Archive for November, 2008

Happy Election Day–We hope and pray!

We began our day saying good-bye to India, and finishing our passport project of decorating a small paper altar on which to place Rama & Sita (the Story of Diwali) or Lakshmi (Goddess of Helath and Wealth). We spoke of the peace traveler, Muhutma (“Great Soul”) Gandhi, and how he used peaceful words and action to free India from British rule. We colored his portrait and learned a little about his life.


We placed our thumbprints on our passports signifying the end of our India “travel” and on to Mexico we go. (Friends will be assembling a Peace Travelers Alphabet Book, and our collection of individual projects and drawings will be placed together as a reminder of our areas of study this year.


Leora led our morning circle, and during that time we began our study of Mexico, the Aztecs, and the Day of the Dead (Nov. 2). We read The Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and began reading Festivals of the World: Mexico by Elizabeth Berg. We mentioned people who had died and their importance in our families. We read of how Mexican people prepare special foods to celebrate their ancestors, and picnic at their decorated gravesites to remember their love and care. We spoke of the “Great Web of Life” that we had discussed when we studied American Indians, and the fact that we are all connected to those who have come before us and those who will come after. One of the friends brought up the death of Barack Obama’s Grandmother (What a group of friends we have!) and we spoke of her love and her care of Barack and his family. On our spirit walk today we thought of friends and family members who are near in our hearts and memories, and most especially, we thought of Barack Obama’s Grandmother helping Barack continue his successful campaign through election day and beyond. I asked the friends to hold a picture in their minds as they walked on this bright blue day of hope: One of Barack Obama holding up his hands with a wide smile and accepting the presidency of America. For each of the friends it was as an exciting a day as Diwali or Halloween. They, too, must feel the urgency of our need for a change and a world for peace. (I thought today about how teachers are usually asked to remain “neutral” in school communities, especially as schools participate in mock elections, etc. I, however, couldn’t help but feel very supported by all of you, our program’s goals, and each of the friends to talk about and support Barack Obama, and our world need for a leader who will collaborate with his constituents as well as the people of the world in a quest for a healthful and peaceful planet. And I think about all of those in the “web” who came before him—Black Elk, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, to name a few—and all those who will come after and inherit the world who will be influenced by this new leader.


Happy New Day! Happy New World! “Our journey has begun…”



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Happy Halloween!

We are learning there are many holidays to celebrate. Maia began our morning meeting, and we spoke about our favorite things about Halloween. In  morning circle we read Child of Faerie, Child of Earth by Jane Yolen & illustrated by Jane Dyer. It is perhaps one of the most beautifully done books about the realms of faerie and earth as well as friendship abiding over time. We spoke of the “curtain between the worlds” and how it is believed that in this time of autumn, faerie children and spirits can pass into our world to visit. Later, at lunch there was a sweet discussion about who would know whom, (and who would marry whom) into the future. And yes, Elias and Leora looked at each other at the inquiry, smiled and said, “probably!” (It was very sweet!)


During snack we read Room on a Broom by Julia Donaldson about a busy witch who picks up friends as she makes her various stops along the way of her day. In the end, when she meets a quite unfriendly dragon, all the friends she has made along the way come to her assistance.


Tony(a) led the friends through the making of a twirling Indian hand puppet, an intricate project that involved cutting a pattern, and then making the five parts to their own puppet. They decorated the parts and assembled them mounted on wooden sticks. Ask your friend to twirl the stick between their palms and watch what happens! (Note that we sent home the pattern and some of the small pieces (brads) needed for assembly so you can make your own puppets together. Thanks Tony(a)!)



We journeyed to the Ritchie’s farm for pumpkin carving and time with the animals for the afternoon. Maribeth provided us with pumpkin goat cheese served on crispy apples. (They were served on toothpicks that were adorning a Jack-o-latern! Very festive! (If you like pumpkin pie, you need to try this cheese. Maribeth and I decided it is best served with warm bread, crispy apples and a fruity Chardonnay! Cheers!) We carved our own pumpkins from the Ritchie’s fields (Again thanks!) and ended our day with Charlie Brown’s story of the Great Pumpkin (Thanks MB!) and the award-winning The Life of a Pumpkin by George Levenson.


(I am told that the book also has a companion DVD that is excellent.) Off to pumpkin soup, ragamuffin parades, and trick or treating!

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Today is Diwali! We celebrated by removing our shoes in honor of the goddess Lakshmi who is said to visit the homes of all of those who have lived well, and prepared well for her coming. She comes with her blessing of health and wealth. 



Maia began our day, after an early morning dice game, as the morning meeting leader.

We began our day with a dice game, adding sums, and “betting chips.” It was a chance for students to each throw two dice, and add them together. At this point we are learning to “count up.” This means that you find the largest amount of dots, identify how many, and then count up on the other die. (For instance, if you roll at 5 and a 2, the friend starts at five, and then counts up, 6…7…for the two dots on the other die. This is a wonderful way of beginning to practice addition without memorization.) This part of our lesson was also about Diwali. This is the one day of the year when playing games and gambling is sanctioned in India. Of course, we played until all the friends one a round. They had fun!

We had rice pudding as a special snack to celebrate Lakshmi—the goddess of health and wealth. Sweets and other rich foods are eaten to symbolize the sweetness/richness of life. 


It was made with a modified recipe with ingredients that include 2 c. of peach keefir, 1/2 c. each of white and brown basmati rice, 2 eggs, 1/3 c. brown sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Cook the combined 1 1/2 c. rice in 3 c. of water with salt, and pour off excess after 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Set oven to 325 degrees. Meanwhile, beat two eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, and pinch of salt. Put cooked rice in a deep casserole dish, stir in egg mixture, and add approximately 2 c. keefir, stirring thoroughly. (You may add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. I didn’t and added a dash individually to friends who wanted it.) I let the rice pudding warm through for about 30 minutes while we did our morning circle. We topped the rice pudding with chopped cashews or almonds. Yum! (The whole process took about 1/2 hour, excluding warming time, and on the whole it is a delicious, hearty treat with low sugar and some protein, carbs, and vitamins.) Makes 8 servings.

We gave thanks for all we had. I read out each of the friend’s words that we collect each week about the blessings we have and that which we are grateful.

We asked for continued blessings for all.

We lit the story candle (a lotus blossom) and I told a special story about a child named Lakshmi who hears a story from Monsieur Promod—a famous Indian storyteller. The child Lakshmi chooses a story and enters the tale–in this case, she goes to Paris and meets a young boy named Pierre who is trying to play a magnificent trick on his Grandmamere. Of course Pierre has been up to his mischief in years past, and his Grandmamere is wise to him. She plays a grand trick on him! Ask your friend about the tulips…(The absolutely wonderful story is by the storyteller Jay O’Callaghan. If you don’t know his work, check him out on his website.)

After morning circle, we finished up our collaborative watercolor collages and our bookmarks. (Check out our collages hanging above our table.) After lunch we had independent reading time. I worked with the pre-readers with the first series of “Bob” books, and the ASL finger alphabet. They are now very proficient at a, b, c, d, s, n, m, and t. Ask them to show you their signs and test them with words that begin with those sounds. Our three readers took turns reading to each other.

After lunch we had our treats from Maribeth (vanilla goat cheese dipped in dark chocolate—Thanks MB!) and a ginger candy from Lakshmi. After washing our hands, we took time to do a “show and tell” thanks to an Indian friend, Promod, and his wife, Rachel (a longtime friend of Joanie’s from Brooklyn!). The children were able to try on a sari, a wedding veil (that Rachel wore), and Kurta –a festive smock with matching pants, and I took their pictures in front of the Diwali candles.


We continued our reading of Desperaux. We are more than halfway through, and we’ll begin Gaia Girls, Enter the Earth by Lee Welles in December.  (It is a sweet story of one of four girls—this one American—who is able to communicate with Gaia, and help save the earth from destructive corporate farmers. There are four in the series, and the adventures that Gaia provides for Elizabeth–traveling via tree trunks and root systems, being lifted into the “arms” of trees, speaking with an otter—who is Gaia embodied—to name a few.)


We are now coming to the end of our India trip, and the Peace Travelers are getting ready for our next destination—Mexico. Please ask to see your friend’s passport when you visit in the morning. They are coming along!


Om Shanti! (Peace!)

Let there be Peace. Peace, beautiful Peace. Peace within, Peace without. Peace in this world, Peace for all beings.

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