Friday, July 23, 2010

Seaside Park, NJ

We played up and over in the waves and built a giant sand castle.  Almost clear pebbles and bits of spiral shells collected in our buckets and too much sand got in our swimsuits.   We rode the rollercoaster on the boardwalk--the one that almost hangs over the water--and were too terrified to scream.  We played skeeball, watched the claw drop the stuffed puppy...again...and licked soft serve ice cream.  Aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews and friends came to sit under umbrellas and watch clouds of laughing gulls swoop over pods of dolphins.  We left a lot of footprints in the sand that are already gone.

Tonight we are packing.  Tomorrow we leave.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Imagining Loss

Two stories about a 5 year old imaging the loss of her senses or body parts.

This is how I found Greta--sitting at the piano with Ode to Joy in front of her and her fingers in her ears.

When she caught sight of me she said, "Will you cover my ears while I play?"

"Don't you like how it sounds?" I asked--before I covered the ears.

I thought she did.  She'd been singing it constantly with these words from her book:

Beethoven a great composer wrote this joyful melody.  
Beethoven a great composer wrote this theme for you and me.

"I do like it. I just want to know what it was like for Beethoven when he played it."

He was deaf, you see, when he composed Ode to Joy.   I covered her ears and she played.

"How was it?"
Shrug.  "I could hear through."

Ok, so the next installment in Imagining Loss is one of those times where, in an effort to protect my children, I overdid it a little.

We were kayaking, or rather, we were done kayaking and the boats were strapped to the top of the car.  The straps, so they don't flap around, hang in through the windows.  A friend's son was wrapping the straps around his arm.

I said not to touch the straps--it would be dangerous if something outside snagged the strap.  And then, because the kids seemed insufficiently impressed, I told the story of the little girl whose hand got ripped off.   She was playing with a jump rope in the car and letting it fly out the window.  The jump rope got caught in the axle of the car.  The hand flew out the window.  Right now you are thinking I should have spared you this gruesome tale.  But since I failed to spare my 5 year old, what are the chances I'd spare you?

Later Greta pleaded with me to tell her a nice story because the hand was "stuck up" in her head.  I reassured her that a motorist had found the little girl's hand and surgeons reattached it.  And then I told her a nice story about butterflies.

Two days later as we're driving I see in the rearview mirror that she is hunched over her arm with a pen.  She catches my eye in the mirror.

"I'm writing my name on my arm so if I lose it someone will return it to me."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tales of the Gold Rush

Not so long ago there was a homeschool fair. It was called the Not School Carnival and kids came and set up booths to make a little money for themselves and for The Peregrine Fund and The Berkeley Humane Society (which coincidentally burned down the evening after the fair). There were Ball Toss Booths and Hot Pretzels and Ancient Mesopotamian biscuits and K'Nex creations for sale.

And there were the storytelling booths. Kids spread across the fair dressed as Gold Rush era historical figures, telling tales from their lives, and selling CDs of their stories. They weren't sure if anyone would want to listen, but when they counted the cash in the till there was over $80. They sold every CD and more than 40 people paid $1 to hear their tales.

Evelyn was Black Bart, infamous stage coach robber, and Clementine was Sam Brannan, the gold rush's first millionaire. Their friends portrayed the famous, the infamous and the everyday figures of the gold rush. You can listen to their tales below--the death of semi-legendary bandit Joaquin Murrieta, the rise to riches of gold rush entrepreneurs Levi Strauss and Domingo Ghirardelli, the biographies of rights activists Helen Hunt Jackson and Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, the escapades of Chilean miner Vincente Perez Rosales, the lives of writers Mark Twain and Dame Shirley, and the secret of Charley Parkhurst, stage coach driver.

Domingo Ghirardelli selling cocoa.

Left to right Black Bart, Mark Twain and Charley Parkhurst

Sam Brannan showing a vial of gold and announcing, "Gold, gold in the American River!"

CD cover art by the kids:

The kids told their tales 20 times or more each to kids and parents, to homeschoolers and parkgoers who just happened by.  They went home with $5 in their pockets and the fair raised $667.44 for the Peregrine Fund and The Berkeley Humane Society.  In a word--it was enriching.