World Cup

We bought Stadium Passes about 3 minutes after the tickets went on sale last year. This was months before they even did the draw to see who played where. We knew we were in at the front of the list with a promptness like that (we hoped!) But Category One is a very broad category. About half the stadium. Eventually we got our seat locations. And we learned who would play in the 7 games we’d see. 

Our seats were primo. 9 rows up and behind a team bench. When the Nigerian coaches kissed the ground after their goals, that was right in front of us. 

Yesterday was an amazing start. 2 fantastic games with 4 strong teams. The level of soccer on display was really impressive. We saw the Nigeria-Sweden game and the U.S.-Australia game that followed. 10 goals. 

The stadium was packed with Anericans who’d made the trip. It was probably half American. Impressive soccer love for North America and impressive support for a women’s team. 

5 games left in the next 7 days. 

(We are thinking of doing something a bit deliciously mad: going to the semi-final in Edmonton. We’d only have two days to do it, though, because of Sandra’s work, and it’s a ten hour drive. But the semi-finals!) 



line break at the Louvre

Line Break at the Louvre

Line Break at the Louvre

We had not quite 3 days in Paris, and didn’t go into the Louvre. We were largely there to see the Impressionists and Paris itself, so we just walked through the grounds of the famous museum this time and took some fun pictures. So this post does not contain the thrilling account of a family on the run in the Louvre, nor an important tip on how to escape the lines at the Louvre, nor anything to do with the lineups at the Louvre.

Instead, its about Line Break, a geometric shawl pattern by Veera Välimäki. Easy, rewarding knitting. Perfect travel project. And as it was about 5-10 degrees cooler than I had packed for, I was very glad to finish it early in our trip to Europe and have it to wear!

I want to block this much more sternly. In Germany I could only soak it and spread it out – no pins, no wires. It’s a big shawl, but I want it bigger (deeper in particular).

Mods: Added a stripe of white after the eyelet rows. To keep the short rows from then making a zig-zag look across the white, I added an extra garter ridge of blue before doing the short rows.

Also added a garter ridge of white in the edging. Did one eyelet, one white ridge, more blue eyelets. I would have liked to have at least 2 more eyelets deep to give it a little more ‘blue weight’ but I didn’t have the yarn.

Line Break at the Louvre

Line Break at the Louvre

3 days in Paris, two

We took the train from Wittlich to Paris early Tuesday morning, arriving at 10:30. Then there was a ride on the Metro to near where our rented flat was located.

The ride on the Metro made me smile a little: Rainer loves to imagine his vacations in advance and all year on our long runs he would ask Sandra and I what we wanted to do or see. Sandra’s answer was nearly always: “I want to go somewhere big enough that there’s a subway.” When asked why, she responded that subways = art galleries, at least in her experience.

We dumped our stuff at the apartment – a tiny one room affair that was tidy and bright and perfect in terms of both location and budget. We were just down the avenue from Napoleon’s Tomb – the golden dome glinted dully but promisingly in the rainy skies.

Invalides, not on the rainy Tuesday

Our first stop was Musee d’Orsay. In truth, the reason we were in France was the Orsay. Sandra loves Impressionism, and noticed in the video course she took a few years ago that nearly every painting mentioned was housed there. She’s been on a 6-year campaign to wrangle us there, even going so far as to research marathons and triathlons to increase Rainer’s likelihood of going.

Orsay was crowded – most other museums were closed on Tuesdays. But it didn’t really matter. We all really enjoyed it. The ratio of painting to enjoyment was probably the highest of any gallery we’d been to. We went through every room once, and then a few rooms a second time, even a third time. I think Sandra could have stayed there til closing. We almost did, but wanted to beat the rush to the bookstore that would happen at end of the day.

That night we just crashed into bed. Up since 4:30, walking all over the city, minds stuffed full of the sights of Paris and hundreds of paintings.

3 days in Paris, one

We try to make a bigger city part of our travels when we come to Europe. Museums, galleries, cafes, traffic, river-side strolling…all things we love.

This time we managed 3 days (2 nights) in Paris.


Like Brugge, it is a city all of a piece. It fits together. You can’t imagine it other than it is. We were in Vienna last time, and it also had the high white buildings; but it seemed some how sterile or alienating. Paris, on the other hand, looks magnificent and yet organic. Similar buildings, but not regimented. I loved the feeling of wholeness the city posessed.

We decided to see little in terms of particular places, but to walk and walk and walk between them. We carefully chose a few highlights for each day, and set off.

Saint Chapelle

Saint Chapelle

view from Ille de la Citi

gardens in the Louvre

gardens in the Louvre

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Field Trip

A week ago, we took Sandra to the airport with her passport, new camera, and a sense of adventure in her hands.


She’s in Aachen, Germany. We fly to Germany this week to reunite with her and begin our portion of the field trip. Homeschooling has its perks.


During the day, she shadows grad students at a cancer epigenetic lab. Evenings and weekends, she explores, walks, talks, and feels at home. She’s staying with Rainer’s cousin and his partner.


She didn’t want to bring all of her computers and cables, and bother with uploading. But she does want to share, so we have been getting pictures of her pictures, taken from the screen of her Nikon with her iPod. It’s very meta, and also very appealing. The black frame. The text. The offset rectangles.

local treasures

Louis Riel House

You might not be local enough to enjoy this small house with a big connection with history, so here’s an online tour.

We stopped in now, while it still has funding.  We’re studying Manitoba history in depth next year, but it looks as though our government doesn’t think Canadians should fund the Louis Riel House any longer.

I’m getting the unit study ready, reading or skimming a whole lot of books, and I’m loving it.  Manitoba’s history is fascinating.  And central.  Not just geographically, either. The connection between the fur trade, exploration, relations between First Nations and Europeans, the homesteaders…this story packs quite a wallop.  I’ve always said that as a homeschooler one of my key principles was to give the kids a deep understanding of one place in high school because in knowing about a place – it’s history, economics, geography, people – we would learn about learning, learn about humans, and learn deeply.  How lucky that we happen to live in a province with such a dynamic history!

I’ll be sharing our list of books soon, and I’ll have a highlights list for those of you who may be far away but who are interested in a glimpse of stories that illustrate North American history.

1851 all over again

May 18

1851 seems to be following me.  It was a key year in the excellent and informative book “At Home” by Bill Bryson, and last week it turned out to be the year we were inhabiting while behind the gates of Fort Garry National Historic Site.  That was a fascinating juxtaposition, as it gave me insight into the first settlers of Canada that I’d never had before.  Having just listened to 16 hours of excellent audio book information on the history of why our homes look and feel the way that they do, I was able to look at the fort through much more focused lenses.

I’d always wondered why people came over here.  The mosquitoes, the winters, the having to build everything using a tree and your ax…it all seemed a bit much.  It seemed like a thousand steps down the ladder of comfort, ease, and familiarity.  Turns out I was wrong.  Housing and daily life over in the Old World wasn’t quite what a three-decade obsession with “Anne of Green Gables” had led me to assume ‘ye olde dayes’ were like.  It’s not that I’m ignorant about history, and have spent a fair bit of time reading about the middle ages, but I hadn’t quite put it all together in a way that made all the elements of daily life make sense.  Or perhaps it was this book distilling many things I’d known and then adding whole new elements.

Who cares about the kids?  I had an excellent moment of informational synthesis at the field trip.

Lower Fort Garry

Very dashing plaid trousers

Red River frame house

Learning the basics of Red River frame construction.  No nails needed.

Tipi construction

Tipi construction

Tipi construction

The Big House

“The Big House”. Where all the top men of Hudson’s Bay Company and their wives stayed.

Note the fence to keep the plebs off the lawn.

Intimate Field Trip

intimate: adj

1: a intrinsic, essential
b : belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature
2: marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity
Today we had a field trip that was both intimately small and about our deepest nature.
We are studying human anatomy right now.  Sandra was 5 the last time I did this topic.  That’s a long time ago.  Looong ago.  What happened was that I went a little too matter-of-fact in an attempt to keep her from thinking the topic was icky.  Instead I overdid the realism and now she thinks the topic is icky.  Every time I discuss learning anatomy at a level beyond that of Kindergarten she backs away in horror.
But we need to cover this topic.  So I decided to start with the least icky part possible: the skeleton.  No ooze.  No wobble.  No hints of the dissection table.  Just Lego-like parts.  We’ve been covering the internal structure of bones themselves as well as learning their names.  Not too heavily.  We’ve focused on short and frequent lessons.  A few minutes every day adds up and we now know quite a few names in a way that we should be able to hold onto.  We’re even collecting facts for a board game we hope to design.
While I’m always tempted to invite all the homeschoolers for 100 km to a field trip (as I manage the local support group and feel obliged to make it the Funnest Ever), I kept it to just us.  I called up a small x-ray lab.  (Field Trip Tip: The smaller the facility, the less likely you are to deal with overwhelmed cogs-in-the-machine that have no time or authority to invite you for a field trip.)  I was hoping for 10-15 minutes with a little explanation of how the machine works, maybe a peek at an x-ray or two if it wouldn’t violate privacy, and a connection between the subject matter and someone employed in the field.  What I found was a man delighted to talk to us, interested in our questions, and excited to show us some of the awesome ‘I get to look at the insides of people!’ aspects of his job.  We spent 90 minutes there, taking a few breaks as people needed x-rays.
We saw breaks, screws holding bone together, sinuses, the air bubble in someone’s stomach, the growth plates on a toddler’s fingers, and a whole series of normal bones.  It’s one thing to see it in a book and another to peek inside someone’s body.  It cemented so many things for me.  Oh, and I assume for the kids, too.*
Mike is getting a thank you card.  And some cookies.  Or a pie.  Or all three.  He made my day and my skeleton unit.
*What, you think I’m not homeschooling to fill in my own gaps?!