Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter, Eastre, Estrus?

On the first Sunday after the first new moon in Spring Christians all over the world celebrate the resurrection of Christ. That holiday (holy day) is called Easter Sunday.

But the word, Easter, is derived from a pagan festival called Eastre that was a celebration of fertility. The word is also related to the term, estrus, which means the time when women and many animals are able to become pregnant.

So what do those things have to do with the Christian holiday?

They're all about new life.

Flowers grow from seeds and bloom, rabbits have lots of babies, and eggs are hard objects that look almost like stones, but chicks and baby birds hatch from them. Flowers, bunnies and eggs are all used to celebrate Easter. I can't think of anything in the natural world that would be better able to represent the idea of Jesus, who was dead, coming to life again.

Happy Easter to everyone!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hemlines, Etc.

Back in the historic days of my youth hemlines were important.

"What are hemlines?" some of you may ask.

Well, back then women and girls wore dresses and skirts for work, school, social occasions and even shopping trips to cities. Jeans, slacks, pedal pushers, and the like were reserved for things like playtime, picnics, and working in the garden.

And the proper length of the skirts, or hemline, was determined every year by the fashion industry and shown in all the women's magazines and department store windows. Any girl or woman whose dress was too long or short would be embarrassed to be seen in public.

No, I'm not kidding. It actually was socially unacceptable to wear clothes that were out of style. I'm not just talking about school girls making fun of somebody who didn't have what the popular kids did. Even adults looked down on anyone who had clothing that was too long or short.

It's hard for people now to understand what that was like. The closest example I can give is to say it was sort of like being politically incorrect today.

And women and girls who went to church on Easter Sunday, which included nearly everyone who wasn't Jewish or a member of another religion, wore a new dress that day. And, of course, ladies always wore hats to church so they'd have a new one of those on Easter, too.

My mother and everyone I knew would be horrified to know that I plan to wear slacks to church on Easter Sunday, and I won't even wear a hat. How shameful! ;-)

Saturday, March 23, 2013


I was a skinny kid.

Either my allergies or asthma medicine made lots of foods taste terrible, so I couldn't stand to eat them and eventually developed scurvy, a form of malnutrition caused by vitamin C deficiency.

Back then there were no clothes sizes for people who weighed more or less than the average, so I usually had to use safety pins to hold up my skirts and blue jeans.

And I got teased all the time by other kids for being skinny.

Even as a teenager and young adult I was thinner than most people, and got teased a lot, especially by overweight people. I never teased anyone about their weight, but they probably did get criticized and made fun of for being fat by others.

Finally, in my early 40s, I got up to what the medical charts say I should weigh.

But I always notice when I see or hear other people getting criticized or teased about their weight and it's far more likely that adults will make comments about others who are underweight than overweight. We all know it's rude to call people fat, but it's equally rude to say someone is skinny.

Yes, being extremely under or over weight can cause health problems (and is often caused by health problems) but people with those conditions are aware of them and don't need to be reminded.

Please, everyone, grow up and quit what amounts to verbal bullying.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Arachnabet, an Alphabet of Spiders

Arachnabet, an Alphabet of Spiders by Tracey M. Cox is an unusual book. It's a picture alphabet book, and those are usually intended for little kids. However the pictures in this book are photos of various kinds of spiders and their habitats, and the book is full of scientific information.

No wonder the age span of intended readers is from five to twelve years old. In fact I'm a grown up, and I found the book fascinating. and learned things I'd never known before. Some of the scientific names may be a bit challenging for younger readers, but they'll probably still enjoy the book and feel proud of being able to use that vocabulary.

The photos are beautiful, fascinating and, for most kids, not scary. In fact, some people who are afraid of spiders might find reading this book helps them get over that fear.

The information about spiders that goes with each alphabet letter is just enough to make readers want to learn more, and more is provided in the Taking a Closer Look section at the back of the book.

Kids will find this book helpful for school projects and any of them who are interested in science and nature will enjoy reading it just for fun.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wearing of the Green

On March 17th we celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. Not a lot is known about that famous saint except that he lived in the fifth century AD, was a slave in Ireland, escaped, and later returned there and became a bishop. Most other information about him is controversial and scholars don't agree about it.

But here in America Saint Patrick's Day seems to be largely about Leprechauns, shamrocks, and the color, green.

Why is that?

Well, Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, legends say he used the three-leaf clover (shamrock) to explain the concept of the Trinity, green is the main color on the Irish flag, and leprechauns are part of the Irish culture.

Basically, for those of us who aren't members of the Catholic church, this holiday is about Ireland. In schools kids learn a little about that country before the holiday and people of Irish heritage celebrate that.

When I was a kid anyone who didn't wear green on Saint Patrick's day would be pinched by other kids, who'd say a leprechaun had done it.

So be sure to wear something green on Saint Patrick's Day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Time Change

Tonight in California we'll be setting our clocks ahead one hour. Some, like the ones on cell phones and computers, will change themselves automatically, but most of us will need to manually change the clocks on stoves, microwaves, alarm clocks, watches, etc.

This whole daylight savings time thing seems strange to me.

It's supposed to save energy by making people go to bed an hour earlier. That might have made a big difference in the 1940s when most people worked from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and stores and businesses weren't open in the evenings. But today so many people are working, shopping, etc. at all hours I wonder if changing the clocks really makes much difference in energy usage at all.

Many countries don't have Daylight Savings Time. In the US different states and, in some cases parts of states,  have different dates for the time changes. That means it can be difficult to know if it's too late to phone a friend or relative who lives far away.

And a few years ago where I live they changed the dates of Daylight Savings Time to start earlier and end later in the year. Maybe if it really does save energy one of these days we'll be required to be on Daylight Savings Time all year long.

If you live where the time change happens tonight, don't forget to change your clocks before you go to bed.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pets and Kids

I've always loved animals. When I was a kid my mother used to call me "the little mother of all the world" because I was so tender hearted I didn't even like to kill bugs.

But my mother wasn't fond of animals, so when I was little the only pets I was allowed to have were fish, and they're not exactly snuggly.

Later I was allowed to have a hamster and, finally, to accept a cat some kids had adopted while they spent the summer in the cabin next to ours when they went back to their real home. The cat was a male, but I hoped to talk him into having kittens so I named him Suzie.

However my mother insisted the cat could never be in the house at night or when nobody was home, and he could only be on the furniture if he were on somebody's lap. And I had to agree that if he got sick we couldn't take him to the vet because we couldn't afford it.

Of course as an adult I've had lots of pets, but the ones I had as a kid have been a big influence on my life.

Although the creatures can't really understand much of our language, some of them can recognize our emotions and will 'listen' when kids need to unload their feelings. And the animals are always there to show affection. 

While some families can't have animals with fur or feathers because of allergies, even reptiles, spiders or fish can help kids learn to accept responsibilities.

I think caring for pets is an important way to help children grow up to be caring adults.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Gatsby's Grand Adventures

Winslow Homer's famous painting, Snap the Whip, portrays boys playing a game that was popular with kids over 100 years ago. In this book for kids Gatsby the cat has the magical ability to jump into paintings at night. But if he doesn't get back into his own world before dawn, the art will be changed and that's what happens in Snap the Whip. Gatsby tries several times to return into the painting and correct the changes that happened because of his visits, but keeps being delayed by his adventures until it's too late.

The author, Barbara Cairns, does a wonderful job of getting kids interested in this famous work of art and young readers from seven to twelve years old will enjoy the book. There's interesting information about the Winslow Homer that can be used in school reports at the end.

The illustrations by Eugene Ruble add to the charm and will encourage younger kids to enjoy hearing the story read aloud.

I have a feeling Gatsby's Grand Adventures is only the first book about this magical cat.