Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to All

We've had a really gorgeous Thanksgiving weekend here, with my sister and her brother-in-law coming to stay with us. We cooked a great dinner with lots of local foods (discovered that cranberry sauce with fresh local cranberries is an amazing richly flavored and nuanced dish that tastes nothing like the usual stuff) and just enjoyed having some time with them. We played the Ungame one evening, one of our favorite family games. You always learn something new about the people you're playing with, their life, emotions, memories, etc. We played Whoonu on another evening, and that's another game that brings you close together and lets you really think about the people you're with. I'm on the lookout for another great family game for our Christmas tree this year!

The weather here is freakily gorgeous (who would think you could be out in shorts and a t-shirt on Thanksgiving weekend?) and it was nice to get out and get some gardening done, take walks down to the store with my sis, and be able to bicycle to the gym to swim without getting drenched. Yesterday we biked down to the Holiday Market and Asa got a hand-knitted strawberry hat to replace the one she's worn forever and finally outgrow (old one seen here, I'll have to get a photo of the new one).
Today it's Robotics practice, trying to get ready for our public presentation next week and the tournament (gulp!) the week after. Hope you have had a great Thanksgiving too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stay Tuned...

I got the Blue Screen O' Death on my hard drive last week so I'm computerless right now. This is going to be a crazy two weeks with Asa's Scrooge performances and our Robotics competition. I will update if possible...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Kids Are Arguing and I Don't Care

We just got unlimited texting on the family cell phone plan, and they're having a disagreement via text message. At least it's quiet.

On the humorous front, after texting back and forth with some friends, Mackenzie said "wow, their spelling sure is bad!" I had to point out that people use all kinds of shortcuts to save time while texting and just because they spell "your" as "ur" doesn't mean they don't know how to spell, LOL.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Italia Day 4: Roma: A Day of Miscellany Adventures

I could look at today as another set of plans foiled by jet lag, or I could look at it as a day we got to just kick around and be adventurous. I guess I'll choose the latter. We were going to do the Vatican today, but sleepless night for Wayne and sleeping-in kids meant that we just had a casual day instead. We didn't really have anything in the way of plans, but just took the day as it came to us.

We went to an internet cafe and caught up on email, then meandered over to the Spanish Steps. The kids really liked the whimsical fountain of the sinking boat there, but other than that it was some nice-looking steps and a whole ton of people. So we didn't stay a whole long time there, though we did go in and visit the church at the top of the steps and admire the view out over Roma.

On the way back to the apartment, we happened upon a cool little DaVinci museum that had working models, done in wood, of many of his designs. Everything from camshafts to ball-bearings to bicycles to tanks and mortars were represented there. The kids had fun with these hands-on exhibits, and Mackenzie especially enjoyed the video on DaVinci's conical tank. The nice thing about keeping a day or two free is the little jewels like this that you stumble upon!

Then, while the kids were taking a break and playing (and Wayne was sneaking a catnap), I went out with my camera alone for awhile. I happened upon a piazza with an interesting obelisk resting on a statue of an elephant, and decided to go into the basilica church there, which was called Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (meaning that it was built sopra, or over, the remains of a temple to the Roman goddess Minerva). I found out later that this is considered to be Roma's only Gothic church, and it is one of the loveliest churches I've ever seen. Despite an unassuming facade (shown here behind the red bicycle), the inside is gorgeous, with a blue starred ceiling adorned with biblical figures.

As I walked down the length of the church, I was drawn to a most amazing statue. There were no crowds around it, the church was almost empty. But the statue was magnetic, no other word for it. It was a statue of the resurrected Christ, and He was so real, like He was looking right down at me and could step right off the pedestal at any moment. I looked around at other statues nearby and they all just looked like cold stone. I can't describe how affecting this statue was. At the very bottom was a small tag - The Risen Christ - Michelangelo. The photo doesn't really do it any justice at all. Every detail is so human, down to the toes curled slightly around a rock. When you study the great Masters in art history class, you sometimes wonder why they are considered "masters" when there were so many fine artists of the period. Now that I'm here, looking at all of the amazing art and sculpture here, I can definitely say that the mastery is evident when you look at a piece like this one (and its widely considered to be not one of his best, either).

This church and its statuary and artwork were so lovely that I brought Wayne and the kids back here later in the day and we all walked around together. There are many great cathedrals to come on our journey in Italy, and this may not be one of the grandest or most important, but it certainly is a beautiful place.

Also on my little photographic jaunt, I took some photos inside the Pantheon with its amazing symmetrical dome and oculus, and did some people-watching on the piazza outside the Pantheon, taking photos of fountains, people, and their dogs as well.

In the evening, it was very balmy and nice. We found an outdoor restaurant on a smaller side street and ate pasta. The kids have noticed that soda here tastes so much better than back at home. It's fizzier, less sweet, and is made with sugar and not corn syrup. I told them it tastes like I remember soda tasting when I was a kid (you know, back in the good ol' days). On one piazza, the columns were lit up with all different colors, very striking.

As usual, I'll leave you with an assortment of photos. These are from my little shutterbug excursion on the piazza in front of the Pantheon.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

End of a Journey and Dawning of a New Day

Thus ends our journey of politics and hope this year with the kids, we attended the Election night bash at the fairgrounds here in town. We went with some friends, met more friends there (all with kids) and saw many many people we knew as well. The best moment of course, was when they announced that Obama had won the presidency, and you can see Mackenzie's reaction here. It was definitely a "where were you when...." kind of time to remember, which is why I wanted to be somewhere that the kids would remember the excitement and electricity of all of those people celebrating together. The tears streaming down the faces of black and brown families around us, and seeing what it means to so many people. Then we settled in to watch the results of local races (many are still too close to call, a couple of days later, we may have to wait for recounts even) and wait for the speeches.
I thought McCain's acceptance speech was extremely gracious and moving. I kept thinking "this is the McCain that would've given Obama a run for his money" Not the McCain who was trying to defend the choice of Palin, or the McCain repeating platitudes about Joe the Plumber, but the McCain who is a dedicated public servant to the United States of America. I'm certainly glad that Obama won, but it did make me sad to see how the Republican party was able to drag McCain all over the place away from his previously espoused values, and essentially make a mockery of his years in the Senate.

But thankfully, the very choices that drove moderates away from McCain ushered in the historic victory of Obama. Although some found his acceptance speech too dry, I really loved his emphasis on where we'll be going now, what all of us will need to be doing. It was not a gloating speech, but a celebratory and roll-up-our-sleeves kind of speech. I think it's exactly what our country needs, and I hope he can continue to inspire the very same people who worked tirelessly to get him elected to come to the service of their country as well in this time of need (well, I hope he can inspire everyone to do so, of course!) This energy and momentum can and should continue!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween Fun

We've had a great week leading up to Halloween, and the weather was warm and lovely all week. It was supposed to rain on Halloween night but held off long enough for trick-or-treating without umbrellas. For the first time ever, we managed to grow our own pumpkins, and they came out lovely! So instead of going to a pumpkin patch, we strolled out to our very own garden and picked a few lovelies from our crop of seven to carve for Halloween. Mackenzie is being very goofy here with his pumpkin. And the lovely miss Asa poses with her pumpkin choice.

Then we carved them up
With the usual silliness from Wayne...

And lighted them up with some candles. This year I was scolded a bit for our lack of Halloween decorations from the kids, so I spruced up the porch with some cornstalks from our garden and raided the 1/2 price Halloween table at Goodwill for other decorations.

The kids were very traditional this year, probably for the first time ever, in their choice of costumes. A vampire and a witch, and I threw on some farmer clothes to go out with them. We had a great time walking around the neighborhood on a very balmy evening. Just for grins, I found this old photo from when they were 5 and 2 years old. Mackenzie wanted to go as Luke Skywalker, and then Asa insisted on being "baby Luke Skywalker". We had a couple of very young trick-or-treaters this year that reminded me of how fleeting that tiny and cute stage is!