Tuesday, December 13, 2011

OK, OK, I Get It!

I had never jumped on the idea of Skype calls. I don't know why. When my parents come to visit I let the kids ask questions and they (both students and my parents) love it! The students are engaged, making connections, and thinking deeply. Why I never realized how simply I could add the same excitement I have no idea.

Well, I have a bit of an idea. First of all, Skype is technically not allowed on campus. I also figured we could do the research together and that I could help them connect the dots

It's true. I can help them make those connections, but I am doing that all the time. How invigorating for my students to see a fresh face - a different perspective. Plus, there is the expert factor. I can research, but that does not make me an expert.

Yesterday morning we Skyped with an expert. Major Anderson flies F16s. The impetus was our science variable unit. When we made 'flippers' we also read about how catapults are used in the "real world". One example was planes taking off from an aircraft carrier. I made a connection myself thinking of my childhood friend being a pilot and wondered if he would talk with us.

I received permission to put Skype on my school machine and to have the call. We spent a little bit of time building our background knowledge and we created a Google Doc with our wonderings. We also talked about the logistics of the call: where to stand, how to address him, remember to say 'thank you', and how to know when it would be your turn to ask a question.

The call time came and we spent 30 minutes engrossed in learning - watts to km, size and speed of the F16, comparison of planes, and more. After we said 'good-bye' we took five minutes to write down what we were still wondering about. Some of the wonders will be simple searches and some we will email to Major Anderson (who volunteered to answer any further questions). We then shared, as table groups, the things that had really stuck with us, what we thought was cool. The room was quite a buzz.

I'm convinced!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Random Links that Got Me Thinking

Today's links have no correlation to each other. These are simply the posts I read this week that I continued to ponder. I thought you might like to ponder them too and perhaps even converse about one (or more) of them.

Saving the warm-fuzzy one for last. If you read nothing else, skip to that one.

Saudi Arabia and Human Rights. Oxymoron? Blue Abaya posts reflects on the discrepancies between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (whose birthday was yesterday) and the status quo in Saudi after The President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi-Arabia said "On the occasion of the World's Human Rights Day, the Kingdom continues to promote and protect the values and principles of human rights at all levels". Here is the link to her post.

A teacher's reflection comes from Karl Fisch at The Fischbowl. In this post he reflects on the mandatory standardized tests required in the U.S. and what would happen if legislators were required to take them.

For a parent perspective we cross the Atlantic to Vienna to read "The Boy With The Moms" from the blog Well, That Was Different. (I wish she would refer to her son as having ADHD rather than is ADHD, but don't let that detract from the post.) She reflects on the challenges they faced when presented with a school system that expected educational success to look one particular way.

Finally, for your warm fuzzy, the Tonggu Mommy shares this post. Just read it. You will be glad you did.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree

IMGP8851 IMGP8854 IMGP8859loading in Seattle

When we moved to Jeddah we shipped a 20 foot container of 'household' goods. (Things for the classroom too.) Our shipment departed the States in August for its six week transit. It arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia October 8th. We didn't see it until the 8th of December. Why? Great question!

There are many things that are not allowed in Saudi - all for religious reasons. The only religion allowed to be practiced is Islam. Any item that can be seen as against Islam can be confiscated. If it is overly offensive there can be additional consequences, jail time, and/or deportation.

Our shipment was originally packed in Jordan when we had no idea we would end up in Saudi. (Yes, it went from Amman to Seattle and then back to Jeddah!) Once we were hired for Saudi I went through the shipment to pull out the no-no's. I pulled out Bibles and icons, nativity sets and some art. I searched for bottles of liquor and stuffed animals. (Technically no depiction of people or animals are allowed.)

Sometimes I chose to play the odds. After talking with others about their recent experiences I decided to send the Little People, as toys tend to be ignored. We had purchased them on Craig's List so we wouldn't be losing a fortune if they were taken. I also chose to put in a Christmas tree. I had purchased it at 60% off, so again, not a huge financial loss if they took it and a balm to the soul if we got to have it.

Here is the crazy part about trees. You can actually buy them in the Ballad (downtown market). They are very poor quality, but available. You just can't bring one in. We didn't know this before we arrived, but does it make any sense to you? Me either.

I shipped over 50 boxes of books, mostly for my classroom library. (Though G isn't hurting for books at home.) It was these boxes of books that were probably the great hold up on our shipment clearing customs. The government liaison officer at our school figured each day they took out one box of books, opened it, and then put it back. The next day, another box, and so on. This is very possible. Plus we got to pay a storage fee for each day they held our container. They could honestly say they were working on it!

Finally we got some news. I had to go sign for the confiscation and destruction of prohibited items. What had they found? Our tree. I jokingly asked how many days should I wait before I went down to the Ballad to buy back my tree.

IMG_8949 IMG_8953delivery in Jeddah

That seemed to take care of it. The day was scheduled for the container to be delivered. (The delivery is another story.) The container had been loosely packed. To keep the space from shifting during its oceanic crossings the packers in Jordan had used four HUGE boxes in addition to everything else (the 50 book boxes, etc.) When I say huge these boxes were 6'x3'x4'. Absolutely unruly, heavy, and packed with all kinds of things.

As I was unpacking the third of these monstrosities I came across the stand to the Christmas tree. I chuckled to myself and thought, "This figures. They probably didn't know what it was." I continued to take out hand-woven carpets, bedding, and various household goods. I then came to the middle section of the tree. I was a bit annoyed. What good does the middle do me?!? It felt like someone was thumbing their nose at me.

By the time I had unpacked the whole box the entire tree was there! I was joyously in shock. I called my husband (who was traveling for work) to tell him the news. All we can figure is there was a case of 'the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing' and they both assumed the other had taken out the tree.

Whatever the reason I am so thankful and deeply blessed to have twinkling lights next to me as I write this.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas Day

Somehow I made it to Thanksgiving. Since that is just a normal weekend around here it doesn't seem that impressive, but still, Thanksgiving marks the true beginning of the holidays, right? Friday morning I decorated the house, hauling out the tree, testing lights, and letting the two year old help with the ornaments and decorations. The mp3 player set to The Best of Christmas in the Northwest and then Ring We Now Noel. Sunday brought the first true day of Advent, the start of the Church year. Getting on the plane and flying home still seems very far away and actually gathering together with family currently is only believable as theory. Today, December 6th, somehow feels like the final hurdle.

Today is St. Nicholas Day. Who was St. Nicholas? Here is a full recap and here are more kid friendly stories. He was a bishop who was known for his generosity. He died 1668 years ago today and was later sainted. It is his life that inspired Santa. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day as a way to separate Santa from Christmas without removing him entirely.


This morning we donned our Santa hats, found our stockings under the Christmas tree, opened the small gifts that were left for us, and talked about who St. Nicholas was. G often drops the first part of people's names - the 'Mrs.', 'Mr.', or 'Grandma'. Today it was the 'Saint'. Perhaps she is too reformed. She was wishing people "Happy Nicholas Day!"

Ideally today is the last day of Santa songs and decorations in our house. That may be why I feel like I have finally made it. The commercialism and stuff is behind us. From here on out it is all about waiting for the mystery of Christmas, waiting for Jesus' birthday.

(And then comes the Twelve Days of Christmas and Epiphany.)


Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like…

Christmas Advent.

Our tree is up, but it isn't your typical tree. (And the story of it even being here is fodder for another post and a HUGE blessing.)
We only have angels, stars, and bells on our tree. I
like the twinkle of the lights and wasn't willing to give them up. The compromise is a tree with symbols.
I am thinking of trying this recipe with G to make some more ornaments. (Ornaments aren't easy to purchase
here - go figure.)

(Perplexed? Stars and angels may make sense to you, but perhaps you wonder about the bells. Didn't you know "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day" is central to the story? O.K. You are right. It is not, but we are ding-a-lings. We even met playing handbells, so that is the 'why'.)

When G is older we will start using a Jesse Tree as well.

Santa only gets one day, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th.
(More about that on the 6th.)

We light our Advent candle(s) each evening as we read a verse for the day.
I'm using these and these.

The nativity set is out. The cast is named and rearranged.
(Mostly huddled together in close community these days.)

We talk about waiting. Advent is a REALLY LONG TIME when you are 2.
Jesus' birthday will get here, but first there is lots and lots and lots and lots more waiting to be had.

The point to all of this? We are intentional about our Advent / Christmas / Epiphany observances. They are traditions we set in our first year of marriage. We wanted them to feel 'normal' even before there was a little one around. And they do.
These are our traditions and I am thrilled they have begun for this season.

(If I ended with the tune I began with bells show up again!)
"Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart."

But, if you really thought about that song it is mostly about consumerism. You probably won't be surprised to hear that 'stuff' is not big in our season. I love this video and since this is my 'link' post I will share it with you.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gross, but true


Wednesday afternoon. The end of the week. We are on the bus headed home. G is strapped into her car seat, left thumb in her mouth while her right hand is twirling her ringlets. This is her decompression time. She is happy to zone – especially at the end of the week. She loves school, but it is hard work being two!

She reaches for me, wanting a little snuggle. I lean over, stroke her forehead, and tell her I love her ‘bunches and tons’. She then puts her hand to her mouth, briefly.

Time freezes. I’ve been here before. This is the brief lull before – yup – the puke comes. And comes. And comes.

I grab handfuls of chunks and then empty my hand into her lap, ready to catch the next round. I kiss her head and, with my clean hand, stroke her forehead. I tell her I love her and it will be OK. She doesn’t cry. She never cries when she throws up.

When she is done and covered with breakfast, lunch, and snack I clean her face and neck and tell her we will take a bath when we get home. What does she do? She wants to clean up the mess. Right now. And starts picking up chunks and using the already nasty wipe to move bits around.

I told you it is gross, but true.