Monday, April 30, 2012

our week: a movie, a game and lots of piles...

 I would like to tell you that I am one of those women who is so organized that not only does my home look like an inviting and neatly equipped cross between a library and a bed and breakfast, but I am also working on a book to tell you how you too can live in such harmony...but I might fall over laughing in the process, giving it all away.  My husband (a Virgo) and I agree to disagree on the state of our house - or rather, to love each other a lot in spite of our different approaches to how things swing here.  He appreciates that I have other priorities than continual dusting and scrubbing and filing, and I appreciate the days when he decides to give the house the most thorough vacuuming it's had in years.

I do manage to frustrate myself, however, with my obsession with piles. If I am thinking about something, I like to make a little pile of books and materials that goes...well, over there, until I get to making it happen.  We do sometimes use at least part of a math curriculum, and those books have a spot on a shelf, with some manipulatives that aren't too hard to find, but everything else is an idea, a possibility, as in, "I wonder if the girls are as interested in clouds as I am right now?" and the piling of books, construction paper and oil pastels that eventually become field guides about clouds.

The piles reflect what I'm thinking about I guess, and are my arsenal for those free, focused moments in our days - moments when I can insert a "hey, what do you think about....?", for that's more often how things happen here.

Plants, poetry, puberty...short stories, rituals...math stories, the history of time, "great books" booklists...yeah, that's all mingling around in my mind, and on the kitchen counter, bedroom dresser, bookshelf and the corner of the kitchen table.  Not the most efficient method, but it keeps those ideas present and available, so it's working for now.  (Right?)

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When we returned from our trip last week, I settled into my piles - of books, laundry, and the various projects that present themselves afresh whenever you've had some time away. The girls, after a long day in the car (not so long, thanks to Treasure Island on tape) were eager to get out and run, even though it was a cold day.  Soon they were bursting in the door, breathless, 'cause "they're filming a movie with kids in it across the street, can we watch???" Which of course, four hours later, turned into "we can't come home yet, 'cause we're in the movie and we have one more scene to shoot!!" 

Waiting for "Action!"

and....Action!! (Ani's running up the hill; Eliza's waving to her friends)
Unexpected and fun.  

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After dinner one night this week, Eliza taught us a game she'd come up with (I think) that was sort of Charades and sort of Truth or Dare without the Truth part. She called it Forfeit, which then became "Who's the Turkey?" thanks to the turkey hat we used to hold the slips of paper. You just never know when the turkey hat is going to come in handy.  Dan laughs, but really...I think he might love my the turkey hat.

E, modeling the turkey hat. Now, on to the game...

Set up: select as many cards as players, making sure one is the joker.  On small pieces of paper, write 20 or so funny things to do (for example...sing a song in a french accent. loudly. outside.).  Eliza provided us with all of our "dares"...stick these in a hat.  If your hat has a turkey on it, you too can call this "Who's the Turkey?" Otherwise, you'll have to come up with your own clever name for it...

To play:  everyone selects a card, hoping against hope that it won't be the joker...which it usually is!!
The lucky joker draws a piece of paper from the hat, reads the challenge, and then executes it. Uproarious laughter ensues...

I think my favorites might have been the booty-shakin' dances out in front of the house...

Oh yeah!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

the invasion of the garlic mustard

The week before we left for Chicago, we headed out on a perfect spring day to ogle the clouds and find some garlic mustard to pick.  Garlic mustard is an invasive plant here, thriving in place of the native plants.  Deer don't like the taste of the garlic mustard, so they tend to compound the problem by nibbling at the native plants that are here, making more room for the garlic mustard to spread.  This plant is skilled in creating the perfect growing environment for itself - it is not eaten by any native insects (they don't like the smell or taste either), and it crowds out tree saplings as well, cutting down on the regeneration of forests, and produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants and trees.  Whew! That's some tenacious plant.  There is an effort locally to get rid of this plant, and we thought we could work it into one of our hikes...what kids don't like to rip plants out of the ground?? Plus, it is reportedly tasty...say no more, we're there.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is of the mustard family, and, well, it smells like garlic! Which is why the deer stay away and we made it into pesto.

The place we found to plunk ourselves down, out of the wind, to read, eat lunch, and draw was not near the patches of garlic mustard, so the drawings we made were of something that looks related - similar 4-petaled flowers and leaf arrangement.  We think it's winter cress.

When we remember to take drawing materials, we have a great time illustrating our discoveries, but while I fantasize gorgeously detailed nature journals, the truth is that we are more often content to make a few notes and then get back to the exploring (and rolling...).

Ani's journal entry, above and below

I like the "magnified" view of the flower, at left

Eliza's details
We're back to the chillier rain of a normal spring this week, with a quick break yesterday during which we got out to the bike path. 

Along the way we saw large stands of garlic mustard, and when the girls realized that they were growing right where we look every spring for jewelweed's new growth, they got on board for some more pulling. This time we brought it home and made up a pesto which was delicious, if a tad bitter.  I think as with most spring greens, if you catch them before they flower, they're a little tastier (and maybe more nutritious?).  Garlic Mustard is reportedly high in vitamins A and C and was used by the colonists (who grew it in their gardens) to treat stomach ulcers.

Ack! Crowding out the jewelweed
The pesto we made was simple: ~3 cups of garlic mustard leaves and a few flowers, ~1 cup pumpkin seeds, ~1 cup olive oil (ok, so I was in a hurry and didn't reeeeally measure anything, but it's pesto! Just keep trying till you get it tasting the way you like it!), salt, and a squeeze of lemon.  I thought it was tasty. Dan thought it tasted like almonds (which I took by his eating it, was not a bad thing, just a little strange), and Eliza politely informed me that she was sorry, but it was not to her liking. Ani just grunted; pesto without cheese is hardly worth making, in her opinion.  Dandelion pesto's on the list (though we're a little late on that this spring - we'll have to search the shady spots I guess), and maybe that will go over a little better?  I realize this is not a glowing endorsement, but I love that we made something I thought was yummy from a weed that is abundant and free for the picking!!

If you are in our area, there are still several "official" pulls taking place on the next two weekends. Check here, at the Rural Action website, for more details.  If you decide to take on some pulling of your own, don't forget to carry out your pulled plants in a trash bag - even pulled, if left to lie at the side of the path it will regenerate. Amazing, right?  That's why it's everywhere!!

My easter baskets this year - garlic mustard from the back yard!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Learning out in the world

The Unschooling Tools series at Ordinary Life Magic is all about GO! this week.  Nice coincidence that we happen to be having a lot of interesting Out right now of the Big City variety!!  I am laughing at all the things being absorbed this week...talking about all the different jobs people have in the city, why people might work at night, how someone might ride a bicycle with a prosthetic leg, why there is so much advertising on "regular" television, observing so much interesting architecture, observing people, people, people, people washing windows waaaaay up on a skyscraper, people working as doormen, people serving, walking, driving, touring, guiding, whistling...looking at the city signs, traffic, the night sky, the fog settling around the tops of buildings...whew. And that's before we went to the Museum of Science and Industry.


But the Big City (of Chicago) isn't the only place we explore. Our town, our little tiny town, keeps us plenty busy.  Just this year we've taken part in a walk around our town to raise awareness about homelessness in our part of Ohio and visited the State House to learn about our state's government and deliver valentines to Governor Kasich to express our thoughts about fracking.

We've taken part in monthly music events, as audience members and as performers.  We've gone contra dancing to live music.  Together we are one third of the Athens Homeschool Marching Choir, meeting once a week to sing and play.

We've heard visiting musicians, like An da Union from Mongolia, and attended traveling performances like Stomp!  In just the past couple of weeks we've seen a dance concert, attended a lecture on sports psychology as it pertains to stage fright (really! and it was interesting to all of us!!), attended an art opening, participated in an art show, and watched a performance art piece presented by a mother and her seven year old daughter.  Eliza performed in a piano recital, and we watched a collaboration between student choreographers and student pianists, and attended a showing at the International Film Festival on campus.  Most of this is since January, people! In our small town!

We've formally explored the nature around us, learning how to band birds, attending an owl prowl, and an event at the local nature center. We visited the United Plant Savers sanctuary, and learned about protecting native plants.

Weekly we take advantage of our library, sometimes for special events like "Travel to Japan" or an Irish storytelling evening, sometimes just to find books and movies and spend some time volunteering by tidying up shelves and reshelving books in "our" section.  Going to the library also means visiting with one of our favorite librarians, Mary, who speaks to us in French or sings part of what she's learning in Choral Union right now, and with Tom, who is a library patron who chooses the library to work in, at his laptop, for much of the week and who always wants to know what's going on with us.  He and Eliza became fast friends when we moved here and they'd chat about books or Irish dancing or whatever she wanted to chat (and chat and chat) about.

We bring the outside in when we invite people to perform in our home, giving us an occasion to polish off our own talents and learn some new ones.

We spend so much time out in the world that I sometimes get selfish and protective of our time, and we hunker in for a bit to regroup and find some rhythm closer to home.  But the beautiful weather beckons and we're quick to throw the plan for the day out the window, or better yet, take it with us out into the woods or to the top of a hill.

 It is possibly my favorite thing about our living this way: the freedom to choose where to go and when, the freedom to spend our days mostly as we wish (Eliza really wishes she were fishing right now, and she's putting away her clothes from the trip, so I guess it's not always exactly at that moment how we wish...but mostly);  the absence of lines between "learning" and "not learning", how everything from a conversation at the farmer's market to the stack of library books to a visit to the historical society museum fits into the realm of learning through Life.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

II - chicago baby love

We were so lucky to have a minute (really, this trip was short) to connect with Dan's theater partner and his family.  I feel like we grew up into adult-hood with J, and it is so nice to get a glimpse into this new chapter for both of us.  The girls were enthralled with 8-month old Hattie...

Also lucky for us, my cousin and his beautiful family live in Chicago!!  It is what clinched the plan for the girls and I to join him this trip.  For the girls, Rowan is their first baby love, and love it was...

the Papa - who I remember being a baby when I was about E's age!

Eliza has been primed for baby-loving for a long time. She wants to babysit, draws up posters offering her services for baby care, talks about babies.  Ani not so long ago still thought of herself as a baby, so it is really sweet to see her so smitten with a real-live little one.

 (huge sigh.)

I - chicago love

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these photos are by Eliza

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Chicago Cultural Center/Historic Chicago Public Library

Tiffany window