Tuesday, November 27, 2007

We rode the Pink Pig!

Well, we finally took part in an Atlanta Christmas tradition today. Here's a little blurb to bring you up to speed.

From its 1953 debut as a children’s ride at the downtown Rich’s to its brief stint at the Egleston Children’s Hospital Festival of Trees, four generations of Atlantans have ridden the pink pig into the holiday season. And, millions have worn “I Rode the Pink Pig” stickers with pride. The original Pink Pig – Priscilla – was a monorail giving children an elevated view of the store’s toy department. Later, another pig – Percival – was added and the two could be found on the store’s roof, encircling the Great Tree.

Re-introduced in 2003, Priscilla, the Pink Pig carries on the family tradition beneath a 170-foot, 1950s-themed Pink Pig Tent at the Lenox Square upper-level parking deck. Sponsored by Macy’s, the ride travels along train tracks to carry children and parents through a life-sized storybook that includes the original Pink Pig, greendog and other holiday friends. Macy’s donates a portion of the proceeds to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

A beloved holiday tradition adored by generations of Atlantans for more than 50 years, the Pink Pig was voted Best Holiday Tradition by Atlanta Magazine!!!

We've seen the white tent in the parking lot of Macy's for years now but only this year did Aidan ask to check it out. We hadn't even gotten close to that mall (I can't even remember the last time I went to a mall, come to think of it) but once talk of Christmas began, he remembered on his own accord. Although not the most thrilling ride of my life, it was decent enough and the boys seemed to enjoy it. The graphics and "pink-ness" of it all certainly weren't my style, but it seemed imperative that we take part in something so quintessentially Atlanta before we move.


Well, a lot has happened since I last wrote. So much for the everyday blogging I was going to attempt. I must admit, breaking the camera really crimped my style and I still haven't recovered. I didn't go near the computer for over a week and then when I did, I didn't check email or attempt to write anything. Maybe I just needed a break. I don't know. Amazingly, despite my funk, life went on! Aidan can now ride a two wheeler! (This picture is courtesy of Diane's camera) He still requires some help getting started off but he is now perfecting the moving turn and breaking with the pedals, not by crashing or falling. Actually, he has yet to have any major collision or upset. It's totally reflective of his personality, though. Mr. Safety. But still, he is an amazingly even rider without even so much as a wobble.
I don't know who's more excited sometimes. I have caught myself hollering with incredible gusto, to the point of Aidan's embarrassment, I'm sure. He"ll need to get used to that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Surprised by Color

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree."
Emily Bronte

It's amazing. Despite the historical drought we are experiencing, autumn in Atlanta is stunning. Last week has burned into this week and suddenly our street is aflame. It's amazing. I don't remember the colors being this vivid in the history of my time here. And though I, too, pray for rain to fall I will be content
for now
with the falling

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This week's adventure

Again, if only my camera wasn't broken!!!! AARRGGHH!!

Last week it was reading. This week, it is bike riding. That's right. As in without training wheels. Yesterday, Aidan got his bike out of the garage and discovered that his training wheels had gotten all out of whack. I'm not sure what happened to them because I didn't see any major collision or accident when he was riding his bike the day before. Nevertheless, when he started riding he wobbled back and forth. I offhandedly said, "Gosh, if it's that wobbly you might as well take the training wheels off." I truly wasn't trying to start something but, to my utter surprise, Aidan jumped at the idea. "Alright. I'll do it," he said.
Now, you must understand, whenever I've ever alluded to such a proposition in the past it has been met with nothing short of hostility. So, for obvious reasons, I had stopped bringing it up.
After I double and triple checked that Aidan was really up for this we then did the deed. He was so excited to put on his helmet and then hop up on a true two wheeler. And I swear he looked 3 inches taller.
We proceeded to practice "riding" for about 30 minutes. I only let go for a few seconds here and there and most of the time he didn't know when I had. I suppose I wasn't interested in watching him fall off his bike a million times on the first day. We'll save that for a little later on this week. I finally had to cry "uncle" when my lower back all but gave out with one major spasm. He was sad to stop but he was very gracious about it and understood.
The thing that amazed me about all of this was his attitude. Never before have I seen him make up his mind so decisively and follow through so completely. I truly believe that he thought that it was very possible that he might actually pull this off in one day. And if my back was worth more than mush, I believe he could have too.
This was all him, again. It's just fascinating to see how quickly he advances, no matter what the subject or task, when he is in charge of the pace, method, or direction. This adventure in learning at home is truly an education for me, as well. Learning to trust my son and his abilities is one of the hardest things I've ever done. But the reward for doing so is beautiful. I get to see my son shimmer.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

We have a date!

Well, after all of the soul searching, researching, praying, meditating, ruminating, dreaming and wondering it appears that our time in Atlanta has now become finite. John's last day as an employee of the Georgia Justice Project will be December 31. Technically, the office is closed from Christmas through New Year's Day so his last day will actually be the day before Christmas. Which means that we will be moving to St. Louis, Missouri sometime during that last week of December.
I think I'm still in shock, despite the fact that I've already started taking care of details. It's just kind of strange to suddenly be staring in the face all that you've been talking and planning for over the past year and a half. We're not talking of things in some distant far off future anymore--we're talking of our reality in just over 6 weeks!!!!!
And how in the world do I really begin the process of closing out a chapter of my life that has been 17 years in the writing? I have now lived in Atlanta (when you include my four years at Emory) as many years as I ever lived in St. Louis. That's phenomenal. Despite the fact that I was born and lived in the same city my "whole life", my entire adult life (college, single life, marriage, children) has been carved out here in Atlanta. I now say y'all without blinking an eye, I truly believe that Spring begins in March and lasts until June, I never hope for snow on Christmas anymore--or all winter, for that matter, I think nothing of driving over 15 miles to see a friend, and my midwestern accent no longer exists. I've got Atlanta smeared all over me! This city has become my home.
So how do you move "home" when you already have a home?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pumpkin update

I can't believe my camera's not working. You would love how crazy the boys' pumpkins look. Aidan's fell off its perch within a day and August's looks like the wicked witch of the west after Dorothy threw water on her. The main benefactor of our backyard experiment seems to be ants. They moved in almost immediately and have been slowly munching away at the pumpkin flesh. It would be interesting to see how the pumpkins decomposed in a compost pile as compared to how they do it by themselves. Regardless of their setting, it is still pretty interesting.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The value of work

This post is about me today.

While the boys played outside this morning I decided to rake some leaves. Talk about an exercise in futility! The leaves have only just begun to fall here and, if you cast your eyes heavenward, you can see that there are plenty more where the ones you're raking came from. Nevertheless, my anal retentive self took pleasure in the momentary tidiness.
I've noticed that some of my best thinking occurs during these mundane tasks (raking, showering, scrubbing the toilet) and that has helped me to view such responsibilities in a new light. I'm starting to welcome them, actually. As much as I love being with my boys, it is incredibly time and energy consuming and there's not a whole lot of time for higher level thinking on my part. I can get away with this for awhile, but if left unchecked, I become a babbling moron. I will be the first to admit that I am not the town intellectual but I am also not the village idiot. I do have a brain and I do like to use it on occasion. The problem occurs when I try to shift gears on a whim. I overhear some stimulating conversation--I can't think exactly where I might hear said conversation, but just stay with me--and I want to chime in. But it's as if there are only vapors to burn, not honest to goodness combustible fuel. This happens more often than I would like to admit. But I have found that this is exactly why the everyday tasks that require no thinking on my part, but rather simple repetitive motions, are so valuable. These often loathed chores are now something I welcome because they provide me with something that is so rare: time to just think. I need time to let the dust settle and then for thoughts, ideas, and inspiration to emerge. This only happens when you have time to think of nothing and something to occupy your hands. I need this more often since I can't recall all the new insights I gained this morning, but you get the gist. I'll get back to when I remember my incredible plans.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Could it really be a second Good Day?

When I woke up this morning I was still buzzing from yesterday's "good day." It was just such an encouragement to my soul to watch pure learning take place. I was just planning on milking that experience for all it was worth, not expecting to get such a high again any time soon.

And then there's my Aidan. What I have managed to learn thus far in our "learning at home" adventure is that you don't push anything on him. Relaying information to him is successful almost exclusively through natural conversation and interaction. Whenever I strike a pose that singles me out as "TEACHER" and him as "STUDENT", it never goes well. It's like he can see straight through that charade and he just shuts down and moves on. He craves personal connection, not didactic gymnastics. Which is wonderful because ever since I recognized that learning at home was for us, I've never been able to find a curriculum that I felt fit. It has become more and more obvious to me that we are eclectic, relaxed, and ever evolving home based learners. We fit in no proverbial box and we are constantly responding to the day as it unfolds. In that environment we all seem to shine.

So that's the set up. It was 2:45 this afternoon. I had just finished an hour of house work that I had insisted that the boys allow me to complete. "It's not my job to think of what you should do with yourselves while I do what I need to do," were my parting words. Both boys retreated to their bedroom to look at books or magazines or play with blocks. I was true to my word and checked back in with them after an hour. I offered to do a 96 piece puzzle with Aidan and as we finished he casually said, "I can write the word 'cat' in lowercase letters." "Show me," I said. We went to his table. He proceeded to do as he said he could do. I then told him that if he could spell "cat" then he could spell "bat." He cocked his head at me and I could see him trying to figure that out. I then reminded him that cat and bat rhyme and thus, they are spelled the same. When he realized that the only letter that changed was the first his face lit up like a Christmas tree. He then went on to spell "mat, hat, rat, fat and sat." I then decided to push my luck and write out "The fat rat sat on a hat" and I proceeded to ask him to read it. The look on his face was priceless. "Read it? Who me?" is what his eyes seemed to be saying. But then he looked down at what I had written and proceeded to sound it out, even the "sight" words "The" and "on."

I'm still buzzing. How great is this? To witness the birth of new found knowledge as it is actually emerging from the womb of someone's brain is truly a miracle and a privilege.

And I didn't do anything! It was all Aidan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Good Day

Although I know it will not always be like this--heck, I've already experienced enough days not like this to know that--today was a good day. Good in that I was able to witness, in a very relaxed way, the ability of my children to dictate what and how they learn. I couldn't help but shake my head when I looked at the clock and realized that by 7:30 a.m., Aidan had already shown me what he knew regarding geography, national and state monuments, and an assortment of math concepts. It was such a fluid and natural course that I had to just step back and watch it go.

Since the time change, we wake up about 6:30ish, which is fine with me because I am a morning person. The house was still quiet so we decided to read on the sofa. August woke up and joined us with his early morning good natured self. We began reading a book titled Z is for Zookeeper by Marie and Roland Smith. This has been a good book to read to both boys at the same time because it has two reading levels included for each letter of the alphabet. An example is the easy verse for the letter P. "P is for Penguins jumping in the pool. A zookeeper's job is keeping them cool." This is sing-song-y in a way that engages August but in the margin they have much more detailed information regarding penguins--their habitats, eating habits, how they care for them in the zoo, etc. that engages Aidan. So in reading this passage about penguins this morning we learned that there are 17 different species of penguins and all of them are found in the southern hemisphere. I casually asked him if he knew what the southern hemisphere was. He said that he didn't. So then I asked him if he remembered how on his globe there was a line that went around the middle of the planet. Yes, he did. So then I explained that everything above that line was in the northern hemisphere and below, in the southern. A moment of silence as everything was assimilated and then Aidan said, "There's a line like that on the globe that goes over where St. Louis is." I wasn't sure where he was going with this so we went and got his little globe (great buy from the Target dollar bin!). He found St. Louis and pointed to what , sure enough, was a line crossing directly over the city horizontally. This led into a discussion about lines of latitude and longitude and other geographical terms. He then asked if we could look up information about the state of Missouri that was on the website that we had looked at a couple of days ago.

So, to make a long story short, I let him explore the website on his own while I went to make breakfast. He kept calling me in to tell him about what he found or to tell me something that he was able to figure out on his own from pictures or symbols. After awhile on that, he then picked up this great book that I got at our neighborhood thrift store for $2 titled Anno's Math Games by Mitsumasa Anno. It is such a fun book. As the writer explains in his notes to parents and teachers, "While many people equate mathematics with arithmetic, its real meaning relates to much more than merely manipulating numbers. Above all, it represents a way of thinking about things."
Aidan totally gets this book and I think it will serve him well as an introduction to the world of math. He "read" through it until his waffle was ready. All of this before breakfast and it was all so natural. This is what this journey is all about and I am loving every minute of it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A website for you

If I could get away with it, I would spend a great majority of my time looking at the world around me like the folks at Hilton Pond, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to education, research, and conservation. The man who started it, Bill Hilton, Jr., was a graduate student in ornithology who relocated to South Carolina from Minnesota in order to teach high school biology. He and his family bought a farm and the rest is history. Bill has a nature blog titled This Week at Hilton Pond. The writing is extensive and thorough and the pictures are amazing. He writes weekly so make sure to check back from time to time.


Well, I've already managed to slip up and miss a day of blogging for National Blog Posting Month. I certainly didn't mean to, honestly. Last night I was all set to snuggle into bed and write about our day at the park, complete with pictures and the usual commentary, but John was using the computer when I was ready. Although he promised that he wouldn't take long, the next thing I knew, I had crawled under the covers and fallen asleep.

It was 9:00.

Granted, it was the first day of Daylight Savings and my body felt like it was 10:00, but really. I haven't gone to bed that early since... I can't remember. So, I woke up today and realized what had happened. Oh well, so I won't get a chance to win a random price. I'm trying not to let my slip up knock the wind out of me. I would like to continue to write something everyday as I think its good for me.

On another note, I dropped my camera yesterday and the top part of the button you push to take pictures popped off. It will still turn on and off, you can zoom in and out and you can view pictures you've already taken--you just can't take any pictures. AAUUGGHH!! I have come to love that little camera and especially love how it adds to this blog endeavor. I sincerely hope that I can either find that little top in my driveway (Daddy, where are you when I need you?) or that it can be repaired.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

What is this?

Can anyone tell me what this is? It's some kind of crazy huge weed that shows up in our yard every year at the end of summer/beginning of fall. It's about 3-4 feet in height (yes, we let it get that high! Although John and I have differing views than some of our neighbors on exactly how long you can go before you must cut the stuff growing on your property, this thing does grow in a part of the yard that is not really "lawn" per se), it has a deep cranberry colored stalk as well as stems, large hosta looking leaves and, to the kids utter delight, these dark purple berries that grow like grapes. The kids have been warned, beyond what is reasonable probably, that these beautiful purple orbs are VERY POISONOUS. I don't know that to be true since I don't know what the heck this plant is, but it's obviously better to land on the side of the living than the alternative. Although I would like to be able to identify this plant by it's correct name to my children , they could care less. These berries have been the secret ingredient in their huge pot of mud soup, mini bombs thrown at an apparent enemy, and a general all purpose fun thing to squish at every opportunity. I, personally, would love to use it as a natural dye in something because its color is truly exquisite. But I would also love to know what it is. Anyone? Just post it in the comments section if you know.

Pumpkin experiment

We have decided to do a pumpkin experiment. The boys both picked places to place their pumpkins in our crazily overgrown backyard and both pumpkins ended up on top of tree stumps, interestingly enough. The plan is to watch them deteriorate and see what critters take advantage of their strategic placement. This is a risky endeavor, I suppose, since we have spotted rats in our yard before (okay, to be honest, we've more than "spotted" rats in our yard. In fact, John has been photographed assassinating one outside our kitchen window but that doesn't really have anything to do with this project). Hopefully, the liveliest thing that will take up residence in our forlorn squashes will be crazy mold. Either way, it should make for a fun timelapse photo experience, don't you think?

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'm up for the challenge

So I've gone and signed myself up for


National Blog Posting Month

The challenge is to post something everyday in November. There are prizes randomly awarded for those who manage to pull this off so, of course, that's what got me to sign on. Seriously though, I think the challenge is good and is the kind of nudge I need to be more disciplined about writing in general. It will be interesting to see if I can take the minutia of our lives, chisel away the mundane and uncover the gem. I hope you'll join me on this journey.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

On sword play...

In doing some research for some possible book purchases I stumbled across this quote. I thought I'd post it here as consolation for me and as insight for you, regarding my swashbuckling son, Aidan.

G. K. Chesterton wrote in a 1906 magazine article:

A child's instinct is almost perfect in the matter of fighting; a child always stands for the good militarism as against the bad. The child's hero is always the man or boy who defends himself suddenly and splendidly against aggression. The child's hero is never the man or boy who attempts by his mere personal force to extend his mere personal influence. In all boys' books, in all boys' conversation, the hero is one person and the bully the other. That combination of the hero and bully in one, which people now call the Strong Man or the Superman, would be simply unintelligible to any schoolboy....

But really to talk of this small human creature, who never picks up an umbrella without trying to use it as a sword, who will hardly read a book in which there is no fighting, who out of the Bible itself generally remembers the "bluggy" [bloody] parts, who never walks down the garden without imagining himself to be stuck all over with swords and daggers--to take this human creature and talk about the wickedness of teaching him to be military, seems rather a wild piece of humour. He has already not only the tradition of fighting, but a far manlier and more genial tradition of fighting than our own. No; I am not in favour of the child being taught militarism. I am in favour of the child teaching it.