Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another "cultural" weekend

So a few weeks ago I blogged about a very busy and cultural weekend here. In our relentless effort to expose our kids to a wide-ranging variety of cultural events we trekked back into Atlanta last night for another show.

High School Musical - The Ice Tour

I'll pause for a moment to let the irony sink in.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

So here's the deal. We want to make sure our kids grow up with a rich appreciation for the symphony, for the theater, for choral, orchestral, and even marching band music. But we've also agreed that we want a broader range than that. What about The Beatles? Other "classic rock" bands? And, what about current "pop" hits? We're already "outside of the norm" in homeschooling. Shouldn't we at least let our kids have some of the same experiences that their non-home-schooled friends are having?

And thus, High School Musical.

We don't get the Disney Channel at home. Our kids watch precious little TV. However, they do watch video's in the car when we're shuttling back and forth to Atlanta. For Belle, one of those favored DVD's is HSM 1.

With Belle's 8th birthday approaching in a few weeks, we had a chance to celebrate a little early by taking her, Tink and two friends into the city for the ice show last night.

Picture if you will. . .

Phillips Arena - home to the Atlanta Hawks (basketball) and Thrashers (hockey). Filled with 15,000 or so screaming, squealing 'tween-aged girls (along with parents and quite a few long-suffering brothers). It was certainly an event.

The girls LOVED it.

And, I have to admit, it was well done. Great skating; clever transition of the movie to the ice rink; typical high-quality Disney fare. We don't need to do it again, but it was a big moment for Belle.

Now, let me see if I can find another great deal on Symphony tickets!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I'm traveling on business this week, so blogging has been light. However, I wanted to jump in while still in my hotel room to post a quick quote / thought for the day.

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

- Emily Post

Talk amongst yourselves. . .

Monday, October 22, 2007

This Weeks Carnival. . .

of Homeschooling is up. Kris did a great job of sorting things out alphabetically in the ABC Edition.

By the way, this is my first entry in the Carnival. Or rather, that of my alter-ego, Russ. :-)

A good day

As previously noted, I work from home. As a result we typically have lunch together as a family. Frequently it is leftovers or quick sandwiches.

Today, however. . . .
  • Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque (with sour cream and fresh thyme)
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches on Hearty Wheat Bread

All while watching the rain (oh bliss!) and fog enshroud the mountains.

Life is good!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Conversations with Prince Charming

Friday afternoon:

(knocking at my office door) "Who is it?"

the knocker: "Prince Charming."

me: "Come in."

PC: "Um, Daddy, can we go to China?"

me: "What? Oh, do you want to go get Chinese for dinner?" (and since we only go out to eat about once a month, where did that come from?)

PC: "No. Can we go to China? I want to ride an elephant."

pregnant pause. . .

For some reason, an intensive look at the globe, talks about long plane flights, and "it's on the other side of the world" didn't seem to phase him. After all, the globe sitting in my office doesn't seem that big; daddy flies on planes almost every week, so what's the big deal with that? And we drove to the "other side of town" just last weekend; what's the difference? After all, Mimi and Papa have ridden on elephants (in Thailand, by the way, not China); why can't we.

Every 4 year old should have had a chance to ride an elephant by now. By the way, his 6 year old sister feels the same way about helicopters. Surely she is the ONLY girl in town who STILL hasn't ridden on one.

They are so underpriviledged!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Whose job is it, anyway?

My wife read a fascinating column in the Boston Globe yesterday that she kindly forwarded to me. "Big Brother at School", by Jeff Jacoby, addresses the amazing shift in attitudes in our country regarding whose responsibility it is to educate our children. The first paragraph begins with a quote.

"FREEDOM of education, being an essential of civil and religious liberty . . . must not be interfered with under any pretext whatever," the party's national platform declared. "We are opposed to state interference with parental rights and rights of conscience in the education of children as an infringement of the fundamental . . . doctrine that the largest individual liberty consistent with the rights of others insures the highest type of American citizenship and the best government."

Staggeringly, this quote is from the platform adopted by the Democratic National Convention held in Chicago. Unfortunately, the quote is from 1892. I can't even imagine today's Republican Party making such a strong statement in support of a parents right (yea, responsibility) in the education of their child.

Instead, we live in a day where many increasingly look to someone else to relieve them of their responsibilities. Health insurance too expensive? Demand the government provide it! Worried about education outcomes? Implement federal mandates to ensure that "no child is left behind". "Parenting" your child too demanding? Let someone else be the heavy. I'll just be his/her best friend. In the meantime, as the column notes, we certainly wouldn't want to try to "impose" our values or beliefs on our children. Oh no! They should be able to decide for themselves.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading homeschooling blogs is the reassurance I receive that there really are other parents out there who realize that their children are their responsibility. Don't get me wrong. There are many many parents who send their children to public or private schools who feel the same way. I'm not judging them at all here. But it sure does feel like we, regardless of our educational choices, are in the minority.

I've often talked about the "pendulum" effect in any trend. In business, the pendulum swings from "focus on your core" to "diversify" and back with amazing regularity. Swings from left to right and back are pretty consistent when looking at the political landscape.

I hope that this particular pendulum is about to turn and start heading back toward "personal responsibility" again.

In the meantime, thanks to all of you who realize that in your own lives already. I'll close with another quote from the column:

"Free men and women do not entrust to the state the molding of their children's minds and character. As we wouldn't trust the state to feed our kids, or to clothe them, or to get them to bed on time, neither should we trust the state to teach them."

UPDATE: The link to the article in question has been fixed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Naming Conventions

For those of you paying attention, I've made some changes in my profile. I realized that referring to my daughters as DD1 and DD2 was pathetically boring. Thus, new nicknames have been assigned.

Due to our recent family trip to Disney, princess-oriented nicknames are quite the fashion around here. Thus, the eldest is now "Belle" and her sister is "Tinkerbell". These names are actually quite fitting. As in the movie, our Belle loves to read. Similarly, our Tinkerbell is a bright and sparkling light who is nonetheless prone to occasional fits of moodiness and tears.

Meanwhile, "The Boy" is still an entirely appropriate name. He is in fact ALL boy (even when playing tea party with his sisters). However, he was quite the charmer with all of the princesses in the Magic Kingdom. Hence, his alternate name "Prince Charming".

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Invasion of the Pod People

At least, that's what it looked like.

As mentioned on a previous episode, my lovely and talented DW is the Brownie Leader for our local troop. This past weekend was the Georgia Koman 3-Day March for the Cure (my apologies if that isn't the exact name). Apparently, every year these great folks provide tents for marchers / walkers in cities-towns-villages all across the state. After the march is over, they donate these tents to another worthy cause. I guess that's easier than storing them and redistributing them again next year. Plus, keeping tents to use only once per year results in a pretty poor utilization rate. This year the receiving organization was Girl Scouts of America. All the various troops had to do was sign up and say how many they needed.

When we received the tents after the march this weekend, it was suggested that we set them up pronto to let them dry out (they kindly hosed all of them down before passing them on). Hence, the tent city that you can see in our front yard above. There are 16 girls in our Troop, so we requested 8 tents. I guess they had extra's, so we ended up with 10.
The best part is that the tents come in the Koman Foundation's signature color - pink. No, no "blush" or "bashful" (cite the source movie and you too will have admitted to watching too many chick flicks). Pink. Pepto-Bismol pink. What 6, 7 or 8 year old Brownie wouldn't LOVE to go camping in a pink tent. Plus, they are guaranteed to never be poached by the local Boy Scout troop.

It's important to note that we live in a gated community in the mountains that prides itself on very strict architectural controls. "Natural" is the operative word here. "Woodsy", "rustic", etc etc. There are about 8 shades of brown and gray that we're allowed to paint our houses. White wicker porch furniture is strictly verbotten. Clearly, pink tents stray somewhere just outside of acceptable exterior fixtures. We glanced nervously at each other everytime the phone rang. No one called to complain (thank goodness), but we did notice that traffic on our street slowed dramatically as it passed by yesterday.

Fortunately, the tents are now dry and packed away for some future camping adventure in the deepest darkest forest to be found. Or, perhaps back in our front yard again. We'll have to see how adventurous the girls are.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thoughts on blogging. . .

So I've been a citizen of the blogosphere for half a year or so now. In fact, according to Blogger, this is my 25th post. Gee, I'm really blazing along, aren't I?

Anyway, I've done far more reading of blogs than posting on this one. What else to do during a hotel-room evening while traveling. There are some pretty amazing people out there who are kind enough to share their thoughts, their funnies, and their life experiences with all of us. I've learned a lot (and laughed even more!).

If it hasn't been done already, I'm sure someone will someday the effects of blogging on our culture as a whole. Blogging, along with other web-based tools / services such as YouTube, MySpace, etc are radically changing everything from dating to elections. The impact of these tools probably won't be truly appreciated for years.

One personal impact I've seen and observed in others is the opportunity to do some "creative writing". For years, all of the writing I've done has been work-related. Trust me, a proposal for some innovative technology offering rarely offers an opportunity to wax poetic on anything. Now, all of the sudden, I have a chance to write for fun. And because there is a remote chance that someone might actually read it I actually WANT to write. My niece is in college and is a very talented developing writer. Her blog gives here a chance to test-drive that talent in a far more "real world" environment than English Comp 101.

It makes you wonder what the "next big thing" will be and what it's impact will be.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What a Cultural weekend!

Last week Timothy Power over at Sometimes I'm Actually Coherent posted on the ever popular subject of socialization. He covered some excellent ground, so go read it for yourself. I particularly appreciated his closing thoughts. If we homeschool parents assert that our children end up much more well-rounded because of the breadth and diversity of their experiences, then we therefore must step up to the plate and give them those experiences. In his words:

"We must expose them to the real world, and show them how it works. We must get our kids involved in the community if we are to give them the experiences and perspective they need. "

And that's the hard part. Because that means we have to find opportunities (especially those of us with "young 'uns") and then work them into the schedule, provide transportation, chaperone, facilitate, etc etc etc. Who's got that kind of time?!?

To whit, let me tell you about our world last weekend. Note: this is not a "normal" weekend by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, we're still so tired it may be a decade or so until we do it again. But, some variation on this theme will certainly occur soon.

Friday: DW is on several Atlanta-area homeschool list serves and gets regular emails about special Homeschool events. A few weeks ago she got one we actually took advantage of. Homeschool night at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, with tickets on $5.00 each. Did you see that? $5.00!!! So, Friday night we were in downtown Atlanta to hear the ASO perform Chopin and Berlioz (magnificent). Downside: we didn't get home until 11:40 pm.

Saturday AM: DD1 and DD2 are both Brownies (DW is the troop leader). Every year, the Brownie troop marches in our local town's Fall Festival parade. That happened to be Saturday morning. So up and out we go at 8:45 to go march in the parade. (The Boy and I watched and caught copious amounts of candy)

Saturday PM: After badly needed naps all around, we ate dinner and then headed down to our church for a concert by an Atlanta-area children's choir. They were fantastic. The kids liked this even better than the symphony. The upside: church is only 4 minutes from home; we were home by 9:00.

Sunday AM: Everyone up and out to Sunday School where I took my monthly turn teaching The Boy's class (singlehandedly wrangling 8 three- and four- year olds, thank you very much; thank goodness no one needed to go potty!). I vaguely remember the lesson being about Samuel and Saul, but quite honestly I don't know how much actually got covered with the youngsters. But they DID have a snack. Some things aren't negotiable. After church and lunch, a quick nap and then some 1 on 1 music practice with DD1 because . . .

Sunday PM: We drove baaaaack into Atlanta (50+ miles one way) to attend a covered dish dinner, dessert auction, and beginning of the year concert for DD1's children's choir (not the same one as last night, in case you're paying attention). In a middle school cafeteria. With no appreciable source of air conditioning. Crowded into an over-heated room with hundreds of other people, eating extremely random samplings from the buffet (some tasty, some not-so-much), paying $48 for $5 worth of dessert in a silent auction. Having fun yet? But, we did get to see and hear DD1 sing in her first concert. There's a mastercard commercial in there some where (priceless). And all three kids loved seeing and hearing other kids performing.

We're still tired, but the kids are still talking about various parts of the weekend. The Boy really liked the Stringed Basses (symphony). DD2 loved it when the Saturday night childrens choir sang "When You Wish Upon A Star". DD1 was so proud of herself for performing like a big kid.

It's hard work, but it's worth it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Apples, Pumpkins, Falling Leaves, etc

I love the fall. The crisp, cool air; the brilliant colors of the leaves. It's so incredibly beautiful here on the mountaintop. (OK, the leaves haven't all changed yet, but we're getting close!). The picture at right is actually our "summer" view from the deck. I'll post another one soon to show the difference just a few weeks makes.

As I write, I remember that I love the change of any season. Perhaps I (or "we", if this applies to you) are ready for fall because we're so tired of summer. The heat of the summer has sapped our energy. We're ready to be revitalized, and the shift into fall does just that.

Likewise, fall ends with bare trees, cold dark mornings and piles of dead leaves cluttering the ground. Suddenly, the pristine beauty of a winter day seems so appealing; even better if you get to cover everything in a dazzling layer of snow.

Eventually, though, the long dark nights of winter get dreary and tiresome. At that point, those first hints of spring remind us of what is coming. From our schoolroom windows we can watch the dark tree branches gradually turn the palest green, then darken as the leaves unfold. The daffodils peak through the ground cover and suddenly there is color in our world again.

As spring progresses the flowers fade, the grass grows, and we're ready to swim, to run, to play. Any excuse to just be outside rejoicing in God's world. Until, eventually, we tire of the heat and anticipate the restorative coolness of fall.

Perhaps God provides this continuous cycle of change to keep us fresh; make us feel alive; remind us of his awesome presence and (most importantly) his love and grace. How blessed we are to be a part of this cycle.

For right now, I'm just going to enjoy Fall and get ready to jump in some piles of leaves with the kids.