Friday, March 21, 2014

Thawin' in Nawlins

The good news about weather like this is that it drives doting grandparents south from Minnesota to our neck of the woods to thaw...

which allows me to sleep in scandalously late every morning, among other blessings.  We so enjoyed and appreciated our visit from Kyle's parents last month.

We kicked it off with a surprise Valentine's day dinner, since they arrived around dinner time on the 14th.  We set the table with our finest correll and ate gourmet homemade over candlelight, with our paper napkins on our laps and everything.  It was lovely, and they were delighted by the gesture, which is really what made it count.

Kyle's parents are so good about going with the kids wherever their hearts and imaginations carry them.  Erik had planned a birthday party for his favorite stuffie, Hua-mei, and on Grandpa's invitation Erik had written an assignment to bring chocolate-dipped pretzel "bamboo stalks."  Grandpa ran to the store for pretzels rods and delivered.

Oklahoma had very recently bid farewell to winter weather so we were all ecstatic to enjoy the great outdoors for the first time in months.  At a local park the kids quickly engaged in their own, highly predictable activities: Ellie immediately made a new friend to play with, 

Charlie found a large stick,

Erik staked out a quiet corner and sketched something of inspiration,

and Millie ceased to wandered further than a pace away from me.  Grandma's goody bag had nothing to do with it, I'm sure.

And another reason I love Ron and Judy is because they consented to being dragged an additional 12 hours south to New Orleans.  Needless to say, this trip would've been impossible without them.  As it was, despite an isolated incident of road trip barf, lots of traffic jams, and the usual crowdiness and crankiness, I found it to be the most relaxing and enjoyable road trip with kids in my memory.  I highly recommend the 3:4 adult to child ratio for traveling.

Kyle's parents followed the Mississippi all the way from its origin in Minnesota to its end at the Louisiana delta.  

We stayed with our fabulous friends, the Tersigni's, who've lived there for years but are moving in a few months.  This was our last chance to experience Mardi Gras with them and we had to take them up on it!  Plus, Thomas loves outer space and plain lettuce almost as much as Erik and Henry has a stick collection so you know our kids are soulmates.

We were a little concerned about swamp walking through the bayou after hearing reports of rogue gators, but then we couldn't even find any gators which seemed to be much worse.

We did find this incredible tree which now constitutes my dream back yard.  The roots grew this way because Native Americans buried mounds of shells under the tree and somehow the roots grew around them.  There were still shells lying in the dirt all around the tree meaning this was the perfect site for digging, climbing, and hiding out-- will this specific tree please live in my yard forever?!

P.S. We did find a gator or two, as it turned out!  The first one was a baby and other was on the opposite bank so it really wasn't intimidating at all, which was a little disappointing, but also relieving. 

Mardi Gras means lots and lots of beads (but no even partial nudity, not to worry)!  Even two weeks before the actual holiday, parades were running strong all day and night over the weekend.  After one and a half parades, we had our fill of cheap stuffed animals and plastic necklaces, and yet there was an undeniable competitive thrill involved with procuring unwanted trinkets from double decker floats.  So much so that we plan to recreate that thrill for our friends by forcing them to line our street while we drive back and forth chucking at them all that unwanted loot we fought for at the parades.  I mean it. 

I kind of love cemeteries (I think it's a Goodwin girl thing), so Cities of the Dead were on my itinerary without debate.  I wish we'd had time to stroll through a little longer, especially with the sunset back drop and the warm, quiet air.  This was at the end of a long day, though, and I thought an enormous, above-ground cemetery after dark might not be the best place to lose my children. 
Another great thing about Kyle's parents is how often they buy us ice cream. (I think they were just super excited to be warm enough to enjoy a cold treat.) We enjoyed some funky flavors here at the Creole Creamery.  Poor Kyle missed out on all of this New Orleans fun, which really is a shame considering he's the lover of jazz music and creole cuisine, but it looks like I at least called him periodically to let him know what a great time we were having.  All in all, a fabulous trip.

I think I am realizing something about traveling.  I've always known I love it, and also recognize that I romanticize it.  Some people say getting there is half the fun.  For me, perhaps half the fun occurs afterward, not beforehand.  I really, really enjoy my trips in retrospect.  Just like a good thrift store run, reliving the fun and adventure of traveling sometimes can be just as enjoyable, or even more so, than the actual experiences.  There's no stress, hunger, exhaustion, sudden changes of plans, or any of the other struggles of traveling when you're warm and cozy in your own home recalling the trip.  It's all roses.  If our plans go awry on the trip, that only fuels better stories to tell afterward.  With this expectation, there's much less pressure to have an incredible travel experience.  Whatever bliss evades me at the time is only yet to come.

Monday, March 03, 2014

It's Art

                                         Okay, formatting all the pictures on this post was the most miserable task I've conquered in a while, and actually I far from conquered it as you'll notice.  Regardless, welcome to the somewhat mediocre evidence that my poor homeschooled children have learned something this year, or at least been exposed to educational information. Our goals, curriculum, and schedule are ever-evolving, but our study of famous artists and composers has remained constant, and not coincidentally, been my most favorite subject to study with them. 
Splatter painting seemed a good place to start, enter Jackson Pollock.  Here's Erik's interpretation, with Ellie's and mine below, respectively.

Edgar Degas's famous ballerinas were a delight to study, and finding a painting simple enough to attempt to duplicate proved the challenge.  Ellie and I gave it a shot.

Erik opted for an equestrian sketch, another famous subject for Degas, though Erik took some artistic liberty adding the cowboy.  His drawing always makes me smile.

Thanks to TMNT, Michaelangelo was the next artist they selected.  First we created artwork by taping paper to the bottom of our kitchen table and definitely gained an appreciation for the method Michaelangelo used painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Then we tried some hands, which were surprisingly difficult!

Erik put a good effort into Adam's hand but decided God was up for a high five instead.

Next up, Georges Seurat in all his pointillist glory.

Again, a good start from Erik but struggled with the follow-through.  In his defense, these are all pretty challenging projects.  We seem to be surprised at the emotional fortitude required each time to complete an art reproduction.

Learning from Michaelangelo's hands, I went ahead and printed a sketch of Leonardo Da Vinci's Maddona of the Rocks.  The detail and subtlety was daunting, but for better or worse, we persevered!

Erik opted out of participating in our Van Gogh painting session and I must've been too emotionally drained to care.  Ellie and I tried using plastic forks to create the stripey texture, but I think having the proper paint and canvas would've helped.  Still a fun project.

I don't think this is the actual Claude Monet original we copied, there were so many after all, but it captures the essence.  At least for me and Ellie, this was one of the more rewarding art sessions.  Lily pads are much more forgiving than facial features.

I wish Erik would've finished because I think he'd have made something beautiful, but after several frustrated outbursts over the particular shade not being achieved, his paper had been wiped off and scratched to its breaking point.  He was also at his breaking point.

Matisse made some fun paintings that we would've enjoyed copying, but his paper cutting work is unique to him so we had to give the method a go.  Erik actually did finish a nice paper collage of a rose, but unfortunately lost it. 

Ellie created a scene of Byzantine worshippers in front of the Hagia Sophia.  Totally her idea.

I was feeling much more light-hearted, depicting my kiddies entertaining themselves in our lovely backyard.

I love Mary Cassatt's impressionist work, mostly of mothers and children.  Ellie chose this artist, eager to study our first female artist.

I was so proud of Erik for finishing this painting!  I recall that it took the larger part of an entire day, lots of redirecting, validating, persuading, encouraging, adapting, and waiting patiently.  Noses are really struggly to paint, I know it.  That's why I'm so proud of him.  Also, I'm proud of me because all of those unfinished paintings of Erik's above are really just evidences of my unwillingness to painstakingly walk him through the process, not allowing him to give up just because it's difficult.  Now I know what we're both capable of!

This was the original work of Cassatt's that Erik chose to copy, on account of it appearing to be an easier project.  You'd think we'd have learned by now that they are never, ever easy!

And what a homely likeness it is!  Faces are so, so struggly, I tell ya.  

Ah, good ole Picasso.  Can't go wrong here, right?

I really love the way our collages turned out, and it was refreshing to create something with somewhat lower expectations of its visual appeal.  

This month it's Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Georgia O'Keeffe, just like last month...  We slacked a little on our art curriculum in February.  Still, we're learning something together, we three, and if the Department of Public Education or whoever enforces these things shows up at my door demanding to know what my children have learned over the past six months, this will be most of the hard evidence I can offer.  Is there a way I can get a hard copy of their improved critical thinking, creativity, curiosity and contentment? Yeah, didn't think so.  Wish me luck!