August 31, 2009

Water Balloon Slingshot: The Movie

Last week we made a water balloon slingshot and took it out to Griffith Park to give it a try. What a blast! Here's a little movie that Warren put together with the video footage and a few pictures:

video

And while most other school-aged kids were sitting at their school desks, about to embark on another year of learning stuff other people think they should know, we rented a motor boat and took it for a spin in the ocean. It was awesome. I'll post some pictures and video of that soon. Jerry said it was "the best day of his life so far."

August 29, 2009

Two In A Row!

What the heck is going on? You get nothing but the same old post greeting you for weeks and then suddenly there are two posts in a row. I'll tell you what's happening. A heat wave. It was 106 degrees in the sun today (99 in the shade). And it just so happens that my office (which is where my laptop is now that I've cleared the piles and piles and bags and boxes of clutter off my desk) is the coolest place in the house outside the refrigerator. That's how my desk got cleared off. On Day One of the heat wave I spent the entire day down here de-cluttering because it was just too hot to do anything else. And now we've just come back from a very long tour of Cost Plus World Market where Warren and I closely inspected every single item in the store, in order to savor the climate control just a little bit longer, while Jerry parked himself on a comfy chair and played his DS for an hour (made me think of this article about Ikea in China). Now we're home with a bottle of white wine (a state fair silver medal winner!) in the refrigerator and some time to relax before starting dinner.

My plan was to lay down in the bedroom with a book because I'd just picked up a copy of Raising Freethinkers at the library, but even the bedroom (which is usually fairly cool) was sweltering. So here I am with nothing to say and blogging anyway.

By the way, I think I'm going to switch to a new blog. I can hardly call myself the "New Unschooler" anymore now that we're starting our third year of it. I'm not sure when I'll switch (I need a new name first) but it will be coming soon.

Well, that bottle should be cool enough by now. I'm off to the kitchen for a glass of wine and then I'm going to start my book. It may be hot, but a good book and a glass of cold wine should do the trick!

August 28, 2009

Paris Pics

Here we are at the train station in Tours waiting for the train to Paris. We ended up with the very same taxi driver on both trips to and from the train station. Weird, huh?
The apartment in Paris was a studio in Monmartre at the foot of a long staircase leading up to Sacre Coeur. Here's Summer and Jerry torturing Warren (again) at the dining table. The couch behind them opened into a bed. That's where Jerry and Warren slept.Summer and I slept (and read) on the bed.
Jerry had downloaded a bunch of Bleach episodes while we were still in Tours and he watched one a day in Paris.One of the first things Warren and I did after the exhausting trip on the train, subway and through the streets with all our luggage was relax with a cold beer. Every morning Warren and I woke up before Summer and Jerry and snuck out to walk down the street for coffee. Those few moments of private time together were one of the highlights of our stay in Paris for me and Warren.
We stopped in the the Orangerie museum for a quick look at Monet's waterlilies. I'm so glad we made the time to see them.

Holly recommended the hot chocolate at Angelina's and we were not disappointed. It was delicious. And so were the macaroons. And the ice cream sundaes.
There was a fun fair right across the street where we went on a few rides and had an all-around great time. It started raining while we were on one of the rides but that just added to the fun.We breezed through the Louvre. Or we tried to anyway. Our feet were killing us but we managed to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Egyptian room. We lost Summer for a while, which was bit scarry, but we found her in the end.




Two things we were really looking forward to were chocolate fondue and flower shaped gelato cones.

The city of Paris makes park of the walkway along the Seine into the "Paris Plage" for the summer. They have chairs and sand and musical performances. It was nice but the kids were disappointed that there was no swimming.
We saw Voltaire's tomb. Love that guy.
One of many pictures of the Eiffel Tower.
Sacre Coeur was especially beautiful at night.
The technology museum was one of my favorites. Here's an old printing press. Very advanced technology in its day!
These wooded balls were also at the technology museum but I can't remember what they're called. Every piece is carved as a whole even though there are many seprate, interlocking parts. They were amazing.

This was taken near Victor Hugo's house.
Jerry and Summer became pros at navigating the subway and snagging a seat during rush hour (which was pretty much all day long).
We made the usual pilgrimage to Shakespeare and Co.
After having most of our meals at little bistros we opted for a fancier meal our last night in France.

Then we went to Notre Dame
where we watched some amazing roller bladers and fire throwers before taking a cruise along the Seine.
We flew back in to Sacramento where Jerry's cousin Carson was very happy to see us.
Some of the Paris highlights that didn't make it onto our cameras were our tour of the Opera Garnier, a fashion show (Summer and I went to that one on our own), the automatons at the magic museum and getting rained out at the Eiffel Tower. Getting rained out may not sound very fun, but it was so crazy (buckets of rain and thunder and lightening and we were in the middle of the park with only trees for cover) that we just had to laugh--and run as fast as we could for shelter.

Of course, now that we're back it feels like we never went--except for when I look at the photos. We have some videos that I'll post soon, too. When I post those I'll be sure to regale you with the humiliating tale of how I couldn't walk out of the airport bathroom unassisted and explain why I needed a wheelchair to get from one gate to another. Yeah, that was fun.

August 25, 2009

Blogging Again, Really

Has it really been almost three weeks since that last post? Sorry about that. I'm going to be better from now on. I swear. I've been home for almost a week now but I keep thinking I need to post those Paris pictures and it's overwhelming so I've been putting it off. That's what I do when I'm overwhelmed. Nothing. I ignore.

Anyway, not much has been happening. Warren is off work/on vacation/unemployed and I wish someone would pay him better for it because I love having him at home. We've been putting the last 15 or so years worth of pictures in albums--something that we've been putting off for, oh, about 15 years--and it's reminded me that we've done a lot of really cool stuff in our 20 years together. I'll have to scan and post some of the photos. Jerry was so cute when he was little. I know I'm biased, but wait 'til you see the pictures. It's possible he was the cutest three-year-old in the long, cute, history of three-year-olds.

I have lots to write about but today I'm dedicating the morning hours to getting our finances (and my grandma's trust) in order. So, the fun stuff will have to wait.

Before I go, though, I wanted to share this very moving video of the late Ted Kennedy talking about health care. I was very sad to hear that he died last night.

August 9, 2009

France - Week Two

I'm finally posting photos of our second week (plus a few days) in France. Here are some photos of the house we stayed in. This is the living room. It turns out we had a lot of books and CDs in common with the people we swapped with. They said that's only happened to them twice in all their swaps (they've done 16).
The kitchen was tiny but really cute.Here's the deck off of the dining room. The yard went back pretty far. It was really nice.
This is the office. Jerry set up shop at the desk with his laptop.This was one of my favorite things about the house--peeping garden gnomes. They were hilarious. They look in through the office window, presumably providing inspiration to Alain, who is a sports journalist.
The last set of pictures (from my previous post) left off just before we went to visit Chenonceau. A really pretty, relatively small, chateau. We stopped off at Mini-Chateaux Land on our way. Here's Summer pretending to be a giant by a model of Chambord. Could she be any cuter?
And here's Warren hovering behind the castle.
From there we went to the life-sized Chenonceau. This is the tower.This is the portion of the castle that crosses the river. I think it was Maria de Medici who added the rooms on top of the bridge.
It was a really, really hot day and the chateau was packed with people so we sat down and rested every chance we got.
My favorite part of the chateau was the kitchen.
Look at that stove!
This butcher's block was warped from use and full of knife marks. Isn't it beautiful?
This is me and Jerry. We were resting our feet while Summer and Warren went to check out the maze.
Two days after visiting the chateau I got really sick. On the third day of my misery I went to visit a doctor. Thank goodness her English was better than my French. I was convinced that a lifetime of eating uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough had finally come back to bite me in the deriere (can you say salmonella?) but the doctor assured me it was a virus and sent me on my way with some medication. The visit only cost 22 Euro! Anyway, there I am in the waiting room looking exactly the way I felt.Since I was sick and couldn't travel, we had to cancel our trip to Carcassonne, which sucked for a number of reasons. 1. Warren and I had been there before and knew Jerry would love it. (He loves the game.) 2. We still had to pay for the hotel room. 3. We had planned on celebrating Bastille Day there. Instead I spent the day watching Friends with Warren, Summer & Jerry. It was pretty fun, actually. I did manage to get myself dressed around 10 p.m. to walk down to the bridge with Summer and Warren for the most amazing fireworks show I've ever seen. (Jerry stayed home.) The next day we left for Beynac. Here's Warren at a little roadside rest stop.
This is the little car we drove around in. We swapped cars, too. That saved us a lot of money and worked out really well. Of course, we got a bit lost and ended up taking about seven hours to get to a town that was supposedly four and a half hours away. We fell in love with this beautiful field of sunflowers just outside Beynac.

This is our hotel. It's the one right on the corner. Jerry and Summer are in the upper window (that's our room!) looking out at the river. If you ever go to Beynac I can't recommend this hotel highly enough. The people were so friendly and the hotel was full of charm. Hotel du Chateau is the name.Here's the same window from inside. Our room was so cool!Look at those beams! Warren nearly gave me a heart attack by swinging on one of them. Thankfully the building remained in tact.
The first night of our stay there was a massive thunderstorm. The electricity went out. The wind blew windows open and long fingers of lightening (ten or fifteen at a time!) covered the sky. It was awesome! But these poor people at the campground probably weren't too happy.
The day after the rain we took a nice long walk around Beynac--two, actually. Warren and I went together once and then I went (blissfully!) alone once. These are some of the photos from those walks.





One of the best days of our trip was spent canoeing on the Dordogne River.




We stopped at a little beach along the way to skip some stones.


This town, which we passed along the way, was really cool. It's called La Roque Gageac.
We stopped there for lunch.
This was one of my favorite chateaux. It reminded me of Zorro's house in the Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones. And people have used this site for shelter since pre-historic times.
The three lower floors are visible from the front but the upper floors are kind of hidden because of the rock face. It was really neat.
There was a little dungeon inside. Stangely, it was not in the basement. It was right across from the bedroom.

This is above the chateau.
We passed this pretty field on the way to visit Magdalene, a troglodyte (built into the mountain) village.This is part of the village. It ran all along the cliff face and, like the area where the chateau was built, was used by pre-historic man, Romans and others all throughout history.
Warren was holding court on the spot where town meetings would have taken place.
The day we were there it was pouring.

Another highlight of the trip, for me anyway, was our visit to Font de Gaume. We saw cro-magnon cave drawings that were tri-color and 15,000 years old! And we had our own personal guide for half the day.We had to be in the parking lot by 9, which explains why Jerry and Summer look half asleep in this photo.Jerry and Summer found this tiny little frog in the parking lot.This is the entrance to the cave. They regulate the number of guests allowed to go in. Only 180 per day.We weren't allowed to take photos inside but I pulled this off the internet. After the cave we went to the pre-history museum in Les Eyzies. This is Warren with our guide, Angelika, looking up at the museum which, like many other things in this area, was built into the rock.These steps lead up to an overlook at the top of the museum, but I like how in the photo they look like they go straight to the sky.
That's it for now. Jerry and I are leaving today for a camping trip with my family up in Oregon, so I'll post the photos from our final week (in Paris!) when we return.