McDashtown | An Imaginary Town

After months of saving boxes from the recycling bin, the kids set to work on building their own towns and implementing city elements they were learning about.  We started with a 7×7′ piece of brown craft paper, and then spent the following few weeks building from the ground up.

Welcome to McDashtown!  First my son decided he wanted a downtown configured around a pedestrian promenade.  McDashtown is also situated on the banks of a lake, where there are walking paths and an entertainment district.

A fountain sits in front of his art museum, and he even drew on “light scoops” on the roof just like Renzo Piano’s wing at the High Museum.

And the boy loves a good cantilever and buildings that span a roadway.

Crazy Cat Lady even lives in McDashtown, in the top left corner:

Do you see the tiny bell in the church tower?

The factory doors accommodate people, dogs, cats, and ants–how thoughtful.

The boy measured all his buildings and figured the area of all his city blocks.  The tallest point in McDashtown is the Hilton McDashtown, at 42″ tall.

You are welcome to book a room, but–as you can see by the flags they fly outside–your pets should be left at home.

A travel brochure could read:  Spend relaxing days boating on the lake!

Dare to thrill and scream on the Cheerios rollercoaster!

Gather for a family-friendly parade downtown!

But the truth is, McDashtown’s days were numbered from the first brick laid.  And it wasn’t even the threat of man-eating dinosaurs that would destroy a metropolis of this sort–although they came and terrorized one weekend.

Nope, the demise of McDashtown was chosen by its creator.  From the beginning the kids knew that their towns would be destroyed by summer’s end–and it was up to them to choose the natural disaster to cause the destruction.  My son chose a tornado.  And one fateful day in August, the sky turned dark.

Since most of the inhabitants of McDashtown were animals, their sixth sense kicked in and told them to get the heck out of Dodge; and so the evacuation route clogged with those escaping impending doom.

And then the F5 whirled like a demon through McDashtown.

Within minutes, the town was leveled like a war zone.

Emergency crews labored tirelessly looking for survivors in what was once the bustling city of McDashtown.

Unfortunately, as it is in moments like these of fragile vulnerability, the (buxom and sparkly) looters plundered what they could get their fixed-positioned hands on.  Special forces moved in to stop (and possibly woo) the vandals.

The ending of this destroyed city is bittersweet.  Even while all is lost, the community banded together in the clean up effort and committed to putting all the waste in the recycling bin for responsible waste management.

When it was all said and done, my son looked at me and asked, “Can we build another city?”  How sweet–but after wrapping enough boxes for 1000 Christmases, I am ready to move on to another project!

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This post is dedicated to my friend Rachael, who upon hearing about our city project, drove herself to Target immediately and filled a box with all sorts of goodies for the destruction and shipped it to us.  Love you!

Chicago | Frank Lloyd Wright

While any number of big cities could have served well for our city fieldtrip, Chicago was my first pick because I LOVE it so and because I wanted the kids to see the studio of Frank Lloyd Wright and his houses in Oak Park.  Twice my husband and I have tried to see his studio on previous trips to Chicago, but it was always closed, after hours…obviously before the Internet when information such as operating hours is easily had.  And, yes, I’m that old.

So instead of looking forlornly in locked windows and doors after a long train ride to Oak Park, the kids and I were able to take the tour inside.  That’s called planning ahead, folks.

We did both the walking architecture audio tour and the Wright home and studio tour.  The walking tour, a little over a mile, took us around the beautiful neighborhood of Oak Park to see early Wright residential designs.  Feast on the Nathan G. Moore House of 1895/1923:

The quintessential Prairie style, Arthur B. Heurtley House:

The weather was perfect for strolling in this picturesque, history-saturated neighborhood.  With original Frank Lloyd Wrights at every turn and other stunning homes surrounded by lush gardens and lawns…I didn’t want to leave.  Standing there on the sidewalk, I fantasized about what it might be like to own a piece of this history and live within this art.  Don’t you think it would be both such a pleasure and a burden?

Simpson Dunlop House, by E.E. Roberts, 1896

The next day we ventured to the University of Chicago to see Wright’s Robie House.  Completed in 1910 for Frederick C. Robie, the house stunned me with its modernity.  I can’t imagine how provocative this house was when it was built–a case of the divine pairing of perfect gutsy client with the genius architect.  The interior felt very familiar to me because its spirit has been duplicated over and over in modern spaces through the last 100 years.  I was enjoying every minute of our time there.

Savoring every minute…

I’m so proud of my kiddos who were real troopers during the tours, even raising their hands for questions.  And when they did grow weary on day two of Wright tours, they sucked it up and displayed immense patience with their mama who couldn’t get enough.

We used Frank Lloyd Wright for Kids by Kathleen Thorne-Thomsen and several Wright documentaries on Netflix at home to prepare for their visit.  I had hoped to finish Meryle Secrest’s biography of Wright before our trip, but I’m still working on that beast.  While in Chicago, the kids worked each morning on notebooks I made with Carl Sandburg Chicago poems, cool Chicago facts, Willis Tower facts, Wright worksheets, and Chicago coloring pages.  We saved brochures and ticket stubs from each day so they could spend the following mornings making a journal entry for their previous day’s activities and special memories…which gave me plenty of time to do my hair and makeup uninterrupted, priorities, you know.  And because I’m not just a whip-snapping homeschool mom sucking the fun out of trips, there were daily trips to the hotel pool, too.

I can’t wait to go back to Chicago…still so much to see and do!

Chicago | A Fieldtrip

Our summer school curriculum dubbed “About Town” covered things associated with a town.  We talked about districts, zoning, transportation, architecture, entertainment, you name it.  The kids had lots of fieldtrips:  the bank to open savings accounts and have a tour, the grocery store to see the behind-the-scenes, the neighborhood fire station to see the trucks.  They did local park reviews to see which was their favorite and mapped their neighborhood.  They even designed and built their own cities in the studio–oh, what fun we had!  The grand finale of summer school was a fieldtrip to Chicago to see a great big city in action and ride the trains and taxis and go through revolving doors and see the flocks of pigeons and gawk at the street performers.

Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor in Millennium Park

Jitish Kallat’s Public Notice 3

The first stop was the Art Institute of Chicago.

We walked and walked.  Mostly the kids marched on like champs; but at the first little grumble and plea to take a taxi, I told them they were in training for Disney World…where there are no taxis.  That whipped them into shape.

Buckingham Fountain, ain’t it pretty?

Vegan din-din at The Chicago Diner

Navy Pier

We wandered into lobbies and churches, just being curious.  And we recited Carl Sandburg’s Chicago as we wandered, just being nerds.  The architecture river and lake cruise gave a new perspective of the buildings and our very weary feet a rest.

Lunch at the Chicago French Market…they have a raw food vendor!

Raw, vegan tiramisu, delicious!

The last stop before flying home tested our nerves at 103 floors up in the air, the Sky Deck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).  We caught a glimpse of the city before the clouds rolled in, exhilarated at seeing the new Trump Tower struck by lightning!

I never buy those photos they snap of you against the blue screen…until I saw this.  This is hilarious and there was no way I could not buy it:

Venturing out to Oak Park and University of Chicago, we also enjoyed a good dose of Frank Lloyd Wright–but that is a whole other post!

Hog butcher for the world,

Tool maker, stacker of wheat…

Equinox!

I cannot believe it is fall!  But if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em–so the party of five hit the apple orchard for some pickin’.  Our friends choose Hillcrest Orchards in the North Georgia Appalachian foothills and asked us to join them.  I was all over that apple when I read on Hillcrest’s website that, in addition to apple picking, there were baby animals.  To pet.  And love.  And squeeze almost too tightly.  Where there are baby animals, I am.  So you shall see no apples in this post–though they were there and we picked and we have eaten apples with salad and cinnamon and oatmeal and crumble all week long.  Who wants to see an apple when you can see this?

Two of my favorite boys with two fluffs of gentle mewing fur–Heaven help me!

Snow white baby goat…the only thing better would be if it had a squeaky child voiceover to tell me its thoughts.  Melt.  Plus, one of my favorite boys.  Sticky, chubby hand on knee, double melt.

Then there was Buttercup, whom Hillcrest employs all day long in the stocks for stranger after nameless stranger to come up and grab a teet.

While I was quite disturbed at the violation of Buttercup, I went ahead, got in line, and milked that brown cow.  And, Buttercup, you’re a swell dame, but I think I’ll stick to my rice milk.  Thanks.

So, yeah, we’ve a whole mess of apples over here at TPH.  Although it goes against our Christmas-time-only policy, I think I might make a batch of our Christmas morning apple muffins.  You can find the recipe here (that can be vegan or dairy-ized, whatever you want).

Fall also means boots!  Duo Boots is offering FREE SHIPPING on all orders (which is $40ish from England)!  You know I love Duo Boots because they come in custom calf widths–so whether you have a calf on the plump side or one on the chicken leg side (see photo below), you can have a boot that FITS YOU.  I have three pairs and I adore them.  Comfort, quality, and fit–plus free shipping, awesome.

Happy fall and weekend to you!

Sagrada Família

The plane I boarded in May flew over the dark Atlantic while I slept.  My bags contained all the trappings for a romantic trip abroad:  heels, dresses, a new bikini…and plenty of mommy guilt.  I left the kids at home in good hands, flew into Barcelona alone, caught a taxi, took an elevator up to the 8th floor, and knocked on a hotel room door.  The door swung open, and there he was.  ”You made it!”

He, my lover, that boy I fell in love with almost 17 years ago, had left days before to tour London and Edinburgh.  And now we were finally together on this much-awaited trip.  I had only slept a bit on the plane that night, but I was still anxious to hit the road and see Barcelona.  We were only in town for a few days before we would leave for the island of Mallorca so we had prioritized what we wanted to see.  I was so excited to experience Antoni Gaudí’s church, La Sagrada Família.

The church remains unfinished, after decades of construction.  Gaudí’s architectural vocabulary is otherworldly, cartoonish, joyful, and modern.  But I wasn’t prepared.

After passing through those massive chiseled doors, I stood transfixed–absolutely arrested.  And then the tears came.

And not just a watery eye but tight mouth, furrowed brow, bury my face crying.

Weeping, because my eyes could not look fast enough.  Turning and turning in one spot with my head uplifted, I could not believe my eyes.  Looking frantically because I knew I would have to eventually leave and continue our day, I desperately tried to file the beauty away.

The beauty, the beauty, the light and beauty.  Then the mommy guilt vanished, and I realized I was meant to be there.

As I stood there among the other tourists and my concerned husband (“Are you okay?”), I reveled in the beauty and yet mourned it.  Actually, I didn’t know what was happening to me.  All I know, it was a moment of man created in the image of God, of God the Creator–of my conception of art and design and beauty and creativity being derivatives of Holy.  Somehow under this stone forest canopy, I felt profound wonder.  And I realized I need more wonder in my life.

I finally regained my composure and resigned myself to the fact that my naked vulnerability would be captured in the background of scores of tourist photos, me crying like a baby.  We made our way to the basement, where I excused myself to a bathroom stall to sob again.  Wonder.  I was reminded of a quote from Donald Miller I had read on my friend Erin’s blog:

I want to tell you something about me that you may see as weakness.  I need wonder.  I know that death is coming.  I smell it in the wind, read it in the paper, watch it on television, and see on the faces of the old.  I need wonder to explain what is going to happen to me, what is going to happen to us when this thing is done, when our shift is over and our kids kids are still on the earth listening to their crazy rap music.  I need something mysterious to happen after I die.  I need to be somewhere else after I die, somewhere with God, somewhere that wouldn’t make any sense if it were explained to me right now.

At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know that chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay.  And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow.  I don’t think there is any better worship than wonder.   Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz.

We collected ourselves and then ventured to Parc Güell and Casa Batlló.  Yes, of course, I love mosaic.

The day resumed as normal for us–silly jokes, hand holding, and vegetable paella…with my tear-stained makeup as evidence of my brush with wonder.

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