ecology · modern life · slow food

Thanksgiving in December

I had to wait to write this post because November is my least favorite month of the year, and Thanksgiving has never been one of my favorite holidays either. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating gratitude. Gratitude, if done right, can enhance one’s life in an instant, and nothing has longer lasting results than a true change in perspective, which gratitude truly does, in the deepest way possible. I try to practice sincere thanks-giving everyday~ it’s the holiday meal that bothers me. And the pressure to cook, and to cook certain things, and the whole push/pull that is happening now with Christmas and when shopping should start and it all leaves me stressed. (Why do people get so rankled over that? Because it is something that they can adopt a sense of superiority about? ) Personally, I never go out on black Friday, nor that whole weekend because I loathe crowds and would rather pay more for my gifts than sit in traffic, but the whole discussion around it just seems laced with venom and I don’t understand why everything has to be so heated. We have real issues to deal with, (climate change, poverty, extreme ideology), so let’s not get bogged down in complaining about what others do with their Black Fridays and what time is acceptable to do it. If people really want to honor the spirit of Thanksgiving, perhaps righteous indignation should be put aside for the day.

Anyway, that was an unplanned vent, I guess I needed to get that off my chest. The real reason I don’t care much for Thanksgiving is that I don’t like any of the traditional food served on the holiday so the big event is just awkward for me and always has been. Now with three out of four of us being gluten-free, it causes even more awkwardness and even more cooking. I was at a gluten-free bakery a couple of days before Thanksgiving and this poor woman in front of me had just been diagnosed as gluten and dairy intolerant, and so was her daughter. She said that when she told her family they said something along the lines of, “No problem. Just bring whatever you want to substitute your foods.” And her response was, “But that’d mean the entire meal! I think I’ll stay home and cook hamburgers instead.” I totally felt for her. I cook a few things that kind of go with the meal though aren’t traditional, and either buy the rest or others do that cooking. My husband apparently makes a fine bird, but I wouldn’t know. All I know is it takes forever for that turkey to cook. Here’s a bird I am thankful for:

Owl at Grass Lawn Park

Someone stuck this ceramic owl in the most unlikely place at Grass Lawn Park and it has stayed there for about a month now. Either people don’t notice it or no one wants to move the little cutie. I love this special owl and look for it every time I’m in that area of the park, which is even more often now that I have a dog than when my kids were younger. And for the record, I’m very grateful for that park too, and for the fact no one has taken the owl for their own.

Another park I’m deeply thankful for is Marymoor park. They have an off-leash area which my crazy dog thinks is the best place on earth. It is indeed pretty fabulous~ the beauty of the changing landscape has stopped me in my tracks at least once a week since we started going there. Not bad for a dog park.

Cold Morning at Marymoor

This frosty weather did not last long but it got my boys talking nonstop about winter, snow, and skiing. We are back to the rainy 40s and 50s that are the norm for here, but the frost and ice we had in November were beautiful, if fleeting.

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I feel so blessed to have these outside spaces that feel like a nature sanctuary in the suburbs. These spaces are so important and I am so grateful to have such beautiful ones. My hope for everyone this holiday season is more nature, less plastic, more fresh air, less artificiality, more stillness, less madness. Happy Holiday season to all.

 

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children · Education · kids · parenting

Schools and STEM

Chicken huggersIf you have a child in school these days then you surely have heard of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math.) It’s the big thing right now~ there are STEM schools,  STEM measurements, and people compare the STEM-ness of schools when making decisions about where their child will go. Personally, I’m wondering where creativity fits into science, technology, engineering, and math. It seems to me innovation is tied to creativity and we need to foster that in our children just as much as the other things. Not only that, but creativity gives people the space to appreciate art, music, literature, and all the things that still exist beyond our screens. Our kids will be proficient in computers, that’s a given, but do we really want to tie our futures so inseparably with modern technology? Has there really been nothing of use in the world up until the computer chip was invented? What about the natural world? Science seems centered on dissecting it, but what about giving kids the chance to appreciate it? Breathe it. Realize they live in it along with billions of other beings and need to think about that fact. An example of what I’m talking about is the fact our school district does not have art teachers. There are volunteer parents that go in and teach art to classes at most once per month, but often a lot less. Why are we teaching these kids that art in not that important? They have music and PE and library at least once per week, but art for some reason is not valued enough to have at least a weekly class with a trained teacher. This just blows my mind. Kids get so much out of art class and I’m not just referring to the kids who are gifted in it. When I go in and help with art lessons I’m always struck by the highly intellectual students who are astounded they can make something aesthetically pleasing with their own hands, and the hyper-active students who can focus on something that is truly their own, and the quiet students who love being able to work on something as an individual and not be overwhelmed with the constant group activities that are also so vogue in modern education. It gives students a place to pause and consider what art means to them, to recognize every single one of them has some creativity and how good it feels to express it, and to understand it is valuable to work on something purely for aesthetic reasons. These are just a few of things that I see falling out of schools in favor of STEM, and I’d like to propose a post-STEM environment focused on Creativity and Nature. Computers will be integrated in their lives more and more with textbooks changing into tablets, research done on Google, Kindergarteners giving PowerPoint presentations~ that’s all part of the modern world and I’m not trying to stop it, there just needs to be some focus on what goes on outside of a screen and perhaps inside of a head. Of course, I have to bring up the Edible Schoolyard Project as I so often do because it embraces nature and creativity both in such a beautiful balance, and in an increasingly teched-out world kids need to be reminded of the importance of these things. Isn’t education about expanding the mind after all…? It certainly can’t just be about learning how to use a single tool. Our kids are brighter than that and they deserve more.