Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lying Low

What is it about having my family separated that makes me so out of sorts? DH and first-born are off on the Appalachian Trail (G's 13th birthday present), leaving the two younguns and me to hold down the fort.

I've been being a homebody while they've been gone, sorting through clutter and cleaning out the attic (yikes! digging through the decade-old rat leavings is another post in itself), and I haven't been in any frame of mind to be witty, clever, or even sensical. Thus, no blog posts.

Sorry if you've missed me. (And if you haven't, well, poopy on you.)

Plus, the boys took my camera with me, so I can't even take any embarrassing or cutesy shots of the remaining kids.

I promise I'll get back to it. They're back in town by the end of the week, so things should be back to normal, or what passes as normal, by the weekend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just Waaaalkin' in the Rain

Let's get something straight. When it comes to having all this homeschooling stuff figured out, I'm clueless. And lazy. And often pretty lame.

So when an activity comes up that looks like it can pass for educational, especially if it requires little or no planning or effort on my part ... well, then, that's damn near spectacular. I jump on it like a duck on a grasshopper.

Enter McKinney Roughs, a nature park about a half hour outside of town. Occasionally McKinney Roughs hosts homeschool workshops on various nature topics for a reasonable price, and one of them was slated for today.

So I loaded up the kids, raced to make it on time (as usual, we were running ten minutes behind schedule), and careened into the parking lot at 9:30 on the dot. We found several other families there that we knew, so my kids were thrilled.

There was just one weensy problem. Did you happen to hear Hurricane Rick mentioned on the news?

Hurricane Rick as seen from this NASA image on October 18th while it was still a Category 5.

Granted, Little Ricky is now a tropical depression and isn't a bit of a threat (and never was) to us here in Central Texas. But do you see those arms of rain spreading out from that storm? A few of the fingers connected to those arms made their way across our part of the state, tickling us on the back of the neck off and on this morning.

Did I mention I was lazy? Being lazy means that often I prefer to stay indoors where it's nice and dry instead of huddling under borrowed rain ponchos previously used by sticky, sweaty school kids piling out of sticky, sweaty school buses on untold numbers of sticky, sweaty field trips. But today I didn't get the option of holing up in my toasty, cozy home, however, because I'd already paid my $9 for each kid. And hey, did I mention that I'm cheap too?

Fortunately, it ended up being pretty pleasant. It sprinkled off and on and only really rained for a short while, and the temperatures were cool enough to make the ponchos not stink too much (actually, not at all, but I wasn't trying to smell them, if you get my drift). Considering that about 75% of the workshop was held outside, that lack of hurricane rain, coupled with a smidgen of learnin' and good conversation with friends, made this a delightful morning. (Oh, and the kids didn't mind missing math and writing either.)

Just to prove that there was a touch of brain building going on, I'll give you a few pictures. These all came out pretty bad, considering that they were shot in the drizzle and the humidity made everything look like it came out of a Bela Lugosi movie.

If you look really close, you might see a bunch of monarch caterpillars on the small plant on the left. It's late for monarchs to still be in caterpillar form at this date, but the drought pushed everything behind schedule.
Poor T ... we really need to have that third arm growing out of his ear removed.

Speaking of caterpillars, this toothache tree is holding a bunch of these white caterpillars, three of which you can see here. This is an awful picture, but the caterpillars blended in perfectly with the bark. The kids kept spotting more and more of them. When they were touched, they raised bright red antennae and emitted a stench, compared alternately to dirty socks, apples, and something so heinous, and yet unnamed, that it sent my oldest into dry heaves.

Speaking of critters, we happened upon two of these funnel spider webs. On one of them, the hike leader was able to trick the spider into squirting out of her funnel and checking out the vibration. The spider was smarter than we were, however, because she took one look at the stick our leader was using, high-tailed it back into her funnel, and sternly refused to emerge again. I think I heard her say, "Fool me once ..."
If you look really, really hard, you might see a few reddish legs inside the funnel.

While I was hanging back to make sure that a boy who had run behind a bush to pee actually made it back onto the trail, I missed the name of this plant. But I did hear the part about how the Redcoats in the Revolutionary War were dyed (the coats, not the soldiers) using the pigment from this plant (fungus? bug? what the heck is that white stuff?) on the cactus. Clearly, I need to read up on my British textile history. Gosh, those folks must have really wanted their clothes to be bright red enough to be seen so far away that they could be picked off like dodos on the ground.

Wide expanses of the preserve had recently been burned, not necessarily a bad thing. Like one of the hike leaders said, the burns are like the reset button on the computer, giving the ecosystem a hard reboot.

Another burned tree. It was intriguing to see how the landscape was so brilliantly green in the areas that had been burned. Nope, not a bad thing at all.

Tomorrow, back to the grind. But that's okay. At least I won't have to be anywhere at the grizzly time of 9:30. Heck, that's practically the middle of the night!
If you enjoyed this post, you might like Pioneer Girls.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Hold on to Your Kids"

A long time ago - oh, I don’t know, several years, I guess - I stopped reading parenting books. After all, I’d read scores of them. I figured, what was the point? Either I agreed with what they said (so why waste my time?) or what they were touting didn’t mesh with my parenting strategies (so why waste my time?). My kids were older and I was pretty comfortable with what had become my parenting style - nothing I read was likely to shake things up.

Then I decided to become an API leader. As part of that process, I had to read three books, all of which had been published since I stopped reading: Hold On to Your Kids(Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate), Attached at the Heart(Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker), and Nonviolent Communication(Marshall Rosenberg).

So far I’ve finished only one of them, Hold on to Your Kids, and - as much as I hate to admit it - I’m delighted that I was required to read it.

Hold on to Your Kids is not just another parenting book. It’s not just another attachment parenting book. It gives good, solid evidence why staying close to our children and being their “compass point” is so much better than following society’s present-day norm of allowing peers to be our children’s guide. Over the past few generations, our “norm” has flip-flopped so that now we have an entirely skewed vision of what is, indeed, normal and healthy.

Over the last not-so-many years, our society has seen a shift in who should be the center of our children’s lives. Not that long ago, parents or other guiding adults were the anchors that kept our kids centered. But in recent times, that anchor has shifted to the peer group, and that has caused all sorts of problems. The authors explain not only what the problems are but also why they occur, and they give ways to solve the problems and bring our children back to us.

Absolutely missing in peer relationships are unconditional love and acceptance, the desire to nurture, the ability to extend oneself for the sake of the other, the willingness to sacrifice for the growth and development of the other. When we compare peer relationships with parent relationships for what is missing, parents come out looking like saints. The results [of having peers be the guiding force] spell disaster for many children.

Although I would have heartily agreed with the book’s premise before reading it, I would not have had any solid basis on which to place that opinion. So I was thrilled to see the authors give specific reasons why my ideas are right. hehe

Bear with me while I give a long quote, because it ties right into homeschooling and the inevitable “socialization” question:

The belief is that socializing - children spending time with one another - begets socialization: the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings. There is no evidence to support such an assumption, despite its popularity. If socializing with peers led to getting along and to becoming responsible members of society, the more time a child spent with her peers, the better the relating would tend to be. In actual fact, the more children spend time with one another, the less likely they are to get along and the less likely they are to fit into civil society. If we take the socialization assumption to the extreme - to orphanage children, street children, children involved in gangs - the flaw in thinking becomes obvious. If socializing were the key to socialization, gang members and street kids would be model citizens.

The book is definitely worth reading, even though it’s sometimes like wading through a bog. I wish it had been written in a more approachable tone and edited back a bit (there’s quite a bit of repetition), but it’s worth slogging through nonetheless. (Maybe “slogging” is too strong a word.) The information is important enough that in a perfect world it would be accessible to a whole bunch of people, but with its depth it probably loses a goodly number of readers. Too bad.

This is a book that you can leave on your bedside table and pick up when you can read a page or two at a time. No need to sit down and digest the whole thing at once. But I do think it’s worth the effort.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like "Parent/Teen Breakthrough."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Zulu Warriors Right Here in Texas

My own Zulu impi warrior.

Last Friday I decided to take the boys in my co-op class all the way down to South Africa. We talked a bit about the Zulu's history and culture before jumping into our project. (Just a tiny bit, though, as the boys were eager to get to the weaponry.)

I had a bit of a different project in mind for this week ... one that included a shield as well as a spear and club - the whole package, as it were. The process wasn't quite what they were expecting, because the kids were able to do virtually all of the project themselves, so they were happily occupied weaving and gluing. All too frequently, they end up watching (and thus getting distracted) while the adults do the hands-on work after they ask for help out of frustration. This week, though, they seemed to be especially pleased by their creations, knowing that they'd done most of the work themselves.

And they didn't even have to bury them for two days under manure and pound them with stones.

This is what they were supposed to look like.
(Photo from Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)

We started with tracing ...

And cutting ...

And tracing and cutting ...

And more cutting ...

And then my brilliant idea of hardening the supple Corinthian Leather using fabric stiffener.
Let's just say that trying to take a shortcut by using a blow dryer didn't do the trick.
We ended up laying them out on the back porch to dry, where they got, well, a bit stiffer.

Sometimes the help of an adult was necessary, but it was minimal.

Evan didn't mind.
He waited patiently while the helper made the holders for the center support.

One happy impi warrior heads off down the hallway to meet unsuspecting students.

Scared yet?

(Sorry, I'm not feeling too witty or clever tonight, as I think I'm coming down with S's virus from last week. So tonight it's "just the facts, ma'am.")
If you enjoyed this post, you might like Maces, Chain Mail, and 4-Year-Old Knights.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Tonight I'm grateful for telephones. And internet. Telephones and internet that work. For a few days we were without our phone and internet. (Miss me?) Apparently ATT had a major break in the system somewhere and the whole neighborhood was without digital power.

I'm intrigued at the progression of my emotions: first confusion, then dismay, followed closely by outrage. (How can they possibly do this to us? Don't they know that I have blogs to follow and videos of talking cats to watch and clips of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" to laugh at? What about all my loyal blog followers? How will they possibly survive without my witticismness and profoundosity?)

Funny, my emotions quickly ran to relief, at having an excuse not to check my email and keep up on my parenting lists. Then they went to apathy, with an almost palpable desire to stay disconnected from the world.

This is what my kids do for education when we don't have internet access.

So it was with mixed feelings that I came home to find my little brilliant green light blinking to say that all was right with the digital world.

Oh yay!

Oh darn.

Okay. Back to the real world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Odd Thing to Wish For

"Let's keep our fingers crossed," I said to my darling daughter. "Yes, let's," she agreed.

What grand goal were we wishing for? What distant dream?

That her annoying cough, which has had her hacking and wheezing all day, is actually swine flu.

No, I'm not a sadistic mother, waiting second by second until one of my children falls ill, so that I can stand over them with a gruesome grin on my face and a tumbler full of castor oil. No, I'm not a doctor wannabe, hovering day by day for one of my offspring to catch some horrible ailment that I can try my homemade remedies on.

I'm just pragmatic. If the kids get swine flu now while it's in a mild form, I won't have to worry about its later, more severe version. I won't have to decide to get them a new and untested vaccine. And if S gets it now, then perhaps she'll pass it on to H and G so that they can be over it before their trip to the Appalachian Trail next weekend.

So, all of you send us your best wishes, won't you? Wishes for fever, cough, achiness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Thanks a bunch.
If you liked this post, you might enjoy Calling the Cat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Inca Warriors

Last Friday we went back to the 1400s and down to South America. The Inca culture is a fascinating one to study. Unfortunately, I was only able to give kids bits and pieces of the story of the Incas, but my hope is that each of them took one small item of knowledge away.

This week we had nine boys(!), including a recent addition of a soaking-it-all-up preschooler and one eager visitor. No casualties this week!

What would homeschoolers do without hot glue?

An example of our slings and our bolas.

Some of the boys showing off their weapons.

The arsenal of the Inca included such weaponry as slings and bolas, in addition to a number of other weapons. This civilization was unbelievable with what they were able to accomplish, considering that they had no pack animals and no steel to use as tools. They crafted their phenomenal stonework - including the Inca road, which linked together about 25,000 miles of roadway - using fire, water, and wood wedges to cut the stones.

I could write for hours about the Incas, but I won't. I'd encourage you to read about them for yourself if you're so inclined.

I used a number of books to find out about the Incas, including these:

This is one I want to read but haven't:

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Casualties: 1 ... and Counting.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Today I'm grateful for my local AP parenting group. They're some of the strongest, wisest, and most accepting women I know. I'm incredibly fortunate to live in Austin, home of this remarkable group and a place where homeschooling is not only welcome but also encouraged.

I'm one lucky mama.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It Ain't Always Easy, but It's Always Worth It

I got some flak for my blog post on API Speaks yesterday. One of the commenters was taken aback by some of my statements. So I reread my post, and I can certainly see why she might have taken some offense to my opinions.

To someone who had mellow kids, or maybe one child, or perhaps a ton of outside support, or even a group of like-minded moms to vent to, I can see how my words would rankle. She said of my post, "Perhaps it was intended to connect with an audience who finds attachment parenting to be difficult, even painful- but it also encourages the belief that it is normal, and okay, for it to be that way, rather than to find ways that are not painful or uncomfortable."

Well, the truth is, it is normal for it to be that way - at least for some of us, at least sometimes. Some of us have extraordinarily high-needs children who completely tap their reserves, day in and day out. Some of us have several closely spaced children or twins or triplets - and by the end of the day, we're completely "touched out" but still need to be accessible and welcoming to our children. Some of us have ill children, and we have to give and give and give. Some of us work and come home exhausted and still have to provide nurturing touch, when what we want is to have someone touch us in a nurturing way. Some of us are single and have no relief from being "on" all day - and night - long.

And yes, sometimes we pretend - to be patient, because the alternative is to be impatient; to be sensitive, because what we really want is to be left alone at that moment; and to be to be something we're not, especially if what we're feeling is not particularly "attached" at that second. Do we do this all the time? Most of the time? Much of the time? Obviously not, or we couldn't begin to call ourselves attachment parents, and we wouldn't be committed to this type of parenting.

For some of us, being attached is hard at times. Certainly not all the time, and probably not even most of the time.

But here's the deal. I've talked to countless parents who are following AP principles, and doing so with commitment and passion. Virtually every one of those parents finds it difficult at times. And many, many of those think they're the only one.

I can't tell you how many moms have thanked me profusely for letting it all hang out and admitting that I've struggled. They tell me that it actually makes staying committed to their beliefs easier, because they realize that they're not the oddball that they thought they were, that they're not doing it "wrong."

Almost everything we read about attachment parenting is about the positive aspects, the rewards, and the health benefits. And all those things are true. But it can be disheartening - at times - to those of us who are committed to this path but find it to be bumpier than the books let on, especially when we think that we're the only one struggling.

Of course, being attached to your kids is worth it, in so many ways that I can't even begin to express. More and more studies are backing up what AP parents have felt in their hearts all along - that our children are healthier, stronger, happier, and more confident over the long haul. Whether the path is sometimes difficult, sometimes rocky, sometimes steep ... it's the path with the most dazzling view, with the most brilliant sky, with the sweetest fresh air, and with the biggest rewards at the end, and strewn liberally all along the way as well.

So I am thrilled that there are parents out there for whom being an AP parent is easy. I'm elated that, for some, the few difficulties they encounter are easily remedied. For those who struggle occasionally (or even frequently) I just want to be that voice that says, "It's okay. You're human. We all struggle, and we all survive. And it's all worth it."

I must admit that I'm not a touchy-feely writer. In fact, when I first posted to API Speaks I wrote to the volunteer who handles the blog, and I asked her if my style was appropriate. I'm not apologizing; that's just me.

And just for the record, even though the early years were peppered with difficult times (and sometimes the pepper was a bit heavy), I never once was resentful. Never.
If you liked this post, you might enjoy The 8 Principles with Older Kids ... Still Valid?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Struggles of Being Attached: Is It Worth It?

This post is today's blog post on API Speaks, Attachment Parenting International's blog.

Is being an attachment parent worth it? Let’s face it, it can be tough.

I co-slept – with kicking kids who woke up repeatedly during the night, all night long. One night my youngest kicked me in the breast so hard that I developed a massive lump and had to get an emergency mammogram to make sure it wasn’t going to explode or fall off. But the worst thing? I was so sleep deprived that I didn’t even wake up when it happened….
… Our friends who Ferberized their kids boasted about what great sleepers their kids were. “Little Johnny sleeps through the night and doesn’t wake until 8:00. Sometimes I have to wake him up for breakfast!”

I nursed – when my breasts were so sore that I’d have cut them off and hung them on the wall if I’d had the option. Breastfeeding hurt so bad with my middle child that I would start crying as soon as she woke up hungry, even before she latched on…
… My friends would pull out a little bottle, shake some sticky powder into it, and pop a plastic nipple into Little Suzy’s mouth, who happily gulped it down. I even had a friend who had one of those bottles with the long tube attached to the nipple, since she couldn’t even be bothered with holding her baby to eat.

I carried them — my newborns, my toddlers, and my preschoolers for a thousand miles, sometimes more than one kid at a time (thank goodness they were small!). Sometimes one would be in a backpack, one would be in a sling, and one would be on my hip or holding my hand….
… My friends would be (choose one) dragging their kids along by the hand because they didn’t want to cooperate, lugging immensely heavy carseats, or pushing them apathetically along in a stroller.

I responded with sensitivity — well, that is, pretended to be patient, endlessly giving words of reassurance or encouraging mediation, while my inner voice was screaming behind my ears, “Just stop it, already!”…
… My friends would pull their kids behind a fence and give them a swat or two, or maybe put them in time out. Problem solved.

My friends — wonderful, loving, committed, but decidedly non-AP friends — would look at me with a sorry mixture of pity, confusion, and something bordering embarrassment as I stuck to my guns, refusing to spank my kids, punish them, or demean them.

Clearly, some of my friends thought that I was coddling my children, perhaps even dooming them to a life of feeling entitled and being unfulfilled.

But I tried my best to treat my kids with the same respect that I would want. They had just as much value and deserved just as much respect as I did. Why would I want to teach them that the world doesn’t respond to their needs (that is, CIO)? What would be the point of saving myself some discomfort now (okay, let’s admit it, a lot of discomfort) by bottle-feeding when I was perfectly capable of breastfeeding, especially at the expense of their health? How could I tell them to stand up for themselves and not let the world take advantage of them if I treated them like “less than” or if I demeaned or humiliated them? And did I really want my kids to think that I was the absolute authority on everything, so much so that they needed to jump to my every command, lest they be punished?

Nope. I wanted my kids to think for themselves; to know that their parents always had their best interests at heart, even when it wasn’t convenient; to be able to count on their parents to be there when they needed us; and to know without a doubt that their thoughts and opinions were just as valid as mine or their dad’s – or any adult’s.

Was it easy? No, not always, especially at the beginning, especially when what I was doing was so different from my mainstream friends’ strategies.

Now, though, I must say that it’s the easiest and most natural thing imaginable. Today my children know that they’re valued and worthwhile and that they’re the equal of every person on the planet, no matter their age. They’re secure, they enjoy spending time with my husband and me, they enjoy each other, and they’re just plain fun to be around.

My kids, attached to each other ... and their guitars.

My kids, attached to each other ... and their guitars.

And what about my friends’ children? Are they easy? Well adjusted? Self-confident? Still connected to their parents? Some certainly seem to be. But, well … not all of them are. I see many (most?) of them turn to their peers for validation. Some put up a good front at being cooperative and “good” while investing a lot of effort in “getting away” with things behind their parents’ backs. And others bow to authority simply because of the authority’s age or position.

That’s not what I want for my kids. I like to think that the “work” I put into being an attachment parent in the early years is paying off now. After the thousands of hours and hours of effort I spent cosleeping, nursing, playing, talking, listening, comforting, mediating, and just being, I’m seeing the rewards.

And those rewards will last a lifetime.


If you liked this post, you might enjoy What I've Learned As a Parent.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dependence Begets Independence?

Can dependence really give rise to independence? How can that be?

It does seem counterintuitive, doesn't it?

Think about it for a minute. What makes someone independent? I don't mean independent by the current youth standard - not caring, not needing parents, and not being curious ... in short, being apathetic to life. Indeed, those very kids are totally dependent on their peers for validation, so in actuality, not independent at all.

No, I mean independent. Completely secure in who they are, what they believe, and how they act. We've all met them - heck, maybe you're one of them. When I was a young adult, I secretly looked at those people with great awe - those people who dressed in their own style, who held religious or political beliefs distinctly separate from their peers or their family, who forged ahead on their own and without a safety net, and who followed their own, if seemingly outlandish, career paths. I was never comfortable enough in my own skin to be one of those people.

So, I ask again, what makes a person independent? Secure? Willing to go out on their own without a group backing them up?

Let me go out on a limb here and say dependence. If a child starts life being dependent on caring parents, knowing that those parents will be there for him, rain or shine, then he can focus on exploring the world. If he knows that he's going to be loved unconditionally, with all his warts and indiosynchrocies, then he can become secure in who he is. If he learns early on that the world responds to his needs, then he becomes comfortable with being curious and expects that he'll get results from his actions.

If he begins life dependent on loving, caring adults who cherish him for who he is, there is no other path than that of independence in the healthiest meaning of the word.

Isn't that what we want for our kids?
If you liked this post, you might enjoy What We Give Our Kids.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Paralyzed by Inefficiency

Won't you consider donating just a bit of your wisdom to help a poor homeschooling mom?

I need help.

Okay, I admitted it. That's the first step, isn't it?

My plate is huge and full, and I keep eating and eating and it never gets emptier. A ton of side dishes crowd the main entree (read, my family). Heck, sometimes my side dishes cover up my entree so that I have to dig it out.

What with the volunteering, the homeschooling, the writing, my parents - forget any just-for-fun "me" things - I find myself so overloaded as to be paralyzed at times. My list of to-dos is so long that I take one look at it and am stymied. I really feel like I could get a lot done if I were simply more efficient and motivated.

And on top of all that, all of the little life emergencies step in the way and push aside the things I'd planned to do, say ... oh ... sleep, for instance.

Just tonight, for example, I had planned to get to the computer and write some incredibly poignant or hilarious or witty or insightful blog post. Instead, I got waylaid by my darling middle child, who decided she wants to go camping and hiking with H and G this weekend. Great! All that means is that I have to try to find her a pack that she can comfortably carry 25 pounds in for a couple of hours - without spending any money. So I dig out my old backpack from my trip to Europe twenty years ago, and - whaddya know? - the plastic piece that holds on the shoulder straps has rotted away. I spend at least an hour trying to rig the pack (a lost cause) and end up digging out a different, way-too-big pack and loading it down to see if she can carry it.

There goes my writing time. I'm not angry about it, especially since I was doing something for my daughter with the end goal of getting her out on the trail ... indeed I was quite happy to do it. But it's just one example of how my time gets taken up by unexpected do-it-right-nows.

I know we're all busy, and I know that many of us are stressed (I'm not, unless you start asking me about my parents), but lots of folks do a vastly better job than I do at organizing their lives. How do they do it? Are they born organized? Motivated? Naturally well rested? How do they get away from the day-to-day minutiae of life: the laundry, the dishes, the scrapes, the cat puke, and the kid-argument mediation?

Here's what we already have: a housekeeper that comes every other week (not that you can tell 24 hours after she leaves), a detailed schedule for the kids to follow every school day (not that they follow it without badgering), and an incredibly supportive husband who handles way more of his share (and who never complains) ... so I'm pretty sure the problem is me.

Here's exactly what I need: some advice, a plan, or words of wisdom that will help me get over my state of inertia so that I can be productive and relaxed. I have the goals, I have the desire, I have the means, I have the ideas of all the things I want to accomplish ... I just don't have the organization.

Thanks for letting me vent. If you have any words of wisdom, please let me know!

If you liked this post, you might enjoy Great Expectations.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday Quote for the Day

"I was sitting in a giant bowl of virus soup."
--me, after leaving the waiting room of my doctor's office, where I was getting a recheck for bronchitis.

I felt like I needed one of those decontamination showers that they give to workers in nuclear reactors after being exposed to radiation.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy Saturday Quote for the Day, August 22.

Photo of soup by newwavegurly from here

Friday, October 2, 2009

Viking Warriors ... or Aliens?

I've decided that young boys don't much care if armor looks authentic, as long as their weapons are whackable.

Case in point ...

This is a picture of the only helmet ever found that is known to have come from the Viking age, unearthed from a burial mound. (Note the lack of Wagner-style horns.)

The world's only existing Viking Age helmet, from Gjermundbu in Ringerike
(from Kulturhistorisk Museum, Universitetet I Oslo)

From that, I attempted to make a helmet out of aluminum foil, duct tape, and copious amounts of red wine (hey, it was the middle of the night - cut me some slack).

Hand-to-hand combat.

You can see that, ahem, the kids' helmets didn't come out quite the way I envisioned them. They ended up looking more like alien heads than Viking helmets. But did the boys care? Not a whit.

Circling in for the kill.

They cared much more about their Viking axes - which, I must add, were based on actual axes - not some idea that came out of my kitchen drawer. After all, they were able to swing, smack, hit, and chop with them. Fortunately, the axe part was made out of posterboard (the kids got to decide if they wanted to have a "bronze" axe or "steel" one - the posterboard was silver on one side and gold on the other), so there were no decapitations or dismemberments. There was a little hot-glue repair required, however.

Which one will fall? Which one will succumb?

In my defense, I did actually present some educational information: English words from Old Norse, location of Scandinavia, examples of artwork, longboats, Greenland, blah, blah, blah.

Close combat.

In the end, all they cared about was the weapons. After all, the class is called Arms and Armor, right?
If you enjoyed this post, you might like Maces, Chain Mail, and 4-Year-Old Knights.