Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Big Birthday - Early

My parent's have a great tradition. When a grandchild turns 8, s/he gets a special birthday 'date' with Papa and Nana. The girls get a trip to downtown Chicago to the American Girl Doll store to pick out their very own doll. The boys get a trip to the Lego store to pick out a boatload of Legos. (There are some age exceptions, but those don't come into play here, so I won't go into them.)

In a little less than a week, my baby turns 8. He has been planning for his special day for two years.

Do you think I'm kidding? I'm not. There has been so much discussion between him and his older brother about which Lego sets to choose, which sets are the best deal, which sets they like the best that I have left the house (quite literally) because I can't stand to listen to any more Lego talk.

His day finally came on Tuesday! Isaac was so excited, he was up every two hours the night before and finally gave up trying to sleep at 5:20. (He's very precise.)

He very generously invited all his siblings into his room to help him build everything.

And I even allowed an exception to the infamous 'Leichty bedtime'
to allow them to complete the building process.
(For my own sanity, really. The boys have been known to get up at 1am to finish building a Lego set in the privacy of their closet. You can imagine what the next day was like!)

One last note: Those Cars 2 sets came out at JUST the right time. Otherwise my house would have been full of Star Wars Legos. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just prefer Cars 2.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You Know Summer is Ending...

...when school work starts piling up in the living room.

...when an open piano lid becomes the norm.

...when the kids actually complain about going to the beach,

...when blankets start piling up on the living room floor and furniture.

...when the shadow on the back porch becomes deeper each day.

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven"

And yet I still mourn - just a little - for summer fun, summer book club,
the excitement of the beach every possible day, the relaxed schedule.

All while feeling relief - quite a bit - of starting our fall routine,
having motivators for my children to finish their chores,
no more beach sand in the shower, on the floor or in the van,
reading deliciously delightful books aloud to the children.

Yes, I need the change of season.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Wisdom of Pixar

This summer I have been reading stacks of children's books to review on my children book review blog, so I've been neglecting my own stack of books.

I've been wanting to read this book - The Wisdom of Pixar by Robert Velarde - and finally got the chance! Velarde consults with Sonlight Curriculum, the curriculum I use in teaching my children at home, so Sonlight has been promoting his book in their materials.

I ordered my children's books for the coming school year, and decided to add one small thing for myself - The Wisdom of Pixar. I just finished reading it last night and thoroughly enjoyed it!

Velarde opens with a quick overview of the philosophy of virtue - a necessary foundation for the rest of the book. I will admit to skimming through it since I was not a philosophy major and I wanted to get to the rest of the book (plus I read right before I go to sleep - not the best time to try to process philosophical arguments).

The rest of the chapters look at different aspects of virtue, including justice, love, friendship, identity, and how Pixar's movies explore each of these virtues. I found it easy to read The Wisdom of Pixar and each chapter left me thinking about the movies and examples of virtue.

I'm also thinking of how this book could be a springboard for great family discussion (or any small group or youth group) on virtue. Velarde includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter, plus a movie discussion guide in an appendix.

I'm thinking a family movie night over the weekend, then reading the chapter as a part of our school week, discussing the questions at the end of the chapter and in the appendix.

When reading the book, it helps to be familiar with all the Pixar movies (before Cars 2). While each chapter focuses on one or two of the Pixar movies, Velarde includes several other movie examples. If your family is like mine, that is not a problem because we love all the Pixar movies.

I highly recommend this book for personal enjoyment, and also for a group discussion. But beware - you cannot cover the entire book in one night.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Blasting into August

Glen spotted the "All Tchaikovsky" concert on the Ravinia schedule months ago. "1812 Overture," he said. "With live cannons. Plus an instrument petting zoo for the kids. Should we go?"

"Um... sounds good."

"Kids are free."


We told our children we were going for an adventure. With Papa and Nana and Aunt Carrie. So many guesses ensued. "Museum of Science and Industry?"

"We are packing a picnic. Dress to be outside. And wear sunscreen."

"Field Museum? Are we going on a hike? No, the Botanical Gardens!"

"It's an adventure! You'll find out."

How do you explain Ravinia to children who have never been there?

Sunday afternoon we set out on our great adventure. We staked out a claim in the shade (I'm glad we were there early!) We explored the instrument petting zoo. I thought it was neat, but the kids hardly touched a thing. We stopped at the cooling tent. That felt really good.

We ate our Subway sandwiches, chips and chocolate chip cookies. We listened to the concert. We read, we sweated, we marveled at how much we love air conditioning.

Then came the big finale: 1812 Overture. Papa started humming along. Tons of people gathered around the cannons, while others strained to see them, as if the crowds would part at the crucial moment.


It was worth it. It was worth the complaints, the heat, the sweat. It was amazing to hear the music as it was meant to be played, with those cannons marking the exclamation points celebrating Napoleon's defeat at the hands of the Russians. Once we were in the van, with the a/c blasting, we all agreed it was quite an adventure (except maybe Nathaniel).

He hardly looked up from his book.

On another note, I just had to snap this picture this morning of my resident team of Lewis and Clark, setting out on their exploration of... the world? Whatever they were exploring, they certainly were prepared. I think they had every map we own in their bags.