Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rube Goldberg, You Rock My World

I hadn't heard of Rube Goldberg before last week, when the boys started a class at our library called Simple Machines. But evidently, Mr. Goldberg is the guy who first combined pulleys, levers, fulcrums, wheels, ramps and balls into those funny machines that do something - smash an egg, drop ping-pong balls on your head, that kind of thing.

Part of our homework this week was to look up Rube Goldberg machines on YouTube, so I thought I'd share some of our favorites.

Here is one called 'Creme that Egg:'

OK Go's newest, This Too Shall Pass:

This one knocks down a whole bunch of bowling pins, in somebody's workplace:

They are fun, and silly, and require a lot more thought than, well, you might think. When Luke and Owen have made their Rube Goldberg machines, I'll post about them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Chicken Whisperers

It all started about a month ago, when a visiting seven-year-old friend of ours walked around effortlessly picking up chickens without batting an eyelash. It was so cute! He would just walk up to one quietly, lean in, and pick her up, something we'd never thought possible with our skittish lovelies. His Mom whispered reverently as we watched, "we call him the chicken whisperer."

So that, of course, put the bug in Luke and Owen to be able to do the same thing.

I couldn't see it, especially with Owen who can't hardly stand still long enough to pick up a stick, never mind a chicken.

But after a few weeks of hard work, they are both picking up chickens! They do it the same way their friend taught them, and again it is so cute.

I don't have a pic of Owen, but here's one of Luke, with his fave chicken, Saphira:

(Thanks Erica, for this great shot :-)

And now, all is right with the world.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Speaking of Traveling...

... here is the latest from my parents' global circumnavigation -

They've been in and out of Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and China.

They loved Thailand, although they were unable to do much in or near the capitol because of the protests, which have turned violent of late. So they spent their time in Chiang Mai, which they loved. My Mom writes:

We fell in love with Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were there during the Songkran Festival (Buddhist New Year), also called the Festival of Water. For 3 days people toss water at each other - tourists are not exempt! Entire families line the streets with buckets, hoses, cups, water guns - or kids pile into the back of trucks and drive around with a barrel or two of water, throwing it at everyone within reach - it was a lot of silly fun! We took a Thai cooking class; rode an elephant, an oxcart and a bamboo river raft - oh, and we crammed in a temple or two! Unfortunately, my camera picked that week to stop working, so we have very few photos of this fabulous stop.

Here they are on that elephant:

Because of their camera's untimely death, they've only got a few small pictures from Cambodia, in Angkor Wat, the seat of an ancient empire. These pics give me the shivers, incredible castles with huge trees growing up inside and around them:

My Mom writes here about life in Cambodia, and her words haunt me:

Dear friends, fall on your knees and thank whatever power granted you life in North America. Yes, we have problems, but the bottom of the barrel is Cambodia. Invasions, wars, civil war, Pol Pot, crooked politicians, nationwide lack of education, horrid climate, Cambodia has it all! And yet people are warm, noisy, friendly and quite beautiful.

Sometimes the randomness of life just hits me, and reading something like this makes that almost palpable.

After Cambodia, my parents moved on to China and a river boat cruise up the Yellow River. This is the part of the trip that Owen and I most wanted to become stowaways for, because my parents got to visit the Terra Cotta Soldiers. According to Wikipedia:

The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art buried with the First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang, "shi huang" means the first emperor) in 210-209 BC. (He declared himself the first emperor of China in 221 B.C.) Their purpose was to help rule another empire with Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "Qin's Armies."

Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.

Here are pics from my parents' visit:

Aren't they lucky?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dragons, and Knitting, and Gifts from the Sea

That picture about sums up our recent trip to Myrtle Beach. It was awesome. There's really no other word for it. See how the water is the same color as the clouds? It was like that at twilight each night, it almost looked like the water was invisible except for the seafoam.

We stayed in a campground right on the ocean, took walks nearly every day, and swam. A lot. Also, there was this ever-changing waterway just down the beach, which we enjoyed immensely:

Ben took most of those pics up there. He also took several pictures of these dogs, having a blast in the waves:

Together, we took a sum total of about ten pictures on the whole trip. There was just so much else to do!

I brought all kinds of knitting books, and a couple of projects-in-progress, and got a whole afternoon to myself for yarn shopping. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I'd spend so much of my vacation thinking about yarn, but it worked somehow. In fact, it worked well.

And, when I wasn't knitting or frolicking by the sea, I was thinking about dragons. We all were, because Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is home to this amazing place called MagiQuest, where you get a wand, and it really works. This was extra-special since it was Owen's first time, and going on quests and adventures with him reminded me how truly magical things can be, even if they originate with an RFID chip.

Purely coincidentally, I brought the four amazing Dragons of Deltora books for Luke; we shared them back and forth over our trip. So, when I wasn't thinking about evil dragons and wizards and the runes of MagiQuest, I was thinking about the good dragons in the mythical land of Deltora.

These were the threads that ran through our vacation by the ocean. They were brought together into a lovely bright cloth by means of a book, written in the 1950's and loaned to me by a friend: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It's about being a wife, mother, and woman in modern America - it could have been written last week, it feels so relevant. Reading it at night, with the surf pounding outside, elevated a merely great visit into an amazing, meaningful holiday.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Scones, The World's Best Baked Good

We've been eating lots of them lately, because they are yummy and, depending how they're made, good for you too.

If you want to try some scones, may I recommend that you scamper on over to my latest Food and Family column in Parents and Kids?

Let me know if you make some, and how they turned out!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Through Children's Eyes

I don't know if you've ever read anything by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, but if you haven't you may just want to run out and do so, right now. Or better yet, here's her blog! - it's destined for my ever-lengthening blogroll, as soon as I finish this post.

She writes about knitting, and I came across her book, Knitting Rules! after I'd been obsessed with knitting for a month or so. She made me laugh out loud, and also relax about knitting perfectly. She kind of helped me come up with my own way to practice this craft, with that book.

Recently I picked up her book of essays, Free-Range Knitter, and while I laugh and admire, I'm also finding answers to questions far beyond the realm of knitting.

Here's a quote from an essay about Stephanie's daughter:

Tenacity. Intelligence. Constructive discontent. Persistence. Sensitivity. A fantastic sense of humor. Independence. Mercy. Fearlessness. Kindness. Equity.

Now, these qualities are terrible qualities in a child. North America wants children (especially little girls) to be polite. Polite, obedient, and pliable... Kids who fight back and challenge you, say "no," and think for themselves are hard to raise and not thought well of at all.... I realized you couldn't tell a kid, "Do what I tell you," praise her for obedience, and then turn right around when she becomes a grownup and suddenly say, "Think for yourself" and condemn adults who are still compliant.

These words keep coming back to me. They make me think of a song by the Limeliters, a band my Dad loves from the era of The Kingston Trio and The Clancy Brothers. This particular song, Through Children's Eyes, is about how easy it is as grown-ups to forget that children are learning all the time, and that they do certain things for certain reasons. Here's the chorus:

Hey Jimmy Joe John Jim Jack/
Even little tigers lose their knack/
When somebody twice their size/
Can't see the world through children's eyes

The preceeding verse was about a tiny little tiger whose nursemaid "made him so afraid, he didn't dare make a noise." And guess what happened to him when he grew up?

He's just a mat
Stretched out flat
On somebody's bedroom floor

A harsh verse for a children's song, you think? But that is where the lesson comes in. We are given exactly one childhood each, and what we learn in that childhood must take us through our whole lives. Will we teach our children to question, to say no, to challenge, to show kindness where an adult might not? As frustrating as parenthood can be, my answer to those questions has to be yes.

Because I'm not interested in an obedient, compliant adulthood for my boys, one in which they're the mat on the bedroom floor. I want them to be as tiger-y as their hearts will allow. I know that they'll be tigers interested in justice, tigers on the side of good.