Inspire Kids: Slow motion of running cheetah

My husband found this awesome video on Boing Boing: Fantastic slow motion video of sprinting cheetah.  Of course he sent it to the six-year-old!  Not only is it a stunning video, I think it’s a good example of how photography can help us learn more about animals and our world.  Watch it until the very end to see a fast motion clip of the set-up used to capture this!

(If you subscribe to my blog by e-mail, you may have to view this post on the Internet to see the video.)

pink columbinesThis is a new series I’ve started under the tag “Inspire Kids.”  If my six-year-old loves it, then maybe your children will too!

Worthy Reads or Maybe Not?

I’m holding off on my regular Worthy Reads to show you this onslaught of articles in the media about families wanting to homeschool after the massacre. I have great reservations about this, and I have a written my own response to this that will be published in the Barrow Journal on January 2, 2013.  I will also post it here on January 3rd.  On that post, I’ll ask you to share your thoughts about this, although you are more than welcome to do so now too.

I’m so very sad by everything that is happening in the wake of this tragedy.  I can barely read the news.

I stopped compiling this list on Sunday, December 23rd. I’m sure there will be more, but I’m also sure they’ll all sound similar.

Homeschooling as a knee-jerk reaction to the Connecticut school shooting –

Which ‘Teen Mom’ star is homeschooling her child after Sandy Hook massacre? – Canada Reality TV/

Homeschooling An Option For Fearful Parents –

Connecticut Tragedy Feeds Homeschooling Debate – Valley News Live – Fargo/Grand Forks

Homeschool In Wake of Shooting – KOKH FOX25

Parents concerned about recent violence consider homeschooling options –

Post Newtown Shooting: Interest in homeschooling surges – FOX5 San Diego

Some consider homeschooling after Connecticut shooting – CBS 5 – KPHO

Get Out Now: How School Violence Led Us to Homeschooling – Wired

Families turn to homeschooling after Newtown, Connecticut shooting at Sandy Hook –

Parents consider homeschool in wake of school shooting – Bay News 9, Florida

What Will The New Year Bring?

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on December 26, 2012.

My spirit is dampened by the shootings in Connecticut, and more so by all the vitriol in the news media. There’s a dust storm in the air, and it’s not going to settle any time soon. I hardly know what to make of it all, yet as a mother rearing future men, I can’t help but think about their future.

I have been seeing a lot of anti-gun sentiment, and while I don’t like guns, and I’m not opposed to gun regulations or licensing requirements, this shouldn’t be our only focus. I don’t want to ban all guns because I don’t want to disarm honest, trustworthy people who feel they need the extra protection at home…because, unfortunately, a day might come when they do need it.

People who want to do harm will find a way to do it. On the day of the Connecticut shootings, a man in China entered a school and stabbed several children with a knife. And are we forgetting that the masterminds of 9/11 used box cutters to hijack airplanes?

The reasons why this happened is a huge puzzle with many pieces, but the biggest question is why aren’t we focusing on how people get like this? And what can we do to recognize and prevent it? Maybe restrictions on certain kinds of guns are needed, but maybe we also need more resources for families dealing with mental illness.

Maybe we do need to think about violent video games and television shows and how many hours our children are exposed to these things?  Then again, it’s not so much the video games but the lack of quality family time and conversations between parents and children.

Maybe we need to find a way to give more support to families, and give parents more time to stay home and bond with their children without losing their jobs?  (I have little hope for this because there will always be someone in line at human resources who is willing to work over-time when the mommy or daddy want to go home.)

Maybe we need to focus on turning our schools into places where real learning and engagement happens?  Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about morals and ethics in schools either. Okay, so no one will agree on how to do that because it will bring up religion, but isn’t there a way to talk about religion and morals without insulting the varied belief systems sitting in the classroom?

Probably not. We are a country with many freedoms, and for the most part, we live in harmony with our neighbors who do and believe differently than we do, which is admirable, but we have not yet found a way to respect each other or how to become the village that our children so desperately need.

Maybe I’m being cynical. Maybe I read too many anonymous comments on newspaper websites. I hope that this tragedy might be a turning point where some good things get done, but in the end, I also believe that sometimes bad things just happen, and there’s no answer. We all want an answer. We all shout things, but it doesn’t bring back those precious lives lost. It doesn’t mend our broken hearts.

Inspire Kids: Evolution of a Puppet Horse

This Ted Talk was shared with me by The Cultivated Mother (whose blog about homeschooling and living in Japan is great, by the way!)  She knows that we love puppets in this house, so she thought the six-year-old might like this.  It’s long, and it may not interest younger children.  I had to prep my six-year-old for it by telling him it was a little slow in the middle, and I sat and explained it to him while we were watching. He enjoyed it (he has no problem telling me when he’s not interested in something), and he thought the life-sized puppet horse was really cool.

pink columbinesThis is a new series I’ve started under the tag “Inspire Kids.”  If my six-year-old loves it, then maybe your children will too!

Merry Christmas and My Gift to You

the three-year-old's handiwork

Merry Christmas. Wherever you are, or whatever you are celebrating today, I hope you are warm, healthy, and well-loved.

And now is as good of a time as any to start what I hope will be a new tradition on this blog….my sharing stories with you.  I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, and I don’t know if you will care to read the stories I tell my son in the evenings, but every once in a while I happen to tell a good one – not a perfect story or publishable story but a story that I like – and I’m hoping that by sharing a few with you, you might be encouraged to tell stories to your own children.  Unfortunately, it’s not the same when I write them down as when I tell them off the top of my head. Clearly I am editing and polishing as I write, adding a detail that makes more sense, or eliminating the pauses, the “oh wait…I forgot to say,” and the “uuuummmms.”  And I never remember it exactly as I told it even though I try to type it right after the telling.  

I told the story below to my six-year-old the night before Christmas Eve, and I surprised myself with it because it came so effortlessly, although I had no idea how it would end when I started it! That doesn’t always happen!

You don’t have to tell a perfect story to your children. You are not trying to get published. Anything you have to say, anything you make up that is for them and only them will be treasured by your children. And the more you tell, the better you’ll get at it. I hope you’ll start a ritual tonight. If you want, borrow my story or part of it. Whatever you do, trust yourself that you know how to tell stories.

A Christmas Story by Shelli Bond Pabis

Once upon a time there were some children who lived with an old man and woman. The children weren’t siblings, and they didn’t have any parents, which is why the old man and woman were taking care of them.

Christmas was coming, and the old man and woman didn’t have much money.  The children each had something they were wishing for though.

The first little girl wanted a doll she had seen in a store window.  It was a fabulous doll with shiny, blond hair, blue eyes and a beautiful dress.  She wanted it more than anything in the world.

The little boy was hoping to get a book he had seen in a shop.  It was a book of adventure stories!  He loved adventure stories, and he wanted to read all the stories in this big book.

The last little girl wanted a puppy more than anything else. Unfortunately, the old man and woman didn’t have enough money to buy a puppy, and they had even less time to take care of one!

When Christmas arrived, the children were excited and had great hopes that morning!  The first little girl found one package under the tree, but when she opened it, she didn’t find a doll.  Instead, there was some pretty cloth and blue yarn. Blue was her favorite color.  She was very disappointed, but she was a good little girl, so all she said was “thank you.”

The little boy noticed there was something in his stocking!  It felt like a book! But when he reached inside, he found a crisp new notebook, and nice new pen.  He was very disappointed, but he was a good little boy, so all he said was “thank you.”

The last little girl found her present under the tree.  It was a little box, so she knew a puppy wasn’t inside.  She very disappointed, and when she opened it, she found it was full of seeds!  Seeds?!  But she was a good little girl, so all she said was “thank you.”

The boy took his pen and notebook to his room and stashed them under his bed, and then he forgot about them and went outside to play.  The little girl with the seeds took them to her room and placed them on her dresser because there wasn’t much she could do with seeds in the winter.

The old woman told the first little girl that they would make her a new dress with the pretty cloth because the little girl really needed a new dress.  Together they worked on it in the evenings, and girl learned a lot about sewing.  When it was finished, she did love the new dress, especially since her old one was looking very drab. There was some cloth left over, and the old woman said perhaps they could also make something else.

“There’s not enough cloth here for another dress,” the little girl said.

“But there’s enough for a doll’s dress,” the old woman said.

The little girl’s eyes brightened, and together the old woman and she worked on making a doll!  They used the leftover cloth and yarn and some scraps from the old’s woman’s sewing basket.  When they were finished, the little girl thought this doll was even better than the one she had seen in the store window!  She was very happy!

Meanwhile, the little boy had been playing and pretending outside in the snow!  He came up with all kinds of adventures, and sometimes he played with some neighbor boys down the road.  One night after a full day and some grand adventures, he went to his room to rest, and he saw something poking out from under his bed.  It was the notebook and pen. 

‘I should write down what I did today,’ he thought.  So he did.  He wrote all about the adventure, and it was fun!  Then he began to write down all the adventure stories that he came up with in his head.  By the time spring came, he had filled his notebook, and when he read it over, he thought his stories were quite good!  He let his friends read the stories, and they laughed and had fun remembering their adventures that winter.  The boy was very happy, and he continued to write stories and share them for the rest of his life!

Finally when the frost had past, the last little girl took her seeds to the back of the yard and found a sunny place to plant them.  She didn’t know what they were, and she wondered what they would grow into, so she took good care of them.  She watered them, weeded the bed and fertilized them.  They grew into tall bright pink and red flowers!  They were quite beautiful, and she was proud that she had managed to grow them!

There was a farm next door with some animals, and that spring, the farm dog had a litter of puppies.  When they got big enough, one of the puppies started to explore the yard, and he saw something bright red and pink that he wanted to investigate!  When he found the flowers, he also found the little girl, and she was delighted with the puppy.  He licked her face, and she carried him to the old man and woman.

“I think our neighbor’s dog just had some puppies.  Let’s go see if this puppy belongs to him.”  They put the puppy in a little cart and walked over to the next farm.

Sure enough, the puppy belonged to the farmer who could clearly see that the little girl was already in love the dog. 

“I was going to take this litter of puppies to town to see if I could sell them, but it looks like this one has already found a home.”

“Really?” the little girl asked.

“If you can prove to me that you can take good care of him, I’ll let you have him.”

“I’ll take good care of him!  I promise,” she said.

The old man agreed.  He told the farmer how the little girl had planted her seeds, watered and tended them and helped them grow.  “I think she’ll make a good mother to this little puppy.”

“In that case, he’s yours,” said the farmer.

The little girl was very happy!

Tell me some of your favorite Christmas tales!

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas…

Here it is Christmas Eve, and I know that I should be writing a cheery post for the holiday season, but I’ve been sad lately.  I’m sad about several things: family who don’t want to spend the holidays together, people with strident views who let it interfere with their relationships, long lost friends who I once thought would be my friends forever, a community I so desperately want but have trouble finding.

But these things have been part of my life for a long time, and for the most part, I have found some peace within the walls of my own house.  If it weren’t for the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I probably wouldn’t be so sad or remembering the sorrow in my life. The extremely polarized views in the media and the vitriol coming out of that disturbs me greatly.

I am someone who has always avoided – for better or worse – conflict.  I have had a hard time finding my voice or my opinion because I can usually see and feel both sides of an issue, and pinning down exactly what I think is hard.  I know what I feel, and I do have many opinions, but the biggest issues have so many shades of gray that I usually think I need to be a scholar in the subject before I take a stand. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to be a scholar on all the big issues.

All this a good writer does not make.

And I used to think this made me weak because someone once told me it was a “cop out” to not take a stand. After thinking about this for years, I have finally come to the conclusion that it’s simply how I operate, and it’s actually an asset. How many people have the capacity for thinking outside the box? Or for trying to empathize with the other side? Geez, I would rather be a person who had solid convictions. I think that would be much easier. I would have my community, and I wouldn’t care about the people outside that community.

I’ve been writing a weekly column for my local newspaper for three and a half years now, and fortunately I’ve picked a topic — motherhood and daily life — that doesn’t require me to have definite opinions on the Big topics.  I do have solid opinions on parenthood and homeschooling.

But in light of the recent tragic events, I have felt I need to talk about the tragedy because I am writing about motherhood and these events have affected so many parents.  If I were only writing on this personal blog, I wouldn’t feel I needed to write about it so much, but I’m writing for a newspaper, and that feels so different.

But I still don’t take big stands because I don’t have the answers.  I have more questions than answers at this point.   I’ve written two columns, “What Will The New Year Bring?” which asks a lot of questions yet reveals some of my opinions, and then “Homeschooling for Safety Reasons,” which is my response to those who are jumping into homeschooling because of this tragic event.  You’ll find these columns in the newspaper and here on my blog over the next couple of weeks.

I am grateful for having this experience as a columnist because it’s making me think more about where I want to take a stand and where I want to get more information. It’s given me a thicker skin, and yet it’s made me weary too.  Many weeks I think what’s the use of writing about any of this? So few really care. Or they think I’m crazy. What am I writing for?

But it’s taught me that I’m writing for myself, and that’s where I get my joy. I have always wanted to write, and I am writing.

Excuse me for babbling on Christmas Eve.  I promise I’m going to shake this gloomy feeling. I’m using the nifty WordPress tool to schedule my blog posts to publish automatically this week, and I’ve already got them in the queue.  I can close my laptop and concentrate on the things I’m thankful for and what makes me happy this Christmas:

  • A husband who I can disagree with yet know he’ll always love me deeply. The longer we’re married the more I realize that I married him for the great conversations we have.
  • Two little boys who give me more joy than I can possibly describe here.
  • A warm house.
  • Two dogs, a cat, and some fish that have hung on to life longer than I ever imagined little fish could.
  • New friends.
  • Friends for my boys.
  • The freedom to write whatever I want.
  • My camera.
  • My health.
  • The option to homeschool and spend this awesome, quality time with my children. To not have to try to figure out how to balance work and family life.
  • Online friends, which I consider a bonus.
  • Stories.

Do you get sad over the holidays? And what makes you happy?

Sad Tidings, Good Tidings

This is Josh. I told you he was adorable.

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on December 19, 2012.

Last week I wrote a draft of this column and titled it “Good Tidings.”  I wanted to tell you how my children have decked my halls with Christmas decorations and how, during this holiday season, I was basking in the warmth of some close friends’ and family’s good fortunes.

But then the massacre in Connecticut occurred on Friday, and on the same day, a man with a knife injured 22 children at a school in China, which is part of a series of attacks happening in schools in that country.  The warmth I felt from my good tidings turned cool and somber.

As a mother with young children, I can barely stand to read the news. When something horrible happens, I feel a heavy heart, but when it involves children, I get choked up and feel a cloud hang over me all day. I hug my children more, and I thank God for what I have right now.

I can’t imagine what the families are going through in Connecticut. I can’t imagine a lot of things going on this world. All I can do is be grateful for each day that my family lives in relative peace and harmony, and when good things happen, I can rejoice and let it remind me why I chose to get up each morning and continue on with this life.

Good things have happened recently, such as that I became an aunt again – for the sixth time – and my boys acquired a new cousin.  He’s a healthy baby boy who will be welcomed home by two older brothers and a house full of relatives at Christmastime. I only wish we lived closer so that I could personally welcome him into the world.

I also have good news to report about my friends who were seeking to adopt a baby in the U.S. through an open adoption. If you read my column, you may remember that I wrote about them awhile back. Seeking open adoption was a very emotional journey for them because the adoptive parents are never sure whether a birth mother will pick them.

Fortunately, my friends did get picked, and though it was difficult to finalize an out-of-state adoption, they did bring their beautiful baby girl home to California. I haven’t heard much from them since they got home, but I certainly understand how very busy they must be!

Fortunately for me, I was able to participate in a joyous occasion that happened closer to home. On the morning of my nephew’s birth, I accompanied one of my dearest friends, her husband, and their newly adopted son in their final step in the adoption process. I was asked to photograph the occasion.

About two years ago, my friend began the process to adopt a child from Korea, and a year later they were matched with the most adorable boy whom they have named Josh.  Fortunately, they had a good experience adopting from Korea, and Josh spent his infancy with a kind foster family who loved him dearly.

I met them on a chilly morning and waited with them and their lawyer on a bench in a big hallway outside the judge’s office.  Like most two-year-olds, Josh was full of energy, and he enjoyed running up and down the carpeted hallway, giving his parents a good morning workout.

The meeting with the judge was brief and jovial, and as my friends answered questions, I took photos. I even got a short film clip of Josh giving the judge a high five.

It’s that high five that I will meditate on as I celebrate Christmas with my two boys and husband next week.  I hope that for you and your family, you will be sharing good tidings and making new memories this holiday season. Merry Christmas.