Monday, August 9, 2010

What do Beavers, Dolphins, Owls, Foxes and the Simpson's all have in Common?

It sounds a little bit like the animals on the Chinese calendar. By the way, I'm always so pleased to discover that I'm a rat. You don't need a calendar to tell you that. Or maybe, I'm talking about some strange horoscope? Give up?

Today, after a half hour of Miley Cyrus in Hannah Montana with dutch subtitles, we brought out Les Simpson, Totalement Dejantes. I bought it from the bookstore called 'Club' in Wavre Belgium. We went there on a special trip Saturday in search of some fun French books to have around the house. The idea being that we could use it as one of our study pieces in a sort of fun fashion with context, imagery and familiar settings.

We bought the book Saturday, and every night, after watching whatever T.V. the kids pick (I don't want them watching too much, and definitely, I don't want them watching it last thing before bed, thanks to a little advice from 'A New Earth' by Eckhart Tolle), we sit down to the Simpson's in French.

The idea is, if we go through it in a comprehensible fashion, pacing ourselves to words we all understand, and using our elementary French, piece by piece, we will slowly begin to understand more and more of the book. Whenever we encounter a word or phrase that we don't understand, first we try to figure it out using the context. If that doesn't work, then we ask Google or 'My French Coach'. Then we also write down the words right on the page. Soon, the page begins to fill up with translation all over the place. Hayden likens it to National Treasure. Cue theme to National Treasure, or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Tonight, Hayden and Logan dig right in to the exercise. Shea starts off pretty enthusiastically, looking up every single word. Even the teeniest of words like de and le... which is perfectly fine, expected, hoped for and promising, because everyone starts somewhere. But rather quickly, she begins to fiddle and wish she were somewhere else. She slowly inches off of the couch to do something else. I allow it, just to see what she's up to. She has that look of, "A girl of my brilliance and creativity can't really be troubled with such tedium." It's probably true. I pull her back in. Now I'm losing Logan. "I can't do this from behind your back dad." That's probably true too. I have but one book, and the whole family is trying to look at it over my shoulder. Much better might be to have several copies of the book, or little teams working on different books together.

By the end of tonight's exercise, it seems clear that while this exercise works well for me and Hayden, and Logan, it isn't so productive for Shea and Colleen. We went through one caption in about 1/2 hour. It read something about Homer watching a T.V. game show in which the contestants dunked their heads in a water tank with dollar bills floating around. Pretty funny stuff, but it was getting clear that we had better break soon, or mutiny would occur.

I suggested that better behavior and respect was expected. I got too frustrated, and took too much of my frustration out on my kids. I suggested a short break for ice cream, to be followed by more.

When our break finished though, I didn't pick up the book. An Improv idea filled my head. I played one of the French audio lessons I brought along that led us through some simple French conversations. After running through it a couple of times, I recommended that we adjourn to the stage! Shea? you are Ms. Isabel. Hayden? you are Pierre. Please play your roles kind of like you heard it on the tape. if you do, you get a Disney pin from Carrefour (a local grocery store).

Shea lit up immediately. Now this was more like it. Finally a challenge worth paying attention to. Conversational French began bouncing out of Shea. I was delighted. Shea and Hayden began to talk all about the French conversation. Logan too. I couldn't believe it.

I brought out my iphone to record the event. When Shea discovered that the camera was on, and that she would be featured on my Facebook page, her French began to form. Her Rs began to roll in the back of her throat and her lips even began to purse together in typical french fashion. Her arms and hands began to gesture like a curly moustached, beret wearing french painter. Hayden as well.

So, what does this have to do with Beavers, Dolphins, Owls and Foxes? Have patience. I will be there in one more moment. I must complete the setup here.

I couldn't believe the change in Shea. This was one of those moments when I could tell I had learned something significant, and I had better take a moment to process, discuss and discover what it was that I had discovered, else it could be lost, possibly never encountered again. In this moment, I began to glimpse a way of reaching Shea. Shea has been neglecting her French studies, almost entirely if possible, to where she has been on lesson 8 & 9 for over two or three months, while her brothers raced past lesson 70 weeks ago.

But Shea is on fire. She is asking questions, and rehearsing key French phrases. Somehow, I have appealed to her learning style, or perhaps I have succeeded in not insulting her sense of self and sense of style. I don't know for sure, but what I did know, is that I need to continue on this path to guide her away from a life of living for watching T.V. to a life of creativity, cultural engagement and social connectivity.

What could it be? I felt I must know... but it might take a while. Most things do...

We put the kids to bed, tucked them in, and returned to our almost nightly (and daily) ritual of researching local schools and houses & apartments for rent. Until we settle this, I think we will not be able to settle down and feel at ease. After some study side by side, Colleen and I, Colleen sounded excited.

"This is so me!" She said. "This reminds me of Shea." "What could she be studying?" I thought to myself. I looked at her glowing screen to read the words she was connecting with:

The road children take to acquire knowledge is intrinsic to their personality. Now let’s see if you can recognize your child’s (and your own) learning style:


Beavers love to go about their work in a methodological way. They are consistent, like lists, adhere to the timeframe, do as you ask and feel comfortable within a framework.

They are challenged when they are required to come up with innovative ideas, creative concepts and open-ended questions. It irritates them when others frolic around and do not seem to be responsible for a solid outcome.


Dolphins are very much in tune with the emotional life of others, they like to assist, help where they can and often have a very positive influence on a group. Their work is colourful, unique and well cared for.

Due to their eye for detail, adhering to a time frame can be a challenge. They love brainteasers but dislike memorization and tedious study that needs drilling. Those boring questions do not deserve their energy.


Give them knowledge! They are deeply interested in the functioning of the earth, mechanics, and the sciences in general. Knowing why and how phenomena take place absorbs their thinking. A deep, individual concentration assists their hunger for facts.

Needing to be a team member or even a leader can be a source of great stress. They like to be left alone and are often not aware of the needs of others. Social interaction seems a waste of time, keeping him/her away from the more important things in life.


The fox is quick. They are multi task people, who know what others are going to say. They are keen and witty and understand concepts very fast. Give the fox a problem and solutions are found very fast.

Give the fox a book or series of calculations to work through and you will have a minimal response. They need to be able to wander on new roads, tease their mind and be innovative. Otherwise they will switch off and classify the surrounding as boring and uninteresting.
We found this on an International Montessori School website describing learning styles. Colleen identified with the Beaver, and matched Shea with the Dolphin. After reading the Fox, Hayden's experience with so quickly boring in Kindergarten surfaced to our recollections and both of us matched Logan to the Owl. That boy constantly requests the T.V. be turned on to watch documentaries. "Oh, I love these science shows!" Its quite a hoot.

Knowing these different learning styles may enable Colleen and I to recognize and use more effective teaching methods with our children. In turn, we may enjoy ourselves with them more, and them with us as well.

So, what do Beavers, Dolphins, Owls and Foxes all have in common? Well, I just found out, that they are all members of my family that I have been ignoring to some extent, missing out on some very creative moments. These four animals represent a starting point to a more positive and engaging life experience for me and my kids. these three animals have brought an interesting element to planning my evenings of study with my kids. Of course, not forgetting about T.V. but with the help of Dr. Tolle, putting it into the right perspective. Providing some context for new views, opening your eyes, and active engagement with your surroundings. I look forward to the sessions to come.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First impressions.

As some of you may know through the grapevine and personal acquaintance, I have moved my family to a small town in Belgium, called Leuven. We are making ourselves an experiment. Some of you may recall my post involving Dublin's Church Bar, some of you didn't quite like it, while others did. In order to test out the hypothesis, I just had to come and live in Europe to see if it is true.

Turns out, it isn't as true as I had originally thought, but probably true enough. Of course, every town has a giant early period Church building, to show its dedication to God, through a very large edifice that all of the people can see. Remarkably, the city hall in Leuven resembles the Salt Lake Temple.

And when going to school, you have the choice at primary school age to choose a course in religion or morality. Most of the schools are still sponsored or at least called Catholic Schools.

The folks who own the home we are staying in (Very nice couple by the way. Wish I could meet them in person. Perhaps someday soon I will) were married ecclesiastically, though I see little or no sign of religious devotion in the home.

In any case, we are here, and having a time of it. The learning curve seems to be high. We have a lot to learn. I spent around EUR$250 on my first grocery shopping trip. EUR$8 for a four pack of AA duracell batteries. And I forgot to bring a US Power strip to leverage a US / European Power adapter. They wanted EUR$40 for a power adapter. I couldn't believe it. Luckily, I found two in the bargain bin at EUR$5.

Today, we went to the North Sea Beach near Brugges. We thought the weather might be too cold and windy but it proved to be fantastic. There are no waves there and the sand is smooth as powdered sugar. Plenty of other people had the same idea, and there were folks speaking all sorts of languages, although, I didn't see too many speaking English (I heard none, Colleen says she heard one).

Some of you following my Facebook request may have also noted this dilemma. To try and save money, we investigated sabbatical homes for rent. One of the homes we are investigating sits 30 km south of Leuven, in the Walloon district of Belgium. It offers spacious country living, attendance at a small French School and very reasonable rent. I keep thinking of Disney's the Beauty and the Beast. A small provincial town...

Colleen and met with the owner and some of his family on Friday. They were delightful folks. The kind of folks you would just love to know under any circumstances. Their daughter asked Shea and Hayden if they would like to play with her while we discussed somethings on the back patio, sipping cold bubbly water.

We followed that up, visiting with the local school director. For all of their privacy, I don't mention their names. He generously invited us into his office (on a particularly hot day in Belgium) and offered us all of the help we could ask for.

After much consideration, and input from many of you, it looks like this is where we'll be headed. Thank you all for the input.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It will get better

Dear Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes. I'm reading your blog as a mirror into my past today. It will get better. I love Imagine. Its now my theme song. I never really got it when I was a kid... But now its lyrics tunnel deep into my soul and resonate 'every fiber of my being'.

Its awesome that you still have your husband and kids. I find that to be somewhat true for me too. It makes me wonder what I really had before? My kids and Colleen are so close now. We are free to discuss whatever we want to, and that is amazing. Nice to meet you.

in reference to:

"cal explanati"
- The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Giving Aid to Haiti

OK, OK, I know that only believers are supposed to be charitable, and I've tried to resist the temptation to give in to my humanity. As much as I have struggled to resist the temptation, I could no longer resist. I have donated to the international Red Cross and Doctors without borders.

Won't you take a minute to help the Red Cross or Doctors without borders too?

Follow the link on this page, or choose a different route. There are so many ways to get your money there.


in reference to: Skeptic » eSkeptic » Sunday, January 17th, 2010 (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Missing Modern Myths

From my understanding and interpretation of the great mythologist Joseph Campbell, with the death of the ritual to thrust the young human into society, this soul never gains part into the tribe. Our ancestors created myths to transcend the mundane, but to also spirit its members into the group of the societal whole.

Joseph Campbell - The First Storytellers (3 of 6)

R-CANE-1 | MySpace Video

Mormons maintain these rituals and the society of the Mormon youth is strong. Many other religions are beginning to lose this society center from their intrinsic being, and no sense of development as part of the group exists there. This production creates a member without regard to the other humans because the other humans are simply other creatures. They become competitors that should be destroyed. They cease to represent fellow deities pursuing happiness inside of the societal network.

These myths, however, must progress. They must evolve to capture the world of the creatures, machines and culture that they exist to support. Just as it doesn't make sense for 17th century Native American man to model his life after the myths of the Greek Gods, or of the Norse God Odin, it makes less and less sense with the passing of time and the development of new machines and environments for a man of this 20th century to model his life after the christian religious myths of the 17th, 18th or even the 19th century just gone by.

New myths are needed for new times. New rituals, myths and rites are needed to model the pathways of ourselves and our children through the new modern trials of corporations, private schools, video games, evolving family structures and the increasingly complex and interconnectedness of the societies living together here on planet earth.

As Mr. Joseph Campbell mentioned in his interview with Bill Moyer in "The Storytellers", new myths must be created, and it is the artists that will create them. Its the painters, musicians, poets, writers and playwrights. It will also be the new media artists of our time that begin to shape the myths we will depend for our future. Video Game developers, Movie writers, social media sites and the unknown media artist forms still to come.

The evidence of the loss and failure to evolve and adapt of such rituals exists in the pages of the newspapers. As creatures desiring to transcend the mundane and create a world with mutual respect and peace, we must practice, share and sponsor art so that the missing myths of our time have the fertile soil to germinate, sprout and flourish to save our dying cultures.

But learning to paint and play the piano will not be enough. We must learn to appreciate the vastly varied art forms that surround us, and resonate through the cultural fringe lines separating the increasingly disparate cultural groups even within our own smaller spheres of towns, neighborhoods, family clans, cities, states, countries and the entire world. The cultures of our past must be understood to understand the underpinnings of the new myths that have yet to arise, and the understanding and love of art in all its forms must be developed further and in broader scopes for there to be any hope of the intrinsically essential new myths to overcome the outdated myths of the past.

The new myths will have to overcome so many obstacles to exist. Many of the old myths embraced the supernatural to model the transcendental to the jeopardy of the peace between the followers and adopters of the competing world mythologies such as Christianity and Islam. Many of the old myths accepted by billions of people have claimed unquestioning superiority and unchanging righteousness making the required evolutions and germinations of myth nearly impossibly challenging to realize.

The new myths will have to take forms in ways that find new ways to transcend the mundane without invoking deity. Or explicitly stating the metaphorical state of deity rather than the metaphysical. Can humanity embrace a myth that doesn't claim the metaphysical and supernatural? Can humans model their lives into transcendence using heroes and elements from the mundane?

Perhaps this is the reason why our myths are so out of date.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The God Metaphor

God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.
-- Joseph Campbell

After leaving Mormonism, much of my struggle has been to organize enough of my beliefs to understand what it is that I'm listening to in my inner communications with myself.

Mr. Campbell's metaphor referring to God as that metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought continues to resonate within my scope of thinking about God.

In my daily dialogs with so many people on this pathway to further intellectual daylight, I continually run into this question: "What now?"

This question includes, what should I do now, what should I read now, and what should I believe now. I love they idea of taking the concept of God as the level of mindfulness that we may aspire to, but possibly never reach. God is that nonverbal understanding we may have of the life we desire, the meaning we crave.

Saying prayers to that God would enable the level of intellectual honesty and self introspection necessary for transcendent meaningful life.... Or at least it could aspire thereto. With this kind of God, perhaps I can begin to pray again with my family. I do pray for them, in my heart, everyday, but I can't pray to a non-existent being... But I could pray to this metaphorical god that would be contained on the transcendental borderlands of my mortal sorry synapses.

in reference to: Joseph Campbell Quotes (view on Google Sidewiki)