Category Archives: Just for Fun

Happy Holiday Wishes!

Again this year, I have watched the debates rage regarding what phrases we should use when greeting each other. It is interesting that folks enter the debate from so many different perspectives. Some are worried about political correctness, some worried about theological implications, some worried about the social aspect.

But words are ultimately just words. We can, of course, talk about connotations and entomology, but ultimately it is the listener who gives meaning to what is read and said. So please understand, my choice of headline is not a political, theological, or social commentary. The reality is there are at least two holidays approaching–Christmas (with it’s many variations) and New Year’s Day. Therefore, it would seem wishing folks “happy holidays” is fairly accurate from a communications perspective–unless you choose to see it some other way.

And my headline choice doesn’t mean you can’t have a “Merry Christmas” (or some version of it). There are no hidden agendas or meanings in my greeting of choice. Well, maybe there is one.

Of late, as a society we are placing an extremely high value on diversity–one reason the “Happy Holidays” greeting is gaining in popularity. But when we obsess on encouraging diversity we omit half of the formula. Diversity requires tolerance.

A seasonal example might be found in snowflakes. Supposedly there are no two alike–how’s that for diversity?! When they bond together they create beauty and, in some cases, inconvenience and danger. But they don’t fight about it. There aren’t “bad” snowflakes and “good” snowflakes. There are just snowflakes. What can we learn from those snowflakes? What can we accomplish when we bond together in spite of our differences?

Perhaps the hidden meaning in this wish is that you enjoy the diversity and experience the tolerance that our unique design requires. We are, after all, just people trying to make our way through life as happily (or merrily) as possible. Let’s enjoy the trip!

snowflake_custom_card

Gee! Haw!

Farmington_35SMMeet four-year old Julia and her two large friends. She had the fine distinction of being the youngest and smallest driver in a special class of oxen pulling created at the Farmington Fair this year. She also had the distinction of having the largest team in the class.

For somebody who’s a huge fan of oxen pulling and an even bigger fan of kids this was one of the better experiences I had while attending fairs this year. She was truly amazing. Driving oxen is about using a “goad” (the stick she’s holding in the photo) and “tapping” the oxen in distinct spots to encourage them to move in certain directions. Julia got some chuckles because she had trouble reaching their backs so she would occasionally leap into the air if a correction seemed necessary. She would also occasional leap over piles of poop. The oxen seemed to understand and follow her lead. (They didn’t leap, but they pulled nicely.)

Surely some credit is owed her Dad–these oxen are obviously older than Julia so he must have done most of their training. And a lot of credit goes to the Farmington Fair Association for encouraging these kids. There seven teams driven by kids of assorted ages. Honorable mention goes to Oxford Fair where I was pleased to find a 4-H Club centered around kids raising steers and learning to drive oxen–thought by many to be a “dying art.”

I don’t know if Julia will continue to compete as she grows up, but she did seem to have fun. It’s not usual to see kids walk with a team at the end of competition. But this was not the case. The adults who were present kept their distance and the kids did the actual drawing. One young fellow kept running out of hands. He needed one for the goad, one for the rope attached to the halter, and one to pull up his pants as they kept sliding down.

I sorta kept an eye on Julia while she was waiting her turn–not out of concern for her safety, but out of curiosity. Her attention didn’t waiver; she gave her oxen the same attention one might expect of adult teamsters. She also seemed to have a lot more energy than her adult counterparts.

Watching her was a powerful reminder–one that I hope you’ll experience from seeing these photos–even if you know nothing about oxen and these competitions. Remember, she’s four years old–preschool age. If a picture isn’t worth a thousand words, here are the words: Never underestimate a kid.

"Okay, guys... we just need to wait here until you are hitched."
“Okay, guys… we just need to wait here until you are hitched to the drag.”

 

Books and Balloons at Guilford River Festival

And there might be dancing!
And there might be dancing!

“Are you old enough to dance?” is just one of the many questions “Mr. Boomsma” has been asked by the children he works with as a volunteer and substitute elementary school teacher. In his book, Small People—Big Brains, he points out that his original knee jerk reaction was the child had asked it wrong and really meant “Are you too old to dance?” But whether this is just an example of the literal thinking of a child or one of the many insightfully innocent statements kids make, it becomes another one of the stories about simplicity, exploration and wonder contained in the book.

Boomsma explains that the book formed when he realized after years of telling stories about his experiences with kids—sometimes hysterically funny stories, sometimes extremely insightful stories, and sometimes tragic—he’d already “written” most of it—all that was left to do was compile and publish it. Completed just over one year ago, he’s already hinting there may be a volume two as the stories keep coming and the kids still seem to have a lot more to teach him. He especially likes it when the kids ask “Mr. Boomsma, what would happen if…?” and wishes more adults would recapture some of that exploration and wonder because “thinking with kids about that question can lead to some amazing discoveries.”

Jack Falvey,  a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s says of the book, “This is a light and fast read until it isn’t, and then you stop and read a sentence or a thought a couple of times… If you have ever been in a classroom, on either side of the teacher’s desk, you will enjoy these classic and classy observations on the art and science of learning.”

Boomsma’s work with Valley Grange and children will be featured in a soon to be released issue of Maine Seniors Magazine where he will be identified as a one of the magazine’s “Prime Movers – seniors and organizations who have truly become icons in their communities.” “I have figured out a lot of things about working with kids,” he jokes, “but I don’t have a clue how to be a community icon. I wonder if it involves dancing.”

“Mr. Boomsma” will be at the Guilford River Festival on Saturday, July 26 with some of his Valley Grange friends and the Bookworms who volunteer to listen to the kids read at Piscataquis Community Elementary School. There will be balloons for kids and funny stories about kids for adults. Signed copies of Small People – Big Brains will be available for purchase. And maybe even some dancing!

(Adapted from a press release…)

“Yesterday…”

handprintsI’ve never been a big fan of the lyrics to the Beatles’ tune even though I enjoy the melody. “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away… now it looks as though they’re here to stay… I believe in yesterday.”

No thanks, I prefer to live in the present.

But there was a yesterday and my yesterday was one of the more interesting ones I’ve had in some time. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with a lot of detail. Suffice it to say it was one of the more difficult days I’ve had a substitute elementary school teacher. At one point, I caught one of the kids doing something out of the corner of my eye. I turned so my back was fully to her and said, “You kids should know that I have eyes in the back of my head and I can see what [student’s name] is doing.” Admittedly, this might be considered “lying” to the kids–something I don’t do, but I was also at my wit’s end. They were getting on my last nerve.

Later, while we were lined up waiting for bus dismissal, one of the kids came up and tugged on my sleeve. “Mr. Boomsma, you need to open those eyes in the back of your head so you can see what [another student’s name] is doing.” I’m laughing even now as I consider the possibility that he went home and announced to his parents that I really have eyes in the back of my head. Let’s hope his parents find it equally amusing.

As I reflect on yesterday, the troubles are growing faint. I find myself remembering the good stuff and the funny stuff. It was a long day–in the evening I attended an award’s assembly for grades three through six and saw a number of “my” kids honored for their academic accomplishments. Some were nervous; some were acting like it didn’t matter but beneath the facade you know they are proud of their accomplishments. So am I and I’m willing to allow myself to think I might just have contributed to their achievement in some way.

I know that the challenges I had yesterday will continue to grow dimmer and dimmer. But before they are totally gone, I’ve reflected on the day–a habit that’s pretty deeply ingrained. Part of the reason for reflecting is to decide what I can do differently tomorrow. Some of it is to relive the fun and good stuff. Thinking about yesterday, I came to this conclusion–not for the first time, certainly, but in another way that has even more meaning. I am so lucky to work with these kids. I don’t want to forget that they are that–kids. Small people with big brains… and (this might be the title of my next book) small people with big hearts. For the most part, any aggravation they cause is purely unintentional on their part. In the adult world, people like that are a lot harder to find.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”