Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Whatcha Strewin'?

Strewing: Leaving interesting things around to be discovered and then changing them out for newer, different things. Sandra Dodd once wrote about unschooling, "I just strew their paths with interesting things," and she and others have written much more about it since -- some of it is on her site here and here.

I thought that from time to time I'll start posting some of the things I've put around the house to be discovered or re-discovered.

Lately, most of our expendable money has gone to our Chicago trip and to everyone's specific interests: gardening stuff for me, skateboards and related things for Matt, UB Funkey's and Iron Man figures for Seth, Rock Band song packs and a couple foot pedals for the electric guitar for Riley, stuffed animals and Littlest Pet Shop figures for Maya. So these things that I've put around the house recently are not new -- just things pulled off a shelf or rearranged in some way to be looked at, touched, played with, used in whatever way -- or not at all.

These pattern magnets aren't really something I pulled out recently -- they're almost always out on my dishwasher. They do get rearranged pretty regularly by most anyone that comes into our kitchen, though.

I stuck magnets to our tangrams and put them on the refrigerator. We make our own designs with them or try to make what's on the picture cards.

I set these up on the kitchen table this morning -- picture puzzles with 3, 4, and 5-letter words. I'm not much of a puzzle person, and this always looks overwhelming to me when we get it out, especially now that we have a dog and can't set the pieces out all over the floor; but Maya and Seth love it. Maya picked it out at the store last winter, which makes sense -- she's not fully independently reading yet but has so much fun playing around with it and making a game of piecing together this complex and sometimes bizarre language of ours.

My favorite series of field guides, the ones from National Audubon Society -- they have beautiful photography, and we enjoy looking up specific things in them or just browsing through them. Our nature basket -- right now with some rocks and shells and other items bought or found at various places. The magnifying glasses I had put in there are missing -- someone must have found something somewhere else that they needed a closer, bigger look at.

A cleaned off desk, freshly sharpened pencils and colored pencils, plain paper, colored paper, lined paper, scissors, and a find-the-hidden picture page printed from the Highlights website.

On our living room "coffee table" (actually a trunk full of costumes and accessories): Perfection game, a couple library books and a small Spiderwick book that came out of a cereal box, and the latest (I think) issue of Ranger Rick magazine. Oh, and the TV remote -- we're definitely not ones to discount all that we learn from TV.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chicago Trip -- Downtown

We went to downtown Chicago on Wednesday and again on Friday. Some of our pictures from Wednesday are on my 365 photo blog here. Matt's class ended by noon, so we had lunch at the hotel and then planned to spend the rest of the day downtown. It was so much fun -- the most we've ever gotten to see and do downtown any of the times we've been to Chicago (which have all been us tagging along with Matt when he's had to do work-related things there).

We started at Lincoln Park. Matt and Riley went to the Wilson skatepark there; and Maya, Seth, and I went to the beach on Lake Michigan.

A cloudy but beautiful day

Playing in the water before the lifeguard told us no one could get in the water due to elevated e. coli levels from all the flooding. Fortunately, none of us got sick.

Seth digging and sculpting in the sand

One of Maya's sand drawings: a penguin and her egg

Maya and the friends she met at the beach. They played all afternoon.

Once we found a place to park, we walked all over downtown. We found a local place to eat some really good Chicago-style pizza.

Maya anxiously waiting for some pizza

Enjoying the pizza -- deep, deep dish, tons of cheese, with the sauce on top

I had wanted to go to some of the art museums, but it never worked out with all the other things we wanted to do. We ended up instead getting to experience some of the amazing art and architecture that can be found throughout downtown, much of it art that could be touched, climbed on, played with, even splashed by!

It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet.
--Kojiro Tomita

We didn't go up to the sky deck of the very tall Hancock Observatory, but the view from the street is pretty awesome, too.

This is called Monument with Standing Beast by Jean DuBuffet. There are lots of little places to run in, through, and out as well as lots of places to climb.

This is an untitled Pablo Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza. I had never noticed this, but the Wikipedia article says there is a shot of it and mention of it in The Blues Brothers movie during the chase scene.

Besides the Picasso, here are some other views from Daley Plaza.

Across the street, we found Miro's Chicago

Because the kids like the their story so much, we went a few blocks over to see The Flight of Daedalus and Icarus painting.

This caught our attention as we walked along some buildings, maybe on La Salle St??? I can't remember where exactly.

Finally, we spent time in Millennium Park.

Enjoying some sculptures by Mark di Suvero.

Swinging on Shang

Rust Angel

Maya and Seth and I splashed around in Crown Fountain. There were so many people running and playing and splashing and laughing here day and night. It was one of my favorite places. The giant block towers have moving video images of faces. Water comes out all the time and occasionally "spits" from the mouths of the faces on both towers.

Chicago Trip -- McDonald's Museum

On Thursday, we toured the McDonald's museum in Des Plaines, IL. It's a replica of Ray Kroc's first McDonald's restaurant. This trip was mainly for Maya, who *loves* McDonalds. It was intresting to see how different the prices were then than now and to hear about what is served in McDonald's restaurants in other parts of the world, such as lamb in India and rice in China. When we got back to the hotel later, Matt reminded us about the poutine dish he tried at the McDonalds on our trip to Niagara Falls, Canada a couple years ago.

In true fast-food style, it took only a few minutes to see the whole place.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chicago Trip: Long Grove Confectionery Factory Tour

We're in Itasca, IL, a suburb of Chicago, for the week while Matt does some work-related training. Today we toured the Long Grove Confectionery factory in Buffalo Grove, IL. We had the opportunity to hold a cacao pod and bean and learn about how it is grown and harvested. We saw videos of the family's history in the town and toured the factory to see the process from mixing and making the candies through packaging and shipping. This company does much of its work by hand, and it was especially interesting to learn about the custom work of the company artists and sculptors and see some of their amazing pieces. After smelling and seeing all that delicious chocolate for an hour, we shopped in the outlet store for treats and are now enjoying some blissful post-chocolate relaxing in our hotel room.
Some pictures:
Statue of Liberty and Native American chocolate sculptures. These are solid chocolate and weigh 1000+ pounds. The detail was just beautiful, and the swirling chocolate looked like wood grain.
The giant chocolate pizza and a chocolate dress that was actually worn in a fashion show (and yes, they said the dresses did start to melt a bit while being worn).