Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day

There's nothing quite like a not-too-hot/not-too-cool day in May with a clear blue sky, a lake, a perfect breeze, and family.

 Especially when you have a little red-headed, curly-haired grandbaby/nephew/cousin visiting…

And three of your four brothers and your Dad play bocce and manage not to hit that red-headed baby or anyone else…

And there's a mama duck and one little baby just waiting for some leftover hot dog buns…
 And cousins are there to entertain that baby and follow him all over the park, catering to his every whim 'cause he is the 10th grandbaby, after all …

And your Mom, the sweetest of all, feeds tiny bits of watermelon to that curly, red-haired grandson for hers until he gets tired of those tiny bits and chomps down on a slice all his own.

It's a good day in May when there's watermelon and people who have been here for nearly nine decades and people who have just begun.

Linked up with Outdoor Wednesday

Friday, May 24, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up: Nearing the End—and the Ultimate Field Trip Preview

 This has been simply an amazing month for homeschooling. We took the ultimate family field trip: 10 days in France. I have only just begun recording our journeys on my blog, but so far you can read about Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. I'll have more posts up in the coming week, but here's a little preview of what we did:
Paid tribute to a lot of famous people in cemeteries and crypts

Visted the Louvre

 D'Orsay Museum

Napoleon's tomb

Rodin's Museum

The Eiffel Tower


The Catacombs

The Pantheon

 And much, much more. We spent about 8 hours each day out and about, mostly walking! We spent the vast majority of our time in Paris, but we also took an incredible one-day trip to Normandy.

At Point du Hoc, Normandy

American Cemetery in Normandy

What a phenomenal way to end our school year. I am so overwhelmed and blessed that we could make this trip with our kids. At 20, 15, and 12, they are absolutely the perfect ages to travel and remember. I hope this begins a lifetime of journeys for them.

Back home, we have just one more week of school, and I have about 8 weeks left to finish in history. Isn't that always the way it goes? I mean, I don't have to finish what I hoped to do. No one is holding me to a scope and sequence or anything like that. I just really have so much more World War II information that I had hoped to cover with Duncan this year. I foresee lots of summer reading together.

Laurel is nearly done with her sophomore year—she has one exam and one paper to complete. She's had such a fantastic year.

And that's all for now! I am looking forward to next Friday, when I can officially declare this school year DONE. Well, except for all the reading I'd still like to do....

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our Week in Paris: Notre Dame

Of course, one must visit Notre Dame while in Paris. It's the stuff of movies and books and so much history.Don't be alarmed by the enormous line you will likely encounter upon approaching Notre Dame; it moves very quickly. Be sure to take a guidebook that details what you're looking at, especially as you wait outside.

Once inside, visitors are asked to be silent, and I really appreciate that. Notre Dame is simply beautiful—astonishingly so. The cathedral, which is one of the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world, is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

The stained glass windows, statutes, transepts: there are all stunning. It is hard to move through quickly. One wants to just linger at each one, soaking in the serenity and history.

After we walked through the cathedral, we wanted to climb to the top. The cathedral is free, but this is extra. If you buy a museum pass, this is covered BUT you don't get to skip the line. And the line was l-o-n-g. We waited about an hour and almost gave up several times. I am so glad we didn't! Climbing the stairs to the tower was so fun and the views were incredible!

We were up close to gargoyles, could see flying buttresses like crazy, and the views of Paris: WOW!!


After climbing hundreds of stairs up and back down, we headed around to the back of the cathedral along the Seine. We stumbled upon this bridge filled with Locks of Love, which was on Laurel's to-see list. People buy locks, write their names on them (Randy -n- Sarah 2013) and lock them on, throwing the key in the river. So fun!

 The back of Notre Dame is so beautiful, and there was a perfect Parisian park right there.

It was a perfect visit to Notre Dame, even with the incredibly long wait to climb to the tower. There are public restrooms right by the cathedral and plenty of street vendors to serve you while you wait, though. Crepes with nutella? Um, YES!!

More of Our Week in Paris:

Linked up with Saturday Snapshot 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Our Week in Paris: Arc de Triomphe

Our apartment rental in Paris was just a few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe. We arrived at 9:00 Thursday morning, absolutely shell-shocked from losing an entire night's sleep but unable to check into our apartment until noon. So once we dropped our luggage off, we headed to the Arc, which was the first thing we saw as we emerged from the metro.

It's free to see the Arc de Triomphe, and of course one must visit it if in Paris. Napoleon ordered the construction of the Arc in 1806 but it wasn't completed until 30 years later, long after his death in 1821. The Arc honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars.

Duncan and I have been studying WWII this year, and we've seen more than one video clip of Nazi soldiers and later American soldiers marching around the Arc. 

 Beneath the vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

That first morning we just walked around the Arc, but we headed back at night to climb to the top. This is covered by the Paris Museum Pass; otherwise, it's 9,50 euros and free for kids under 18, like everything is in Paris. This was absolutely, totally worth it!! The view of Paris at night is simply magical.

The Eiffel Tower, by the way, lights up like a disco ball at the top of every hour for five minutes. It's fabulous! 

More of Our Week in Paris: Notre Dame

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

To Paris We Go

I'm savoring it this morning, before the day is filled with errands, activities, and events. Tomorrow we are going to Paris!

Today I'll be busy with the last-minute details: packing, doing laundry, downloading travel apps and kindle books, triple-checking money and itineraries. But I'll kind of be gliding through the day, because, well, tomorrow we are going to Paris. For real.

I haven't been overseas in 30 years. Thirty years! That is hard for me to imagine because I can still hear the sound of our footsteps echoing in the Louvre, still see Notre Dame against a deep blue January sky. I was 16. I hope my own kids remember this trip so well.

I am grateful for a friend who is staying at our house and cat-sitting, my parents who are dog-sitting, and friends who have provided luggage, adapters, and advice. I am a little sad to be leaving our yard just as the azaleas and irises are in full bloom and the roses and peonies are about to burst forth, but, then again, I'll be in Paris.

Stay tuned for our adventures in France! In the next 10 days we'll hit a bunch of museums and cathedrals, Versailles, the Catacombs, the sewers, the Eiffel Tower, and as much as we can cram in without collapsing. We'll also take the train to Normandy and spend one day there, touring Omaha Beach and a few other D-Day sites.

And then we'll be back home, where we'll remember gargoyles and the Mona Lisa and city lights, ready for summer adventures in our own small world.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Monthly Wrap-Up

Whhhaaaat in the world have I been doing? I am not sure if I have ever had a busier few weeks in my life. I'm sure that I have, but this past month has been so packed that I never even thought of blogging. And I love blogging.

Our co-op classes ended for preK-8th a couple of weeks ago. That freed up a little bit of brain-space for me, as I was co-teaching a literature class for middle schoolers. Here is Duncan with his last project. We challenged them to create a book cover for either one of the books we read or to combine two or more of the books in some way. Duncan took The Odyssey and Alice in Wonderland to create…

Boy Scout spring camporee hit in mid-April. I don't really have anything to do with camporee, but this one took a lot of preparation on Duncan and Randy's part. Duncan's leadership role in the troop this spring was to put together cooking boxes for each patrol. He had to purchase, label, and pack 4 tubs with all the supplies each patrol would need for their meals (not including food). This was quite a project, which started weeks beforehand with going to various stores and comparing prices. It was a great learning experience for him.

He was also charged with making his patrol's new flag for camporee because he apparently drew the best honey badger, their chosen patrol name.

The same weekend that the boys had camporee, I had our support group's annual Homeschooling 101 to do. I've been doing this for about 9 years, and I really love everything about it. (Here is how we do Homeschooling 101, in case you think it would be a good idea where you are!) We had about 35 potential homeschoolers come. Interestingly, all but about 3 of them were parents who are pulling their kids out of public school. When I started doing this 9 years ago, most of our attendees were parents who were starting their kids fresh at the kindergarten level. Throughout the years we've had more and more people say they are done with the school system. We had a bunch of families pulling their kids out of "the best" area high school. It is rarely about academics and almost always about giving their kids—and their families— a better life.

Next up was our last American Heritage Girls meeting of the year. Since this has been our 10th year, we ended with a 10 year birthday party/carnival. It was an absolute success! We had 5 birthday cakes, all kinds of carnival games, a photo booth, and a perfect spring day for it all. This picture is of those of us who have been in our troop for all 10 years. Imagine: those girls were 5 and 6 years old when we started!

The very next evening was the prom! Our support group puts on an amazing prom. This year it was in Knoxville's Sunsphere, which, if you've ever been in or through Knoxville, is that weird golden ball structure that stand in the middle of downtown, constructed for the World's Fair. Laurel was treated like an absolute princess by her date, who, along with his mom, is one of my favorite people. Also, she got her braces off the day before prom!!

And just a few days before the prom, we volunteered to host the after-prom party because the other after-prom event fell through. I spent a few days beforehand frantically and furiously cleaning the house. The party was fantastic. We probably had 45 kids and a dozen parents here from 11:30- 2 a.m., hanging out in the house, apartment, by the fire, playing basketball and foosball, etc. I was utterly exhausted when it was all over.

But no rest for the weary. The next night was our first AHG Hoe-Down, another 10-year-event. It was adorable watching all the girls dressed in their cowboy boots, swinging their partners. We had a low turn-out and I was completely exhausted, but they had a great time. I hope it becomes an annual event.

In the midst of all of this, we had all our normal things, too. Co-op classes continue for Laurel, although her government class has ended. Duncan and I have continued learning about WWII, doing math, grammar, and all of that. School goes on around here sometimes sporadically when we have crazy months like this, but learning happens all the time. Duncan's 30 lessons into his algebra book for next year, so I'm feeling pretty awesome about math. One semester as a second grader seemed short, but I think he's ready for 8th grade next year. My goal for this summer is to convince him that reading actually is pleasurable. I know. How did we get a kid who doesn't love to read? He loves to be read to, and he's a fluent reader, but he just doesn't get the I-need-books-to-live thing.

Jesse came home from college a few days ago. It is absolutely crazy to think that our son will be a senior next year. Sheesh!! We are so incredibly proud of him for receiving three writing awards, including Belmont University's top writing award (which included cash!!). And  he pulled up his grades yesterday and found out he had a perfect 4.0! He's been on the dean's list every semester, but this is the first solid 4.0 he's received. So amazing! 

Last night was a huge, incredibly time-consuming event: our troop's End-of-the-Year Awards Ceremony—but also our passing-of-the-torch ceremony. Caroline and I have been troop coordinators for all 10 years, and it was time for us to retire. Last night was amazing and overwhelming, but that will be for another post. For now, I'll end with us receiving flowers at the end of the ceremony.

Next week, I have one more American Lit class to teach on Monday—and then we're off to Paris!!

Linked up for the first time in a really long time with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers