Monday, June 27, 2011

Little Girl in the Tree

This is me in a tree at my grandpa's house.   I loved being up there with the birds.  It was something special to see the world from a little different view.  It seems like only yesterday.  I don't know where the time has gone.  My son is about the age I was when this photo was taken.

Today I woke up a year older. I'm now only one year away from the big 40.  I always dreaded hitting that number, but birthdays are funny things.  I don't feel any older today and for some reason turning 40 next year doesn't bother me anymore.  I still strive to see the world differently and apart from knowing a lot more and being quite a bit taller and curvier, I still feel like that little girl in the tree.

My school picture :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amazing Jellies and MC Blogfest

Spotted Lagoon Jelly

Jellyfish are 95% water.  They live in all the world's oceans.  They have survived for millions of years on Earth without a brain, bones, or even a heart.  They pack a poisonous punch, but they are mesmerizing.  They drift and undulate through the currents stinging prey as it happens by.  I stood in front of their tanks in the aquarium  hypnotized by their beauty.  I had no idea there were so many different species, (around 200), in a range of striking colors and luminescence.  Here are two of my favorites that Jessica captured on her camera. 

I think this is an Egg Yolk Jelly


MC Blogfest!

Ok here are my answers from my newest main character, Sakie.  I have just started working on her story so answering these questions have helped me understand who she is.  Her story takes place in feudal Japan.

What is you biggest fear?  Losing my father

What is your biggest accomplishment?  Helping father take care of Shin, (my little brother)..... and being faster than any of the boys in Tanegashima.

What is your biggest regret?  I wish I had spent more time with mother and really listened to her teachings.  Her wisdom didn’t seem important, then.  Now she is gone.  There are questions I want to ask her but I cannot.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bad News/Good News

Bad News:  our water heater broke down yesterday and started leaking onto our basement floor

Good News: We weren't still in Chicago.  I was at home and heard this awful alarm blaring to tell me something was wrong with it.  Luckily hardly any water had seeped out.

Bad News:  My husband and I are clueless about home maintenance especially in the plumbing department.  For all I knew it was leaking gas as well.... I wondered if the kids and I should leave the house or open the windows... or maybe I was way overreacting.

Good News:  I called the plumber. The alarm was a cool little moisture sensor to warn of leakage and I was able to turn it off.  He reassured me that we were perfectly safe.  He would come after 5:00 to check it out.

Bad News:  Unfixable.  Need new one,  expensive.  In an attempt to move something out of his way I smacked the back of my head on a low cabinet.  Felt very stupid!

Good News:  He was able to put in a new one.

Bad News:  He had to turn off the water while I was making dinner.

Good News:  I didn't really need water for what I was cooking, but I kept going to turn on the faucet for little things, like rinsing a food or my hands.  I thought of how lucky I am to have water on demand whenever I want it.

More Good News:  It was all done and we would have hot water again in the morning...and the big burly plumber thought I was tough for not cursing when I so elegantly put my head into the cabinet.

All in all it was a good day.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Favorite Books

I just found the Favorite Book Challenge hosted by Teralyn Pilgrim and while I was too late to join the linkylist, I thought I would list my favorite books anyway.

 Most of these are non-fiction because I have always been fascinated by people's lives in the past.  But lately I've been enjoying a few novels in between.

Here are some of my favorites:

Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre:  A heartbreaking  history of India's struggle to win independence from England.  

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson:  A hilarious tale of Bryson's travels in Australia. I like a lot of his books but I think this is his best one yet.

Young Elizabeth: The First Twenty Five Years by Alison Plowden: A fascinating, in depth look into the early years of the queen showing how she was able to become the most powerful woman of that era.

The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle: This is a wonderful collection of Arthurian stories with occasional illustrations. I first read this when I was 13. I was entranced by the vivid language and tales of chivalry and fantasy in a time long gone.  I still have this book on my shelf.   

The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800 by Jay Winik: One of the most tumultuous periods in history is described in riveting detail as the stories behind the American Revolution, the French Revolution and their consequences in Russia are intertwined to give a picture of how interconnected life was at that time.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Katniss Everdeen struggles to survive the barbaric Hunger Games in which the dictatorial Capital forces its territories to send two teens into a gladiatorial type fight to the death.

Happy Summer Reading! :)

I'd love to hear what your favorites are, or what you are planning to read this summer.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Navigationally Impaired

Field Museum fun.
Despite having lived in downtown Philadelphia for two years, I'm not a city girl.  I love all the great museums and restaurants in a big city, it's the transportation I don't like. Standing on a crowded bus doesn't bother me.  Hurtling through an underground tunnel at high speeds doesn't bother me, but reading a map with metro lines and bus routes is like telling me I have 10 seconds to read Egyptian hieroglyphs before my head falls off.  So when I realized I would have to navigate Chicago in order to take the kids to the museums, I was a little anxious.  I was naively hoping our hotel near the Magnificent Mile would have a shuttle to ferry clueless tourists around and keep them out of the way of busy residents.  This was not the case.   My husband gave me the helpful advice of "Just walk a couple of blocks then hop on the blue line, get off at the red line and then take bus 192 the rest of the way."  Well maybe he didn't say it quite like that but that's how it sounded to me.  Since he was going to be in meetings all day, it was up to me to figure it out.

In the morning I went to the concierge and asked what the easiest way to the Shedd Aquarium was.  He handed me a little slip of paper and told me the bus stop is 3 blocks away, it goes directly to the museum campus.  I am notorious for saying "thank you" quickly and not getting all the information, but this time I asked him every question I could think of as if he was a wise Confucian master holding all the answers to life.  Ok, I felt ready to embark on this journey now.  We walked out of the hotel and headed for the bus.  My kids, not confident of my abilities, asked if I was sure I knew where I was going.  I lied.  But I trusted the fortune like slip of paper the concierge had handed me.  It told me everything I needed to know, which is good because I couldn't remember whether the guy had said turn left or right.  But in no time we were at the bus stop.  The kids saw our bus coming and we prepared to enter.  I paid with exact change (I had asked the concierge about fares in advance), and we took our seats.  Ryan actually stood up because he wanted to have his feet in one half of the bus and hold the pole in the other half.  Every time we turned a corner, his body swiveled with the back half.  He thought that was really funny.

It took about 25 minutes to get to our stop.  We spent the whole day enjoying the aquarium and Field Museum. Ryan loved seeing the penguins, Alyssa loved the Beluga whales, Jessica loved the Egyptian tour and I loved watching the kids' excitement to learn.  They took tons of pictures, (they each have a camera to document the trip through their eyes).  We had a great time!

We exited the museum from a different spot and I asked the guard which way to go. She asked if we came in the East or North entrance.  I think my mouth hung open....."uh the one by the bus stop", I answered.  She looked confused like maybe there was more than one bus stop.  Then she asked if we came in on "such and such" a street.  I guess I didn't look as clueless as I felt if she thought I knew what street we were on.  I finally remembered another land mark I had seen as we came in.  "Ahhhh you came in from that way, ok go outside and turn left", she said.

We got back on the bus and headed home happy but exhausted.  I was proud I hadn't gotten us lost and I relaxed into the seat.  Then a man in his fifties wearing green and pink plaid shorts entered the bus with his family of 4 kids.  He got out his credit card and tried to put it in the coin slot.  The driver said, "Hey man whatya doin'?  Is that a credit card?  This ain't 2050 it's only 2011, we take cash only, and it don't give change."  The man looked perplexed. He told the bus driver to wait while he asked his wife for cash.  The kids and I watched this scene and all I could think was "UGHH ....tourists."


Monday, June 20, 2011

Chicago! A Photo Journal

Enjoying the view of Lake Michigan

Ryan with a statue of his favorite animal

Ryan being his favorite animal

Ryan worn out on Navy Pier

Ending the day with an Italian dinner on the Pier

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grande Finale!

Some of my wonderful students! (I'm in the middle)
I'm hardly ever at a loss for words, but I've had a difficult time expressing this weekend's whirlwind of emotions.  I'm proud, exhausted, relieved, saddened and happy all at the same time. I don't even know where to start.   
I'm so proud of all my students!  All their 6:00 am practices paid off as they demonstrated their skills in our annual two day ice show this last weekend.  They had nerves of steel in front of a packed house and skated some of their best performances.  They have grown so much as skaters and people this season and I'm lucky to be a part of that.  I loved watching them in their short moments of glory, their faces lit with inspiration.  
I'm exhausted from the hours of rehearsing, organizing costumes, prepping dressing rooms and helping to run the show itself . 

I'm relieved that the show ran smoothly and that I didn't knock over the curtain and big screen as I was rushing around picking up props. (Last year, I skated over a piece of tape, that's like trying to glide over dirt, and as I slid under the curtain I envisioned the whole thing coming down!  Luckily it remained in place.)

I'm selfishly saddened that one of my lovely students is graduating and moving on to college.  She has been a joy to teach! I'm happy for her, but her radiance which fills the arena with warmth will be truly missed.  And despite all the craziness I'm sad that all the excitement is over.  It's a lot of fun to be a part of a big production.

Most of all though, I am happy all the kids had an amazing two nights.  They formed bonds which will never be broken by supporting each other even when mistakes were made. They had the opportunity to skate with and get to know our guest star Parker Pennington. His love and enthusiasm of our sport and the skaters was evident as he hung out with the kids before and after the show.

It was a wonderful experience for all of us involved.  My daughter said, "It was the best part of the skating season!"


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yeah for Awards!

Many thanks to Tara Tyler for this sweet award.

Here are my 7 random things about me:

1. I met my husband at an ice rink.

2. We then got married on the ice at the same rink.

3. I love opera.

4. As a kid I loved dinosaurs, actually I still think they are pretty cool!

5. I'm terrible at playing video games.  My son gets frustrated and takes the controller away from me.

6. I can only draw stick figure people.

7.  I am working hard at math on Khan Academy. (It never was my favorite subject, but I figure it's never too late to improve.)

I'd like to pass this award on to some of my bloggy friends.

2.Ali Cross

Have a beautiful summer day!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Special Day

My son cried the night before his 5th birthday.  He didn't want to leave 4 behind.  He thought being 4 was so much fun. Last night he again had trouble falling asleep but this time there were no tears, only sounds of excitement.  He couldn't wait to be 7.  I think he now sees his birthday as a magical day where all sorts of new and exciting things will happen. After all birthdays are how you become an adult, right?  Birthdays represent his future plans and dreams.
He asked me if you grow on your birthday. I said "no".

For his birthday party he decided to put "No presents please" on his invitations because he realized it was more important to have lots of friends come than get a few extra presents.

Maybe I was wrong about growing.  He didn't wake up today 2 feet taller, but his outlook on life seems more grown up today than it was yesterday.  Maybe because he sees himself as that "grown up" 7 year old.

Happy Birthday Ryan!!


Thanks  Tara Tyler for my award!  You're awesome.  Tomorrow's post will be my seven random facts. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

School is Almost Out!!

 Only 2 more days of school!  I think I'm as excited as the kids.  But when my elderly neighbor asked me what I would do with the kids once summer starts, I wondered if maybe I'm a little odd.  It never occurred to me to ponder "What am I going to do with these children of mine for 3 months?"  Do others worry about this?  I'm happy picturing all the lazy June mornings, taking the kids on walks and bike rides and hanging out together.  I've been looking forward to summer vacation since September.   Maybe more of my time will be occupied and I won't get to writing or blogging as much, but I only have 4 more summers before my oldest daughter goes off to college. 4 more summers to leave her with a lasting memory of what our family is all about.  The other two won't be far behind.  Then my house will be painfully quiet.  So for now I want to fill June, July and August with lots of crazy kid fun!

Can't wait til the bell rings tomorrow afternoon!!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy Cilantro!

Have you ever had one of those days where the more you try to mulit-task the worse things get?  I never seem to be able to focus on just one task.  I have about 50 things I'm trying to accomplish at once.  Sometimes my mind can't keep up and it all ends up in a muddled mess.  For example, I was making dinner and talking to my mom about the many uses of cilantro.  I was also tending to the kids .....and I was trying to write a birthday message.  I was doing fine until I wrote "Happy Cilantro" in the card.  Maybe I would be better off focusing on one thing at a time!

Have a beautiful day! :)


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making Education Accessible

Over the weekend we rediscovered a great website we had visited a while back called the Khan Academy.  It is a non profit organization dedicated to providing high quality free education to anyone anywhere.  The site has over 2100 short lectures on a variety of subjects ranging from math to biology to history.  My husband and I had watched a couple a few months ago.  They were easy to listen to and we learned a lot.  But now the site has been updated and improved so that your learning can  be easily tracked.  It also has many fun new features to reward you with points and badges like the Sun Badge and the Legendary Black Hole Badge.  Each badge is earned by completing new tasks.  To earn an Earth Badge and 5,000 points, for example, you must answer 75 questions in a row quickly and correctly.

Our whole family is now addicted to the site.  All five of us are competing against each other to see who can earn the most points and cool badges.  I already have 8 Moons!  Yeah!  In math, there are levels ranging from basic addition like 1+1 all the way to calculus.  So there is plenty to keep us all busy.  Even though our 6 year old might not yet be able to grasp pre-algebra, he can continue earning points and badges by doing more problems or working quicker.  It has made all our kids excited to learn more math.  I never felt that way as a kid.  Our 8th grader said of the math lectures she watched so far, "He teaches so much better than my teacher in school!  He makes it fun to learn math."

It all started when Salman Khan started tutoring his cousins in math with quick lectures that he posted on YouTube.  Pretty soon others were watching them, learning from them and telling him how much the videos helped.  So far over 57 million lessons have been delivered.  Some schools are even using his site for their classes.  He is also working to enable people in extreme rural areas without internet access, the ability to use the software. Mr. Khan says that he hopes someday to cover every subject in the Khan Academy. Now after interviews on CNN, ABC, PBS and others, and an infusion of funds from generous donors such as the Gates Foundation, the Khan Academy is working hard toward it's goal of becoming the world's first tuition free academic institution that is available to anyone on the planet.  Lofty goals, but as he says on the website, "I can't imagine a better use of my time."

Join me in growing your Knowledge Map by using the Khan Academy and all its resources.