Monday, October 29, 2012

Friday Family Fun Night!

The Candle and Poem in question...
So we have started this weekly ritual at my house- we call it Friday Family Fun Night. We were inspired by our Jewish friends who are lucky enough to have Shabbat every Friday evening-Saturday day. After spending many Shabbats with them, we were encouraged to come up with a personalized, Witchy equivalent.

So... what is the ritual about? The ritual marks the end of the work week (which is harder to do than you might think). It is about making time for family relationships and connections and having fun.

And what do we do? The ritual has morphed since we started (and I further expect it to morph as we go), but as of now we light a special candle that mama made (which burns all night during our time together), read aloud a poem that daddy wrote for the occasion, and then stomp around the dining room table (often with flamboyant arm gestures or props) chanting, "Friday Family Fun Night!" until we giggle.

Rowan, waking daddy on Saturday.
Then we get into jammies and do things together as a family. Popping corn and watching a movie, playing games, making hot cocoa, snuggling, singing, or storytelling. As Rowan ages, there will be lots of things we can do together as a family. The plan is that FFF is a home activity, anchoring us to one another and home, creating a shape to our weeks that is reliable and predictable (kids thrive on routine), and bonding, bonding, bonding.

We then spend the next day doing family things as well- a family sabbath where we do not work and spend time together. We always make a nice breakfast together (Rowan helps!), and then check the available activities out there on the "Rowan's Potential Fun Stuff Calendar" (mama gets email updates and checks websites and adds them to a calendar so we do not miss cool things like story times, fairs and festivals, and the like.

Most of the stuff we do is free or low cost. Being poor it has to be. But spending money is not the point- being together in the best possible way, being present with one another is.

The poem:

Frigg's Eve, by Oberyn Kunning
All week long we toil, toil
Weaving, spinning, singing, growing
So we set the cauldron to boil
And pour it out, Love ever-flowing

When Frigg's Eve comes, one out of seven
Our work we set aside
And together, Kunnings Three, at home we do reside
Hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart
We set the lights to mark its start (light candle here)

Friday Family Fun Night! (x infinity)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Prep for Boline photo shoot

My wonderful friends are coming over this evening, one of whom is a photographer. He is shooting my products for the Boline website. I am busy staging shots and gathering props before he arrives!

My task is to try and find interesting objects for the photo staging that are not distracting, but also reflect the balance between my herbal medicine making and how it is inspired by my spiritual practice. After all, that is the essence of Boline- a coming together of the conjure and cunning that have marked my 23 years of Witchcraft and my near-decade of herbal medicine practice.

This is a Thai "spirit house" that is normally on my beloved dead altar. Today, it will show off Boline lip balms.

So many items here- an altar for a religious statue becomes a home for Elderberry elixir.
My oak bowl displays all my salves instead of offerings to Lilith.
My bee priestess drum forms the backdrop for tinctures.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Prepping for Samhain and Dia de los Muertos

This Witch has been thick in the middle of Samhain, Halloween, and Dia de los Muertos for some time, as I now plan Sunday School lessons. I have written lessons on all the holidays and am now executing them at church. I am also guding Rowan through these holidays.

He of course, loves Halloween and dressing up and trick or treating. But the religious holidays of ancestor veneration are important too and we are constructing an altar together, decorating calaveras, and talking about our ancestors at mealtimes and making offerings.

He is less than three, so this year is about remembering through photos and mementos, talking about our beloved and mighty dead at meals and having an extra plate for them, and making sugar skulls and the like.

These trays of drying sugar skulls are both for our personal altar and for Sunday School this weekend.
Next step: Lots of piping bags of royal icing in myriad colors!

Papier maché skull getting painted.

Life, death, rebirth, eternity.

This will ultimately end up on our beloved dead altar in the dining room (after church). 
What are you doing with your children about this time of year? How do you celebrate Samhain/Dia de los Muertos, All Hallows?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lesson Plan for Dia de Los Muertos
As promised, I am about to start posting lesson plans from my Sunday School curricula here. I hope you like them and share some of your own.

Today's lesson is on Mexico's Day of the Dead and is suitable for preschool and elementary school aged kids.

As this class is in a Unitarian Universalist context, the opening and closing may or may not be relevant to you, teaching about Day of the Dead out of a UU context.

If it is not, skip to the meat of the lesson further below. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for more lesson plans as I can get them posted!

Gathering: Where we get all the non-focused energy dispelled and we settle down.

Time to Sing! Sung to the tune Do Re Mi (from the Sound of Music)

One: Each Person is important
Two: Be Kind in all you do
Three: We help each other learn 
Four: And search for what is true
Five: All people need a say
Six: Work for a peaceful world
Seven The web of life’s the way
That will bring us back to me and UU!

 (repeat until all are singing and you feel you can stop and have their attention)

Where we create sacred space in which to learn and share.

Light Chalice
and say chalice lighting:
(Sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)

Flaming Chalice burning bright

Now you share with us your light
May we always learn to share
With all people everywhere
Flaming Chalice burning bright
Now you share with us your light

Joys and Sorrows:
Where we talk about our previous week and share good and bad things that have happened to us.

Get Down to Business:
Where we explain today’s theme or tell today’s story and start activities.

Materials needed:
  1. Calavera stencil (easily printable from the internet)
  2. Black Sharpie (for adults to trace stencil in advance)
  3. Tracing paper
  4. Colorful Markers
  5. Tape (for hanging them)
  6. Salt Dough (recipes here)
  7. Readings (below) and books (Clatter Bash! or similar age-appropriate book about the holiday)
  8. Build an altar with calaveras, pictures of ancestors, ashes/urns, mementos of loved ones, statue/picture of Santisma Muerte.

(PREP: Adults should have traced stencils in advance for kids to color in while stories are being read).
Did you know that in many cultures around the world, they believe that this time of year is the best time to communicate with the dead (dead relatives, friends- also called ancestors)? While some people think of seeing dead people, or ghosts, is scary- many others do not and welcome the chance to speak with people that they loved who have passed on.
Today we are going to explore one of those cultures- Mexico’s Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos (pronounced DEE-uh Day Los MWER-tose)
(Show kids altar- look, don’t touch! While you read words below)

Don't be afraid of El Dia de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead. This is a happy holiday! 
This ancient holiday began as a day of thanks for the harvest. It became a time put aside to remember our ancestors and people we love who have died. This is called ancestor veneration.
On the first day, relatives put flowers on graveyards or in vases with cards. Then they create an alter somewhere in the house. These alters are not places of worship. They serve the same purpose as a scrapbook or a photo album. Pictures of the departed, along with favorite loved objects and other mementoes are placed on the altar. The rest of this day is spent making the favorite foods of this person (or persons.) 
On the second day, families have big celebrations at their homes. They serve the food they made the day before. They eat candies shaped like skeletons. Friends stop by and people dance and sing. This is a very happy holiday.
Today, we are going to make two kinds of Calaveras- decorated skulls – flat ones to hang in our windows like stained glass decorations and sculpted ones to decorate our tables and altars!

(Go back to table and pass out salt dough for skull making to kids- show them how to make a skull shape and let them know next week we will be decorating real sugar skulls!)
On the third day of the Day of the Dead celebration, the holiday expands to the whole town. There may be parades and floats and costumed characters. Coffins are carried that have real people in them dressed in skeleton outfits.
(Read Clatter Bash! while they work- especially the end where it explains what is seen on the pages. Perhaps go back and flip through the pages to see if they can spot cultural items mentioned on final pages.)
Pass out stenciled tracing paper and markers for final calavera coloring activity.
Summation: Breaking down message, wrapping it all up.
Let’s hang our Calaveras in the windows and let the light shine through them!
What is ancestor veneration? What’s one way you can venerate your ancestors in your life?
I am going to give you a sheet for you to ask questions of your parents and/or grandparents (see below), and I would like them to talk to you as they fill out the answers. Be sure to bring it back next week so we can share!
Chalice extinguishing and closing words circle:
We extinguish the chalices here

That they may glow gently in our hearts
May it light your path
As you leave this place
May it guide your way
Until we are together again.

Day of the Dead Take home questions

Who are my ancestors? What are their names?

Where are they from? How did our family come to this place? How long has our family lived here?

Tell one interesting story about an ancestor.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rest in Peace, Matthew Shepherd. May Your Sacrifice Not Be In Vain.

Fourteen years ago today, Matthew Shepherd was found barely alive, strung up on a fence left for dead. All because he was different.

Queers of all stripes face discrimination, bullying, and worse. Still to this day. The fight is far from over, what with religious zealots stating that bigotry is protected by religious freedoms and politicians actively trying to take back what little equal rights have been won.

The bigotry is obvious when it is straight-on-gay, white-on-person-of-color, or against the differently-abled. But what is less obvious are the ways that people within their own communities tear one another down and rip community apart with petty differences and the kind of bullying that happens on a junior high schoolyard.

The other day my partner (Rowan's father) went to a party. Some of you may not know that my partner and I both identify as "queer"- my partner is primarily what most would call "gay" and I am primarily what most would call "bisexual". Well, he really desires to be in community in our new city of Columbus with other "gay men", and this party had many of them, so off he went (I stayed home to watch Rowan, even though I was invited as well).

When he got there, he found himself at the mercy of well-established cliques based on looks and societal desirability. One particularly cruel person joked that because he lived with a woman and had a child with her that he was an "unsuccessful homosexual". My partner is an introvert. He is new to this community. So he left early, sad. Had I been there, that bitchy queen would have gotten an earful:
"Excuse me, is this junior high? Because I hear a schoolyard bully. No one gave you permission to police the borders of identity, sir. And if (my partner) is "unsuccessful" by your standards, then he must be an amazing person. Because your standards dictate that you must ostracize good, loving people from your midst. That must mean that you and your friends here are cruel, small hearted, small minded, jerks. You, sir, are petty and mean. You are a small person who makes himself unworthy of my partner's love and care through his own words and deeds. While you seek to name others as undesireable, YOU are the one who is really ugly here."
I have a long history of fighting bullies, starting as a small child. The fact that I have had to fight them my whole life makes me weary. I simply cannot stand cruelty and must act. I defended helpless animals in my neighborhood from traps in gardens and from neighborhood boys. I was once caught pummeling a neighbor boy for smearing a lightning bug on his pants to make them glow. I kicked the crap out of people stomping on ants or pulling legs off of daddy-long-legs (spiders). When I got older, I got a bully to stop picking on some kids on the playground and people started paying me a nickel a day to protect them.

I have never been able to watch movies where people are deliberately cruel to one another- it makes me sick to my stomach. I started a queer anti-hate crim patrol in Boston and led the one in San Francisco. I have disarmed bullies with knives and guns who wanted to harm people for being different.

It sickens me that this kind of bullying happens in communities of which I am a part. It happens at church, it happens amongst queers, and it happens on my son's playground. But when I bear witness, it ends with me.

I will foster empathy in my son. I will call adults out on boorish behavior and talk gently to children who bully. I will think before I speak when I have judgments in my head. It ends with me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Library and Literacy

Ever since Rowan learned to talk, he has been deliberately and literally surrounded by the alphabet. We got foam alphabet tiles for his play area, have sung the alphabet song to him, and he has read numerous books about the ABCs. He loves to play and asks for "the apple-ball game" which is a set of letter flashcards, complete with images (Can you guess? A is for apple and B is for ball.).

We have been taking weekly trips to the library and getting a dozen or so new books weekly for bedtime and other story times. This week, we started attending toddler story time at the library, and he was pretty good! He was "too shy" to sing along with everyone and wanted to be held when everyone stood and sang. But he paid attention to the stories and was very engaged in them. It helped that they were all about elephants (and other animals). He was delighted with the puppet storytelling, too.

Our goal is simple. As homeschooling parents, we know the veritable the keys to the kingdom are literacy and comprehension. And we spend a lot of time building on his knowledge to develop this skill. Luckily, Rowan is very motivated. He loves books and stories and cannot wait to read by himself. That makes this mama thrilled.

We are ready for the next step: phonics. Mama has gotten some phonics flashcard games and we started watching Sesame Street together (Rowan gets limited screen time- and we watch together, so as parents we can filter and help process information with him.). He knows that A is for apple, but he doesn't understand why yet. So we are working on the sounds the letters make.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Yard Update (A photo post)

So as many of you know, I am starting an urban homestead here in Columbus. Transforming the yard has been a big project this year, and we haven't gotten it all done yet. For pics of "before"see here.

Here is the lush oasis our front yard is becoming:

Rowan, descending our stairs into the yard. You can see the rim of the huge planter box we share with the neighbors here.

My front yard. Wildflowers (mainly zinnias and sunflowers) create a wall all along the edge that borders the driveway. We get lots of bees and butterflies. The herb spiral, still unfinished (we have been only using free reclaimed materials and that takes time) has been overrun with morning glories and Delicata squash!

What happens when a major storm destroys your backyard gazebo? Take two corners and sink them into the ground, making an archway with prayer flags and vining plants, of course!

After we got rid of those hideous shrubs, we tacked up trellises and I planted morning glories. They, um, like it here.

A look at the lush planter box from my steps.

Tiny details are hidden in the box like this.

And this.

My morning glories, the view from the porch rocker. It's like a lush green stained glass window.