or spelling today, he would tell you no. Usually Mikey says, "we don't do much school". I am glad we don't 'do much school'.

“I have never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” – Mark Twain