Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Turns out it’s not called Lindbergh Field anymore. Who knew?

lindbergh field

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression “As pretty as an airport.”

Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort.

-Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

Still relevant. Still quoting.

This is one of the rare things written by Douglas Adams that I don’t totally agree with. I find airports full of excitement. Travelers on their way, loved ones coming home. It positively buzzes with happy energy for me. I’m not fond of flying, though. Which is why this field trip was so awesome – all the benefits of the airport without ever having to leave the ground! Although I can’t entirely disagree with Adams on the actual prettiness. Especially since this airport is decorated in microbes. Srsly.

VIP tour, yo

Anyway, one of the moms in our field trip group (bless her soul forever and ever) planned a field trip to the airport. Because so many people were interested, she ended up having to schedule three separate tours (they can only accommodate 27 people at a time since much of the tour is by bus). It must have been a lot of work for her but it was an incredible trip. I cannot speak highly enough of the staff. They were all very nice, but our tour guide was exceptional. We’ve been on tours before where the guides just cannot relate to children at all, but this guy was awesome. He remembered the kids’ names, he treated them with total respect, and he even had a few really great techniques in his bag of tricks that I wouldn’t have thought of (because I suck at techniques).

Our tour began at the commuter terminal which is fairly new (it opened in the last 90’s I believe) and is lovely and small and pretty much empty since it’s exclusively for those tiny planes that just hop you to LA and back. I actually left from this terminal in 2000 when I went to Hawaii (obviously from Los Angeles). It was fun to get to walk out on the runway right up to the plane rather than through those weird coffee-scented tubes that hook up to the big jets. It was less fun to actually be in the loud, rattling tiny plane. The big planes make it easier to pretend you’re not in the sky at all.

taking off

Anyway. We hopped on the bus and due to the age of our kids and the busy-ness of the main terminals, we did not go inside those, we just drove slowly by and looked in. We also go to see a lot of the construction going on as they expand the terminals and roadways. There has always been a lot of debate about our airport because it’s very awkwardly situated in a small valley between two hills. In fact, on this tour I learned that the largest planes in the world cannot even land here at our airport because the runway isn’t long enough for them to be able to take off again. There is no room to expand the runway so as travel needs grow the airport will become more and more crowded. The planes must come in and take off at unusually steep angles. But the airport is located right in downtown which is central and convenient. So for now it stays where it is, and they renovate what they can – the terminals.

plane landing

We got to visit the USO offices which were preparing for the onslaught of freshly-minted Marines who graduate on Fridays next door at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot. I used to work at MCRD and I remember those Friday graduations. It’s funny to know where many of the graduates and their families ended up at afterwards.

Back on the bus and through the gates out onto the runway. We drove past all the terminals which was pretty cool to see from the backside, and we got to see planes landing and taking off right next to us. Down at one end they have the equivalent of a runaway truck ramp which was installed a few years ago and has never (thank god) been used. We stopped at the firestation where we got out and got to look at the trucks (which are giant and fitted with something called a “Snozzle” that is made to puncture metal and inject fire-putting-outness to put out fires. Snozzle. I couldn’t have made that up if I tried).

the snozzle will save your life

It just hit me what the Snozzle reminds me of – that scene in Starship Troopers where the bug sucks out someone’s, er, inners. With a Snozzle.

After passing the control tower and the super fancy rich people jets our next stop was the tippy top of the runway, right behind the blast fence. We waited there for planes to land but only one small one did. It was still pretty incredible, but would have been fund to witness a big jet coming in. While we were waiting several planes took off and each time stirred up a bunch of wind despite the blast fence.

coming in for a landing

Happy Thing: A Very Cool Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Airport

The next thing that I found really surprising and very cool, was that California Least Terns nest at Lindbergh Field each year. Because they are endangered the airport has to protect them. So they have naturalists come in and build a chick fence preventing the babies from running onto the runway, and they count nests to keep track of numbers. It was so cool not only to see this tiny bird choosing the most urban of all places to make their home, but also to see how humans really can do good things sometimes.

least tern and the chick fence

califirnia least terns nest here

We were each given a package with information about the airport including a DVD which included the history of aviation in San Diego (did you know that John Montgomery made the first heavier-than-air flight 20 years before the Wright Brothers? That was even here in my area of town. As soon as we walked in the door, the kids jumped all over the DVD and, while it ended up being over Elliott’s attention span, Margie and I watched the whole thing.

I cannot recommend this tour enough if you happen to be able to plan or attend one. Fantastic.


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Years ago I had bought the second volume of Story of the World at a used curricula sale and so I had ploanned to use that this year. Until that whole thing about the Mosque at Ground Zero happened this summer (my best Linda Richman voice: “Tawk amongst yourselves: The Mosque at Ground Zero is neither a Mosque nor at Ground Zero. Discuss.”). I knew that SOTW would be covering a lot of the history of Islam this year, and I knew that I didn’t know enough about it to be able to keep it balanced. Based on my experience with the bits on Christianity and Jesus at the end of SOTW’s volume one – which I do know a fair amount about – I did not trust them to be very balanced about Islam’s origins. So at the last minute, we gave away our copy of SOTWV2 and switched to History Odyssey based on our love of their science curriculum.

And I am so glad I did.

History Odyssey is, frankly, a better curriculum. In my humble opinion. It draws from many sources – including Story of the World, actually – and has extensive book lists which are, for the most part, easy to find at the public libraries. Right now, I have close to 60 books checked out for this other curricula, several weeks worth at a time. It’s incredibly literature-based which I adore. We have books from Tomie de Paola, Demi, and Aliki. There are also excellent-quality nonfiction books listed. The story books are not always secular – but that is totally fine with me since it is a mere part of a large amount of balanced views, and since I find truth in every aspect of history. In other words, believe it or not, I find it really important to know and read the Bible and other religious texts and stories, but SOTW does not present it along with other fact-based sources to make things as honest as possible.

HO draws from several main texts. The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History is one we already happened to have and to love (it’s not only factual and balanced, but also includes kid-safe websites to learn more! awesome!). As I said before, it also draws from SOTW, so we listen to that in audiobook form when applicable. It adds a nice dimension to a curriculum. The last one is a book I was torn on owning or not. I probably would have bought it for the literature aspect of it, but money is tight right now and when it advertised that the new edition was free of racial slurs, I figured maybe it was a little less balanced, even, than SOTW. Heh. If I had the cash, I might have invested in it anyway, but we do get plenty of good historical literature in so many other ways that I am not particularly feeling it’s loss. The last book we use each week is not so much a text book as it is an activity book. I find it really helpful that HO tells me which projects would be good for each chapter. So far we have made cabbage soup and dumplings (oddly a big hit, at least with my older child), porridge and done a few crafty projects.

In addition to the daily work that SOTW recommends, such as map work, HO includes dictionary work which I find to be an excellent addition on every possible level. Copywork, dictionary skills, alphabetizing, vocabulary, all rolled into one small assignment each week.

I wish I’d taken the time to learn about this years ago when I first heard of it. I am completely pleased with History Odyssey so far.

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Viking Festival

Have I mentioned that I was on Norwegian TV recently? That link isn’t in English. Except for me.

norwegian flags

ANYWAY. Today we went to the Viking Festival, held in Extreme North County which was further than I had anticipated. A friend shared this with us a few weeks ago and since we are studying Vikings this year I thought it would be really cool to make the trip. I’ve never been to a Ren Faire before, but I suspect that this was fairly close. There were demonstrations of weapons, armor, games, silver casting, bread baking and some games to participate in such as axe-throwing and something called “The Fish Fling” which involved actual giant dead fish and which we did not, thankfully, participate in. (By “giant” fish, I mean “catfish-sized”. Which is giant enough for me.) The kids painted swords and shields (Elliott decorated his with an angry face to psyche out his enemies which is, IMO, pretty damn smart for a five-year-old) and bounced in a bouncy castle. They also had the chance to participate in a battle. I am pleased to share that not only did they survive, but they also won their battles.

elliott painting his shield

margie's sword

elliott battling

margie's gonna win this battle

viking games and crafts

silver craftsman

that guy with the mace took his ass down

weapons demonstration

I don’t know how much of this may be specific to vikings or if some of it may be general Ren Faire type stuff, if anyone knows I’d love to hear more.

Anyway, it was totally fun, despite the heat (after the coldest summer on record, San Diego has decided to bring on the heat now that it’s autumn). The kids loved it. I can’t wait to take them to the bigger faire later this year. Also, when I grow up, I’m totally joining the SCA.

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My computer made me put those fancy characters there. I have no idea if it it’s uppity or correct or just plain awesome.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I took the kids out for some early morning Garage Sailing (it’s how *I* spell it). The goal was to gather camping supplies, and we did get a good deal on a camping stove as well as a Camelbak for only $5! But the Universe saw fit to bless our library as well. We got all this for only $4.50! Not bad, eh?

garage sale WIN

We’ve also been hiking some more. We tried out a new path at Mission Trails and it’s one of my favorites (they are all my favorites, honestly). It led us down to a large oak tree that the kids spent quite a bit of time climbing, each time pushing themselves farther past their initial fears. While there we observed lots of carved initials, including one with the incorrect Roman numeral, “XIIII” so we talked about why that was wrong (*ahem* also morally wrong to carve a tree) and we reviewed Roman numerals in general again.


tree dweller

We also saw some new plants we haven’t been able to identify yet. Anyone know these two? The second one is a lettuce-ish-shaped grayish succulent with this stalk of gorgeous pink flowers.

cottony seeds

pink succulent

Our Independence Day was perfect. After we got home from the hike, we grilled steaks for dinner and then met some friends at a local hillside park to watch fireworks shows all over the city. This was the first year Elliott enjoyed them and that was pretty special, too. Some people in front of us brought (illegal) sparklers and were shooting curses at each other with them (which was awesommmmmme to the Harry Potter geek in me). Elliott totally wanted one. Now. I promised him that next time we visit grandpa, we can try sparklers. I don’t have any pictures of fireworks this year, but here are some I took last year.

And then we came home and Margie was sick with a head cold. *sigh*

I had intended to begin our summer session this week, but have been taking it easy due to the illness. I’ve taken the time to finish organizing my homeschool planner and I’m so excited because I think I might have finally found the system that works for me. I may share it in a few weeks. Anyway, what we have been doing is Independence Day related. Today she read this kickass book from Colonial Williamsburg. I want to buy a copy for our home.

I think that sums things up for now. Be back soon with some fun stuff, I hope!

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Originally I had hoped to try a new trail, but Margie has a mild cough and we got a very late start so we stuck to the short version of a trail we’d already done before.  It was fun to check out the visitor center, though, and to take Dad on the hike we’d done before.  I didn’t realize how much Kumeyaay info is in the visitor center.  I am planning a unit soon on the local native cultures so that will likely be a hike we take again in a couple of months.

This is not what the entire walk looks like, these photos were all taken at my favorite spot where the oaks congregate around a small stream. As much as I love the area of the world I live in, I do long for more foresty areas like this. Just knowing such a place exists within San Diego makes me feel peaceful in my heart.

Here are the kids in a Kumeyaay ‘ewaa. There is another at the visitor center, but its nice to see this one in a less modern-looking area.

And, of course, the requisite shots of Margie posing with an animal statue.

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