Ms Big Bird

After one of my children’s classes this week I went on a walk with some of the kids to the local rec-center. This is just part of my need to walk the baby, but it’s also great to hang out with the kids in the neighborhood. Anyway, while we were walking by the King Center, the kids told me about their “Goodness Class” that they have every Friday night at the King Center.

“Tell me about this class.”
“We talk about good things, and God.”
“Who is your teacher?”
“Miss Big Bird.”

Well I just stopped in my tracks.  I have heard of Miss Big Bird before, though I have never actually met her. From what I can surmise, in the years that we’ve been here, she teaches kids about Jesus and she helps them with their homework.

“Does she talk about God or does she talk about Jesus?”
“It’s the same thing, right?”
“Yes, it is, but sometimes it might not be. I don’t always talk about Jesus in my class do I? Though we do talk about our love for all the Manifestations of God”
“We always talk about Jesus.”

There are two really interesting aspects of this. One, Miss Big Bird’s penetration. She has encountered several of the kids that we have worked with. How does she meet them? I have heard she has another helper, but beyond that I wonder if she’s associated with a church or school. How does she meet all these kids?

The other interesting aspect is the fact that she’s using the King Center on a weekly basis. From what I understand, private organizations cannot rent spaces regularly. If it happens to be open, then they can organize something that week. But it cannot be an ongoing thing. Unless the city is giving preferential treatment to this organization.

I plan on investigating more about this tomorrow at the actual Big Bird Class!

photo 1 (1) photo 2 (3)

After all that, we came back to cuddle with dogs and feed Soleia pureed beets and blueberries and string cheese.  It was a great class.

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Educating Women

“In this day man must investigate reality impartially and without prejudice in order to reach the true knowledge and conclusions. What, then, constitutes the inequality between man and woman? Both are human. In powers and function each is the complement of the other. At most it is this: that woman has been denied the opportunities which man has so long enjoyed, especially the privilege of education….” – `Abdu’l-Bahá

There is a lot of buzz around the word feminism now and I’m not entirely sure why. It has never seem to be a dirty word in my head or around the people I surrounded myself for. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were not super heroes because what they were saying made perfect sense to me and I just took what they did for granted. And even attending Smith College made me somehwhat ignorant of the problems that surround other schools in being “old boy clubs.”

So I am bemused that the plight of women in so terrible today. How does educating women, paying them equal pay, promoting them to positions of power not make sense to people?

I took some of the local girls from the neighborhood to an event that Smith held about getting into selective colleges. Two of the girls are bright freshmen in high school, and two are amazingly bright seniors applying to school now. I hope that all four consider Smith seriously, as it is an amazing place to ensure women feel competent next to people in power. Smith College Event

These girls were the only Latinos at the event. It was predominantly Caucasian and Asian, though there was one young  African American family.

One question that I posed to the dean of admissions  was what does it mean that Smith is aid-conscious. She explained that they admit the 1200-1500 students, and then start taking qualified applicants who cannot pay and replace them with people from the waitlist who can afford it. She did say that the students they will protect more were legacy (mother and sister fellow students) as well as students of color. The admissions committee is more likely to forsake talented artists, athletes and legacy through grandmothers. This made me happy to hear as I think about the young girls from my neighborhood who already have so many challenges in their lives at school and at home.

Neighborhood relationships

“You know well that the habits of mind and spirit that you are nurturing in yourselves and others will endure, influencing decisions of consequence that relate to marriage, family, study, work, even where to live.” – Universal House of Justice, July 1 2013

 

 

walking to mi rancho

One aspect of working with the people you live close to is the fact that your life cannot exist without interacting with them. Of course this will depend on the neighborhood and how much effort one puts into meeting your neighbors. But in our case, since we know so many, nearly every aspect of life is surrounded by the people we serve with.
The squid tree

I was on my way to the local grocery store to buy plantains and beans when I was approached by Salvador and Brandon. They were sad they couldn’t come hang out at my house since I was gone, but were happy to come along with me. The walk over, they were talking about their memories of being with me.  “Remember that time you were driving with us and I said ‘you’re just a white lady with four Mexican kids? or “remember that time we went to the farm and picked strawberries? and the time we went to santa cruz? can we go again please?”Boy sleepover

 

Two of the boys slept over on Thursday night. They’re in a year round program so that this is actually their fall break. Brandon does not live as close to us anymore, so it was nice to have him back with us again.

“Can you help get Eli out of my bed, Kevin?”
Eli takes over the bed

“Can you help get Kevin out of my bed, Selena?”Kevin takes over Eli Soleia and her big brothers Selfie! Free ice cream

 

 

Night Walks

photo (1)

One of the interesting aspects of our neighborhood has come to light to me only recently. When Soleia was just born, it was so easy to stay confined to our house and entertain her with her toys here. Now she gets bored so quickly and taking walks is essential for her happiness.

These walks have been amazing (though I may be developing some minor back pains due to use of the baby bjorn). I walk to the King Center and around the streets where we have different groups and classes. I talk to lots of people who I have met over the years. And Soleia gets to play in the swing.

photo (3)

Kevin and I feel like we’re in a bit of a crisis. He and I, as well as a few others, are maintaining a number of activities, but it still feels like we are far from growing them more. We felt invigorated after the walk and running into so many of our friends. It’s a confirmation to see so many people we are connected with so easily. On the way back home we met with a family (father+mother+jy+child) who used to come to the children’s class back when Ruth Breton was assisting the activities here. It turns out the family is Salvdorian from Santa Ana. They invited us to a weekly session they have to share their church’s belief.  I remember when we were doing the classes with their family, the mother felt uncomfortable since she did not know if her husband would approve of our Ruhi Book 3 lessons. I believe their church is up in San Bruno. It was interesting the way this man described his church. He says it’s more “independent” than the other churches in this neighborhood. I can only assume that means smaller.  He told me that my daughter needed more God in her life….  Such casual affronts at people’s life styfles cannot possibly be effective in recruiting people to your belief system.  We said our goodbyes and talked about the different confirmations we have seen over the years and this night.photo (2)

Homemade nutella

In my Monday Junior Youth Group we gathered and said prayers like usual… and then made homemade nutella!

It was a healthier version, one that I found on the detoxinista website.

Basically roasted hazelnuts, water, cocoa, coconut oil and coconut sugar. The boys had a great time. It was definitely healthier tasting so it was a challenge to agree this was a good thing compared to the jarred nutella, but I loved it.

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Re-introducing our lives

Today is an abnormal day on the homefront. It’s mid October and just cooling down from an incredibly hot few days. That’s not what is very strange. Today, on a very rare treat, my husband has stayed home from work.  He works at a Tech startup that I’m a big fan of, though it can be very stressful for him. So stressful that he often collapses at 8pm, a few minutes after he gets home.

Of course, that’s not the most stressful part of his life. He also teaches Advance Placement Computer Science at our local high school in the neighborhood. It’s part of a new initiative to bring APCS to high schools in Silicon Valley. You would think it would be ubiquitous here, but alas it is not. He wakes up three mornings a week and teaches for 90 minutes, plus lesson plans and grades and does office hours at a local restaurant. The other two mornings he works out.

But he is home today and I’m taking advantage of it by working next to him as much as possible. That also included a 20 minute nap while he worked in bed.

getting work done

All the while our cleaning lady is here and nanny and her three daughters. It’s a full house.

Speaking of full house, since I last wrote we added another member to our family.  Meet Soleia.

so sleepy

Because of her I am inspired to share the adventures of our home-front pioneering life again. All the baby fun, neighborhood adventures and good times we have as a community.  She is awake so I will write more later.

When you stop breathing in front of your children…

Today we had an incredible scare. Our nanny, Eydi, was here with her three daughters. The oldest was holding Soleia while I was working on cards in the back room. I came to the front of the house to recycle some paper and Eydi turned towards me and she was completely blue. She couldn’t breathe, and I didn’t know what was wrong. Her eldest came up to her and she started crying, while calling 911 and holding Soleia. I hit her back and ran to get my own phone. It was about a minute before she started breathing again. We were able to cancel the ambulance and everything was “fine,” but everyone was crying.

Eydi as a serious health condition, of which she seems to be doing fine in. I will write more about that later, but part of the reason Kevin and I wanted her to help with our daughter was because of how well her family has done facing such terrible conditions. In my mother groups I hear such awful stories about nannies and baby sitters, and I am so blessed to have someone I love so much take care of Soleia with us.

It is a tough week because the eldest daughter is also to go into surgery this week.  We will continue to say prayers for this beautiful family.

The Difference Between American JYG and the Rest of the World

I have a bad habit of only taking pictures of dogs and not of the kids who come to the core activities.  At least I have really cute puppies.

One thing that I have found interesting is how hard it is to have junior youth groups in the United States.  We hear glorious stories around the world about how the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program has taken off and these young ones have taken off and are arising to serve.  Yet in the United States, we are not seeing the same growth.  At times I have wondered if it is the animators who work with these youth.  Are we the ones incapable of really striking a chord with them? Are we misdirecting their energies so that they do not want to be part of this world-wide movement of change?

I heard a story once from the Southwestern Regional Assistant for Junior Youth Groups about a man from Africa (I think it was Cameroon or some other country in the West). He apparently had groups of 50 or more kids where he was from.  He came to the US and was eager to serve, especially when he heard that groups here were only about 10.  After a few groups meetings he said that he had never managed groups so difficult to manage.

What about our American society makes kids more disruptive and unwilling to grow up and take on more responsibility? It reminds me of this article my friend Amanda shared on her facebook.  Why are American Kids So Spoiled?

Today we had 6 girls over for Junior Youth Group, and of course Amelia was here to help.  When Kevin came home from work today he asked her how it went.  She said “it was interesting…” and I replied they were good today.  Amelia said “Wow, really? They were so crazy!”

Of course, I have seen groups of children in China.  They are so much better behave than groups of kids here.  But why is that?

In our group today once we were all gathered we had an interesting conversation about how certain people in the neighborhood see the Baha’is.  One girl mentioned that there was a woman in the neighborhood who is Chinese and Christian named Miss Big Bird. I checked with the girls that they weren’t making fun of her and that was her actual name.  They said that she has classes at their home every week where they sing songs and learn about virtues for the kids.  Apparently one of the junior youth told her that the  “Baha’i classes are more fun.”  Lupita, the one who was talking about Miss Big Bird, went on to say how many things were bothered by the other woman.  I should point out Lupita is a JY but she has assisted with children’s classes before.

I didn’t want to create disunity with others serving in the neighborhood, and I didn’t want Lupita thinking that the services we are trying to do are different.  I tried to change the subject to focus on our own qualities and how we can improve ourselves using everything we know.  I also wanted to point out that the classes were for everyone no matter what they believe, and we happen to be Baha’i but people who are not are welcome to learn with us.

We know that when the Baha’is are making an impact, people will rise up against what we are doing.  I’ve heard only a few stories of individuals in the neighborhood saying things against us.  It seems that these kids so far are happy to be with us and do not pay attention to what others say about the activities.  I pray for their strength and steadfastness against peer pressure and the pressures of the society around them.

Somedays I just forget to take pictures….

Kevin had an all-hands meeting at his work today.  I don’t know the details of it, but it sounds as if half the company is being let go.  The CEO said at the rate that they’re going, the company will run out of money by December 2013.  Everyone who is staying needs to come up with new product ideas to help get sales higher.  Kevin was supposed to come to JYG at Santa Inez today, but he didn’t think it would be a good idea to leave right after such a harsh announcement.  He will probably need to start working on side projects more now.

I had a great day with some Junior Youth in the neighborhood.  Aaron came and we took three girls and a a boy over to our house.  We read from Breezes of Confirmation and talked about what a world would look like when we prefer others before ourselves.  I think I want to plan an activity for next week that will involve students to come up with how they should respond in certain situations if 1) they prefer themselves over others, 2)they treat each other equally and 3) they prefer others over themselves.

There was also an art project that I saw from some friends on facebook in a neighborhood called Summit in Pasadena.  It involved making a paper-mache globe and writing on it:

Ye were created to show love to one another…”
(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)

Little events in the daily life of the neighborhood make it so enjoyable to live and work here.  We took the junior youth to the local grocery store to treat the group in honor of a member’s birthday, and there I came across four children from my children’s class.  Three of them related and one there separately.  They were so excited to see me and I offered to buy everyone a little treat at the store.  This consisted of either ice cream or hot cheetos (which I have very sad feelings hout).  I think the people at La Hacienda were confused as to why all these kids were surrounding the cash register, but it was such a nice moment.

I’ll leave you with the one picture that I took from today.  It is of Nike, a dog from my doggy daycare business.

Nike

Monday Hangout Day

Though I yearn for the day the junior youth can plan and execute a service project on their own, I have to admit we are not there.  There was a lot of preparation on our part to make sure that it was a success.  And even though we tried to prepare, it was quite evident that the success of it was based on the help from the Blessed Beauty.  Certain things just worked out really well, though we did not plan for it.

Today I got back to normal life.  Bought groceries, made a real meal for dinner, worked on my company website and played with the kids in the neighborhood.

One activity that one of the kids is really fond of Chess.  We have gotten a few boys to learn the game, and so far the girls have shied away from it.  I happen to be learning along side them, so we are pretty evenly matched witch is good.  This boy who came over today is the most considerate chess player I have ever met besides Kevin.  He lets me know when I’m making a bad mood, and it tells me he’s sorry when he gets one of my pieces.