Saturday, October 22, 2011

Exploring Shakespeare

We spent the last two weeks walking along the Avon, seeing the sights of Stratford, and exploring all of the houses that have a historical link to Shakespeare. 

It's a fantastic village-- there is so much to see and do!  Kitty Bill's favorite part was helping sieve through dirt at the archeological dig going on at Nash's House.  Moonshine loved Anne Hathaway's cottage, and Sunburst couldn't get enough of the falconry and animals at Mary Arden's Farm.

The girls had questions about everything, and Moonshine had to walk through some of the houses more than once to get her fill of them.  We're leaving Stratford in the morning to head to another village, but we're taking a big part of it in our hearts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Summer, goodbye-- fast-forward

Well that was a longer blogging break than I had intended to make.  Sorry about that.

We were literally on our way out the door to Spain when I made that last post/announcement.  The kids and I had the pleasure of accompanying Einstein to a conference in the Pyrenees.  Because we had been studying Roman history, Sunburst got an extra kick out of being there.  After seeing the northern terrain of Spain, she was better able to imagine the horror of Hannibal's troops when they reached the Alps.  In comparison, the Pyrenees were much less daunting.

We did some swimming up in the mountains and fed Sunburst's geology lessons with a tactile experience of geothermal springs.  It was nice to bring two subjects together in one place, although admittedly there wasn't much that fell in line there with Moonshine's studies.  However, all was not lost, because the best part of a sulphur pool is that it's warm enough to swim around in for hours at a time.  Her swimming skills vastly improved in a matter of days, as did her bravery in the water.

We a made a point of taking a couple days in Barcelona to tour some amazing buildings designed by the genius Antoni Gaudi-- our final hurrah of the summer!-- before heading back to Switzerland to prepare for the move.

After that, everything else just blurred into a heap of moving preparation... the countless house-showings (and therefore cleanings!), farewell dinners/parties/hugs/presents, and last-time-just-once-more-please-can-we trips to walk along the Rhein or see the Goetheanum or our favorite toy store.  Almost every night we walked through the countryside and took in the views near our house, trying to absorb every molecule of light and color, from the sun setting behind the row of cherry trees to the sparkle of corn tassels in the moonlight.  Nearly every morning we walked, taking in the smells and the sounds, basking in the mythical, ethereal beauty of the sunlight breaking through the heavy mist. The Swiss sky did not disappoint.

We played soccer with the limousine cows, cheered Kitty Bill through his first and only t-ball game in Germany, accompanied Sunburst on her last horse ride on the hillside, and silently watched her say goodbye to the land and the animals she has grown to know as much as she knows herself.  (But that is a post for another day...)

When we finally hit the road it was bittersweet.  This country of Switzerland, that had on numerous occasions been more of a nemesis than a friend, was still home.  I hadn't bargained on missing it, on the goodbyes being difficult, on the teary eyes of neighbors.  I hadn't realized how easy and normal life had become there.  Somehow I had missed noticing that our German had improved to the point where we were actually communicating better, reading more, understanding things, and above all, Sunburst had begun speaking in Swiss German on a daily basis.  The immersion had finally stuck, just in time to leave.

We stopped in at the local shops and farm stands to load up for the long drive ahead.  Everyone had their last wish-- gnome-shaped cookies from the Reformhaus, "cat chips" (Swiss paprika potato chips, that, while tasty to some, carry the distinct odor of cat food), olive tofu, dark chocolate-covered rice cakes, Swiss bread, and black grapes.  We gassed up the car, ate a few grapes, and managed to make it across the border into France before the vomiting started.

Kitty Bill and Moonshine took turns emptying their small bodies over the course of the day.  It was not pretty.  Our six hour drive into Belgium became a nine hour hurling fest.  Once we got to the hotel room the fun continued into the night and the next morning.  We made it to our ferry booking at noon with only minutes to spare, and the children managed to hold it together enough to sit on deck and watch the white cliffs of Dover approach as we crossed the Channel into England.

As if sensing the weight of the moment, six-year-old Kitty Bill took one look at the cliffs and pronounced, "England looks boring!"

I'm happy to report that he has since changed his mind.

We have arrived!  The first two weeks were spent simultaneously overcoming stomach flu and searching for housing.  Luckily, we found a house that everyone could be excited about, and now we're just waiting for everything to come together: credit checks, lease-signing, utilities, movers... We have about another week or so of this waiting and finger-crossing business before we can start to unpack and teach ourselves to feel at home again.  Waiting for normal life to start is not for the faint-hearted.

Meanwhile, we're shacked up in an old cottage near Stratford-upon-Avon.  The kids and I are enjoying our break from homeschooling and taking advantage of the opportunity to learn a bit about the area and take in the sights.  I'm learning not to scream when driving on the LEFT side of the road-- it feels terribly wrong!  And the kids are remembering how to occupy themselves for hours at a time with only a few sticks and seeds in the small garden-- the toys from nature are ever-plentiful and still the best!

This weekend, as part of the waiting fun, we change to a different cottage and lose internet access for a few days.  Hopefully I'll be back for a post or two before then.  Fingers crossed!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Big Announcement

Today is the eve of my home country's birthday... the day our forefathers came together to sign an agreement declaring independence from the rule of Great Britain.

In light of that, it's a bit amusing to me to make the following announcement:

 We're moving to England.                        

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Been a LONG time

Four months later... sheesh!

When I disappear for awhile, it's safe to say that stuff is happening.  Sometimes that stuff takes up all my attention and patience, and blogging has to take a back burner. This was one of those times.

We're still homeschooling though, in the midst of a whirlwind of trials.  When everything else is going haywire, homeschooling is the one constant.  I think we might be getting pretty good at it.

Where did I leave off four months ago?  Oh yes, February, and my broken nose!  That was a crazy time.  It's healed now.  Thanks so much for all the well wishes.  You all know how to a make a mama smile through the pain.

At the tail end of the broken nose ordeal, all hell broke loose.  Events happened.  I don't know that I can say more than that at this time, though I'm sure to touch on it in the future.  Needless to say, said events catapulted Moonshine into the thick, murky waters of the nine-year-change.  Nurturing Moonshine through this change has been an entirely different experience than what we had with Sunburst.  Much harder.  Much more volatile.  More tears than I can possibly count, and with good reason.  It's hard to wake up and realize that the world isn't as nice as you thought.

She's good now.  We're through the thick of it, at least.  Other life changes are simmering, big ones, so I'm sure we'll see more fun times ahead as she finds her equilibrium.  Thank goodness we're homeschooling!

Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of Waldorf homeschooling is being able to greet each individual child's stages of growth with curriculum.  Not at a random moment within a given school year because their age dictates it, but exactly when they'll benefit from it the most.  And that's what we've been doing this spring-- Old Testament stories.  Nothing says wake up and smell the nine-year-change like the banishment from the garden of Eden, the death of Abel, and so on.

Meanwhile, Sunburst has been living and breathing everything Rome.  The brutality and betrayal within Roman history has made for an interesting counterpoint as Sunburst watches her little sister move through such a strong undercurrent.  I didn't expect that, and I certainly didn't plan for it.  But the timing was perfect!  There are much greater lessons to be learned from history than just dates and facts.

We've done other things here and there, as well.  Kitty Bill is playing t-ball and loving it!  Moonshine is enjoying cursive handwriting and housebuilding, and as always, math.  Sunburst thinks her geology/mineralogy block is the best thing yet-- and that also comes at just the right time, because we're facing another huge upheaval.

Our job here in Switzerland is ending early.  We learned about the possibility this spring, and it has been looming and growing ever closer until the possibility has become a certainty.

Einstein's boss has been offered a prestigious position, the top of his field, at a fat cat research facility in Berlin.  He has invited Einstein to come along.  It's a lucrative job, a huge career move... and yet, it's Germany... where homeschooling is illegal.  I'm not at liberties to say much more than this, but I know that other homeschoolers can understand how the mere idea wrenches our hearts.  And thus, Einstein has been actively pursuing other options for us.

He has been away more often than he has been home, and that has been a strain on all of us.  He has been flying all over the world interviewing for jobs, attending meetings, conferences, writing books...  Finding a job in this economy is tough.  Finding a good job, a perfect job, a job that pays enough to keep the kids out of school where they belong... that's even tougher.  But we think we've found one.  Unfortunately, it's not back home.  This tears the kids up, but there are no positions to be had in the US right now.

Hopefully we'll have definitive news by the end of this week, just in time for summer holidays to kick in.  Between you and me, I'm looking forward to a few days of respite from all the stress and worries of reality.

Oh, and special thanks to those of you who have been emailing me, prodding me, to get back up on my blogging horse.  I appreciate your kind words, and I'll do my best to stay astride.  Hopefully I'll be back in the next few days to share some visuals.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Danger of Bedtime Stories (or Valentine's Day)

I realize I've been MIA for about ten days, but I have a really good reason.

You see, for Valentine's Day, I got this really breath-taking present.  If truth be told, it was actually the night before Valentine's Day.  An early present!

I wasn't expecting it at all!  It was a total and complete surprise to me.  In fact, I don't know when I've ever been more surprised in my life.

Not only was I surprised, but I was completely stunned!  My jaw dropped to the floor.  I didn't even know what to say-- in fact, I don't think I said anything at all for about five minutes.

And when I finally did speak, I couldn't tell you what I said or if I was even coherent.  I'm sure there was screaming.  And tears.  It was one whopper of a present!

Did you guess it yet?

I broke my nose!

I'd like to say that I was spelunking or sky diving or even bungee jumping-- imagine how exciting and perhaps risky that would sound.  Maybe even believable.  But the truth is boring.  Way more boring than that.  In fact, it sounds almost ridiculous when I say it aloud.  In fact, I'll say it, and then you can be witness to the ridiculousness.  Ready?

I broke my nose reading a bedtime story to my five-year-old.

See what I mean!?!  Actually, it was my five-year-old that broke my nose.  How about that?!  He was merely walking around on the bed and then he somehow fell on me.  I know!  It doesn't quite make sense when I say it to myself.  It wasn't like he suddenly dropped from the sky and I cushioned his certain-death fall with my nose... or maybe it was kind of like that.  It depends on what your notion of sky is.  But anyway, my nose took the full brunt of some part of his head.  My face exploded with pain, and then there was the telltale bruising, swelling, and whatnot that followed.  Pain followed pretty much.  Pain upon pain upon pain.

My nose hurt.  My head hurt.  My sinuses hurt.  Even my teeth hurt.  Actually, there was this constant shooting pain like someone had shoved an electric rod in my face and was trying to push my teeth out of my head.  I wasn't sure if I was going to lose my teeth altogether or just end up looking like the one of the 'Hags of the Long Teeth' in Padraic Colum's The King of Ireland's Son.  It wasn't until two days ago that something mysteriously and quite audibly popped back into place, and the intense shooting pain subsided and left me with just a tender, throbbing nose.

It's funny when you wake up and find yourself to be thankful for a throbbing nose.  Talk about perspective.  With five-year-olds randomly falling from the sky, it could have been much, much worse.  Motherhood is dangerous, after all.  It's a real contact sport.  Don't let them tell you otherwise.

And reading bedtime stories?  Totally. Dangerous.

I'm going to start wearing a helmet.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More handmade toys

As promised, here are the last bits of my handmade Christmas, including Miss Jemima Mouse!

Kitty Bill loved Jeremy Mouse so much that before the day was out he was begging me to make a Jemima Mouse companion.  Luckily, these mice are quite simple to put together.  He insisted she have wedding clothes, as well, and then he created a fort church and conducted a wedding ceremony.  Now of course he's asking for a Tiptoes... You knew that was coming, right?  When things settle down a bit I'll have to oblige him.

Jemima is made from the same Holiday Mice pattern.  Her wedding attire begins with the hat that comes with the mouse pattern.  Then I attached yarn at the back of the hat and knit down to create a cape/veil effect.  If you missed the details on Jeremy, you can find them here.

Here's the wedding photo:

If you haven't seen Reg Down's website for the Tiptoes book series, you must take a look!  There are so many wonderful pictures there.  And the books are pure magic.  All three of my children adore his stories immensely.

What else?

Here's the outcome of that knit horse from Jan Messent's book, Knit a Fantasy Story.  It was a small torture to make it come together, but in the end, the beautiful smile on Sunburst's face was completely worth it.  She adores this horse.  She has since named it Bucephalus-- can you tell she enjoyed studying Ancient Greece?-- and she's been busy designing and knitting a realistic horse blanket for it.  Apparently the pattern in the book is just too different than the horse blankets she has seen around here.

The little doll on top just seemed like it needed to be there.  She's from the Sally Mavor book, Felt Wee Folk.  I just love her little dolls.

For Moonshine, I crafted two dolls: Little Red Riding Hood and the Pink Baby.  Sounds like it could be a curious story all on its own, doesn't it?  Little Red is technically a table puppet with a felt base, but the other dolls welcomed her into the dollhouse anyway.

Moonshine had been ogling the Little Red from the table-theater page in Sunnhild Reincken's book Making Dolls.  This one is not exact, but it's close enough.  The Pink Baby (perhaps it has a name by now) is copied from one the neighbors gave Sunburst last year.  Sunburst traced a pattern, and she kindly helped me sew things up.  There is also a tiny knit blanket, but it obscured the baby too much for the picture.

She loves them!  She really, really does!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Back from holiday

Apologies for my very long absence.  We have been on holiday for the entire month of January, and have now just emerged from the heavy fog of jet lag.

It was a wonderful trip-- very necessary, well-filling stuff.  We spent a lot of time hugging family and friends, laughing, talking, and staying up way too late.  It was only our second visit back to the U.S. after moving to Europe, and while the views here are gorgeous, I really miss being home and feeling like I'm home.  I don't know that it's something that you ever get over, but... we're supposed to be here now.  And so we are.  Here.  In Switzerland.

I came home to find some very sweet blog comments waiting for me, one of them by (and I could hardly believe it myself!) the author of the Tiptoes Lightly book series, Reg Down.  That pretty much made my day!  The kids were so pleased that they had to bring Jeremy Mouse (and now we have his wife Jemima, too!) to the computer to show him.  What fun!!

I'll be back tomorrow with pictures-- some from our trip and some that I promised you from those Christmas presents I was making for the kids.  And of course I have to show off our knit Jemima Mouse, as well.  She needs her moment in the limelight too!  ;)
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