Category Archives: Just for Fun

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.”

It’s that time of year!

The holidays are a great time to say “thank you!” I’ve enjoyed your confidence and friendship this past year and it is satisfying to know that a lot of people have achieved success as a result of our work together. As we near the start of a new year, this is also a great time to look back and ahead with an annual update.

You’ll recall last year I announced my intention to increase the emphasis on the training and education aspects of my work. I also announced that I would be substitute teaching kindergarten through grade six at Piscataquis Community Elementary School.

A few weeks ago a fourth grader came to “my” classroom to visit after a day of subbing. In the course of chatting he informed me that “pre-k and kindergarten” were the best years of his life. When I asked why he replied “Because there wasn’t really that much I had to do…” I managed not to chuckle.

I suppose it could be considered cool that at nine or ten years old (going on forty) he’s figured out what’s important to him, but I really want to tell him “the best is yet to come.” At least that’s been true for me—while my life has been good, I can’t recall a period of time that was more fun and more satisfying than these years I am now living.

A big achievement this past year was the release of my book, Small People—Big Brains: stories about simplicity, exploration and wonder. In the obligatory about the author section, I noted, “I’ve effectively started a new career as a substitute elementary school teacher. The kids haven’t run out of things to teach me. They may be small people, but they really do have big brains.”

In support of the book and my future direction, this year I created “Abbot Village Press,” with the idea that we’ll be “Maine’s number one publisher in Maine’s number one town” by publishing books and blogs with purpose. Several publishing projects come to mind and I suspect there will be a volume two of Small People—Big Brains. Perhaps I should issue a warning: “I’m a writer. Anything you do or say may be used in a future article or book.”

I have, of course, continued to offer real estate courses in association with the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate. Class enrollments continue to climb. This may well reflect a growing confidence in the future of real estate. While it’s not a focus, I also continue my affiliation with Mallett Real Estate and work with select clients on a somewhat limited basis. Do not hesitate to contact me if you are going to be involved in a real estate transaction as a buyer or seller.

This past fall, the Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative invited me to develop and teach one day classes for others who want to substitute teach! The class was offered in Milo and Guilford and we will be repeating it in January in Dover Foxcroft and Dexter. RSU 19 Adult Education (Nokomis) has asked me to offer several courses. I’m also having a lot of fun helping out with the Piscataquis Secondary School Pirate Specials Program designed to connect middle and high school kids with community resources and individuals who will help them explore career options.

One of the stories that didn’t make it into the book happened a few years ago when a second grader became exasperated with me and said, “Mr. Boomsma, you need to focus.” It helps if you picture her with hands on the sides of her face mimicking the blinders horses wear. At the time, I thought I was very busy. She rightly recognized I wasn’t busy. I just wasn’t doing such a good job of handling multiple priorities. (You can read the entire story on this site.)

Unfortunately, I’ve lost a cartoon I had that showed a fish climbing out of a lake and saying to an animal standing on the shore, “Outta my way, pal. I’m evolving.” I’d like to think that while these are some very good years, the best is yet to come. I’m evolving!

Thanks for your confidence and support. Have a meaningful holiday and a new year filled with health, happiness, and prosperity — make these the best years of your life! Evolve!

Merry Christmas,
Signature

(aka “Mr. Boomsma”)