Quote of the Day

“I declare the Games of the 31st Olympiad closed. In accordance with tradition I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in Tokyo, Japan to celebrate with us the Games of the 32nd Olympiad.” From the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics

A Final Olympics Feast for the Closing Ceremonies

Tonight, we had one last Olympics-themed feast. Originally, we were going to have one last Brazilian meal, but I ended up making that last week. And then I thought about making a Japanese meal, to signify the passing of the torch from Rio to Tokyo. In the end, however, I decided that I wanted to do something simple, since our first day of school is tomorrow, and I’ve been busy getting ready for that. So I settled on an all-American meal!

We started with a snack, just like we did the day of the Opening Ceremony. This time, I made pretzel rod torches that symbolize the Olympic flame being snuffed out. I also made a red, white, and blue “mocktail” that was a huge hit with the children. I added some Olympics-inspired Hershey’s miniatures, just for fun.

For dinner, we went with a traditional American meal…hot dogs, corn on the cob, potato chips, root beer, and brownies with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Easy to make, and something everyone likes!

I’m going to miss the Olympics. We’ve had a fun time over the last 16 days, learning about Rio, sampling some new foods, watching lots of sports, and keeping track of the medal count. At least it’s only about 18 months until the Winter Olympics!


With apologies to Charles Dickens, who I must quote (badly), because I hope this could be said about my Olympic spirit:

“And it was always said of her, that she knew how to keep the Olympics well, if any one alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”

Olympics School–Day Six

Our 2016 summer school wrapped up today. We finished our overview of geography with longitude and latitude, and how to find a place based on its geographical coordinates. We learned more about some famous past Olympians. We also had an interesting current events discussion about the actions of some of the US swimmers, and I had an ethical/bioethical conversation with my oldest students about the issues surrounding runner Caster Semenya. The children had one last fun creative assignment…they each designed an Olympic medal for a future Olympiad.

We also tried one last Brazilian meal. We enjoyed the children’s two favorite recipes that I’ve made recently again: Pao de Queijo and the Brazilian lemonade. I also made Brazilian rice again, to go with a delicious Brazilian fish stew. Since I was feeling adventurous, I even made Brazilian collard greens, which sadly only Ladybug and I enjoyed, but at least everyone tried them! For dessert, we had a double coconut cake, which was delicious!



Our adventures in Brazilian cooking have been interesting. I’ve used a lot of black beans and peppers in the last two weeks, as well as coconut and coconut milk. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to cook new things, and teaching my children some cooking skills and wisdom (I don’t think they’ll ever forget that “ganache covers a multitude of sins!). I’m especially glad that everyone was adventurous enough to try (and mostly enjoy) everything I made!

Chickadee Thursday

Chickadee is really in the Olympic spirit. She loves gymnastics and has been having a great time coming up with her own “floor routines!”

Even though the rhythmic gymnastics competition hasn’t been held yet, we got a sneak peek of the ribbon at the gymnastics gala, and Chickadee has really been having fun making up performances with the ribbon I bought this summer:

And she had to show off her “gold medal” by our medal chart:


Even with all of that fun, I think the highlight of her day was Moose coming home from his first day of fifth grade!



Olympics School–Day Five

Our study of geography while we learn about (and watch!) the Olympics has continued. We’ve moved on to the geography of South America, as well as looking at Brazil in greater detail. I’ve had the children look through a travel book, and choose what their must-see sights in Brazil are. I was happy to see that they chose places that are a little off the beaten path. We also talked about each of the host cities of the previous Summer Games, and talked a bit about some of the issues unique to each Olympics.

We haven’t just been learning though…we’ve also been having fun and being silly! Four years ago, we “Bolted” and did the “Mobot.” Since we have seen both Usain Bolt and Mo Farah compete in Brazil, win their races, and do their signature moves, we decided to give it a try again:



During the London 2012 Olympics, one of our crafts was making rhythmic gymnastics style ribbons, which was fun, even if they didn’t work quite as well as I wanted them to. I decided to do better this time around, so I purchased a ribbon like you might see the gymnasts use. We’ve really had fun playing with it, and Chickadee discovered that if she’s really nice, she might even get her big brother to play with her!

We have a little more geography left to cover, another Brazilian meal to try, and one last craft to do before the Olympics are over…stay tuned!

Saying Goodbye

Like many Americans, and even swimming fans around the world, I have measured today by the hours remaining until Michael Phelps’ final race. And, like many of his fans I imagine, I have been feeling nostalgic and a little bit sad at the prospect of saying goodbye.

In 2000 I was still a college student, watching the Sydney Olympics from my dorm room while I planned Ryan’s and my wedding for the following spring. This was the only Olympics he participated in that did not see Michael Phelps on the podium following a race, but he did make it to the finals, and the world was introduced to the 15-year-old phenom.

I don’t have a lot of memories of the 2004 Athens Olympics, probably because I was an exhausted mother of a newborn and a toddler, and we were all still settling into our new apartment following a move from Green Bay, WI, to St. Louis. One of the few memories I do have, however, is seeing Michael Phelps on top of the podium, more than once, wearing a gold medal around his neck and the olive wreath that was a signature of those Games crowning his head.

2008 was the first summer that we had children old enough to really enjoy the Olympics, and we all loved watching Michael Phelps on his historic quest to win eight gold medals in a single Olympics. Because of the late night swims, however, I was the only awake when he achieved that goal, and I remember jumping up and down and screaming along with Rowdy Gaines on TV, and hoping I didn’t wake up any of the sleeping members of my family.

The 2012 Olympics were, of course, my favorite to date, and again we watched Michael Phelps make history, this time as the most decorated Olympic athlete in history, as again we had a baby just past the newborn stage in the house. He said he was retiring after those games, but like Rowdy Gaines, I was skeptical, as it seemed he had unfinished business in the pool, and no one was happier than I was when Rowdy was proved right!

And now in 2016, our whole family has watched almost everything, from the trials in July where he reached his goal of competing in a fifth straight Summer Games, and again we’ve cheered and screamed and jumped up and down as Michael Phelps has continued to make history and set records, as an athlete who has won the gold medal for the same event in four straight Olympic Games, and has even broken a 2,000 year old record for the most individual Olympic titles. We’ve loved the backstage drama and the now-famous Phelps Face, and his obvious pure enjoyment at competing in his fifth straight Olympic Games, from the moment he carried in the US flag at the Opening Ceremony until today.

In a curious sort of way, I feel like the final chapter of whatever was left of my youth is being ended as Michael Phelps prepares to step out of the pool and (hopefully) onto the podium for the final time. Just as he is closing the door on the part of his life where he was an Olympic athlete, I’m looking back over those same 16 years, and realizing that my days of being a young wife, new mother, and mother of young children has come to an end as well.

Would I be shocked to see Michael Phelps come back in four years to swim at the Tokyo Olympics? No. I don’t even understand how, when you’re the greatest in the world at something, you’re able to walk away from it. But I also don’t expect to see him back. While he may have claimed to have swum his final race in London four years ago, he seems different now. There is a maturity and peace about him that he didn’t have before, and he is clearly a man happy and content with his personal life, and ready to settle down and spend time with his family. And while I’m very sad to say goodbye to the thrilling days of watching him swim at Nationals and Worlds and Olympics and every meet in between, I’m extremely happy that he seems to be exactly where he wants to be in life!

Olympics School–Day Four

The most highly anticipated event in any Olympics-year summer school is our quadrennial Markel Family Olympic Games. This year’s event was especially fun because Chickadee was able to participate…although her short little legs prevented her from coming in first!

Of course there were races:


And other familiar events like broad jump, soccer kicks, goal defense, our versions of shot put and discus, and a basketball competition (which I won, by the way).



While Turkey technically had the most points at the end of the competition, we were competing as Team Markel, so we all won gold at the medal ceremony!


And just like the athletes we’ve been watching in Rio, the competitors’ inner ham came out!

I suppose this might have been the last time we all compete together like this…by the time we have a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old in the house, they may be too busy or too cool to participate. Hopefully this was a family Olympics that we will all remember!