Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chemistry Class and Kiwi Connections

When considering homeschooling, friends and acquaintances described - among other things - one of the great benefits: knowledge sharing from parent-experts. When one friend who lives in Connecticut told me that his daughter was meeting with a NASA astrophysicist to learn about space, I was amazed... and yet not altogether hopeful that such a rich situation would ever pan out for us. Yesterday, I was blessed to learn how wrong I was... K and Daddy went to a chemistry class - one in a planned short series for a group of six friends - taught by a biochemistry professor from U.C.S.F.

G and I, on the other hand, had a rich experience of a different kind - meeting up with my friend, Jill, whom I hadn't seen since 1995! We had shared a cab from the airport in Nairobi in October 1994, a brief and unmemorable encounter, but then met again, completely coincidentally, two months later when we were perched together for eight hours on the roof of a bus en route to the start of Nepal's Annapurna Circuit. 24 days in the mountains, including spending my 27th birthday chatting and walking and marveling on the beauty of the Himalayas together, cemented our friendship. We later did several treks on New Zealand's North island together, before I departed for Antarctica, and have stayed in touch ever since. Believe it or not, her third and fourth children were born on almost exactly the same dates as K and G. How marvelous to see her again and how fun to show her around!

This photo shows Jill and the girls at one of our favorite local locations, enjoying the beauty of the day and the pleasure of each other's company and friendship. Savoring our friendship and reflecting with gratitude on this chance to connect in person brought me deep appreciation for life's blessings.

Talent Show/Jam Session

WOW, an amazing afternoon! Friends hosted a "jam session" designed for adults to showcase their INexpert talents, having fun while modeling risk taking for kids. We encourage them all the time to perform in all kinds of settings, despite their inexpertise - why not do the same? We saw wonderful performances from kids and adults alike and met some really nice new friends, too. Charles and the girls did a magic show - the photos below capture a few moments from it. The last photo is from the dancing of the day - fun, fun, fun, to have Daddy and daughters dancing together. Thanks so much for a wonderful, memorable, inspiring day!

Belly Dancing Class - Fun!

Friday, June 24, 2011

CA History: Living History - Pasados

Celebrating California's early history! We made corn husk dolls, weaved baskets, watched rope made, ground corn, made (and ate) tortillas, and more; all of which was fun. However, the absolute most memorable part of the day was when they got to dress up like Juan Bautista de Anza's expedition and march in formation, complete with an officer giving directions, sheilds, and a gun. Gabriana literally cried when it was over and Katherine wanted to know - as soon as we left - if we could go again next year.

Exploring Our New Library

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cascade Canyon Hike

Another wonderful day with Rangers David and Shannon. The highlight was seeing Ranger David shout, "snake!" and then plunge into the stream in pursuit of a garter snake. It then bit him continuously while he showed it to the kids. What a hero, eh?

Silly and sweet faces....

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Another totally cool class at the Farralones Marine Reserve Visitor's Center, this one about squid (previous ones we attended were on salmon and sharks). We watched a video and then dissected both a small (market squid) and large (medium sized humbolt squid). Who knew that they have beaks? Oh, the dissection started out neat and turned gory as the stomach emptied... but it was fascinating, too. The kids ended with making squid prints... hopefully not as smelly as the salmon prints, but probably so!)

Friday, June 17, 2011


A first; super-exciting! She asked me to yank it out and when it came out in my hand at the first tentative tug, she didn't immediately realize it. But then her tongue started exploring her mouth and her eyes opened wide as she realized that she'd joined so many of her friends in the land of the de-toothed.

The tooth fairy did come, though Katherine didn't find her surprise right away. Gabriana woke up a bit later and her face was similarly shining with excitement as she said, "did Katherine forget?" No context necessary, I reassured her that Katherine had found her money. Excitement for all!

Country Day: China

Ni hao! The girls have both picked up some Mandarin words, always fun, and we combined our preparation for the actual knowledge sharing day with a field trip to Chinatown, where we wandered through Chinese shops (live and recently live food - rather gory - including large frogs, turtles, and fish), San Francisco's oldest temples, and more. Katherine did an excellent presentation on the Terracotta Warriors and Gabriana prepared one on the Chiru of Tibet, though she fell asleep in the middle of the presentations and missed both her sister's and her own. (My students would like to get out of presentations sometimes too, but I've never had anyone fall asleep before!) We also enjoyed a presentation from the Museum of Folk Art; a fascinating mini-lecture about life in Southern China and then facilitated art creation - paper cut outs of rabbits, which the kids all seemed to enjoy.

The end of our first Country Day year!

Terracotta Warrior presentation, in clothes Abuela brought from Hong Kong.

Creating animal cut outs.

Our display: dolls that Abuela brought from China and a kite I bought long ago in Beijing.

From a temple balcony in Chinatown.

Inside a store in Chinatown that sells paper cut out products used for funerals.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


We spent two days this week learning with friends about the rainforests, courtesty of a learning kid borrowed from the Academy of Sciences. I had to leave early one day and when I asked later how the rest of the class went, I got enthusiastic reports about echo location - bat action. Fun, fun! Many, many thanks to the friends who hosted.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dance Recitals, Flower Burritos, Book Club, and lost cameras

Alas! I accidentally threw my camera away this week! AAAAAARRRRGH! The camera itself was cheap and not great, but - agony! - the photos on it were for the previous two days and of course irreplaceable.

What happened? I came home from work very late one night after a long day - organic farm tour, girl scout badge ceremony, three hours of driving, and a full day or work, including teaching. I was apparently too tired to remember that I'd tossed the camera in the bottom of a bag that also contained recycling and I put the whole thing in the bin, which was retrieved and taken to the dump early the next morning, before I realized my foul mistake. Agony! Agony! Charles tried so hard to rescue it, as did vigilant heroes from the sanitary service, but to no avail.

That said, I am hopeful that we can purchase photos from the dance studio soon, because Katherine had her third annual recital this week, did a jazz ballet dance and a tap dance, and was so good. This year, her class seems to have gone from merely fun to emerging talent and certainly they are doing steps that would require considerable practice before I could duplicate them. She was beautiful and I cried....

Later in the week, we toured a nearby organic farm, which was fabulous fun. And gorgeous! Like an elegant English garden (lots of flowers) combined with a fruit and vegetable farm. Our flower burritos were a certain highlight - combining six different edible flowers in a spinach wrap. We also saw bee hives and immediately ate honey on sorrel leaves. To see Gabriana walking around munching on a spinach leaf was a unique experience! One photo I missed (not that it mattered anyway, argh!!) were three six year olds comparing loose teeth, all standing in a semi-circle with their mouths agape. Funny!

Book Club June was The Penderwicks, put off from last September when we decided to go see The Taming of the Shrew. Such a wonderful book - a modern day "Little Women," both in the sister relationships and in the lovely writing. The four sisters are uniquely gifted and have loving, strong, caring relationships with one another. They are all smart and athletic, embracing their identities in ways that defy dull stereotypes. We love them all!

For activities, we prepared a meal for an Arondale Hall dinner (gingerbread, cucumber sandwiches, and other entre meses). Then the kids colored sketches of local wildflowers, with attention to correct color detail. We later played a game with the sketches, matching the flower's description and Latin name with its picture so that we could learn the common name. The sketches turned out pretty well! So did the "Arondale supper," with most of the kids dressed up and enjoying apple cider in fancy glasses.

We messed around a little with Fibonacci numbers in nature after that, but mostly the kids just played and played the book. What fun!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


At a Junior Ranger talk; trying on a bear skin!

Happy climbing with friends.

You are mighty close to the edge, there, sweets! 1,500 feet and 60+ switchbacks above the valley floor, just before it started to snow/hail (which was thrilling and gave tired hikers new energy).

The magnificent upper fall of the Yosemite Falls, tallest in North America. Spectacular!

Campsite - see sweet spring creek behind us. Delightful!

As they posed, they chanted "Best Friends!" as they put their heads together. Waking up a little chilly, but cozy.

Ranger Ned's Great Adventure; a ranger show/performance for kids, which the girls found completely hysterical. It covered geologic history, human history, and current conservation issues (bear awareness) and the girls were beside themselves with laughter throughout.

We were actually stuck in traffic when I took this. Who cares, huh? Stunning, fabulous, lovely....

At breakfast at our second campground on our final day. Relaxed and happy. Me too! Time to get home to Ike and Daddy, though....

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hiking in the Snow

What fun! A gorgeous trip, wonderful adventures. Getting this wee bit of snow on us was thrilling for the girls, since they've never seen snow fall before. Though it was really sort of soft hail or stinging snow, I didn't have the heart to be specifically correct, especially since it started just as they got to the point in the hike when they were getting pretty worn out (ya know, after climbing about 1,500'!) Anything to energize and distract from the tiredness.... More Yosemite pictures to follow....