Saturday, March 31, 2012

Right Now

My first Swiss pan de chocolate in almost 20 years. Pure bliss!


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Italy Day #1

Well, I had intended to be blogging almost every day and now an entire week has gone by! Flew by, really. After some delays, we made it to Geneva, Switzerland, and I got to see my dear, dear friend from college Elizabeth. We haven't seen each other in almost 7 years, but it really feels like no time has past. Almost like we are still 19. My kids adore her kids (guess the kids don't make it feel like we are still 19...), and it is all heavenly. But I'll write about Switzerland later this week, as we only stayed over one night before heading for Italy.

Our plans for this last week were still up in the air when we arrived. We were pretty sure we wanted to go somewhere in Italy. Venice ended up being too far to travel in the few days we had. My friend and tennis partner Jordana had recommended the Cinque Terre, and that ended up being the perfect choice.

Matt rented a car for us. It was a 5 hour drive but didn't seem like that as we went into the alps, through the Mount Blanc tunnel and into Italy. The drive through Val d'Aousta was spectacular. Pointing out castles to each other started out fun but soon became mundane. Oh, look! ANOTHER castle! We also drove through more tunnels than any of us have been through in our life... combined!

We arrived in Monterosso early enough to check in, walk the town a bit and get a recommendation for dinner. Monterosso (and Vernazza, the next town over) was hit with flooding and mudslides in October. There was a decent bit of construction going on, but it was easy to see the charm beneath.

Walking the edge of Monterosso


Dipping toes in the Mediterranean


Jack was fascinated with the reconstruction efforts


We stayed at Hotel Pasquele in Monterosso. We had originally intended to just spend one night but extended to all 3 nights. The hotel is built into the rock cliff, and they have exposed rock all through the hotel. Really charming. I loved that the shutters opened out and the windows opened wide (I'm ready to convert my windows in Colorado...), and we had an amazing view of the Mediterranean.

Looking out our hotel window


We had a pizza dinner at Pizzeria de Ely. Very good. Filled with locals as well as tourists. Wonderfully friendly waiters. We sent the kids to the dessert display to pick something, and Jack came back complaining that the dessert looked like chicken (the baked apples did look a bit like chicken breast...). It was actually an apple, chocolate, creme pie. Yum. But now the family joke is that we had "chicken pie" for dessert.

Enjoying "Chicken Pie"


I took the kids outside while Matt paid the bill. I loved watching Kate and Jack run through the narrow Italian streets. Up and down old stairwells. Along the steps of a centuries old church. It is those moments that I want on this adventure.

Streets of Moneterosso


We tucked in at a decent hour (for the adults, way too late for the kids), and all was well. Until Kate started throwing up...

*all photos are from my iphone - I have BUNCHES more on my good camera, but those have to wait until we get home...

**I can't figure out how to do links from my iPad, so no links

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Did I Fail to Mention?

That we leave for Europe today?!? The kids & I will be there for a month. Gotta love this homeschooling gig. I'll try my best to update the blog as we go!


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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Going to have a bit of a sabbatical from my sewing machine. Gotta get this documented so I know where I left off so I can pick it back up when I return...

BB=Back Burner

Completed Projects To Be Blogged

  • Crazy Clown Colors Quilt
  • Modern Houses Quilt
  • Teacher going away quilt
  • Minky Baby Quilt
Quilts Needing Binding
  • Halloween Quilt
  • Halloween Table Runner
  • Camper's Quilt (almost done...)
  • Valentine's Day table runner
Quilts Needing Basting/Quilting
  • Pinwheel Quilt (needs backing)
  • Wonky Pinky Quilt (BB - I think this one is going to get cut up and redone...)
  • M's Quilt (basted... just can't figure out how to quilt it... I've stared at it for hours...)
  • Sorta Stacked Coins Quilt (BB)
  • Miss D's Quilt (BB)
  • Habitat Challenge Quilt #1
  • Habitat Challenge Quilt #2
  • Unnamed BIG quilt (formally known as the Facade Quilt)
  • Repro Quilt #2 (part way quilted - want to do a row a day and just get it done)
Quilts Being Cut and/or Pieced
  • Ticker Tape Quilt (BB)
  • Green Squares Quilts x2
  • Sew-In Quilt (BB)
  • Repro Quilt #1
Non-Quilt Sewing Projects
  • Bath wraps for Kate and American Girl Doll
  • Fleecy PJs for Kate
  • Bike Bag for Jack
  • Kids' Xmas gifts for 2012 (making progress)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Just Now

Lost his first tooth in the car



A bit nervous before it came out



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*Edited 3/20/12 to add this story so I don't ever forget: Last night as the kids were getting ready for bed, Kate helped Jack put his tooth under the pillow for the tooth fairy (in a little silver heart box that my Aunt Gwen gave to Kate as a newborn - Kate is letting Jack borrow it for his tooth). I heard Kate tell Jack that he needed to stay in his own bed all night or the tooth fairy might not come. I asked why the tooth fairy wouldn't come, and Kate reminded me of the time she climbed into my bed and the tooth fairy couldn't find her tooth (oops! I think the tooth fairy actually forgot and used that as an excuse!). Jack was a bit panicky about the idea of no tooth fairy, and when he climbed into bed with me in the wee hours, he had tooth box in hand which he slid under MY pillow before falling back to sleep. Fortunately the tooth fairy had already found his tooth and replaced it with $2.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lazy Leprechauns

Friday night we were TIRED. Matt worked night shift all last week, and I have trouble falling asleep when he isn't home. Plus I was sick the first half of the week. The kids also had a couple late nights (we can do that when we don't have to get up for school!). We spent Friday afternoon at the Denver zoo, had a nice dinner in a little pizzeria, and hit up the big, Denver REI for some trip necessities (and niceties...). When we got home, Matt and I just wanted to go to bed. And I hadn't gotten any green hairspray for Nina. We made the executive decision that this year the leprechauns would come the night after St. Patrick's Day. Kept our fingers crossed that the kids wouldn't notice.

The kids didn't notice and the leprechauns were out in all their glory last night... colored the dog (gold glitter this year since green was sold out!), pee'd green in the toilets, rearranged furniture and turned things upside down, sprayed silly string everywhere, turned the bathroom water green (using red+blue bath fizzies), and left us our annual box of Lucky Charms. Despite our best efforts to catch them in traps, we only captured some chocolate coins... that's good because I was afraid a captured leprechaun might bight!
Kate's Trap
(Leprechauns had already taken the bait of candy & green Mardi Gras necklace)
Jack's Trap
(He used rainbow Skittles and shiny pennies as bait)
Green Water!!
Turned around furniture
Lucky Charms & Silly String
Gold Haired Dog & Red Headed Husband
This lazy leprechaun has got to get better as the kids get older. I accidentally left the green food coloring out in the bathroom after "peeing" in the toilets. Fortunately I found it before the kids did.
Close to catching a leprechaun!
Jack has already declared that this is the best St. Patrick's Day EVER!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cheetahs

One of our plans for homeschooling activities is to pick an animal and study it for a week or so. The kids picked the cheetah for our first full week of homeschooling, and we all (maybe me even more than them!) had so much fun with it! The week before I reserved some materials from the library which we picked up on Monday morning along with some other books about cheetah that we found. All week we read books about cheetahs, did some worksheets, and watched videos. We also went to the Denver zoo to observe a real cheetah (our local zoo is incredible, but no cheetahs...).
Observation
(see the cheetah back there in the grass?)
Working diligently at the zoo
Cheetah Resources we used:

  • Animal Research Notes and miscellaneous children's cheetah books from the library - going forward, I plan to use this for every animal we study
  • Be an Animal Watcher and Take a Closer Look worksheets for our zoo observation - these were really fun for the kids - both the tally marks (which we then turned into a bar graph the next day) and the every 2 minute location observation (despite catching the cheetah at a pretty quiet time...). I also added 2 blank sheets for animal sketches to make a packet for the zoo. We'll use this packet for every observable animal we study
  • Watched the movie Duma (warning: sad parts!!) and the Wild Kratts Cheetah Racers episode. I wanted to watch the movie Cheetah but forgot to put it in my Netflix queue. I also thought we could watch Nature episode Cheetah Orphans on my iPad app, but I was wrong. We'll get both from Netflix eventually.
  • We read aloud the book Our Friend Yambo (mostly... it got a little long for the kids so we skipped some of the boring parts) about a couple in France that adopts a cheetah cub
  • Why the Cheetah's Cheeks Are Stained and Why the Cheetah Runs So Fast - African folktales
  • Meet the Cheetah activity guide (don't I wish I could find this for every animal!!)
  • I also had Kate do this Cheetah misspelled words worksheet (a bit too difficult for Jack)
  • Animal Research Resources - a worksheet that I made for us to keep a bibliography of the books, videos, internet sites we used. To be honest, we only half did it for the cheetah... getting better as we go.
A bit more active cheetah
(we heard him chirp and saw him mark his territory)
We are back to the Denver Zoo today to observe polar bears! Fun, fun, fun...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Homeschooling Happiness

We are certainly still trying to find our groove with homeschooling. Some aspects are going really well, others still need some tweaking. Partially it is difficult to get into a routine because we are planning to be out of our routine for an extended period of time soon (more on that later).

But yesterday morning, we had a moment that epitomized what I think education can/should be for my children.  Matt was sleeping in after a late night, so I took the kids out to breakfast at a local bagel place. While munching on our bagels, I read the kids this headliner in our local newspaper about the debate to install surveillance cameras in our downtown. As I read, I explained what a city council is, defined the word proposal, discussed what it meant to be "on the fence" about an issue, and (lucky me!) talked about what it meant to be "stoned." After discussing more in depth the pros and cons, I asked Kate and Jack for their opinions on the proposal - Jack is for the cameras because he likes to feel safe, Kate is against the cameras because she doesn't like people watching her. I also made the issue more personal by suggesting the idea of cameras in the kids rooms so that I could check on them at any time to make sure they are safe. Interestingly, they each mostly stuck with their original opinions. Jack didn't mind the idea, but Kate was appalled (and I mean appalled!) at the idea. We also discussed how there is no right or wrong answer to issues like this and that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Now I know that I don't have to be homeschooling my children to have moments like this, but I find that when they are in school, we are so busy and so tired that we rarely have these unrushed, unplanned times. I originally thought that it was the actual discussion that was valuable, but maybe it is really these quieter moments that allow for discussion that are truly valuable.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I know, I know...

I should blog. But there is just SO MUCH going on right now that I don't even feel like I should be sleeping! It is all good and fun and exciting and worth sharing. Hopefully I'll find the time soon.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Homeschooling

I've been a little quiet on here. I've been thinking about blogging a bunch, I just don't find the time nor energy to actually get it done. The other reason I haven't been blogging is that we made a big change that I didn't feel free to blog about and didn't want to use the "something big is happening but I can't tell you about it yet" line. So now I can tell you about it.

Yesterday was Kate and Jack's last day in public school this year. I've pulled them out, and we are going to try homeschooling the next 3 months. I am both really excited and really nervous. I think this could potentially be so much fun, yet I really hope that I have the willpower to actually get it done and not goof off!

Of course the first question people ask is "Why?!?" I don't feel a need to justify out decision (okay, I sorta feel a need to justify it...), but it is a reasonable question. So here are a bunch of reasons, in no particular order.

  • I'm a bit tired of our hectic daily life. School starts at 8am, and my kids are usually still sleeping at 7:30. I hate waking them up and rushing them out the door. I hate that they don't get the sleep their bodies say they need. They already have an early bedtime of 7:30pm which can be a hassle to enforce (the last 2 years their bedtime was 6:30 and we kept to it! Just not possible anymore.) School lets out at 2:30pm and that leaves only 5 hours until bedtime. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. Take out an hour for bedtime routine, an hour for dinner, an hour (or more!) for after school playground time/snack and homework and all that is left is 2 hours of free time. Not enough for play time, extracurricular activities, etc. Plus the kids are tired after spending all day in school.
  • I don't like life being dictated by the annual school schedule. I like traveling whenever we want. Local trips, weekend trips, vacations, etc. I really don't like being on vacation with the rest of the world (ironically, this is the first year that Matt has spring break off! And now it doesn't matter!).
  • No time for extracurricular activities. The kids do swim twice a week, but I'd also like them to take piano lessons. On top of the time for lessons, they would need time to practice. When? Plus the kids have expressed interest in a variety of other activities: horseback riding lessons, karate, gymnastics, dance, etc. I have no intention of turning around and filling up school time with other activities, but I'm hoping we'll have some time for a few of these.
  • This is NOT about the teachers and/or school. In fact, there is a good chance that the kids will be back at school in the future (I wanted to do this in the spring so that they can start a fresh year in the fall or maybe we'll love it and try it out yet another year). Both kids have had excellent teachers. That being said, I do think that the kids will benefit from some one-on-one instruction the next few months. Teachers have an entire classroom to teach. I just have two. Plus there is that teach-to-the-test issue. I understand why it has to be done in public schools, I just don't like it.
  • I'm a big believer in experiential learning. So looking forward to doing all kinds of fun things with the kids! I think I fall squarely into the Dilettante type of homeschooler (I really enjoy Penelope Trunk's blogs - I wish I had the ability to think and reason they way she does).
  • I've always wanted to homeschool. I actually did a lot of research on homeschooling before Kate started kindergarten. I wanted to do it then, but Matt felt strongly that we should at least try our public school (and I'm happy we did. The teacher that both kids had for kindy was spectacular.). Both of my kids are on track or ahead in academics. I figure worse case scenario is that they learn nothing the next few months, we have fun, and they start back in the fall.
  • I watched the documentary film Race to Nowhere a few months ago. My friend Kerri told me about it awhile back, but I had to wait for a showing. I actually didn't think it was a great film, but I liked the message. Probably because it reinforced what I already believed.
  • When Cousin Hannah was here a few weeks ago, she made a statement that has really stuck with me. We were talking about the pressure to get into a "good college" and how the pressure is on for parents from an early age (you know, gotta play classical music to infants! Gotta get them a Chinese tutor!). Hannah said that these days everyone has good grades, everyone went to a good high school, everyone was captain of the basketball/lacrosse/football team, everyone has done community service. What colleges want to see is a good/interesting story. And you know what? That's what I want for my kids also. A good story. I don't want it to just be that they grew up in a upper middle class neighborhood, went to good schools, played a sport, volunteered at the soup kitchen. I want them to have a good story and I want to start now.
Speaking of starting now, we are off on an adventure today! Out to breakfast then to the zoo. We are going to ease into this whole experience, but I have a bunch of ideas that I can't wait to start! More on that later.