Quickly, go and read a very wonderfully amazing and gorgeous essay about readers in schools, because it is full of truth, and will make you cry:
This past weekend, my two Eldest Minions and I attended a family reunion with over 70,000 total strangers.
We went to ComiCon Salt Lake City. Three days of nerdtastic fun. Crowded exhibit floors (on Saturday, the Fire Marshall got out the clickers and instituted one-out, one-in policies). Amazing costuming (seriously, amazing). And a whole lot of geek family adoration.
Some beautiful things happened that made me a little misty, and a lot proud, and I didn’t expect them at all. It’s the unanticipated graceful moment that has the most depth, some days.
For instance, I never knew that the energy from a crowd of 50,000 people in one spot could be energizing. I’m a hermit, and married a hermit, and birthed hermits. We tend to not like crowds. But when you put 50,000 hermits in one space, everyone has that same “don’t invade space, don’t invade space” attitude, so even when the crush is a bit tight, everyone is keeping their own energy mostly to themselves, and it’s not exhausting. It was… oddly invigorating. There were a lot of people, and they were all happy to be together.
And speaking of happy to be together: when one nerd recognizes the nerdness of another, and appreciates the level of devotion one person can have for a fandom, it is a beautiful thing. Normally shy, at events like ComiCon, a person can spot another in a similarly-themed costume, and holler “Hey, Pith buddy!”—and then get together for a snapshot that, judging only by the expressions on the faces, is of long-lost best friends finally meeting up. It’s happiness. It’s comfort.
There’s a sense of community in shared fandoms. There’s the delight when another human being calls out really random quotes or references to minor elements of a favorite book or show, and they fit perfectly, and are understood completely, and responded to with the appropriate line or gesture.
There’s an instant kinship when someone sees this:
… and shyly asks, “Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters, right?” Because only a kindred spirit recognizes the cues that make a costume one genre versus another. And when those cues are recognized, there is instant camaraderie and delight.
I didn’t expect to get emotional seeing entire families in costume, or to tear up when a large man in spectacularly-rigged Darth Vader costume knelt down to be in a picture with a tiny Jedi or Leia. I didn’t expect to leak a bit from my heart watching adult cosplayers ask to shake the hands with children, and be in a picture with them, or genuinely compliment the bitty cosplayers on their work.
I’m from that earlier generation of nerds, hermits, and geeks who spent a lot of time at the library, and read sci-fi and fantasy books during lunch, and if we were gamers, we were quiet gamers who didn’t talk a lot about it outside our own game, because that was setting ourselves up for ridicule and pain. And here we were this weekend, with entire panel discussions on the thematic relevance of games in modern society, and formal gaming groups right there in the exhibition hall. It was… liberating.
These sorts of people do “fun” a little differently than most, perhaps. There was standing-room only for panel topics like “HP Lovecraft: are his works thematically relevant in modern society?” and “Paradox: the physics of time and multi-dimensional travel.” Only certain types of people get excited about modifying and hacking cell phones to control digital servo-motors to animate clockwork wing assemblies.
There’s a cross-generational re-seeding and regeneration of fandom… such as the gentleman with a Wheel of Time Heron Blade, who had to get a picture of the kid in the Stargate Atlantis uniform, who recognized the blue silk sari of his own fandom on one of our young companions, and reminded me that there was an entire epic fantasy series I have yet to share with my kids.
The genuine joy that was manifest when groups of similarly-themed people posed for big pictures was… cool. Only “cool” doesn’t go far enough. It was the joy that comes when we find a whole new family that feels as passionately as we do about something.
ComiCon is perhaps unique in that everyone is both an active part of the show, and an audience member, all at the same time. Having been complimented on her own costume by a very well-done adult cosplayer, my Eldest felt entirely comfortable expressing her delight and admiration to younger cosplayers, and posing just as graciously with them as her heroes did with her.
When a tiny princess asked for a picture with “her Maleficent”, the Eldest felt compelled to reward her bravery with one of her pixie-people… because that’s how fairy tales work. When bitty girls whispered and pointed, wide-eyed, the Eldest was comfortable kneeling down to chat and reassure them—and then they all squished in for a picture with “The Nice Bad Lady.”
And there was the most wee of all tinykin girlies, with huge brown eyes, who, when asked if she had a favorite costume for the day, pointed at my girl, smiled and said, “Her.”
To the other four Maleficents who were just as eager to have a picture with my Eldest as she was to have a picture with them: thanks for being part of my happiness.
To the impressively-dressed men who didn’t just pose for a picture for my Boy, but who pulled him into the picture with them, and chatted about the mutual fandom, and were genuinely eager to ask about how he put various parts of his costume together: thanks for being new members of our nerdly family.
To the artists who were delighted to speak intelligently about inspiration, materials, techniques, and the work of being an artist: thank you for seeing my kid as a peer, not a consumer.
To the actors who were so genuinely delighted to meet us: thank you for being real. You are a delight to us.
To the grandparents who read Asimov and Tolkien by flashlight under the covers, to the parents who read Jordan and Brooks and Herbert, to the young parents who developed graphic novels and webisodes and cosplay, and to the rising nerdlings who inherit all the splendor and imagination and wonder we can impart: let your nerd flag fly, my brothers and sisters! We’re a grand, weird, delightfully odd and beautiful family, and I love you all!
There’s a sweet little children’s song my minions learn at home and at church, called “I Am a Child of God.” Though my own Family of Origin is prone to writing and singing dreadful parodies of most songs (including this one), the poetry here makes a very concise outline of some basic educational ideas that struck me particularly well this past weekend.
And since I’m never one to be struck without sharing, here we go:
I am a child of God, and He has sent me here; has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.
The reminder of my children’s true spiritual genetic foundation is right there: I’m entrusted with people who are my spiritual siblings, and we’re children together. I’m given the role of mentorship, but not ownership, and that also means I have to let go of thinking I can control their entire experience and response to learning opportunities.
I am a child of God, and so my needs are great; help me to understand His words before it grows too late.
I sometimes get impatient with those at a different point in their learning, but it’s important for me, as a homeschooling mother, to remember it’s Not About Me… it’s about them, and they have needs. Needs for rest and recreation, needs for encouragement, needs for the creativity that can only be sparked by boredom. Needs for patient reminders, needs for a good sense of humor, needs for guidance in finding new ways to respond to stresses. Some days, needs to just sit around reading for hours. Or a week.
There are so many educational strategies inside Scripture–God’s Word. I have just as great a need to understand as they do, in matters temporal and spiritual. I’m comforted that our faith is one of second chances… because some days, I feel the pressure of “too late”, and need to remember to use it as a motivator for tomorrow, rather than a large stick to castigate myself.
This verse is also a reminder that a firm foundation in gospel principles and their application truly is a major part of learning. When a child starts to understand their eternal potential, their responsibilities and stewardship as a disciple of Christ, their ability to interact directly with their Creator, and the liberty they can find within their covenants, they’re experiencing a change that can carry them through every situation they’ll experience later. All learning counts!
I am a child of God. Rich blessings are in store; if I but learn to do His will, I’ll live with Him once more.
There are huge blessings in learning together at home, even on the hard days (and oh, there are hard days!) Being able to remember the blessings helps with minor frustrations as they arise. And the major ones, too. The bit about “will” is, for me, more about tempering my own Natural (wo)Man, and trying to be the sort of guiding teacher and parent God is to me; bending my imperfect, finite will to His perfection and infinite goodness. Not easy. Totally worth it.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday.
And there’s the crux of it: lead, guide, walk beside, help, teach.
Nowhere in there does it say “be perfectly organized at all time” and “do awesome crafting” and “make themed lunches every day” and “teach kids Latin in kindergarten.”
Just: lead, guide, walk beside, help, teach.
Show them a good example in my own improving habits and learning. Guide them to good habits, and interesting things to learn. Work along with them, and learn as we go. Help them accomplish things, and find solid resources. Teach them all the things I use as an adult, and how to learn in pursuit of their own passions.
Plus, the song has a catchy tune to hum. Not bad for a very condensed educational philosophy course!
Please allow me to share some little-known truths that make a big impact on my daily life, and the satisfaction thereof.
Prime Napping Locations
Choosing the right location can make the difference between “napping” and other sleep-like activities. Some spots to consider:
The Bed: but only if you’ve made your bed. It doesn’t count as a nap if you’re under the normal covers. Naps happen on top of the spread, but potentially under a nice throw. You can also justify pulling up one corner of the spread to drape over feet or shoulders.
The Couch: and this works best if the living room has been tidied recently. You will nap better in a vacuumed room. It’s a scientific fact. Consider a snooze propped up in the left-hand corner of the couch, with a small pillow under you head. Again, a throw or small quilt is very handy. Couch naps are preferred if you will be expected to be seen in public later, as the hair-squashing factor is significantly mitigated by the noggin-pillow-prop.
A Chair: this must be a nice broad chair, of course, with a high back/arms, to allow curling up. Not for the damaged-of-knee, really, but likely to happen if you are reading on an overcast day.
A Hammock: napping in a suspended net might also happen if you are the victim of an unfortunate tracking accident, but in general, napping in a hammock is officially a siesta, so you can cross-count it for cultural exploration.
The Ground: Ew. Because of the potential for insect incursions, and the general propensity of The Nature to exact revenge upon normally-house-napping people, avoid laying on the ground to nap. Ants in your ears. Enough Said.
If you get up, do stuff, then lay back down and go to sleep, and are still in your PJs, then you’ve Gone Back to Bed.
However, if you get up, put on a bra, do stuff, and then lay back down and go to sleep, you are taking an Official and Thoroughly Respectable Nap. Sports bras count.
PJs = Lazy Patoot Who Went Back To Bed.
Bra (even if worn under a borrowed husband T-shirt and paired with yoga pants that have never seen yoga moves) = Well-Deserved and Officially-Sanctioned Nap.
Napping bonus points are awarded if you are bear-hugging a reluctant toddler who really needs to sleep. Extreme bonus points apply if you wake from your Official Nap to find they are still sleeping, and manage to extract yourself from said toddler, without waking them. Be sure your victory dance is quite silent, but do throw in a few Fist Self-Bumps, because you are awesome.
Nap on, Brethren and Sistren.
We have an absolutely hilarious and inappropriate saying around here:
If you’re going to be a turd, go lay in the yard.
Because that’s pretty much what that sort of thing does, right? Lay in the yard?
This is the result when two large teenage boys spend two days doing all sorts of work, including going to bed at midnight and getting up at 3am to make crepes before trotting off to help staff at a charity triathlon, and they’ve been warned that any turd-like behavior on account of their own poor sleep choices will result in Consequences: they snarf food, then assume the correct postures in the correct environment, and rapidly drop off to sleep to prevent any turdly behaviors. Boys are lovely people.
So, in my faith, we add a few fun holidays to the traditional year. The best of these, in my opinion, is Pioneer Day, 24 July, celebrating the arrival of LDS emigrants to the Salt Lake Valley. The great migration was the culmination of several years of increasingly brutal religious persecution, including mobs with tar and feathers, and multiple murders of men, women, and even children. Not a terribly great lead-up to migration.
So we turned it into a party. We’re kind of great at that sort of thing.
As a child, my favorite day of the summer was Pioneer Day. I hauled out my Gunne Sax dress (hand-me-down from my best friend’s older sisters), put on every full skirt I owned as petticoats, grabbed a shawl, and stomped around feeling pioneerish and lovely for the picnic, pies, home-grown little kid parade, games, and visiting that took place that afternoon and evening, at a park by the river near my best friend’s ranch.
Oh, the braids in hair! (Daddy did those… Mom doesn’t braid. She does garden, so she’s very cool.) Oh, the swishing skirts! Oh, the wandering around glancing shyly at cute boys duded up in their best Western wear! Oh, the semi-scandalous sharing-of-homemade-rootbeer-with-cute-boys-having-Not-Wiped-The-Rim-First! (Semi-scandal, I tell you! Sooo much semi-scandal!)
These days, our current area is a little short on the fun traditions I loved best, which is sad. Perhaps I’ll get really motivated this coming winter, and volunteer to do up some committees and reintroduce actual historical fun to the mix? (I’ve been saying that since the first inflated-bouncy-house and puny-production-burger event, about ten years ago…)
If you’re looking for some fun elements to add to a Pioneer Day celebration, here’s my list of the very important bits you need:
Multiple free patterns and projects for pioneer-era styles on my “in real life” website dedicated to LDS clothing and history: Clothing The Saints
Another great blog with scads of projects and tutorials, from my friend Emily: Buns & Baskets Blog
Lisa Arrington has some great stuff; here she is with Fiddlesticks, from the Farewell to Nauvoo album:
Steven Sharp Nelson’s “If You Could Hie to Kolob”, in fine orchestral form, because you need a soundtrack for Pioneer Day baking!
Of course, the Mormon classic, “Come, Come Ye Saints”:
And don’t forget dancing! Lots and lots of dancing!
Emigrant accounts talk of living on beans and bacon, and for a change now and then, bacon and beans. But honestly, you can’t beat a fantastic bean soup, some cornbread, and pie! Lots of pie! With crust made from lard! (I’m serious. It’s splendid. And historic.) These recipes are from Mrs Hale’s New Cook Book, 1857. I’ve updated only the language of the directions.
To Stew Red Beans (page 279): Soak one pint of dried beans (all red, or mixed if you prefer) in two quarts of water overnight. Drain, and put the beans in a large saucepot with two quarts of fresh water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and simmer until they are quite tender. Use a spoon to mash or break some of the beans, to thicken the broth. Add two tablespoons of butter for richness, then season with pepper, salt, parsley, and a bit of thyme, to taste. Add one small to medium onion, diced fine. Let them simmer over low for another hour or two, to deepen the flavors.
As-is, this is a fine vegetarian meal (vegan if you leave out the butter). If you like a bit more richness, chop a bit of ham to add in the last few hours of simmering.
Indian Bread is mentioned multiple times in the book, without a specific recipe, but my great-grandmother’s recipe includes all the elements Mrs Hale mentions: start the oven heating to 450*; in a bowl, whisk together two cups sour milk or buttermilk, one tablespoon bacon drippings or oil, one teaspoon baking soda, a scant tablespoon of salt, one cup all-purpose flour, one-and-a-half cups yellow cornmeal, one tablespoon of sugar, and one egg. Turn into a well-greased 8×8 or 9×9 or 10×6″ pan, and bake until golden brown.
Apple Pie (American) (page 325): line a pie plate with pastry crust. Layer in peeled, cored, and sliced green apples, such as Granny Smith, strewing with sugar (to taste–1/2 cup will do it if you like some bite to contrast with, say, whipped cream), the zest and juice of one lemon, and a teaspoon or so of ground cinnamon. Cover with a pastry crust, cut some vents, and toss it in the oven at 350* for about 40 minutes, until the crust is lovely and browned, and the juices are bloopy. Let it cool before cutting.
Or, what about a Custard Pie (page 326): Bring one quart of milk to a boil, with a stick of cinnamon and the zest of one lemon. Stir to prevent it scorching. Let it cool to blood-warm, and remove the cinnamon stick. Beat seven large eggs into the cooled, spiced milk. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg. Line two deep pie plates with pastry crust, and “blind bake” it in the oven 3-5 minutes at 375*, to set the crust a bit. Pour in the egg/milk mixture, dividing it evenly. Bake about 20 minutes, and cool completely before attempting to cut it.
Look for Part the Second, with activities and links to stories you can use to enhance your own Pioneer Day celebration!