Monthly Archives: October 2015

BUZZWORDS: Purdue Space Day

This past weekend I accompanied my nearly twelve-year-old S to Purdue Space Day at Purdue University.  I still cannot believe the event is free!  Purdue has a a beautiful campus, full of trees and red brick buildings, and, gratefully, we were its guests at the peak of fall foliage.  Surprisingly, after living in Indiana twelve years now, this was my first time on the campus.

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While there may be more culturally diverse and thrilling places to live, I feel blessed to be where we are.  The Midwest, and particularly Indianapolis, is a great place to raise a family.  People are considerate.  We have four seasons.  Nature parks are plentiful.  The nation’s largest (and best) children’s museum is located here downtown.  And this weekend my son and I received the spectacular honor of hearing Dr. Buzz Aldrin speak.  By the way, if you want to see a twelve-year old  get embarrassed really quickly, walk around a university campus, and repeatedly and inadvertently refer to the esteemed astronaut as “Buzz Lightyear.”  Come on!  I still have a five-year old at home.

An easy hour from the Indy suburb where we live, my son was able to reach the venue where the “second man on the moon” told of his lunar experiences.  He also participated in three rocket-related activities with his age group.  Hearing the iconic astronaut speak, however, was the highlight.

Doesn't S look big here walking around campus? No? As his mom, I see the glimpses of the young man he has almost become.
Doesn’t S look big here walking around campus? No? As his mom, I see the glimpses of the young man he has almost become.

While the announcer introduced Buzz Aldrin, she made much of the fact that his maternal grandmother’s name was Marion Moon.  Destiny?  Aldrin also recounted the familiar story of how he acquired his nickname from his older sister Faye, who was still a toddler.  Not knowing what to call him in the early months after his birth, big sister fell upon “brother,” which came out sounding like “buzzer.”  However, in humorous alliteration, Aldrin warned his audience, “Prior planning prevents poor performance.”

We heard stories from his M.I.T. days.  “Winston,” the valedictorian the year Buzz ranked third in his class, signed his yearbook. In 1947, beneath Winston’s own picture was printed his classmates predictions of him.  “M.I.T. graduate.  Rockets to the moon.”  Winston had added for Buzz, “I’ll build them.  You fly them.”  Prophetic?

Dr. Aldrin left us with more quips:

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Aldrin described this iconic shot above as “the first selfie in space.”  He continued, “You never know what you may be pioneering.”

Remember the famous photograph of Aldrin standing in full suit on the moon?  It is often mistaken as Neil Armstrong, but is actually Aldrin.  Armstrong had the camera.  A spontaneous shot, with apparently little to no planning, it has become a definite symbol of humanity’s accomplishments in space.  Aldrin explained that the media once asked him why he thought this particular photograph known as the “visor photo” was so significant.  He replied, “Location!  Location!  Location!”

A picture I took of S's group with Dr. Aldrin. I cropped everyone else out, so as not to post unknown people without their permission. We weren't able to talk with him one on one, but it was amazing experience to be able to stand close to him.
A picture I took of S’s group with Dr. Aldrin. I cropped everyone else out, so as not to post unknown people without their permission. We weren’t able to talk with him one on one, but it was an amazing experience to be able to stand close to him.

Apparently, the first time Buzz Aldrin met his famous colleague, Neil Armstrong, it was at his friend Ed White’s house back in 1963 or ’64.  Aldrin remembers seeing Armstrong making circles around the driveway on his roller skates.  Somehow, this is not immediately the image we conjure when thinking of these two impressive American figures, one late, one still living.

But for a twelve-year-old listening in, it might be what may capture his imagination and inspire him as he reads about Mars and other potential future exploits.

S wishes he had brought his longboard to campus.

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By covered wagon

G and I are still  reading through Little House on the Prairie.  Today we decided to make use of our little historical figures, mostly from those ubiquitous Toobs, and our markable map from Sonlight.
 Yes, this edition is the very copy I read at G’s age, and years afterward.  Look up in the far left-hand corner.  Can you believe it only cost $1.75?

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They had come in the covered wagon all the long way from the Big Woods of Wisconsin, across Minnesota and Iowa and Missouri.  All that long way, Jack had trotted under the wagon.  Now they set out to go across Kansas.

p. 13

And everywhere were little brown-striped gophers.

These little creature looked soft as velvet.  They had bright round eyes and crinkling noses and wee paws.  They popped out of their holes in the ground and stood up to look at Mary and Laura….

Mary and Laura wanted to catch one to take home to Ma.

pp. 43-44

 

So Laura chewed and swallowed, and she said, “I want to see a papoose.”

p. 46

Indians came riding on the path that passed so close to the house.  They went by as though it were not there.

They were thin and brown and bare.  They rode their little ponies without saddle or bridle.

They sat up straight on the naked ponies and did not look to right or left.  But their black eyes glittered.

Laura and Mary backed against the house and looked up at them.  And they saw red-brown skin bright against the blue sky…

pp.226-227

After a bit of map work and reading one more chapter, G made his own snug, log cabin.  They were cut at the ends of the logs just like Pa had cut theirs with his ax.

There was no door and there were no windows.  There was no floor except the ground and no roof except the canvas.  But that house had good stout walls, and it would stay where it was.  It was not like the wagon, that every morning went on to some other place.

“We’re going to do well here, Caroline,” Pa said.  “This is a great country.  This is a country I’ll be contented to stay in the rest of my life.”

p. 74

Take care, little ones: a book review

I love October!

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There is something magnificent about the season as its sunlight filters through the golden and fiery leaves.  There is something breathtaking in the blueness of sky and the earthiness of the russets and bark and dirt and hay.  I know it is not like this everywhere.  I grew up in the Southwest in the desert where you have to measure time and seasons by a different rhythm.  For this reason, I love autumn in the Midwest even more.

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My boys are getting older, and with the privilege of being able to stay home alone, also comes the rarer opportunities for all of my people to be out in nature at once.

While at the library the other day, G found this sweet book.  Although it touches on each of the seasons, it seems to be a great one to read during the fall.

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Miss Maple is a tiny woman who collects lost seeds and matures them into the trees and plants they were intended to be.  She mourns their lost state, plans her action and sees them through their potential.  Wow.  Did you hear that?  This little picture book by Eliza Wheeler works on two main levels.  With its bright illustrations it teaches G about the seasons and the seeds with which he is becoming familiar.  And for me?  It focuses me on my delightful responsibility as a teacher and mom to help my precious child realize his potential.  I even suspect G was able to hear the words of encouragement Miss Maple had for him.

Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small.

G laughed the first time he noticed how Miss Maple transported her seeds:  a boat made from a leaf.  She protects her lost seeds from the elements, cares for them against the weeds, and even tucks them in their cozy beds while she “reads flower tales by firefly light.”  While G talks and jumps almost incessantly, and more often than not, is engaged in tales of light saber battles, there was something about this fairy-like story which held his attention.

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As each season passes, there is a new way in which Miss Maple becomes a care giver.  “Don’t be afraid – raindrops help us grow.”  She tenderly reminds  her charges in the spring.  In this way, I was able gently to remind G of those past fears which brought him to where he is today.  Riding his bicycle.  Visiting a new class.  Introducing himself to someone new.

As we read through this book, it may reinforce G’s knowledge of trees and plants.  We can use the beautifully illustrated seeds to help us match them up with the leaves we encounter as we go out on our October walks.  We may spot different seeds, different ways in which the world is big and we are small.

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Until, finally, one day, Miss Maple sends her seeds out into the world for them to take root.  Sigh.  And this is what G will one day be doing.  In his mind, however, it is an eternity away.  In my mind, I wish it were so.

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Excerpts from Nouwen

For several months now, I have felt the need to be more grounded.  I have felt scattered, frayed at the tips of my being.  So, the other day I picked up a book at the library by the late Dutch Christian psychologist Henri Nouwen.  Even before I opened the cover  of this quiet book, I knew what needed to be done.  I always know.  And before you read the following words, you know. Why is it often so difficult to do those simple things – prioritize a morning quiet time, carve out a time for intentional exercise, retreat for a reflective moment in the afternoon.  I do none of them consistently.  It seems nearly impossible.  Is it any wonder I am not focused?

Fatigue, busyness, and preoccupation often serve as arguments for not praying.  Yet without this one hour a day for God, my life loses its coherence, and I start experiencing my days as a series of random incidents and accidents rather than divine appointments and encounters.

from Discernment by Henri Nouwen, pp. 113-114

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Yes!  Divine appointments and encounters.  How much more pressing do the trivialities of my day seem when recognizing they are really moments designed by God?  How much better prepared do I wish to be when I am able to slow down and see that the monotony (or stress) of the day is actually opportunity after opportunity to show Christ’s love?

Who knows but that placing my phone back in my purse is all my son needed to open up and talk?  If I have not been grounded in my day, focused on Him in my spirit, I may not have sensed the need to speak to the woman in the grocery store line.  I may not have been able to discern the gentle stirring within me-   the conversation with my boys in the car as we wait in heavy traffic,  a “coincidental” meeting of someone in need, an opportunity to pray with someone or for someone… These are not “random incidents and accidents.”  How do I know?

God cannot be caught once and for all or contained for all time in a system of titles, names, nature, and events. But God lets himself be suspected!  Therefore, when we pray to God or search for God in silence, we learn to recognize him in the many little ideas, meetings, happenings, signs, and wonders along the way.

p. 93

Only through daily practice, confirms Nouwen, can we begin to hear and discern the voice of God within us.  Christ says this too.  Not only in his parables on prayer, but also through the parable of his life.  He leads our days.

 

Learning Math with Laura

Sometimes Ma let Laura and Mary go across the road and down the hill to see Mrs. Peterson….She was a Swede, and she let Laura and Mary look at the pretty things she had brought from Sweden….   Mrs. Peterson talked Swedish to them, and they talked English to her, and they understood each other perfectly.  She always gave them each a cookie when they left, and they nibbled the cookies very slowly while they walked home.  

Laura nibbled away exactly half of hers, and Mary nibbled exactly half of hers, and the other halves they saved for Baby Carrie.  Then when they got home, Carrie had two half-cookies, and that was a whole cookie.

This wasn’t right.  All they wanted to do was to divide the cookies fairly with Carrie….They didn’t know what do.  So each saved half, and gave it to Baby Carrie.  But they always felt that somehow that wasn’t quite fair. 
-Laura Ingalls Wilder in “Summertime” from Little House in the Big Woods

Can you believe Laura Ingalls Wilder  included a simple math lesson right there in her narrative? How convenient.  Imbedded in this brief text of a visit to a nearby neighbor, there is much more than a fraction riddle.  There is the lesson of sisterly selflessness, the lesson of developing relationships with those around us, the lesson of appreciating others and allowing them to be who they are regardless of differences.  All those will need to be explored internally or at a later time.  Now, we have to evenly divide those cookies.

G and I have just finished the first volume of Ms. Wilder’s series.  Honestly, he wasn’t thrilled about my read aloud choice until I told him there was a panther in it, and Pa cleans his rifle.  He was surprised, however, that he enjoyed listening to how Pa played the fiddle about Yankee Doodle and Ol’ Grimes, and how to make cheese and maple syrup.

After we read the above excerpt, I asked G if he could think of a way to break 2 cookies into 3 even pieces.  His immediate answer was to break it in lots of little pieces.   Hmmmm… Not a bad initial thought.  

The next day we decided to trace some circles and pretend they were Mrs. Peterson’s cookies.  G made them chocolate chip.

  
By cutting out two more circles and cutting them into halves I demonstrated how two halves is the same as one whole.  If you look carefully at Mary’s cookie in the picture you can see how G was dividing the cookie into little tiny triangular-like wedges.  Whew.  That would have been hard work for a walk home.  As he divided, he counted Mary- Laura-Carrie-Mary-Laura-Carrie-Mary-Laura-…Then he realized that was an ABC pattern.  Good for you, G.

The cookie on the right is my attempt at showing him how you could make one-third wedges out of cookies.

This all didn’t take very long, because he really needed to get back to more important things.  I mean, those pictures of Spider-Man defeating Doctor Octopus are not going to draw themselves.