Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Wow, overnight the wildflowers are out; absolutely gorgeous! Our weekly hike was warm, muddy, and full of tiny, budding discoveries. We even found wild strawberries, enough for about two for each kid, though not enough for me to first get a decent photo. Ike was thrilled to be back on the trail, less happy about the surprising heat, for shade was elusive.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Country Day: Finland

We heard about so many different elements of Finland and the Finn culture: the Sami (or Saami) people, icebreakers, skiing history, the symbolism of the Finnish flag, saunas, sisu, food, one friend's Finnish ancestry, the creation story from the Kalevala, the lakes, forest, and topography of Finland, and the Aurora Borealis. It was more interesting than at first glance (there aren't a lot of Finnish resources in the libraries!)

Check out the two "Finnish girls" in the first photo; I love the series of K giving her presentation (on the Sami people) - when someone later asked if she got nervous, she was surprised - I don't think it ever occurred to her. In the final picture, G is making a Sami/Saami hat; she put a lot of work into it and was very intense, working alone for a long time.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pulp Fashion

Gorgeous exhibit: the art of Isabelle Borchgrave. I thought that G would love it, as she has always been so interested in her clothes (defying both her known gene pool and my imagination), but she revealed her true passions, focusing on the shoes (deep sigh) and the technical aspects of the creative process ("Mommy LOOK how they make this!") She was also spotted trying to peer under the pieces, as she really wants to know how things work.

The three of us agreed that the exhibit is visually amazing, really rich and beautiful. In addition, it brings a new dimension to familiar art and makes history more three-dimentional. Glad that we went!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Play Production: Life Cycle of an Ant

We went to a fun, unique, amazing birthday party today for a newly seven year old friend who decided to have a "theater themed" party and composed her own play based on the life cycle of an ant. With amazing costumes and lost of enthusiasm, her guests learned a lot and had fun doing it! K enjoyed being a soldier ant and her mom had fun with pictures, (which distracted me from feeling totally inadequate in the face of such planning and organization!)

Friday, March 18, 2011

"I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'...!"

... and oh my was it muddy! Not just legs, but splashes on cheeks, hair.... When K asked me to help her pull off her boot, we laughed hysterically together because water poured from it as it came off.

Insect Discovery Lab

We went to an "Insect Discovery Lab" presentation. Very cool! Thanks, Julie and Barbara for setting it up and hosting.

Darkling Beetle (local)

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, Florida Everglades

Giant African Millipede (Kenya). Note that it has a mutualistic relationship with mites! Hmmmm....

Giant Thorny Phasmid, also known as a Walking Stick. From Malaysia. Wings are vistigial (not used) and the female (which this was) carries an egg at the end of her tail. When she is done carrying it, she simply tosses it and it is on its own!

Australian Walking Stick. Uses camoflauge and mimicry, disguising itself as a scorpion (glad they told us, it would otherwise we would have been startled when it arched its tail at us!)

Whipped Tail Scorpion, also known as a Vinegeroon, from Arizona. It was the only predator in the group, eating crickets, beetles, and even baby mice!

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. Its sphericals - holes on the side of its body - are how it makes the hissing noise.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chocolate Factory Un-Tour

On a break from K's weekly series of classes, we took a tour of the TCHO chocolate factory. The company had agreed to waive their age requirement for our group, but when they got there, they said that they had fired the person who made the agreement. Since nearly all of the kids in our group were under eight, the kids were pretty disappointed; adults, too, as we'd traveled from various distant locations. The chocolate is all dark, a good thing, and definitely good, but super-expensive, too. It was like a wine tasting - four different flavors of chocolate, all naturally flavored according to their places of origin. The picture below is of the kids making music with a chocolate pod.

Fun on the Embarcadero

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Empathy + Imagination = Praxis

These pictures give some reasons why I love my job (the one I get paid for, as opposed to raising these girls, which is clearly my very most favorite job). Nance is one of the students in my senior seminar course; we learn project management for the first part of the class, then each student goes out into the community to actually manage a complex project that leaves the organization with which they were working a measurably better place. Nance put together a fund raiser for Saint Vincent de Paul's Catherine Center, which provides a safe reentry for women who have been released from prison. The general recidivism rate is upwards of 60%; fewer than 10% of those who work with the Catherine center return to prison. (Yes, I took these photos!)

Susan Sarandon and Sister Helen Prejean "in conversation" was worth seeing; Sister Helen stole the show with her command of the stage and the subjects.

In the "who knew" category: An sister from NDNU gave the talk that inspired Sister Helen to begin her ministry.

Favorite quote: "Without the presence of God, our mistakes would mean nothing."

Favorite guiding concept: Empathy + Imagination = Praxis (Ethical Action)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Play Me A Story!

We went with friends to a Community Matinee offered by the San Francisco Symphony ($5 tickets; which includes an educational CD and informative booklet!) Because we were a smaller group than most of the schools attending, we got to sit in (roomy) box seats, which was very special. The music was wonderful and conductor Donato Cabrera engaging in his explanations.

We heard:
Prokofiev: March from The Love for Three Oranges
Saint-Saens: The Elephant from Carnival of the Animals
Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee
Respighi: The Hen from The Birds
Grofe: On the Trail from Grand Canyon Suite
Ravel: Conversations of Beauty and the Beast from Mother Goose
Prokofiev: Waltz and Midnight from Cinderella
John Williams: Music from Star Wars

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Lent!

Preparing for Easter joyfully, consciously, and as a family. This article has some specific ideas; I particularly like the idea of (re)connecting to our Jewish heritage. It isn't something we're done in the past, but it makes sense to get closer to Christ by aligning ourselves with the activities he participated in, the customs he honored, the traditions that were part of his life.

What are we doing so far? I'm doing my usual: giving things up and doing spiritual reading; K decided to consciously change a bad habit. She's been doing a good job: I overheard her tell G recently, "oh, I can't do that. I gave it up for Lent!" We are also using a "Garden of Love" to "grow" visual images of every day kindnesses toward one another. When one of the girls does something nice for the other, I put a paper flower or garden sticker on their "garden," which is taped to the wall in the kitchen. By Easter - we hope! - it should be a lovely collection, visually reflecting their love for one another.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Club March: Roald Dahl's Mathilda

Not everyone liked the book: Dahl's dark humor and his horrible anti-heroes don't always resonate. But we had fun nevertheless, focusing on practical jokes and vocabulary. For the former, we made "sushi" that looked fishy but in fact was a dessert and beautiful rings that doubled as water squirters. Charles knew that the ring was some practical joke and yet was braced for a buzz or shock, so he really did jump when K shook his hand (on an early-morning practice run) and that fueled our enthusiasm for the project.

We also had fun with Dahl's vocabulary, throwing out a word and then asking the kids to act (in costume or not) like the word. The funny photos below are from the words "revolting," "implacable," "formidable," and then two adorable "rakish" book clubbers. We also played with "skulking," "wary," "riveted," "blithering," and "heroine." The last picture wasn't one of our vocabulary words, just what I'd call "cute." :-)

We also got a chance to read my favorite Dahl poem aloud: Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. I like it because it is unexpected and because the child in it is fearless, confident, and smart, like so many of Dah's child characters.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Great Blue Herons of Golden Gate Park

Awesome bird watching!

March Ballet

San Francisco Ballet: March Community Matinee.

The performance was similar to one that we attended last month, though the second half presented quite different dances. In addition to glimpses of the stage set up and costuming, which we saw though video, we also saw:

1. Polonaise Finale from Giuliani: Variations on a Theme,
2. Andante Sostenuto,
3. Classical Symphony; and
4. Part 1 from Artifact Suite.

I didn't quite like the Classical Symphony. Parts are supposed to mimic the movements of birds, but the dancers - while extraordinarily impressive in their skills - seemed to do so in a way that bordered on the comic.

The bit from Artifact Suite was interesting; the audience reaction to the suddenly closing curtain was a loud scream, to which K finally said, "this isn't a roller coaster!" I was feeling the same. The SF Ballet's Educational Materials describe it this way: "Although Artifact Suite seems on the surface to be a purely abstract ballet—that is, one with no storyline—William Forsythe’s driving and brilliant work is filled with philosophical ideas and is meant to provoke questions as much as it aims to please.

Created originally for the Scottish Ballet in 2004, Artifact Suite—is part of a longer work entitled Artifact. The starting point for the choreography is classical ballet, but in Artifact Suite, Forsythe takes traditional forms and musicality and pushes, pulls, extends and reformulates the steps, lines and rhythms to create a kind of extreme ballet.

But Forsythe also means to call into question how the audience views a ballet. At key moments, as the dancers twist, spin and slide to the music of J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor, a heavy dark fire curtain will fall across the front of the stage with a resounding thud, hiding the dancers from view. When the curtain rises again, the formations, the lighting, everything will look different. The dance goes on, and then the fire curtain will fall across the stage again. From the audience’s point of view, parts of the ballet have been suddenly concealed, seemingly lost. With each new section, the audience becomes interested in the movement, only to have the dance abruptly taken away, perhaps provoking questions about what is seen and what is hidden in any performance, what can be remembered, and what will be forgotten."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bangladeshie Princesses

My Mom returned from a trip to Bangladesh with princess dresses and all three girls celebrated her return in royal style. (Mom takes her vacation time to work with a medical team to provide surgery for children with cleft lip and cleft palates.) Beautiful and fun; now we need Bangladesh on the schedule for Country Day!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happy Ash Wednesday

I thought this short video clip expressed a joyful approach to Lent and I liked the fact that the Archbishop ties this liturgical season to nature's changing seasons. I found a caterpillar/butterfly analogy about Lent last week when researching ideas for introducing it to our First Grade Religious Ed class (which has grown to 30 children!); looking at Lent as a time of change really does evoke beautiful images. We used the caterpillar's metamorphosis as part of our classroom discussion and even brought in the Painted Lady caterpillars from one of K's science classes as visual demonstration.

What are you doing to change during this Lenten season?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sugarloaf March

Pogostick Multiplication Tables.

3, 6, 9 [jump off], 12, 15, 18 [jump/fall again]. See the pattern?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Waves! We're dancing waves!"

That's what G shouted when we arrived at our empty beach in high winds. Exhilarating! We watched the foam fly across the sand, then hiked along a bluff that overlooks the water, discovering two newts along the way. It was one of those rainy, stormy days when I half wanted to snuggle inside, but was glad that we got out to experience the energy of the weather and the enthusiastic matching reaction of our little group.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Quote of the Week

This kid is awesome. Look at her intensity while painting a fish (salmonopolis!) Earlier in the week, I'd asked her if she wanted to come with me to an awards banquet at my university's ballroom (an employee recognition event). She eagerly went to pick out a dress and when she crawled into bed, I asked, "so, are you ready?" She said eagerly in response, "I was BORN ready!" Indeed she was, whether for fancy dresses and shoes or crocodile nests and other construction designs, this wonder kid is ready for everything. Fabulous, amazing, intense, opinionated, smart, tough, determined. So lovely and full of love.....