Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our Lady of Kibeho

Did you know that yesterday was the feast day for Our Lady of Kibeho?  Last year I had the opportunity to hear Immaculee Ilibagiza speak at Sacred Heart University.  Catchechists from all over Connecticut as well as Sisters, Nuns, Priests and people who knew her story filled the packed auditorium.  We listened to her harrowing tale of hiding in a bathroom with six women for ninety days while outside a massacre took place, a massacre that killed almost her entire family.  

As she sat huddled together in fear and in hiding she prayed.  She repeated the Our Father over and over again.  But when it came to the words, “as we forgive those who trespass against us” she found she could not say them.  She could not forgive what was happening in her own land by her countrymen.  That is, until she had an epiphany.  She realized that she cannot rewrite the words of God.  To say them is to believe them.  She found forgiveness.  She forgave those who trespassed against her.
But this is not why we celebrated the feast Sunday night.  Years before Immaculee hid in that bathroom, there was an apparition by the Holy Mother who spoke to several girls, in the town of Kibeho, Rwanda.  She foretold of the coming events and urged prayer, specifically the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows.  The church has investigated these appearances and has validated them.  They are as credible as the more well known appearances at Lourdes and Fatima.  
Immaculee came again to Connecticut this fall.  While I was not able to attend, members of our church did.  She urged us to bring the story of Rwanda and of the Lady of Kibeho back.  The message of repentance, forgiveness and prayer was not meant for those in Rwanda alone.  
Sunday night, we celebrated the feast.  Grace and I read two of the sorrows to a crowded congregation.  Her good friend helped by lighting the candles after each prayer was said.  It was a beautiful night.  It was a perfect ending to the holiday weekend and a perfect beginning to the season of Advent.


If you would like more information on Immaculee and her story, here are some links:
http://www.marian.org/mary/prayers/sorrows.php
http://www.immaculee.com/





Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Reprise


I can’t remember when it began, it was so unplanned, just a gathering of friends on a Friday night.  Was it at my house?  I am not sure.  I think not.  Probably at the house down by the river where you can sit and watch the waves roll by.  Or maybe the house on the hill with the gorgeous deck where we sit and watch our girls swim...... The place is irrelevant really.  What matters is that the simple question “want to come over for dinner?” turned into a Friday ritual...well...maybe not ritual..but a tradition.  A gathering of friends around a meal that happens at least one Friday a month.  This is our form of tradition.





Through this I have come to understand the bonding experience that shared cooking creates.  I adore being in a kitchen with these women, my friends.  I love each of us taking a part, whether it is frying the eggplant, whipping the potatoes, making authentic Mexican rice or simply showing up with beer and wine!  We drink, we cook, we talk, we share.  We much on guacamole and chips, or oysters and cheese.  We break out our canned salsa and homemade hummus.  We have a giant buffet of goodness that our children have come to expect and look forward to.



This weekend was no exception.  Except that we did it on a larger scale.  There was still the oysters and cheese, the hummus and chips, the guacamole and salsa, but there was salt cured ham, and turkey and sweet potatoes and squash.  There were mashed potatoes and green beans and gravy.  There were centerpieces created by our children.  There were 12 people gathered around a table sharing in friendship, food and family.  



This Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for my friends.  These beautiful people who I met two years ago.  These people that I feel I have known my entire life.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal: Week of November 21

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In My Home This Week:  The girls are feeling the holiday spirit but quite frankly, I am not.  I am not all Ebenezer, but I feel like life has to slow down a bit in order for the holiday spirit to sink in.  I am working on making that happen.  
For the first time since we brought both girls home, I feel like I have my calendar organized.  This is a huge feat for me.  I was missing orthodontist appointments, double booking play dates and not honoring time for ourselves because I was never sure where we were supposed to be and when.  I kept a date book that worked -- when I remembered to bring it with me.  I have tried phone calendars and even computerized ones but I could not find one that worked for my family until I discovered something that was right under my nose...my iCal.  I took my date book and transposed all the dates through the end of the year. But I would still have the same issue of not having my computer with me when I was out and about.  That is until I got an early birthday present.....my new iPhone 4s!  I am not a techy gadget person.  I do not need the latest and greatest phone.  In fact, I have wanted an iPhone for about 2 years.  But I have to say, I love this phone.  Love it.  Love it. Love it.  My calendar syncs with my phone wirelessly!  My photos download to my MacBook seamlessly.  My music is all there at my fingertips.  My books.  Ah....I never thought I would take a phone to bed with me to read.  But I do!
I have come to realize that my calendar is something that needs time and careful consideration.  It has to be reviewed daily.  Changes need to be made when needed and I have to be bold enough to say no to what cannot fit and make adjustments for the sanity of my family.  So far, it is working!
In Our Homeschool This Week:  We have been working on math.  The program is going well.  I love to see the girls move ahead in the months, closing out with a profit or loss.  I have begun tutoring a seventh grade boy in math once a week.  Last week I had to educate myself of what seventh grade math looks like.  It gave me a bit of a shock.  The California State Mastery Test has problems that are difficult.  I used it as an assessment to see which concepts this child needs to review.  I was left with a bit of a panic attack feeling like I still have so much to teach to prepare my girls for this level of math.  I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.  I have a plan.  We are working on that plan.  After this program, comes Key To books for fractions, decimals and percents.  I am ordering the fraction set today so I can use it to tutor.  My girls will take a standardized test in the spring to see where they place statistically against their peers.  
I know my girls each have a strength in the sciences.  If they want to pursue that (as I know Grace does) they need to not only do well in math, but to excel in math.  
We learned about some of the history of Thanksgiving that has been pushed aside in favor of the celebration of the first Thanksgiving care of Squanto.  My girls learned that Squanto was a slave, that is how he came to speak and understand English.  They learned that the Pequot War (found in our area) was a bloody war that had many casualties.  After each “successful” slaughter of a Native American village, there was a “thanksgiving”.  Eventually Abraham Lincoln declared an official Thanksgiving holiday, on the same day he sent troops marching against the Sioux.  
Grace began a new piece of writing this week, a continuation of her Annie Popper series which is a historically accurate series of weather related events told from the point of view of Annie.  So far poor Annie has lived through Katrina and a tornado and is about to encounter the New York blizzard of ’10.  We discussed that her character has to age along with the events, just like Harry Potter.  If she was 10 during Katrina, she now has to be 15.  Lilah is working on a piece inspired by her recently read Poison Apple Series about a creepy sleepover.  I just finished one of her books, Curiosity Killed the Cat, and now I feel the need to visit Sleepy Hollow to show her the town that served as the setting for this book.  So much of the book took place in the graveyard, which our dear friends, the Creeklings, just visited!
We have one co-op day left and one meteorology class left. This week is shaping up to be a super duper busy one but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I think come Friday, I am going to be a doing a happy dance.  


Some Highlights Since My Last Journal Post:


I made Helena's Veggie Burgers (love them!)...


I cooked a full vegan meal and had friends over to share...


We had some friends over for a movie night...


We made some cool turkeys....




We played some Monopoly Build It....


Had a baking day...

What We Are Reading:  I am so glad I discovered Jennifer Donnelly.  After finishing Revolution, I immediately downloaded another book of hers.  When I was young I had a bad habit of holding my book too close to my face.  My Grandfather would constantly tell me I was ruining my eye sight.  Now, thirty years later, I am sure I am legally blind without my glasses having absolutely ruined my eyesight!  I can only imagine what he would say if he ever saw me reading off my iPhone! 


Me:





















Grace:



















Lilah:






















What I am Pondering:  Growing children.  Not only are my girls growing physically, they are growing emotionally as well.  It is strange to me to be sharing shoes and sweatshirts.  I look back on our family albums with a mix of fondness and regret.  Part of me wishes I could go back to that time and just have them be 3 and 5 or 1 and 3 for a day.  To play with matchbox cars and read picture books, to rock them to sleep in my arms.  I wish I could take the knowledge I have now and apply it then.  There are so many things I would have done differently had I known......
I look at my girls forming friendships and carving out their place in this world.  If they were in school, they would have a ready-made opportunity each day to see their friends.  They would see each other in class, in the cafeteria, in gym class, on the playground.  The time spent together would be different, shorter, structured, not open to doing what they want to do, but nonetheless, it would give them the opportunity to spend time together every day.  Being home, with our schedule, it can be hard to make quality time, especially when some of their friends live over a half hour away.  It takes creativity on the part of the Mom’s to drop off, meet half way, organize a day that allows for both learning and play.  
Take Monday for instance, Grace wants to meet up with friends to work on their physics project which is due in co-op Wednesday.  In order for this to happen, I have to get her to another friends house at 11:00 to catch a ride,  Lilah has to do the dog walking job by herself (which will allow her to keep the extra money) and then I have to drive about 40 minutes to pick up Grace, and drive the 40 back (before rush hour traffic hits) in order to be home to tutor at 5:00.   Giving her the opportunity to meet up with her friends and work on a common goal of presenting a pretty great project, is worth the effort involved.  Hopefully I will have a video next time of their project.  The goal is to post it on youtube and see which team gets the most views.  
To bring this back to the beginning, I am looking forward to the month of December.  We will have time to learn at home, in our pajamas if we want, with our dogs, in front of the fire.  Time to work on our notebooks, time to practice the piano, time to read book after book after book.  Time to finish up our business math program.
Sandwiched in between will be some exciting things like a sleepover at their Aunt’s house, meeting new friends, going to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a Girl Scout Christmas Party, and preparing for a Destination Imagination competition in January.  There will be friends and hot cocoa and gifts.  There will be church and prayer and preparation.  I think I can feel a bit of the holiday spirit seeping in.......

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

A tradition in our home began on Black Friday last year.  Black Friday requires planning.  An itinerary must be made.  Deals must be sought out.  


Snuck in were a few quick lessons about marketing.  Why do stores show you low price points?  Do they really want you to walk out buying the least expensive item?  If an item is buy one get one free, how much is each item discounted?  If it is buy one, get one half off, how much is each item discounted?  


Thanksgiving morning.  The sale pages.  Coffee.  Dogs curled on my lap.  Children fresh out of bed excited to plan their outing with Dad.



After a stop over to visit with Greg's brother and his family, we headed to my sister's for dinner.  My sister has hosted Thanksgiving for several years.  It involves a huge turkey, wine, loads of veggies and presents.  My nephew and I have birthdays two days apart.  We always celebrate on Thanksgiving.  




My birthday cake.  Don't you love Lady Gaga?  A co-worker of Greg's gave it to us.   I think she looks fabulous.


Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Revolution

I just finished the best book I have read in a long time.  You all know I love YA.  Revolution is a great story: contemporary and intelligent.   The emotions in this book are raw.  Pain, sorrow, grief, love, anger, all simmering in a family torn apart by tragedy.


Basic review: High school senior, Andi is failing.  Failing out of school, failing to care for her mother, failing to maintain a relationship with her father, failing to let go of guilt.  To help  escape her self-destructive environment, her father, a Nobel Prize winning geneticist, brings her on a business trip to Paris where she must complete an outline for her senior thesis on the connections between a French composer and contemporary musicians.  While researching, she stumbles upon a royal guitar, a secret compartment, and a diary of a young French girl caught up in the Revolution.  Amongst her desperation to return to Brooklyn, her desire to finish her thesis, her desperate reading of an 18th Century diary, and her friction-filled relationship with her father, she discovers a loving relationship, her self-worth, her ability to move past grief and despair and ultimately her ability to heal.  
This was the first novel I have read by Jennifer Donnelly.  I just downloaded my next.  
One of the things I adored about this book is how cleverly the author integrated contemporary themes, mostly music.  During a tender moment, when Andi’s friend sings her a Tunisian lullaby, Ya Gamrat Layl, he tells her she should listen to it sung by Sonia Mbarek.  I googled Sonia Mbarek and the title of the song.  I fell in love with it.  I am desperate to find the English translation of the lyrics.  I have spent hours researching.  If you know of a way to get the lyrics, please let me know!


Enjoy





* I was not paid or endorsed in any way for this review.  It is simply my wish to share a book that touched my soul.

Monday, November 21, 2011

At This Moment


How did it happen that just yesterday I was sitting on a beach in Virginia with one of my best friends and now I am sitting wrapped in a afghan at my dining room table wondering how the heck it came to be that Thanksgiving is this week????   Three months passed in the blink of an eye.
Sometimes I sit and I wonder what we did with our three months?  What did we accomplish?  I feel like we run and race from place to place every single day, but is all that running and the stress that comes along with it worth it?  I have friends that have chose intentionally to not do one single activity outside the house other than playdates.  They are saving for a huge trip next year.  Their time at home has given them the opportunity to work on some great projects.   Their lapbooks are stunning, filled with facts, pictures, and writing.  The time that was spent creating is evident.  Part of me longs that have time at home to devote to projects and I know I will get more time in just a week when some of our activities either end or are on hiatus.  
So what have we accomplished?  I think it is time for a little accountability on my part.

LEARNING AREA
ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Reading
Lilah has read an entire series.  While it is not “literature”, she has enjoyed it and has recommended books and shared books with her friends.  The conversations I have overheard sound very similar to my conversations with my friends when we discuss what we are reading.  Grace has at least two books going at all times.  She has read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, she has read historical fiction, realistic fiction, non fiction, biography.  We have also listened to several audiobooks this fall.
Writing
Lilah has begun keeping a personal journal inspired by Sharon Creech’s Absolutely Normal Chaos.  Both girls completed a Badge project which included poetry reading.  They have made several new entries in their poetry journal.  They have both written essays about John James Audubon.  Grace submitted an essay about Why We Should Honor Veterans to a state wide essay contest.  Lilah has become pen-pals with one of her friends and writes at least one letter a week.  We also began our Artist/Writer’s Group focusing on journal entries based on their artwork.  Grace has begun a new installment in her Annie Popper historical fiction stories (this one based on the New York Blizzard of ’10) and Lilah is creating a piece based on her reading of The Poison Apple Books.  
Lilah took a coop class pertaining to writing: newspaper where she submitted book reviews, and poems.
History
We have completed five chapters of Story of The World Book 2.  We have learned about St. Nicholas, The Hagia Sofia, Halloween’s Celtic origins, and made our own code of Justinian.  We have made new entries in our Book of Centuries including John James Audubon, Eugenia Clark, Frida Khalo and Isaac Cline.  
Geography
New States/Cities Visited: 
Assateague/Chincoteague, Virginia
Washington, DC
Chicago, IL
Cedarburg, WI
Math
Began Simply Charlotte Mason’s Business Math Program with their Aunt as a facilitator.  I was hoping to have this program completed by January and this may be realistic for Grace but Lilah will need extra time to finish this.  They have both learned calculator skills, decimal addition and multiplication, percent, and long division.  Lilah has also become more speedy in her recall of multiplication facts but does not know all of them yet.  She is playing Timez Attack to help reinforce her mult. facts.  
Grace took a coop classes pertaining to math: Geometric Constructions.
Science
Grace is continuing to make progress on her independent study of Weather by reading her Weather 101 text and working on a notebook.  She completed her Meteorology Bridge Program at a local University.  Her goal of becoming a Meteorologist has not changed.  
Grace took a coop class pertaining to science: Rube Goldberg Physics where she learned about inclined planes, levers, and other physics concepts.  
Lilah used many of her science kits this fall.  She began a notebook about insects.  We will be beginning our next Apologia book this December.  
Art
We visited Yale’s Art Museum.
We learned about Frida Khalo and examined some of her works.
We completed four journal pieces in our workshop.
Lilah participated in a coop class: cartooning.
Lilah also continues to learn about manga drawing.
Both girls attended a class at the library: Graphic Novel Writing.
Outside Classes/Activities
Piano (Grace)
Horseback Riding Lessons (both)
Two Coyotes One Night Class (both)
Girl Scouts (both)
Dog Walking (both)
Co-op (both)
Meteorology (Grace)

This is how I know we are okay.  Unlike school where you have grades, reports, tests, and report cards to measure progress in homeschooling you don’t.  Or, I don’t since I choose not to grade, test and compare against a norm.  Choosing an unstructured, interest-led style of learning means for me, that I have to have more personal accountability in tracking our progress.  I have to compare each girl’s work against work they have previously completed.  It is through this that I can see their growth, or identify the areas we need to focus our attention on.
I have to say honestly that I am looking forward to the month of December.  Co-op is  on break, meteorology is over.  Girl Scouts takes the month off.  We have moved Artist/Writers to bi-monthly rather than weekly.  I will have time at home every day.  Time to work on our notebooks, finish up our math program, write, read, rest, reflect.  My projects will include copying work samples for their portfolios, cleaning out our office, donating outgrown books to the library and in between all this, preparing for Christmas. 
Can Santa loan me one of his elves???

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Progress Report


I was blessed with two daughters who are dynamically opposite.  Fundamentally opposite.  One likes to construct.  The other deconstruct.  One walks while the other runs.  One sees while the other hears.  One wakes while the other sleeps.  One wonders while the other debates.  Such extreme differences.
If they were in school not all their needs would be met.  They would succeed because they are both very smart children who can adapt to the norms of the classroom.  But one’s need to move would be stifled.  The other’s need to wonder would be discouraged, or at least confined to the one hour a week that is penciled in for art/music/library/etc.  One daughter would fidget her feet, her pencil, her head to meet her need and the other daughter would get lost in her daydreams and miss what was happening in front of her.   How many children can relate to the Calvin and Hobbs cartoons?  How many children exclaim to their parents that the best part of their day was recess?
At home, I try my very best, but I am not sure I can meet every single one of their needs as well.  I can offer them the best programs I can find.  I can sit one on one with them offering them my tutelage patiently waiting for their light bulb moment when the concept they were struggling with suddenly makes sense.  I can look at the contained energy bubbling over and say, go ride.
The time has come in our homeschooling journey to honor their differences separately.  Perhaps we may not do so many things where the girls participate together.  We may need to re-examine our choices and do less, intentionally choosing  programs that fit each girls as individuals.  For example, Lilah has the opportunity to join a Destination Imagination Team.  We have been asked to join a team before, twice in fact, and we politely declined, despite Grace’s strong desire to join, because the practices were on times that conflicted with family time and church obligations.  This is a different team, that meets on a day that is perfect for us, but it is not for both girls.  It is an invitation that is open to Lilah.  It would meet her need to wonder, to create, and best of all, give her the chance to do these things separately from her sister and her mother.  It would be something just for her.    Grace has her piano,  her meteorology, and her alter serving.  She loves them and they are hers.  It is time for my girls to spread their wings and fly a bit away from each other, always coming  home to nest.  
My hope is that by giving them opportunities to explore their interests individually, they will get a bit of a break from the intense cohabitation that comes with homeschooling.  They are no longer 7 and 9, or 8 and 10.  They are 9 and 11, which is young, really young in so many ways.  But in other ways they are on the cusp of becoming young women, and no longer little girls.  It is time to let them explore the people they are becoming with a bit of space, a bit of room to stretch and feel their way.  They are amazing people with amazing talents and interests.  
One of the best parts of being home with them is realizing this every day.  One of the worst parts is having to figure out these things all on my own.  But I am not really on my own.  When I sit around with my friends talking about these things, those are my “faculty meetings”.  When I get recommendations for the best products, books and classes, those are my “curriculum reviews” and when I see the smiles on my girls’ faces return, those are my “progress reports”.   

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roadschooling Reflections

The tricky thing about blogging is that I can post our trip and you see smiles and happy faces and you, the reader, are left thinking that this was the best trip ever.  The reality is that this was not the best trip ever.  It was good.  Many wonderful memories were made.  My favorite memories of this trip were:
  • wandering through Navy Pier
  • taking the water taxi
  • meandering Main Street with Aunt Val
  • meeting cousins for the very first time
  • spending the day with good friends who we have not seen in too long
The harder parts of this trip, the parts not seen in the photographs I shared were:
  • the stress of navigating a city where taxis are not readily available nor are subway stations as accessible as what we are used to
  • the stress of straying so far from our diet
  • disrupted sleep
  • bickering children
  • a crabby Mama
  • people on the street that will confront you and your children begging for food and money
  • when you offer food to the people who ask, they scoff at what you offer and say they “already were given that today”.  
  • the tremendous cost of living expense Chicagoans pay.  9.75% people!  
  • realizing once again how very much I hate flying.  


Through the good and the bad, lessons were learned.  I learned that we have the choice to get bogged down by the blues or we can choose to let go of whatever it is that is making us crabby and celebrate the moment.  This is a lesson I learn over and over as it can be a hard one for me.  



Because I felt that nutritionally sound food choices were challenging for me in Chicago, I tried a vegetarian weekend!  Oatmeal, veggie burger (made on site), Mexican tortas (vegetable), fresh made beet, celery and carrot juice...  It felt very good.  I am moving more and more towards this diet/lifestyle.  I am not 100% committed at this time but I find myself eating less and less meat.  I am also not imposing this choice on my family.  This is a choice that is completely theirs to make.

I have also been struggling with how homeschooling is working for our family.  Being a homeschooling family allows us to take trips like this, unconfined to a school calendar and preset vacation time.  I could, and have, written entire entries about the pros of homeschooling.  Lately I have been focused on some of the negative aspects of homeschooling.  Spending this much time together can be difficult.  An habit that one of us had, that is usually just an annoyance, can become a huge issue when we are together all the time.  I wonder sometimes if being apart 7 hours a day would make it better when we come together at the end of the day.  Realistically I know this is not true.  I know that my girls still argued when they were in school.  I know that the stress of homework, lessons, dinner and bedtime caused issues.  But in the heat of the moment, when the girls are just at their wit’s end with each other, I wonder........
But then we go to co-op, we discuss things that we have learned and are learning, and we recommit to our decision to homeschool.  We get excited to participate in the big dig this spring, pick new classes and begin new projects.  We daydream of our next tag along trip.....
Needless to say my mind has been pretty active this weekend.  This was not our favorite tag along trip.  For me that will probably always be Puerto Rico, but Washington DC was pretty good too.  This one will be a memory, it will be an experience and a opportunity to evaluate the positives and negatives in our lives at this very moment.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lincoln Square, Chicago


One of the best parts of traveling is learning how to navigate around an unfamiliar city.  We can check off the subway systems of New York, Washington DC and now Chicago.  Not too long ago when we were in DC, the girls were very nervous about using the Metro System.  They were not confident we would find our way.  I reassured them that we can follow a map and figure it out...and we did!  
Today I actually had apprehension about taking the "L" to the Lincoln Square neighborhood.  The ticket machines do not give change, the children's pass needs to be validated by a CTA employee, and we needed to transfer lines from the red to the brown.  Unlike our last trip, this time my girls had no anxiety.  They read the map, found our stops, and confirmed we were headed in the correct direction.



As it turned out, the ride was easier than I expected and the end stop was soooo worth it.  We spent the day with our friends who relocated to Chicago late this summer.  Their neighborhood was pretty awesome.  It is filled with ethnic restaurants, consignment shops, book stores, toy stores, and the like.  Another place where I could wandered from cafe to boutique all day.









The girls had a fantastic time.  When we were making plans to meet, we discussed meeting at the Field Museum of Natural History.  I thought it would be cool to visit three of the major Natural History Museums.  My girls thought otherwise.  They just wanted time to visit and play.  They were right. This is just what we needed.  A cup of tea, a cozy home, the laughter of a house full of girls, some window shopping.  The absolute perfect way to end our trip.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cedarburg, Wisconsin

If you were headed North out of Illinois and into Wisconsin and saw this sign.....


...wouldn't you stop?

this is the "my sister is a cheesehead" look...

All Greg and I could think of was "cheese curds".  We fell in love with these treats while visiting a dairy farm in Tennessee this summer.  These were not quite as good but then again the ones we had in TN could not possibly have been any fresher having come out of the curd bin minutes before they were popped into our mouths!

Milwaukee!  When we get home, we will put a star on Wisconsin.  Our goal is to see how many states we can fill with stars.  



If ever you are in Wisconsin and want to spend a fabulous day, check out Cedarburg.  The purpose of our visit was to spend time with Greg's Aunt and Uncle.  Since Greg's cousin lives in Boston, his Aunt and Uncle have made many trips East over the past few years and on most trips they pass through Connecticut and go out of their way to visit with us.  They remind me a bit of my Aunt and Uncle in Massachusetts.  I enjoy spending time in their company.

Cedarburg is a historic town built along the banks of a river.  It is filled with quaint mom and pop shops carrying items from free trade artwork to handmade textiles.  There are bakeries, ice cream shoppes, toy stores, jewelry stores, book stores and bed and breakfasts.  It is the place you want to wander through, popping into each store to browse the shelves, become inspired by the art, be soothed by the aromas and be surrounded by a very strong sense of community.  








After we spend some time touring downtown, we headed about 15 minutes away to meet Greg's cousin's family for the first time.  The girls immediately hit it off with their "new" cousins and had a fantastic time scootering in the basement and playing the baby grand piano.  We shared some cake and ice cream which was served with a touching "Happy Birthday"... sung to me!  I was honored.  Before we departed for our two hour drive back to Chicago, Greg's cousin's 6 year old son, gathered everyone together and took a group photograph with the camera he was just given.  Greg and I were moved by his dedication to the role of photographer and did not take a picture of our own because this was so clearly his moment.  If he emails me the picture, I would be most appreciative!

It was a day that will last in our memory and live in our hearts.  






Saturday, November 12, 2011

Road Schooling - Navy Pier

I don't think this Mama could possibly have been any more tired today.  After Greg left for work, I fell back into a very deep sleep.  I woke groggy and cranky.  Unfortunately crankiness is contagious.   As a result, we three girls got a very late start.  After walking a mile or more to find a bakery that was literally right.around.the.corner, we discovered the water taxi.  For the cost of a taxi ride in NYC, we traveled the waterway to the Sears, Willis Tower, back to Michigan Ave, and finally, to Navy Pier.  








We spent three hours walking the Pier.  



We watched a charming marionette show.



The girls had their very first caricature drawing.



They spent their own money on some souvenir pictures.



It is amazing how a bit of fresh air, laughter and love can chase away a bad mood.





Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...