Saturday, April 9, 2011

12 Children, Two Mothers, 15 Trees!

 Click on the photo above, to see all the wonderful pictures from our Arbor Day adventure!

Lately, it's become clearer to me that the way you become connected to your community is to participate in it.   I'm beginning to emerge from the barefoot, pregnant, nursing, and potty training fog and feel I can think of things other than survival and bodily fluids.  Two of my children actually qualify as pre-teens, and I know they're really ready to understand how they fit into the bigger picture.  It's obvious that the little guys pick up on it too.  Instinctually, I think we all know we have a responsibility as caretakers of our world. These ideas are as old as the Garden of Eden.

In that vein, I decided it was a good idea for me and the kids to participate in the city Arbor Day tree planting event today.  It was to be held at a huge new chunk of land the city had acquired from a dairy when it went out of business.  It's a gigantic flood plain area right on the river, and is in need of trees for salmon habitat and erosion control.  I told my friend/cousin/might-as-well be-sister Josie about it, and immediately she was in.  She has four kids, and I have five, so wherever we go, we attract a little bit of attention.

We met at her house downtown, packed the jogger, and headed down to the park, kids giddy with the sense of adventure and exploration that was thick in the air.  We walked through the woods to the big plain, and immediately, my So-into-Cameras eye switched on.  Here was nature right down the hill from our little city...nature I hadn't ever explored in my 12 years of living here!   The grass was thick and just low enough for the stroller, but just high enough for adventure.  The wide spaces demanded that the kids must run.  There was a tractor giving wagon rides to the planting site, but they knew they had to run.  Eventually, the lure of the tractor was too great, and the swarm of kids surrounded the poor woman who tried to avoid them as nimbly as one can in a tractor.

When we arrived at our destination, we saw a spread of delicious snacks.  Therefore, we knew this was going to be a winner of an event, possibly solely because of this wise choice on the part of the Arbor Day people.  It was decided that free food always makes people linger and appreciate an event, no matter whether they are 2 or 32.  After everyone descended "like locusts" as Josie said, they were satisfied and prepared to listen.  They listened intently to a little lesson on shovel safety.  You should not throw the shovel at your foot, and do not swing it around and whack your neighbor.  Next, it was the nitty gritty of tree planting: hole twice the size of the pot; plant tree exactly where pot is, give the roots of the tree a rough massage, like you'd give your dog,  and put it in ground you've chopped up nicely, then, put back dirt, minus weeds, up to the level of the grass, and you have a happy tree.

We had great teams of kids.  There were our two five year old girls, who admired the beauty of the trees and fatness of the worms, but focused well enough to plant 4 trees.  The two 7 year old boys contemplated and worked very hard to make their hole and tree perfect.  The older boys were very industrious and a great team.  The youngest boys worked with Josie, very concerned and interested in all she did.   The oldest girls were so quiet and intent on their work, we barely noticed them.  By the time we decided it was time for a potty break...which required quite a tractor ride, we had planted 15 trees!

What a sweet thought it was that these children would come to this park as older children, preteens, teenagers and then adults with their own children.  Eventually, they would sit in the shade of their trees.  This park had become their own, and it was good.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hearts for Hope Japan Fundraiser

Please click the above photo to see many more of the adorable creations the girls have made. 

There is a time in childhood when each of us begins to notice the things that are wrong, or just don't fit into how we know the world should be.  We feel small, though time rolls us unswervingly toward adulthood.  It is in this time that it is crucial that an adult finds us in our fears and doubts.  It is the time when hope and purpose must be reinforced above all else.  

Our children attend a wonderful parent partnered school, which is a part of the local school district.  We love having the balance it allows our family as home schoolers.  We endeavor to learn all the things that are important to us at home, and are able to glean from the knowledge of many other wise people who teach classes there.  Our oldest child is in a class called "Building a Better World," taught by a patient and inspiring teacher.  The primary purpose of the class is to help the students to realize that they indeed can make a difference in the world.  They learn about ordinary people who have done extraordinary things, simply by following their convictions, passions and interests.  They learn of people like Rachel Carson, who woke up the United States to the dangers of pesticides and the powerful importance of balance in nature.  They learn of Mother Teresa, who said "We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love."  The children are reminded that something as simple as picking up litter or cleaning up a stream makes a significant difference to the wildlife that live in that area, as well as to the aesthetic beauty of that place.  

To feel a sense of purpose and significance in their world is something that is vital to these sixth and seventh graders.  It is an age when they are ready to learn how to be an active part of society.  They are ready and willing to help.  The culminating project for this class requires the students to choose a project that they feel they can implement now, in order to make a difference in their world.  Many students chose nobly to clean up their surroundings.  It will be a wonderful thing to see how each child's sense of place grows as the semester progresses. 

Our daughter and her friend heard about the tsunami and earthquake in Japan and wanted to help.  Both girls have a heart for Japan: our daughter because I grew up in Hawaii, where Japanese customs are part of every day culture, and her friend because she and her sisters are wonderful Manga artists.  The girls, being creative and artistic, knew they could make something to sell, in order to raise funds to help the victims of the Japan disaster.  They decided that this would be the way they could make a difference. Our daughter had recently learned to crochet, and her friend had crocheted a little, so they jumped right in, creating many crocheted Amigurumi.  The Wikipedia definition of Amigurumi is thus- "The Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures."  The girls had checked out the book Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet from the library, and wrote to the author, Ana Paula Rimoli, asking permission to use her patterns for their fundraiser, and she agreed.  The girls have been busy for the past three weeks creating adorable little creatures that each hold a tiny Japanese flag, a memento to remind people to think of and pray for the people of Japan,

It is a beautiful thing to see children learn to look beyond their own homes into the big wide world, and then to watch as they grow by learning that their lives have a deep purpose and significance within that realm. 

The girls have sold their creatures on Facebook and at our church, raising $265 so far.  They are donating 100% of the proceeds of their sales to World Vision's relief work in Japan, since their aid goes primarily to help babies and children.  Because they surpassed their original goal of $150 in aid, they are being ambitious, and hoping to raise $500 for Japan relief.  If you would like to help their efforts, please make a donation to, specifying that it is for Japan Tsunami and Earthquake relief.  If you would like to see photos of their creations and would like to purchase some in order to benefit Japan, go to my Blog, and look for the post entitled Hearts for Hope Japan fundraiser, or go directly to the photos on picasa at:
Please understand that the creatures can only be made as fast as the girls' (and their mothers') fingers can crochet, but the girls are glad to take orders.

Heart to God, Hand to Man

Here's an editorial I sent to the local newspaper recently.  About a year ago, a friend of mine told me that the food bank and low cost thrift shop were going to have to move.  This was due to the fact that the city was expanding a sorely under capacity water treatment plant.  Fortunately, the food bank was able to find a new home, thanks to some grant money. The low cost community service thrift shop, had been told by the city that they would not have to worry about a new home, and had not moved forward in finding a place.   Just a few months ago, it became apparent that the city intended to have the thrift shop location after all, and that they had washed their hands of any involvement with it.  This upset me, because I know many people for whom helping hands is a simple but powerful lifeline.  I visited a city council meeting and presented the below information, and spoke directly with the mayor and other council members.  It became evident again that the city was not able to help the thrift shop.  They need a local benefactor who is able to furnish them a building at a very low cost, and I am praying that they will find what they need.  We are currently caught up in some red tape with their 501c3 status, but once that's out of the way, we will move forward in getting them grants to help their organization to persist.  Here's the letter.....

"This thrift shop is a vital service both to the working class citizens of our city, and to the various service organizations to which it donates 100 percent of its proceeds. Last year, Cocoon House and the Boys & Girls Club were just a few of those organizations.
Anyone who has need of basic household things, such as clothes, dishes, toys ... anything you could find in a thrift store, is free to come to the thrift shop and fill a bag for just a few dollars.
I know many people who depend on this service. The thrift shop sets aside blankets and other items for people who lose their homes in fires. They give dry shoes to homeless people who walk in off the street.
Imagine you are single mom working at a grocery store, living in the city. It's winter. Your child needs a coat and you can't afford one.  Your dishes keep getting broken and you can't afford new ones ... you are struggling just to get food on the table. Your son just wore through the soles of his shoes and your daughter's pants are suddenly three inches too short. Your 2-year-old has a birthday coming up and you can't afford a gift. There is hope ... you can go to the thrift shop and get all of those things in a brown paper sack for just a few dollars. You can breathe easier and tend to the needs of your family with no stress.
I have been in conversation with the volunteers and board director of the thrift shop and found out that the shop will have to leave their building, currently provided by the city, so that the new water treatment plant has a place for their offices.
Unfortunately, the thrift shop is an organization with unpredictable income so they are not able to take on regular rent. Their income in one month can be as low as $500, so they need a benefactor. Their needs are simple: a building at ground level, as most of their volunteers are elderly. They told me that currently the city provides electricity and the building, but garbage and heating oil are provided by donation. They pay for their phone, and pay sales tax from their proceeds, and every penny remaining is donated to local charities.
If our the people of our city are serious about helping the citizens of our city in this time of economic distress, they will be serious about finding a home for the thrift shop.  Thankfully, the food bank was able to get a grant for a new place, but from what I understand the thrift shop is not eligible for a grant because they are technically a thrift store. I have also asked people to talk to their churches and people they know to see if anyone will take the thrift shop.
Please get the word out to all the citizens of our city. Let's find a home for the thrift shop.