Friday, July 30, 2010

A visit from the stork(s)!

Really. Storks!!

We've seen a few of these white storks around here this summer-- both munching in the fields and flying past the windows-- but we had no idea there were so many! Sunburst spotted these out the window today, and the kids and I sprinted outside to watch them. We were mesmerized.

They flew over the house and circled around in the sky above our back garden for about five minutes before they flew off. The weather has been cold and wet for the past week, so I wonder if they are getting ready to head South to Africa already?!! I don't blame them.

The timing is pretty fun because our neighbor is getting ready to have a baby. We saw one of these storks land on her roof the other day, and the kids laughed and laughed about it. The stork party in the sky today was a good reminder that I MUST finish knitting up that baby gift. And soon!

I tried to zoom in on the storks and I got these very grainy almost prehistoric shots. I don't know why I find them so pleasing, but I do. Sunburst counted about two dozen of them while I was snapping pictures. What a sight they were!!

More St. Catherine

I just unearthed the brochure we picked up at Santa Caterina's house and sanctuary. Since a couple of you were going to share pictures with your kids, I thought you might want to see what the inside looks like.

Above is a picture I took of the outside. The rest of the pictures are taken from the brochure, so they're a little grainy. But I think you can get the gist.

From the brochure:
"Since the time of St. Catherine, the House has gradually been turned into a series of Oratories and Chapels which are filled with reminders of the Saint and paintings glorifying the Patroness of Italy."

There are four different Oratories or chapels. They're built where the kitchen, wool dyeing plant, bedroom, and kitchen garden used to be. This is the room we saw... I think it's the old wool dyeing room, but I'm really not sure.

This is another Oratory, perhaps the Kitchen Oratory:

The Church of the Crucifix (kitchen garden):

St. Catherine received the stigmata in 1375 apparently while praying in front of this crucifix, painted by Giunta Pisano, in Pisa. (A quick google images search of this painter turns up some fascinating and inspiring images for Grade 2 saints work.)

And the fresco ceiling in the Church of the Crucifix:

I hope I'm not breaking any copyright laws by sharing these. I did actually purchase the brochure in the gift shop, if that helps any. There aren't any photographers credited on it, so I will just put out a huge universal thank you to whomever took these pictures. You are now a source of inspiration to the Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers everywhere. --Thank you!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Giving Love"

Lately I've felt like there has been a tornado following me around the house. As soon as I pick up one room and move on to the next, WHAM! The tornado hits. Everything I do is very quickly undone. I know you understand what I'm saying... toys, paper, books... anything really, just manages to spray itself in all directions as if some unseen force were testing the limits of my patience. I can't manage to clean fast enough.

What's really interesting is not the tornado phenomenon that seems to accompany any house with small children. That's pretty standard fare, I think. What fascinates me is that no one else in my house seems to notice it. They walk right through a room or two and don't give the effects of this whirlwind a second glance. It's as if they don't even notice that it's there. How could they not see it?

Now, I'm not a neat freak. I'm pretty side-tracked a lot of the time-- the mail piles up until I have enough time to sort it and decipher it to see if it's important (this always involves the German dictionary or an internet translator). I do happen to leave knitting projects and half-finished books laying around. I'm always getting up in the middle of a page or a row to tend to somebody's needs, so a little bit of a mess doesn't bother me. It's the five puzzles that manage to be strewn across the floor before I can blink. It's the clean bathroom that's suddenly covered in mud. It's the food that spontaneously flings itself off the table, just after I mop the floor. It's never-ending.

I know you're not stopping by to hear me nag. Ugh. I don't want to hear it either. But I do want to share something interesting I discovered. The reason it seems that nobody notices the mess is that, really, nobody does. I finally asked them, and no, they don't actually see it. Should I have expected this answer? I don't know. But I was truly taken aback.

So I did something crazy. I asked the kids to accompany me on a tour of our house, starting at the front porch. I told them the rules were that they were not allowed to do anything but look. And while they were looking, we would ask ourselves one important question: Does this house look loved?

They caught on pretty quickly, and they were shocked by what they discovered when they opened their eyes and looked at it from that perspective. They each, even Kitty Bill, discovered a myriad of things they had forgotten to put away. Not being allowed to actually do anything but look at those things was torture to them. They were jumping at the bit to do the right thing. But no, I wouldn't let them. Does this house look loved? It was a resounding no.

When I finished torturing them with my walkabout I asked them to sit and watch me "give love" to a room. It was a comedic exercise, really, because I stood around and just looked at things. I picked them up and pondered them, and put them back down. I pretended that I had no idea what to do. Soon enough the kids started shouting out helpful suggestions on where I should start and what I should do. It was hilarious! They had such a hard time watching me play dumb, and I had to stop them several times from getting up to help me.

Once the fun and games were over, I let them choose one room in the house that we could all give love to, together, for a few minutes. They were so happy to be able to lend a hand. For the first time in awhile I didn't have to point out the things that needed picking up. They actually saw them!

Sunburst then suggested that they should start helping out with regular chores, rather than random ones, so we sat down and came up with daily chores that I would definitely welcome some help with. I applied some waldorf-voodoo to our chore wheel, pictured above, with watercolored paper and Lyra pencils. The kids are rotating the circle every Monday. They can all lend a hand to some degree-- and even the smallest hand is fine by me. You just give the amount of love you can. No more, no less.

At the same time I decided to re-institute the reminder list for each child. I tend to remake these every few years, especially if the youngest child is having a hard time remembering to run straight to the toilet in the morning. The list actually helps with that, among other things. It reminds them of the things they need to do to help take care of themselves and their things. Loving the world starts with loving yourself.

I tack the lists up near their beds, but this is the first year I framed them. The kids are really delighted with them. Sunburst especially. Give a choleric child a list and they can't help themselves. It's a challenge to them, and they will rise to meet it. Phlegmatic children, however, are not so easily motivated. But we're trying. We keep trying anyway because it's important. And it's the only way we can keep the tornado at bay. With love. Always love.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Viva Italia: Day 3 - Siena

We really didn't mean to stay all day in Siena, but once we got there we couldn't help ourselves. It was wonderful!

Here's the view from the parking area:

That's the tower from the Cathedral of Siena in the background. The church you see on the left is San Domenico. And here's one a bit closer where you can start to make out the marbled-stripes of the cathedral:

From here we descended into the city. And the views were spectacular.

The town was smaller, and the streets were even more narrow here than in Florence. There were so many medieval walkways and alcoves -- you could literally lose yourself there!

In one alcove we discovered this-- and we're still not sure what the place is, but the well seemed to be a big deal:

By then we were starving, so we convinced the pizzeria at the edge of the Piazza del Campo, the historical town square, to make us a vegan pizza. Then we sat around the piazza people watching and munching our delicious lunch. Here's the Piazza del Campo and the town hall, the Palazzo Pubblico:

Look closely at that last picture-- there's a she-wolf suckling some human babes. This was a common sculpture in Italy. It's called the Capitoline Wolf, and the babes are supposed to be Remus and Romulus-- this will come in handy for our Grade 6 studies of Ancient Rome.

We finally made it to the exquisite Cathedral of Siena, and it rose up like a giant zebra in the midst of the old city:

You can see the nice details here, while Einstein ponders the map and Kitty Bill (who would now prefer to be called something like "Rocket boy" on my blog) sits on the post and whines about how tired he is of walking around. "Can we PLEASE get some gelato??" --They actually had vegan gelato at some shops in Italy, so it was a reasonable request.

Inside the Cathedral it looks like this postcard here:

Before acquiescing to the gelato demands, we stopped at bought some fruit at this stand here-- truly an example of picture perfect Italy:

Also on offer every few feet was beautiful, painted pottery showing off a perfect landscape of Italy... which we did not buy:

After wandering around town a bit I kept seeing signs for Santa Caterina. We followed them and found ourselves at the home of St. Catherine of Sienna, the other patron saint of Italy. This was not a saint that Moonshine had studied this year, but it was one I had read in my prep work. I told her what I remembered, and we sat in the wee little chapel they had created there and gazed at the pictures. It was a very sweet place (unfortunately I can't show you as we weren't allowed to take photographs). We then popped over to the adjoining gift shop and Moonshine picked out some postcards of Santa Caterina as well as a rosary and starter booklet. She had been seeing rosaries everywhere in Italy, and she was very curious about the whole thing. She found the rose smell enchanting and wore it around her neck for three days before I noticed it was giving her a rash-- probably the rose-scented oil?

Here's a peek at St. Catherine's house:

Apparently they give tours of Saint Catherine's house, but it didn't appear to be open when we went. This was a common theme we ran into, but we were happy enough with what we saw. Siena is such a beautiful city, it's hard to leave there feeling anything but contented.

Out of all the lovely things to see, the thing I loved best about Siena was the laundry hanging out the windows of these really old buildings. Did you ever think laundry could look so beautiful?!?

We had to be in Rome the next day to meet up with an old, dear friend of mine from high school/college days... so next stop: Roma!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Viva Italia: Day 2 - Florence

Florence was amazing!!

We wandered into the city and stopped at the sweetest botanical gardens to enjoy the view.

There was so much to see here, including the fantastic marble cathedral. We parked and walked until our feet ached-- literally hours-- and left so much of the city unseen. It was gorgeous though. Sunburst was especially taken with the statues and the art students busily sketching them. Moonshine, meanwhile, kept stopping to smell the roses.


The golden door:

Statues galore. I especially love how the lion looks frightened that there is a pigeon on his head.

We walked along the river, soaking up the views there, before meandering along and discovering an little international bookshop. What a delight!! We left with our arms full of treasures-- including some materials for Grade 6 Ancient Rome lesson prep. Yay!

Next stop: Siena
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