Monday, May 30, 2011


I'm not from Michigan. I didn't know anyone when I moved here. Of course that only made the adventure more fun. But it was a passing conversation with my Granddaddy Mac after the birth of my daughter that helped to cement my connection with the state and metro Detroit.

Me: She was born in Troy.
Grandaddy Mac: Oh, your great, great, great Grandmother Polly was born in Troy.
Me: Really?
Grandaddy Mac: Yes, her family settled in Michigan in the 1820's.
Me: Really?

And so it was that I discovered that not only had they settled here, but they helped to establish cities, owned land, and were prominent members of the community. Our home is only a few short miles from the family burial ground in Greenwood Cemetery in Birmingham. Fun stuff huh?!

Polly wasn't born in Troy though. She was born in Southfield, but it's all good. Her husband Nicholas is my current geneological obsession. I'm trying to document who Granddaddy Mac suspects to be his parents. So far it's been rough. I went to the Birmingham Historical Society recently to see what they had on the subject. (After I left, they had significantly more having copied every document I already had.) In my conversation with the director, I mentioned that in my records it showed that Polly had a little brother who died in the Civil War. Polly's husband Nicholas also died in that war. The director asked if I had ever been to Shain Park to see the Civil War monument erected there. I replied that I hadn't because I was not aware there was one. She retrieved a document from her filing cabinet that included the names of all the men listed on the stone. Omer Fall, Polly's brother, was among them.

Omer enlisted in August of 1862 with his brother Henry. Omer was 20 and Henry was 18. They both fought at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia. Henry was wounded in action and both he and Omer were taken prisoner. Henry lived to see the end of the war, eventually promoted to Corporal in 1864 and mustered out in June of 1865. Omer died in Andersonville, a Confederate prisoner of war camp in 1863. The thought is horrifying.

Tonight we took the kids to Shain Park to show them the monument and hopefully instill a measure of respect and reverence for those who have fought and died for our country and our freedoms. It was a powerful moment for me and Jon, however there was also a playscape, so it was considerable less powerful for the kids. Here are some of the pictures I took.

This is the monument erected in 1869. The names of all the Civil War dead from Oakland County, MI are listed on each of the 4 sides. This is the side Omer's name is on. The marble slabs at the base are from the mountains of Georgia, the state where he died.

The flag, at half mast, slowly waved in the breeze. It was an appropriate backdrop. A fresh wreath of flowers had been placed there earlier in the day.

I asked everyone to place their hands around Omer's name. Eli put his own spin on the directions, appropriately.

Omer Fall, you are not forgotten.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


So it's raining. Again. Just like it has been for 75% of the days of April and May in Michigan. A quick look on the bright side of that statistic: everything is so green. I'll even use the word lush to describe my neighbor's backyard, instead of unmowed. I assume they gave up and decided to give back their yard to Mother Nature. If so, she's done a pretty good job with it. In a normally tended lawn what might be considered weeds, now just look like wildflowers in a forgotten meadow.

With all this rain, comes lots of worms, and while trying to not squish a few today it reminded me of a poem I wrote in elementary school. I offer it here for your enjoyment. The first time Jon read it, he laughed out loud. After he explained the reason for his unexpected outburst, and I healed from the painful wound of constructive criticism, I renamed it. Here it is:


Raindrops are falling all around.
Worms come up from the ground.
The sun peeks out behind a cloud
And dries them up without a sound.

Of course I was referring to the raindrops, but apparently that wasn't clear. Right now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a forecast filled with sunnier days.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Let The Wild Rumpus Start!

The Assignment: Plan a party for your daughter's 3rd grade class and their pen pals from a neighboring school.
The Details: There will be 56 children, 2 teachers and 7 parents in attendance. Your budget is a graciously donated 75 dollars from the school principal and whatever you can get donated from parents. The party will start at 10am and end at 1pm. During the course of the activity, children will need to play games together, make a craft, eat lunch, and have some free time. You have one week. Oh and one more thing - given the weather trend over the last several weeks, it will probably be cold and rainy, so everything will be indoors.
The Theme: Ya gotta have a theme kid, makes it more memorable. Do you remember your 3rd grade pen pal party? That's too bad, it shoulda had a theme. So troll blogs and teacher sharing sites until you come upon a theme that is both creative, entertaining and age appropriate. Know you'll be able to pull off anything with your team of highly talented parent volunteers. Modify the games to fit your time, space and weather issues. Get approval for your theme "Where The Wild Things Are" based on the book of the same name by Maurice Sendak.

This is how it will go:

When the children arrive, introduce them to their pen pals and place them into teams of 8. They will be a little shy and uncomfortable at first but give them something to do right away to alleviate any jitters. Coloring a Wild Thing nametag and playing I'm Going to Where The Wild Things Are is a great place to start. One child begins the game by saying Hello. My name is . . . I'm going to Where The Wild Things Are and I'm bringing a boat. The next child says Hello. My name is . . . and I'm going to Where The Wild Things Are with . . . and her boat and I'm bringing a tent. The next child says Hello. My name is . . . and I'm going to Where The Wild Things Are with . . . and her boat, and . . . and his tent and I'm bringing a hiking stick. This continues until all the children have had a turn. It helps the children on each team get to know each other quickly.

After they have completed their nametags and pinned them on, the teacher will read the story Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. She'll use great voices and the children, although they have read or heard the book several times, will be riveted.

In the book, Max, dressed in his wolf suit, makes all sorts of mischief before his mom has had enough and he gets sent to his room without eating anything. In a game we called "Mischievous Max," the children had some fun playing dress up - at their teachers' expense. Have lots and lots of dress up clothes available. Give each pen pal partnership the chance to choose something from the pile to put on their teacher. In the end it will look something like this. The children will laugh hysterically, I promise.

The next game gives the kids a chance to roll their eyes without getting in trouble for doing so. We modified the game "Roll Your Terrible Eyes" by eliminating the water bottles and having the teams blow the eyes across the lunchroom floor towards the finish lines. Every team had a differently colored set of eyes (ping pong balls). The first team to roll all their eyes across the finish line, using only their breath, won. This game was so fun we played it twice.

Lunchroom tables and 50+ other children made it into somewhat of an obstacle course, however they enjoyed the challenge.

If you've ever eaten lunch in an elementary school cafeteria, you know the noise level can get a little out of hand. Most of the time the roars of the children are quickly quieted. The next challenge "Roar Your Terrible Roar" gives the teams the chance to roar their roars without fear of penalty. Teams are asked to come up with a terrible roar. Each team is given the chance to roar that terrible roar as loud as they can. None of the teams will have a problem with that.

To be the "King Of All Wild Things," one must have a proper crown. A standard size piece of poster board yields three Max sized crowns. We used 20 pieces of yellow poster board from the supply closet at the school. The kids decorated their crowns with markers, crayons and sticky-backed foam cut outs purchased from a craft store.

Can the kings of all wild things be called adorable? 'Cause these guys are.

By this time everyone was ready to "Gnash Their Terrible Teeth" (eat lunch), and because the lunchroom was about to be taken over by kindergarten and first grade students we moved the party to the library. Every child had brought a bagged lunch. Instructions had been given previously to bring a blanket to sit on while they ate. So with blankets laid out on the library floor, the kids enjoyed eating their lunches.

We supplemented what they brought for lunch with bottled water, watermelon slices and veggie trays. Which was a wise idea because it seemed most of their lunches were packed with only Ho-Ho's, Cheetos and pop.

You'll need a large space for the next game "Show Your Terrible Claws." We used the gym. Teams line up single file on one end of the gym and are instructed to remove their shoes and socks and show their terrible claws. (Seriously some of them really do have terrible claws.) A small pile of pebbles is placed in front of each team's line. At the signal the first person in each line grabs a pebble with their toes. They then move the pebble from one end of the gym to the other. The first team to move all their pebbles across the gym wins. Kids walk funny when they are trying to hold onto a pebble with their toes. The parents and teachers will laugh hysterically, I promise.

And the kids will want to play this game again:

And again:

And again. But this time you won't let them. Instead you suggest that maybe it's time for dessert. And they'll agree.

You will have spent way too much time on these (which I realize do not look like the monsters from the book, however I wasn't this ambitious):

But the smile will be worth it:

You'll even have enough left to share with your fantastic team of moms. These women are awesome. I have such great friends. From left to right, Michelle, Jen, Jackie, me, Faye, Diem, and Holly.

After all the fun and games of the morning, there wasn't much spark left for A Wild Rumpus. Besides, it was raining and A Wild Rumpus would be more fun on the playground outside anyway. Instead the pen pal pairs took turns reading to each other from their favorite books. I think it was a fabulous way to end the afternoon together.

For a take home gift from our class to theirs, Jackie had the idea that they could give their pen pal a pencil. The children drew pictures of themselves with their pen pals and attached them to these monster pencils I found at Target. Now they can continue their pen pal friendship and remember their monstrously good time Where The Wild Things Are!

The End

Friday, May 13, 2011

A question of faith.

There's a new billboard about a mile from my house that warns of the impending end of the world on May 21st. Simply stated it says: Judgment Day May 21. And then there's a number and web address for viewers to call or visit. I imagine if I called, someone would answer and assure me if I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior than all will be well for me on May 22. I hope, if it happens, the way I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior is acceptable to whoever is making those decisions. Also, wouldn't a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl be a better venue for getting the word out? I mean, The Judgment Day, that's kind of big. Is money an issue if you won't need any beyond the 21st?

One of the basic tenets of my religious belief is that everyone should be free to worship how, where or what they may. I know that my own beliefs are oftentimes viewed as narrow minded, strict, stifling, or ridiculous. Those who are not Mormon, or who no longer associate themselves with the Mormon faith, might think all of those things. But it's true - shredded carrots really do taste good in green jello. Of course I jest.

I find that often people's view of what I believe is based on several things, sometimes inaccuracy and misinformation and other times a simple unbelief in anything they have studied. Depending on what they have studied, I am much more accepting of the latter. I try very hard to be understanding of other people's faith, or even lack of faith. I'm sad to say this has not always been the case. I'm sure my rigid, holier than thou attitude was found to be off putting for many. But I have worked hard to foster respect for those who are unwavering in their commitment to what they know to be true. It's like what I tell my kids sometimes when they come downstairs dressed for the day - "If that's what you're wearing - you better own it." Nothing is more disheartening than to watch the tottering soul.

Is it true that after dying in a suicide mission that men of the Muslim faith are met by 72 virgins and eternal happiness? Um, I hope not. Is it true on May 22nd, if I'm still here, that I am in hell like the billboard suggests? Um, I hope not. What I also hope is those are just myths, perpetuated by a crazy few but not representative of a whole faith or creed. There are many men and women who practice polygamy under the entirely false pretense that they are still members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their confusion should not be viewed as my belief, no matter what their insistence, or others ignorance. I know people of the Muslim faith who are appalled that their religion is muckraked by those who are unwilling to educate themselves - those willing only to be spoon fed a never-ending feast of media sound bites and hype for the benefit of their perceived patriotism and next social gathering diatribe. Are there those who have absolute faith in the rapture, whenever that might be, who live their lives in humble preparation but who are dismayed to see others stoop to fear mongering and scare tactics to win votes for Jesus?

The one thing I can't shake about that billboard is what if, come May 22, the followers of the people behind the phone number and website are still here? The reality of waking up in your own bed on that Sunday morning would seem unbearable. Does faith exist for the disillusioned?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Maybe later.

Dear Blog,

I know I said we'd always be close. And I want you to know our friendship means a lot to me. But I'm kind of busy right now. Sooo . . . .