Sparkle Stories Blog

And then it snowed

It worked!

 

We got snow.  Weird wishing for snow in the end of February, but there it is.  That is how the weather rolls.  And truly, the weather and children really get each other.  Totally present tense  – totally what it is.

 

Children can definitely complain and moan about the weather as much as their parents can.  But if left alone to be with the snow, rain or whatever – it doesn’t take long for them to find the magic and beauty and perfect rightness that is the weather at that moment.

 

Snowstorms in May?  Sledding.

Sixth day of rain?  Lets go check the brook.

Another day of 1oo plus temperatures?  I wonder if I can cook something on this rock.

 

So a few days ago, the boys were wanting no more snow – they were ready for spring and spotting crocuses and song birds and mud.  But then it snowed.  And they are thrilled.


NEWEST STORIES!

At Home with Martin & Sylvia   “Martin’s Gold”

Martin discovers a new word from the library: alchemy.  Will he find a way to make gold?

Junkyard Tales “Star Gazing”

Ben is ready for a long night’s sleep.  But then there’s an invitation from the Rowlands, the family of raccoons, to do a little stargazing.   How can he resist on such a magical night?

So Many Fairies “The Bakery Crystals”

Delia’s bakery does a fine business selling beautiful cakes and pastries.  But everything there has a faint taste of sadness and longing.  One day, the old stone hearth is lit, waking the joyful fire sprite sleeping inside, and everything changes.

Martin & Sylvia  “Going on a Date”

Martin has an idea: he can be Daddy’s assistant for the day, and Sylvia will be Momma’s assistant.  But it’s not all work for Martin and Sylvia!

by Thistle by Thimble  “Sister’s Sword”

A blacksmith and his son are surprised one day to find a young girl who’s father was lost in a recent battle for the King.  The blacksmith takes her in and raises her as his own, but soon finds that her true father’s courage and sense of adventure is alive and well in the girl – and is strong enough to transform a kingdom.

Saturday Sparkle “Sparkle”

This week’s fun includes the folktale from Denmark, “Alexander and the Golden Bird” as well as some sparkly songs and verses.


A Bonus Story of Snow – “Jack and the Snowman” (download below)

Northern Vermont is without snow.  Well, a lot of Northern Vermont is without snow – the slopes have snow and lots of it – and there are pockets here and there – but generally, our part of the world is golden brown.

This year

If taken out of context, the landscape is actually quite beautiful in its vintage color scheme and spartan endurance.  All things are pointing to spring, but the land knows better and is staying put.  Apparently next week we might get a little of the magic crystals but we’ll see.

last year

So this is what it is.  We can read into it and we can listen to explanations from meteorologists, but in the end – this is this.  What’s so.

But we can still dream.  And to help that process, we have a story for you.  A winter story.  A story about snow and the miracle that comes when you make a snowman or snow woman or snow dog or what have you.  The fairies regard such creations as a statement of reality and they invest heavily each and every one.

So, in honor of the promise of snow – a story about a boy named Jack and what happens when he positions a carrot in just the right way in the middle of his snowman’s face.  Enjoy!


Mardi Gras

In this week’s “At Home with Martin and Sylvia”, brother and sister attend a Mardi Gras festival in their town hall.  There is a band, a dance caller and a piece of “King’s Cake” for everyone (but only one bean).

A big inspiration for this story is the yearly Mardi Gras celebration that our local Waldorf School holds every year where the French teacher teaches songs and dances all winter long – culminating in a colorful mask-laden carnival dance in the community room.  After writing the “At Home” story, I found out that the school decided to hold this year’s dance in the town hall as well.

Life is art is life, to be true.  Especially when children are involved.  Let the good times roll everyone.  May your Fat Tuesday bring you color, whimsy, frolic and indeed a healthy helping of fat!


Getting Ready

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday – a brilliant name for a day.  Abundant, decadent, joyful, indulgent, tasty – a day to let loose and get all the wilds and woolies so that the soul can focus on getting right with the All-That-Is the following day on Ash Wednesday.

 

Lent begins in ashes.

 

Whether you are Christian or not Christian, Lent mirrors the landscape of this part of the world.  The last days of winter in the Northeast are a bleak affair.  Unwelcome snowstorms can come at the end of March.  Longstanding ice and snow are dirty and stubborn.  If there is a thaw, it yields profound mud – mud that finds its way into every part of your life.  There is an impatience to the next 40 days that cannot be remedied from without.  Trips to Florida only help in the temporary – the sober truth is that Lent in the Northeast is not unlike the desert.

 

In my experience, the only way to meet this thin and challenging time of year is to go inward and tighten up the will.   Give myself challenges.  No sugar for 40 days.  No grains.  No caffeine.  Meditate twice a day.  Exercise 20 minutes – whatever.  But to make a promise to myself and then endeavor to keep it.

 

This, I think, is a good thing.  It feels like a cleanse and a preparation for the magic of spring – the brilliance and craziness of spring.  The euphoric shriek of “I’m Alive!” The testament that death is only what comes before rebirth.  It is an amazing time in the Northeast when crocuses burst through ice and snow, when geese come honking back on the scene and trees redden with new buds.  Like getting up after a very long sleep – it’s a little crazy but the aches and pains feel reassuring. 

 

But before we get there, we need a taste of suffering – or at least challenge.  We need a beanstalk to climb and a dark forest to walk through.  We need something to overcome so we can feel a little stronger, braver and more authentic than before. 

 

I wonder what Lent feels like in the Southern Hemisphere – when summer is yielding to Autumn.   What is the tendency then?  The world is a big place and we picture the seasons by what is around us – but certain dates are in the calendar no matter where you live.  So what is Lent in the Tundra?  In the rain forest?  In the outback?  In the desert?  What do we share that is beyond temperature and landscape?  What is at the heart of this particular season?

 

So if Marti Gras is part of your life – then dance, let the good times roll and clear out your larders.  And on Wednesday, feel the shift as we mark ourselves with ash.   For everyone else, what stories are living in you this week?  Is there overlap with the narratives of cleansing, making ready, being penitent and praying? I wonder what is global during this time of year.  What is deeper than any calendar date or holiday description.   Tomorrow is Tuesday – the most energetic and willful day of the week.  Whether our Tuesday is Fat or just Tuesday, let us be inspired by the day and maybe even make a little noise while we are at it. 


FRIDAY’s FRESH STORIES

At Home with Martin and Sylvia  “Mardi Gras”

Martin and Sylvia have been preparing for the Mardi Gras dance for weeks – will Sylvia get to be the Mardi Gras Queen?

So Many Fairies “The Magic Candles”

On Sarah’s sixth birthday, she makes a birthday wish that inspires a certain fire fairy and some unique birthday magic.

Martin and Sylvia “A Trip to Grandma’s”

Martin and Sylvia are going on a road trip to Grandma’s!  What will they do, stuck in the car for all that time?

Junkyard Tales “A Time for Play”

Dawn breaks and the Junkyard is covered in balls of ice.  Ben Thompson learns all about “hail”, and that it can lead to a lot of fun.

by Thistle by Thimble  “Horse at Play”

A young racehorse seems destined for greatness — and boy is she fast!  But as soon as she hits the racetrack, her force of motion dwindles.  How can they inspire her?

Saturday Sparkle  “Play and Nonsense”

This week’s fun includes stories and verses about play and nonsense including a tale from “The Laughing Prince” and a silly car game called “Dumper Camper Flatbed Bus”.


The Human Classroom – Questioning the benefits of High Tech devices

An article in the LA times expands on a general intention from the current federal administration and influential high tech interests to get laptops, ipads and the like into all elementary schools.   Those of you who read this blog and others that advocate a mindful (and restricted) approach to media and children, will likely cringe at the idea of computers in every classroom.

 

Now the good news is that the LA times article, like the NY times article of month’s previous, is critical of this initiative citing quotes like “Computers, in and of themselves, do very little to aid learning,” and that studies found that the difference in test scores between the software-using classes and the control group was “not statistically different from zero.”

 

Those are not opinions, those are statistics – and though statistics are only as good as the studies that breed them, numbers do have currency in general public.

 

My proposal is that along with all the stats and control group studies, parents around the world have their own control group study with their own children.  Give them an ipad and some instruction on how to use it.   Set them up with an app that teaches them a bit of American history or the water cycle or something age appropriate that they might be learning at school.  Let them use it for 20 minutes and be available to answer questions.  Then take the ipad away and propose to do something else.  How do they respond?  What was the quality of their experience?  How are they relating to the content and the intentions of the lesson?  Pay attention to their behavior as well as the feeling in the room.  Your feelings count too.  How do you feel?

 

Then the next day try a different approach.  I propose an approach that asks more of you as educator.  In this approach you need to do more work and engage yourself in the lesson.  Take a similar lesson as the one taught in the app – history, science or whatever – and this time put together a short story.  If the lesson is about history, tell the story of that nugget of history.  If the lesson is about something scientific, tell a story about the natural world or about children experiencing the science involved.  Then say, “Once upon a time” and keep talking for 15 minutes.  Tell the story.  When you are finished, give a little space for questions or responses and then pay attention.  Ask yourself the same questions as before and note the difference in your child.  Remember to pay attention to how you feel.

 

Now – aside from the natural anxiety that comes when preparing to tell a story – please note the tone in the room and how the rest of the day goes.

 

I know my relationship to technology.  I am so very grateful for spell check, Wikipedia, access to blogs, email and huffington post.  Creating content is easy and allows me to sit in my chair and be able to find stuff out that I would not otherwise be able to find.

 

I also constantly battle the desire to check my email, favorite blogs, huff post updates, google analytics and my email again.  It feels like a drug sometimes – like everything will be OK if I just check.  That seeing a spike in activity on our website will bring me peace.  But it doesn’t.  It only feeds the desire for more checking.

 

If this lives in me – imagine what lives in a developing mind?  A mind that is building entirely new neural pathways that will be the unique mental infrastructure of that child’s life.  What dynamics are we allowing when we place incredibly stimulating technologies in front of young children.  Dimitri Christakis, a neurologist and parent sees a definitive connection between screen time and attention deficit – because real life does not match the hyper-stimulating world of contemporary TV and computer apps.

The question is in the air and is still being justly criticized.  The time is now to propose a highly conservative approach to educating children – making it a human experience.  Hand held devices are only as useful as the hands that hold them – so lets start with those first.  ‘Head, Heart and Hands’ is a motto that just makes sense to me.

Here is some high tech I can stand by:

 


Bonus Story for Valentines Day – “The Caster’s Daughter”

Here is a story from our “by Thistle by Thimble” story series called “The Caster’s Daughter”

In an age when trades were passed on exclusively from fathers to sons, a famous plaster caster teaches everything he knows to his daughter. As he gets older and less able to work, his daughter secretly takes on more and more work until it is she that completes some of the most complicated castings of that time. After her father dies, a Duke’s son arrives at the workshop’s door with a very lucrative opportunity. The caster’s daughter is faced with a difficult decision: tell the Duke’s son the truth, or pretend like her father is still alive and take the job. Her choice has bigger consequences than she can imagine.


Secret Heart Totes

In this week’s “At Home with Martin & Sylvia” , the brother and sister make secret heart totes – homemade satchels of valentines and sweets with the declaration “You are Loved” on the front – and then secretly leave them on their friends’ and neighbors’ front doors.

Well, we’ve had a lot of dear friends taking care of us these last weeks, and so we thanked just a few of them with secret gifts….

We started with production

Delivery required disguises and stealth

Though we weren’t able to visit you all yesterday -  here’s to you!  Friends and family, near and far, remember you are truly deeply and delightfully…


NEWEST STORIES!

We’re celebrating LOVE this week at Sparkle Stories!

At Home with Martin & Sylvia  “Secret Heart Totes”

Martin and Sylvia’s family has a Valentine’s tradition in which they create secret satchels of valentine gifts.  But oh, but it can be hard to keep quiet about all the fun!

So Many Fairies  “The Source of Snow”

Snow has a particular and powerful magic in the fairy world.  Did you know the unique shapes of snow crystals have a wondrous connection to the wishes and dreams of children?

Martin & Sylvia  “Putting on a Play”

Martin and Sylvia wake to a very cold morning – ten below!  Momma’s car won’t start, and she is unable to get to the office.  What will they do?  Create a play!

Junkyard Tales “Valentines”

The Junkyard animals celebrate their love and appreciation for each other with a Valentines Gift Exchange.  Who will Ben Thompson, clever cat, pick?

by Thistle by Thimble  “The Fool’s Son”

The Princess can have anything she wants – toys, delicacies, music and fine clothes.  But none of it makes her happy.  What she enjoys is the company Jalphi, Fool’s son, and the magical stories he tells her.  Turns out there’s more magic and strength in him than anyone ever imagined!

Saturday Sparkle  “Love”

This week’s fun includes stories and verses about love including a tale from Italy called “Fair Angiola” and a Japanese tale called “Three Strong Women.”


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