August 15 is a very big day in our house.
Of course, it's the Feast of the Assumption.
And it's our traditional First Day of School.
Yes: Even on a Saturday! (We're homeschoolers! We can do anything we want!!!) :)
This year, I didn't feel as prepared in terms of materials-gathering as last year, but my plans are all in place for the first quarter and the books have all been tagged and organized (though not all have yet found a place on the shelf. And the "backpack system" we used for the kids' individual books and supplies last school year turned out to be too cumbersome. I haven't come up with a good alternative yet. Do I like this? No. Will it stop me? Fie, of course not!) :) As we approached our first day, I reviewed what I had written and pulled together for our first full week (when actual lessons begin), and I felt the warm glow of satisfaction: The plans actually sounded like fun. I could hardly wait to dig in!
But there's nothing like the First Day! It actually doesn't matter on what day it falls, because it's a day-long celebration, with all of us together. But having it on the Feast of the Assumption is a special treat, since it allows us to plan the day's events with our Faith at the center, and to dedicate the year's efforts to the Blessed Mother. And I can't think of a better way to kick off a family-based Catholic education than that!
We began the way most special days begin at our house: With Deli Egg Sandwiches & little chocolate donuts. :) We have a new twist to our routine that I've been working on with the kids for the last month or so: Before eating breakfast, everyone must be dressed and beds made. It has been surprisingly easy to make this change, and I am certain that it will help the morning flow much more smoothly once we begin formal lessons next week. Of course, that meant smocks over good clothes on this special day!
We were joined by Step 1 & Step 2, which made the day even more of a treat.
We started learning about the Erie Canal at the end of last school year, so we planned a 2-hr boat tour through the locks at the aptly-named Lockport, NY. Our tour boat, the 55-seat Lockview IV, was modeled after the African Queen, making the trip even more interesting and quaint. (It can be briefly seen in the video I posted here -- docked behind the much larger double decker tour boat featured therein -- and through which my children enjoyed learning The Boss' version of The Erie Canal Song.) :)
A view of the original locks, from which Lockport derived its name. Here' s what you'll move through today:
Heavy steel doors close in front and behind after the boat is tethered to a cable inside the lock. Then the lock waters become turbulent as the waters quickly rise to the level on the other side of the door!
The ride is leisurely and beautiful -- the canal is gorgeous, and the history rich. This little stone church, built alongside the canal path, is now up for sale. What a cool address that'd be! (And what a remodeling project!)
Low bridge! Everybody down! (Not really. It's a lift bridge! When the bridge is up, pedestrians can walk up the stairs and cross over. Cars have to wait -- though I hear stories of those who, er, choose not to. It doesn't go well for them.) Here's how it looks in the "up" position -- from underneath!
These bridges are very common all along the canal.
On-board refreshments -- how cool is that?!
Such a gorgeous, relaxing ride -- and what a day for it, too!
Our original plan included an outdoor picnic lunch at a playground TBA; but with temperatures approaching 90 and skyrocketing humidity, we opted for the comfortably air-cooled accommodations of a nearby Friendly's restaurant.
After that, we had a little more time than we expected before heading over to Fatima Shrine for our traditional "First Day Pilgrimage," so at the ever-wise Step 1's suggestion, made our way to a small nearby aquarium. (It was very crowded, hot and fishy-smelling, but we still enjoyed it!)
One cute little factoid: While we couldn't stay for this guy's Magic Show at the aquarium, Step 1 & 2 recognized his sign immediately! When The Chief and I were dating, we took little not-yet-Steps 1 & 2 to Niagara Falls. While we were there, we happened on a magic show, and not-yet-Step 2 volunteered to be the special assistant ... for this very magician! I guess the erstwhile street show has finally arrived: We found that they now perform regularly at this little aquarium! (They can thank Step 2 for her part in making that happen, of course.)
Oh, look what I found! Here's Step 2 performing feats of prestidigitation (or reacting cutely, anyway) at the tender young age of 6, with the aforementioned magician. :) (He has contacts now, but his hair is pretty much the same.)
Fatima Shrine is still undergoing extensive renovations, but the exterior is really shaping up! Sadly, though, under that glass dome there is no air conditioning. It must've been well-over a stifling 100 degrees in there!). The older girls begged to save Mass for Sunday, but I would not be deterred. Tradition is tradition, after all! :)
Here are my previously clean little boys, melting under the pews. People around us still went out of their way to say nice things about our family. (Someday I should write a post about that -- most people are really a lot nicer and more forgiving about less-than-perfect little kid behavior than we beleaguered parents may suppose.)
Of course, we visited some of our favorite statues and memorial gardens...
... the memorial to the Korean Martyrs ...
... and the huge rosary and heart-shaped reflection pond surrounded by statues of St. Paul and The Twelve (each bead of the rosary is a small street lamp!) with a life-sized crucifix at the helm.
But this statue has a special place in my heart. When one of my sisters was going through a particularly rough time several years back, we garnered forces among my family to pray for her. My mom called us "The Mary Club." In the middle of that, my family visited the Fatima Shrine and saw this statue for the first time -- and instantly adopted it as the official representation of the Patroness for our cause! It is one of the few statues that is not labeled with a title, so I don't know from whence the image comes; but, as my sister Theresa said, "Kinda gives new meaning to the phrase, 'Do whatever He tells you!'" :)
Anyway, here's my family at Mary's Club, proud charter members from way back.
After Mass, we went for a walk through historic downtown Lewiston before settling in for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants there.
I have only seen two black squirrels in my whole life. This city dweller struck me as a particularly nasty-looking specimen -- I think it actually hissed at us -- and I steered my kids away from it. The Handbook of Nature Study, originally copyrighted in 1911, suggests that black squirrels have been over-hunted, and that's why you don't see them around. My husband asked a local hunter if he knew anything about black squirrels around here. He said, "Sure there's black squirrels around! Scribbie has a stuffed one on his mantle."
And to end the day? Well, what else? :)
All in all, it was a wonderful way to kick off the school year. It's a tradition I greatly love, and a day my children look forward to every year. (I think it would be hard to improve upon it, though these fun little things the amazing Jessica whipped up this year might just be a contender! )
Hooray! Hooray for the First Day of School!