Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Movie Week

Since we haven't started our 'official' schooling yet, we decided to try a transition from summer freedom into 'official schooling' time.

Typically, we have time restrictions on screen time. This means all screens including tv, computer and video games. You know, anything with a screen that will seek out a child's attention and then grab hold of their innocent souls, sucking on the purity and goodness until all that's left is the rotten core that demands more and more screens and more and more screen time!

If you homeschool and have figured out a way around restricting screen time while maintaining some intelligence in your kids, by all means - let us in on the secret.

Anyway, for our transition we chose to declare last week . . . movie week!!! It is a week where the kiddos get unlimited screen time - for movies only. Of course, it give me an excuse to watch tons of movies, as well. I tried to sprinkle in some with historical or literary significance, but any age appropriate movie would do.

My son decided to watch the Star Wars movies in order.

We also watched all sorts of movies including
The Mission, Amadeus, How to Eat Fried Worms, Romeo and Juliet, Dances With Wolves, To Catch a Thief, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Facing the Giants, King Corn, Casablanca and more to be remembered.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Teaching Moment

Today I enjoyed the beauty of a 94 degree day by agreeing to sit outside with my 8yo son at a local restaurant for lunch. We sat for a few moments watching the adorable petite birds peck around outside, looking for crumbs. They were the only others brave enough to enjoy lunch outside on such a day.

Tias, my son, looked thoughtfully for a moment and then stated that if he were president, he would make McDonald's illegal, because it is unhealthy. He quickly followed with, "can the president make something like McDonald's illegal?"

Okay, I did not intend to villainize a fast food restaurant. I merely intended to bring up my children appreciating the sheer joy of eating fresh, tasteful and healthy food. Somehow, in an 8yo's mind if you don't eat somewhere that all your friends frequent, it must be vilified.

I took the question as the opportunity it was to explain the three branches of government, created to dissuade such actions as the president outlawing restaurants he doesn't like. I watched his eyes glaze over as I moved on to philosophy. "How would you feel if someone outlawed sugar because it isn't healthy?" I followed with the idea that it is quite difficult to balance keeping people safe and allowing us humans the freedoms promised by our forefathers. *glaze*

We returned our attention to the lovely birds flitting around us. By this time, the waitress had dropped off our bread basket and scurried back into the air conditioned restaurant. We began tearing off pieces of the bread and throwing crumbs to the lone bird brave enough to venture close to us. The crumbs attracted other birds, and we enjoyed watching their interactions.

One bird, Birdie, was watching us with interest, looking out for where more crumbs might fall. Standing very close to Birdie was another bird that was slightly bigger and very loud. No matter where Birdie went the obnoxious bird was inches away squawking and manically fluttering its wings. We both knew from all the nature shows we had seen together that this was the male's lame attempt at courting. So, I steered to the subject of health.

"What methods do human males use to make themselves attractive to human females?" I received an answer in the form of a shrug.

I started listing ways I could think of, hoping he would take the bait and chime in. Instead I got another shrug and a muted 'maybe' in agreement.

I then took the opportunity to steer the conversation to 'gentlemanly behavior'. I began saying how girls are attracted to boys who are kind and treat others with respect. *glaze*

So, I got in some U.S. government, animal behavior science, philosophy and sociology lessons. I'm sure these morsels will be treasured for years to come.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spring Travel

In May, I coaxed husband into taking myself, my 9 year old son, Matthias, my 14 year old daughter, Sydney, and her friend of the same age, Maddie, along on his business trip to Germany.

My son had been longing to see the Eiffel tower for months. My daughter's friend had never been to Europe or even travelled on an airplane before. So, we decided to take the opportunity for a stopover in Paris, in order to quench my son's craving and make Maddie's trip more memorable. Our flight would leave Atlanta ~8pm, arriving in Paris ~ 11am (Paris time). We would then have to catch a flight from Paris to Nuremburg at 8pm. We only had about seven hours, so we made it a quickie tour of Paris. . .

After landing in Charles de Gaulle airport with very little sleep, we took the train into Paris, stopping off at Notre Dame. We walked a bit until finding the Louvre. We then decided to stop in a cafe for some limonades and orangina before continuing our trek. We wisely chose to hail a cab to reach our main destination, since the kids had begun to lag behind. My husband asked the driver to take us down the Champs, by the Arc de Triomphe to Trocadero. Picture five of us sitting in the taxi with the windows down and arms jockeying for a position to take pictures as we yelled out, "look, Armani . . . Prada . . . Louis Vuitton, Fouquet's! That's the Arc de Triomphe!" as we drove along the wide tree-lined famous street.

The climax of our 7 hour tour was just around the corner when the driver jokingly told everyone to look to the left. The Eiffel Tower was actually on our right, and there was an audible gasp when the kids caught on and finally saw it.
We walked through the Trocadero with renewed energy, wading through the crowds, stopping only to gawk at the live statues and street performers. We saw hip hoppers dancing, Tai chiers tai chiing, rollerbladers skating, skate boarders boarding around Trocadero. Many others chose to get relief from the heat by splashing around in the fountain.

We finally made our way to the Tower and walked under it. Unfortunately the line just to buy tickets in order to go up was snaking forever. We knew we couldn't take a chance on our timing, so going up wasn't an option.

After leaving the Tower, we walked away from the crowds expecting to easily hail another taxi. Not so fast. We walked a while, waited a while and continued to a taxi stand. We stood next to another couple from the states who had been waiting a while. After several taxis passed the taxi stand, we decided to move on. A few blocks over we finally found a taxi that would stop and take us to our next destination, Mont Martre.

When we arrived at Mont Martre, several of us had to relieve ourselves from the limonade we drank earlier. We found a WC, conveniently located right where we were dropped off. I think this was a shocking experience for Maddie, as the 'men's ' room was located next to the women's, only separated by a partial, chest-high partition. A disturbing sight for me, but especially for a 14-year-old girl who has never out of the sterile confines of the United States.

The view, of course, was breathtaking, and there was a group singing right on the steps of Sacre Coeur, adding a poignant soundtrack to our final moments in Paris. The kids were really dragging at this point, so we started heading back to a train station. Luckily, we happened upon a crepe stand and used sugar as a boost to make it the last few blocks to the train. At this point, I considered that I might have to carry Sydney. She and Maddie had not slept at all on the flight, so she was reaching a state of beyond tired.

Once at the station, we had trouble with the ticket machine and ended up standing in the station for a while, waiting in line to buy tickets. When we finally sat down in the old vinyl seats on the dirty train. Our bodies were thanking us for the relief. Sydney was quickly lulled to sleep by the chugging of the train. We made it back to the airport but had to run through security and to our gate. We did cut it a little close, but the quickie tour was a success, and the kids will never forget the first time they saw Paris.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer Produce

I can't believe my luck. I found an organic csa (community sponsored agriculture) about a mile away from my house! We pay an amount at the beginning of the season then show up once a week to pick up our share of whatever was harvested that week. The weekly bounty serves as great inspiration for new recipes. In addition, I just found a 'pick your own' blueberry farm just a half mile from our csa. We've lived in our house for 5 years and eaten organic for ~20 years. How did I not find these gems before? Did they just appear in my reality as God's answer to my prayers?

Pictured you see one such recipe. I simply tore up the leafy green kale, and put it in the bottom of the casserole dish with a bit of olive oil. I chopped up the colorful assortment of purple cauliflower, pearl onions and yellow squash. Then, I coated the vegetable mixture in olive oil and sprinkled on some freshly ground celtic salt and tossed in some basil and rosemary, freshly snipped from my herb garden. I completely covered the greens with the squash mixture to keep the kale from crisping and topped the entire assortment with a sprinkling of cheddar and parmesan cheeses.

I baked the casserole in a 400 F. oven for approximately 30 minutes.

Even my 9 year old son commented on the deliciousness!