Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Week 6--Taikuu

So I missed a couple of weeks, but I'll catch them up.☺

 Taikuu ("tay-koo") is the Inupaq word for thanks. It is pretty standard usage up here. I even see it on otherwise-English signs in businesses and such. I like it. I think it's pretty, and also I have a geekish fascination with words that have a double-u.

  1. I'm thankful for the gift of literacy, and for all the doors it opens.
  2. I'm thankful for the gift of writing, for the fulfillment it brings, for the things I am able to accomplish with it.
  3. I'm thankful for the gift of travel, and for many places I have been able to go in the world at various points in my life.
  4. I'm thankful for teamwork, and for the fantastic people I work with at The Amethyst Network and other organizations I am part of.
  5. I'm so SO thankful for the technology of the internet. That I can communicate with people from around the world, even in real time. I'm thrilled to be able to have video chats with multiple family members at the same time, so we can have a monthly sisters' book club even though we are spread across 4 states and 4 time zones, and so that I can see my grandparents on thanksgiving even though they are 3000 miles away
  6. I'm thankful for my family far away. For the phone calls and emails and letters and texts.
  7. I'm thankful for my family right here. For the hugs and cuddles and "Honey I'll make dinner tonight"s and "Mommy I'm happy"s. I sure love my crazy boys.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Learning Place Value

Place value is a difficult concept for many kids. Bear has been regularly mixing up places, usually just guessing at whether "41" is fourteen or forty-one. I've tried to help him see the patterns in the hundreds chart, and help him hear that "four" comes before "one" in forty-one, but in the long run he has mostly still been guessing.

Today the math lesson (we are using Horizons kindergarten math) was about place value. I read the teachers manual which said to make a big visual aid showing two columns, and then to put different numbers in them and talk about it... Matching color-coordinated columns were in his workbook. (I do want to note that I have really liked this math curriculum, today is the first time that I have felt like I needed to come up with something additional of my own.)

He has already been learning about pennies and dimes for several weeks. This includes counting them up and writing the total amount of cents (dimes and/or pennies). So, rather than use numbers in the columns demonstration, I used coins. (These happen to be plastic coins from the Horizon's manipulatives set, but obviously real coins would work!)

I made the two columns and labeled and color-coordinated them like his book. Then I got out ten pennies and a few dimes. I made nine spots in the 'ones' place column, so that he could visually see when it was 'filled up.'

Currently he is practicing writing numbers and using number lines up to the 40s, so basically I just counted with him. I put on one penny at a time, and we counted. When we got to nine, I said "uh-oh, I don't have any more places for pennies, I will need to use a dime instead to make the ten cents." I slid all the pennies off the page and put on a dime. I showed him how there was one coin in the first column and zero coins in the second column ("10"). Then we started adding pennies again and counting till we got to 19, when he gleefully swiped the pennies off and plunked down a dime. We continued counting up to 40, and several times I stopped and had him take note of how many coins were in each column, and what number we were on, so that he could see the correlation between place value and numbers.

He seems to get it. ☺

I suspect that somewhere down the road we will revisit this, only adding dollar coins (or dollar bills) to a third column. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thanksgiving week 5: Fresh Beginnings

This morning there is a fresh layer of snow on the ground. We had a slight dusting a few weeks ago, but this is the first real snow of the season.
As is the case with many bush towns, Kotzebue has a lot of STUFF around. People save everything (usually in their yards) because you never know when you might need it, and it's expensive to ship things out, so if it's already here you definitely don't want to throw it away. In addition, many houses are made with plywood, sheet metal and tar paper. I joked to my husband last spring that you know you might be in a bush town if you look at a house and can't tell whether it's occupied or set for demolition... A significant number of houses really do look that way.
In short, this is not a pretty town.
Until it snows.
Snow covers all the ugly things with a gentle blanket of white, and suddenly my neighbor's front yard junk heap is just a white mound... the ugliness is gone. (Well, it's not all gone, but it's going, and a little more snow will finish the job...if the mess is big enough, these things can take time.)

This is 1 of our 4 wood piles. The green shed there is also full (about 2 more piles worth).
As I looked out the window this morning I thought of the election results last night. Months of intensity, anger, and even sheer hatred all led up to one night of high emotions: elation for some, depression or resignation for others...I suspect it's some kind of mix for most. All the ugliness--theoretically--is over now. The results are what they are, and whether we like it or not, the decisions have been made. Now we all have a chance to start over fresh, with a new congress, a newly (re)chosen president, and a variety of new laws chosen by the will of the people. I hope we can move forward gracefully and kindly, in spite of whatever personal feelings might be hiding under the snow.

Today I am grateful
  1. that the election is over. I hope that the hatred and anger will calm now as well.
  2. to have the right to vote. It's only been 90 years that women have had that right in this country.
  3. that all the candidates who made significant rape-accepting comments during this campaign (such as that "some girls rape so easy" or that "if it's a legitimate rape the female body can shut [conception] down" or that "having a baby out of wedlock is similar to rape") were DEFEATED. As Stephen Colbert said, yes, abortion is a complex issue and we don't all agree on it. But I thought we agreed on rape. Yes indeed, the people have spoken. We DO agree on rape.
  4. for New Hamshire making another first: they were first to ratify the constitution (earning their slogan as "the first state"), 4 years ago they were the first state to have a female majority in their state senate, and last night they were the first ever state to elect a completely female federal delegation and governor.
  5. that we have the highest ever percentage of women in congress. 17% was our prior high. As of today, there are 19 women in the senate (with two more races still too close to call). As I explained to a friend, I have never made a political decision based on the candidates sex or race. I have always looked at issues and voting records. I'm not saying that women are superior either. I'm not saying they should run it all... I'm saying they have not been equally represented, and I think it *affects how our legislature functions, so I am happy to see an increasing percentage of women in these roles.
  6. that Elizabeth Warren got into the Senate. She is awesome. She is one of the few people I've ever seen that I think may be able to remain unsullied by politics. She has a beautiful track record of truthfulness and wisdom (she's a big proponent of fiscal responsibility, and warned the last administration of the impending financial crisis before it happened but they ignored her). It's just encouraging to see somebody honest slide in from behind and win a big race.
  7. and in my one partisan statement of the week, I am very very glad that Barack Obama won.
*How does the number of women in congress affect legislative function? In two ways:
Firstly, 51% of the population is female, but less than 20% of congress is, and obviously that's seriously skewed. Now I grant that either sex could represent either sex, but I think there is still something to women being SO underrepresented. It means that women's concerns (such as maternity leave or maternal mortality rates) are essentially ignored by our congress. Because there are not enough people there who care enough to do anything about them. (The USA has a pathetic record on maternity leave compared to all other first world countries, and our maternal mortality rate is next in line with Albania and other eastern European countries...not what it should be for a country with the most money and the best doctors...)
Secondly--I know this is a stereotype but there IS something to it--men tend to want to win, women tend to be willing to compromise for the common good. In other words, a higher percentage of women in congress may help with bipartisanship and help do away with this gridlock...
So that is why I care about there being more women in congress. :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Getting Down with my Bento Self

Last fall, when Bear started going to pre-school, he often wanted to pack a lunch. (My kids sometimes like getting the school lunch, but often complain that it's not as good as leftovers from home!) I admit I've been fascinated by bento box meals for some time, and this was a perfect chance to try it out.

I bought a Goodbyn lunchbox with sections. It's not a true bento box, but we had some fun with it. (Later in the year he opted for more school lunches and fewer from-home ones, so I don't have a lot of photos, but here are a few.)

I collected lots of ideas for lunch components and contents on a pinterest board Spiffy Packed Lunches. I also bought some small picks, tiny forks, and condiment containers to use in the lunches (you'll see those in the photos). They were very cheap at (you can see them on the pinterest board too)
And although most of mine here do not look as exciting as most of the ones on the board, but in all cases, the contents of the lunches were chosen by the child... he didn't think that peanut butter and jelly rolled up into 'sushi' was cool. Oh well.

Before the lunchbox arrived, I just used several small containers in a lunchbag. Here: grapes, olives, water, and a hamburger patty cut into two pieces for easier dipping in the ketchup.

applesauce, milk, peanut butter sandwich

grapes, some chocolate chips (dessert, in the pink container), orange juice, turkey wraps
the turkey wraps are secured with the picks. The kids liked picking whether they got a rocket, robot, or truck on their wrap

milk, a hot dog, and two containers of ketchup (just in case!)

chocolate cake, orange juice, polish sausage (with no ketchup, his choice)
Although I never made it into much of an art form, I do think that having several finger foods in their own little sections is a great way to do packed lunches for kids. Although I don't seem to have any pictures with the tiny forks, they are popular at home too for eating olives, grapes, and other tiny foods. ☺

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thanksgiving week 4: Safe and Secure

In the midst of the news about an earthquake in Canada, tsunamis in parts of Alaska (smallish ones, but still related to the earthquake), and of course the massive destruction of Storm Sandy in the eastern parts of the USA, today I am grateful for many things.

  1. To have a wood stove, and a huge wood pile that we spent several months building, so that my house can always be warm, even in the absence of electricity or fuel.
  2. My gas cook stove (because cooking on the wood stove is not really that hard, but the baking is terrible!)
  3. I have food stored in my house. It's not a year's supply, but we could live exclusively on it for a few weeks at least (still rebuilding it after being gone all summer).
  4. That I live in not-hurricane country. Because earthquakes and tsunamis don't scare me half as much, I admit. (And maybe that's a matter of habit, but it's true!) I'm also glad to live in not-tornado country. Blizzards don't worry me because of #1, 2 and 3.
  5. That my parents taught me frugality and self-sufficiency. Have I said that before? Probably. But I'm very serious about it. As I go through life I keep meeting people who don't know how to cook from scratch, budget, or otherwise be economical...and I am SO grateful that I was taught these things.
  6. That all my family and friends in Sandy's path are ok. 
  7. For the many people who have worked and are working to help take care of those who are not ok.
My prayers go up for the many people who are suffering right now.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Between Worlds


All Hallows Eve

All Saints Day and All Souls Day

the Day of the Dead

A time when the veil between worlds is believed to be thin, when those on the other side and those on this side can reach out toward one another, maybe even touch, and exist in the mindful space of knowing that life is eternal, relationships are eternal, and that these cycles will go on and on for always.
One heart inside another, one generation inside another
Many things are on my mind today...
Miscarriage and infant loss awareness month is just behind us and I have been working on projects for The Amethyst Network all month.
A friend who recently passed a due date for a baby who was stillborn two months ago
A friend who just found out she is pregnant (after multiple miscarriages)
A friend who is expecting a baby any day (after a difficult miscarriage almost exactly a year ago) 
My own children who are not with me here, but who sometimes seem to reach out to hold my hand or pat my shoulder
My great great grandmother Juliette who made eye contact with me through a photo this summer and whom I have been trying to learn more about ever since
Many others who have crossed over to that side, whether prematurely or very maturely, and others who are on their way to this side...
Do they see us from their side as rarely as we see them from ours? Or is the veil a one-sided mirror, where they can see us easily, but except in fleeting moments we see only ourselves?

I do not know the ins and outs of life and death.One thing I do know is that the universe and the eternities are bigger than our little minds can know in this human form. I believe in a larger interconnectedness between all generations, all times, all eternities. I believe because of times like now, where the veil is thin and we catch a glimpse between the worlds.


I was thinking about jack o lanterns this morning. A very ordinary squash, but once a year we poke through the crust so that we can see what is inside. We carve a variety of shapes and for a variety of reasons, and then we set a light inside and behold, a simple squash becomes a lantern. When I look at one now I cannot help but think of looking through to a world beyond. I just got to like them a whole lot more.

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