Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Trick or treating after a haunted garage party with a vampire and a witch; fun!
Thanks G/V Clan!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Turtle Custody

When I was really little, we had a turtle. When I got older, we'd find them at Stow Lake and bring them home. But our longest custody began in 1985 when we drove across the country. We found several turtles and kept Mo (found in Missouri) and Gin (found in Virginia). They came with me to college and then when I lived in Yosemite, though my mom helped with care when I couldn't do it. Our count rose to three in 1991 when I returned from another drive around the country to find that my mom had bought a turtle (Cal, of course). Gin died shortly after, but Mo and Cal both lived with me and occasionally with my mom, until they both died within a few months of each other about two years ago (yes, nearly 25 years!)

Mom bought Titukanula about a year ago and the girls love her. She seems to think that she's a little girl herself; see the photos of her with toys! Mom saw the ones from Country Day Indonesia (Tituk seemed to pay attention the whole time) and decided that perhaps shared custody was again in order, as apparently Mom and Dad don't play with her much. The girls are thrilled. Katherine took these and so many more pictures; serious turtle affection here!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blackberries and Sister Love

My sister recently found these photos in an old email; too cute! And by "old" I mean all of four years. Funny how four years can seem so long in some circumstances, incredibly short in others. But don't get me started or I'll get super-philosophical.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Carving Party

Very fun; good friends, and the girls were both really into their design and then carving. Fun!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Country Day, Spain

Dressed up to celebrate!

Ready to hear the presentations. Topics included Spanish ships, Salvador Dali, Picasso, bull fighting, flamenco dancing, Spanish architecture, poetry, and guitar playing. Live music and dancing complemented the wonderful presentations. And lots of impressive art, mimicking Spanish works. Awesome.

Ike wanted to listen, too.

Katherine wanted to present on the etymology of English words in Spanish. She thought of the topic, then made her choices from a long list of words I found online.

So inspired by a co-presenter's guitar music that she starts playing herself!

Getting her fortune told?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I love loving sister pictures. Blurry, but not so much that you can't see the happy smiles.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Impressive Tree Cutter

One man (and a crew below). All day, high in a tree. Two days in a row. Impressive acrobatic work; unfortunately resulting in a tree that is no more....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Marie Curie - a Homeschooling Mama!

This was truly wonderful, a two-hour, one-woman show about the life of Madam Marie Curie. Free, indeed! Offered by the library and found by a dear (and much appreciated) friend. Other than our kids and the two friends who came with us, the audience was all adults. The kids had been out late to the opera the night before and were squirrelly. But the performance was really well done and I learned a lot about Madame Curie, despite feeling tempted now and again to sneak out and avoid the restlessness. Apparently, the kids learned a lot, too; after fearing that I was wasting their time because they weren't paying any attention, they each surprised me by asking completely appropriate questions at the end. (How did her mom and sister die? How old was she when she had her first child?) Fantastic!

During the show, which was written by the performer but drawn from the actual words of Madame Curie, she explains why she chose to homeschool her own kids. Not expected, to hear that Madame Curie was a homeschooling mama! But indeed, she didn't like trying to cover multiple subjects in one day and so formed her own co-op, with friends who had expertise in various matters, and each day spent time in no more than two subjects, taught by other parents to a small group of eager kids in a way that allowed them to delve into subjects in depth. Sounds familiar!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Opera Night: Don Giovanni

Prepping for Opening Night with friends by making pizza.

Afterward! (Gabriana was too tired to pose.)

We got a wonderful deal on opera dress rehearsal tickets; $10 for the entire dress rehearsal, which is usually flawless and very like the real thing. But when they ran behind schedule and had to switch the rehearsal times, they gave us the option to choose another night (instead of having a late night on a week night). We got incredible, orchestra level tickets for the opening night of Don Giovanni; a $283 value EACH for only $10.

I love a deal, but love a performance, too. It was really well done and, as usual, the ending was everything. Gorgeous red curtain sweeping over the backdrop. Statue of a murder victim come to life and demand repentance from the main character. Refusal to repent, then descent into the fires of hell. Oh, excellent, oh horrors! G. has been demanding to go again (not likely!).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Astronomy Party

A friend's birthday party theme complemented a current class. Better yet, our wonderful friends used it as an opportunity to introduce us to a local planetarium, which offers FREE shows, facilitated by an astronomy professor. Free... a theme I like in all kinds of different settings!

In class, K and a friend identified themselves as "the twins." When I asked why she was assigned that particular constellation, she said, "the teacher knows that he and I are best friends, so he made us the twins." So sweet and happy....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Club! Island of the Blue Dolphins

I don't remember reading this book as a kid, but it is a favorite for several of our book club friends. We liked it too.

For our activities, we focused less on the gory details of the battles and death that left her alone on the island for 18 years and more on the life of the Chumash Indians and general survival skills. We made baskets and jewlrey, the latter from shells and beads, but - in accordance with the independent theme of the book - I gave no directions or suggestions, merely provided an example and asked the kids to try to figure it out. We saw some lovely results! We also practiced cave painting as a group effort, admittedly using paper and not cave walls, but utilizing only natural brushes - our fingers, feathers, and sponges.

I gave the kids random various items and asked them to imagine that they were washed up on a desert island with them. Other than the obvious, for what could they be used? They initially gave very expected answers, but then branched into the imaginative.

Finally, we took shells and began to develop an economic system with what we had. (The Chumash used shells as money.) Again, I gave little direction, but the kids as a group seemed to know intuitively that the more rare ones in the group were more valuable and they sorted accordingly. They then began trading with the survival items I introduced in the previous exercise and at that point I lost control... but when they are playing enthusiastically and with far more involvement than I could orchestrate, who needs control?

Lovely day - and so glad to have some new book clubbers with us!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grossly Cool

I went to an educator workshop at the Cal Academy to learn how to dissect owl pellets and identify the contents. I felt like a kid, totally mesmerized. Identifying the skulls and tiny bones was fascinating. The photo is of some pretty disgusting stuff though - the wet fur and bones from owl victims, eaten once, then coughed up into a pellet to be dissected. I was looking forward to doing this with the kids, 'till I came home and they said, "oh, we did that in science class last year." The class I never got to attend because it was in the evening. Sigh!

Again, the reactions of many of the teachers in traditional schools who were there made me pause. Many agreed that they'd pair a boy and a girl together for the activity, "because if two girls get together, they might get squeamish." YIKES! This is a different world altogether from the girls I know; in fairness, the Cal Acad facilitator said that in her experience, just as many boys are squeamish.

Another comment just made me sad. When our dissection got cut off by time restraints, I heard someone say, "just like in the classroom, there is never enough time." Paired with the Madame Marie Curie's reasons to homeschool that we heard a few days later, I again reflected on the value in being intentional about slowing down in all aspects of life, savoring and relishing what we do, whether it is dissecting owl pellets, building relationships, or just being together. To allow time to turn such a cool learning activity into a mere obligation seems such a shame.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fleet Week

Friends invited us to join them on the bay to watch the Blue Angels air show. Turns out, most of the air show was cancelled; however, just being on the boat was a fun experience and taking the girls out on the bay was unforgettable.

Our boat's captain has been a commercial fisher since the 1970s and it was interesting to learn about his boat (how much fish he can store, how he keeps them fresh with refridgeration on trips as long as two weeks). Just imagining living on the tiny boat for that long was cool and he was generous about answering questions and letting the girls pretend to steer.

Parts of the trip were rocky and when the Captain shouted "wave," I'd grab G and hold tight. K, on the other hand, preferred to find her own anchor at the front of the boat and felt the rockier, the better! On the way back, she started complaining (yes!) that she hadn't done any homework that day. Turned out she wanted to run through her lines in A Midsummer's Night's Dream, which she did, fully animated, as we rocked along. She's great with the lines and the emotion, but I'm amazed and awed not by her knowledge as much as by her passion, joy, self-motivation, and angst-free self-critique. She wants to get better and better and works hard at it. If there is nothing else I can nurture in her, this (coupled with a soul that seeks good and God) should prepare her for all the success that an authentically lived life can offer.

Coming back, it was a unique experience to see Fisherman's Wharf from the fishing perspective - the back docks on the restaurants to accept fish, small fishing boats, getting close to Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, and even a single seal. Coming home through crawling traffic was a bear, but when we got home, the girls immediately wanted to play with their doll house dolls, resisting my efforts to get them into the bath. I find it so interesting that after engaging experiences, they process by playing them out so intensely.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Can I ask you something?"

I got up at 3AM to try to get some work done while all was quiet. Work for work, preparation for book club, unloading the dishwasher and packing for another busy day. G doesn't like waking to find I'm not there, so when she did, she came to find me. As she immediately cuddled into my arms, her eyes closed and she said sleepily, "can I ask you something? Why do people get out of bed at night?" By "people," I knew she meant me. The "why" is so practical. But the hidden message is inherently so precious, sweet, and cherished - she wants me, I am blessed to be her mommy. That sweet love means so much to me and I stopped that very moment and prayed with gratitude for her life and her love, cuddled at that moment so beautifully in my arms.

Soccer fans!

When a favorite cousin is playing, who isn't a fan?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Spain: Art Opening Reception

We attended the opening night/celebration of Iluminations, which included a performance by Herbert Siguenza, who has been doing a one-person show called, "A Weekend with Pablo Picasso." It was interesting to watch him work live on stage; in the photo below, Abuela and the girls are watching him work.

In this photo, the artist asked visitors to write their hopes and dreams on a slip of paper and place it into a treasure chest. Today, K says that she wants to be an actor and accordingly wrote, "to be an actor in a movie."

On the left, one of the artist's displays; on the right, work by the girls in progress.... We did learn that Dia de los Muertos has a link to Spain, where is is called "Day of the Deceased." A different tone, but the celebrations share origins.

It was fun, but too crowded. (And if I felt angst, I can only imagine what someone half my height feels, squished in at waist level with a much more limited view.) Thank goodness Mom came with me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Studying Spain: Picasso

We opened our October study of Spain with a trip to the Picasso exhibit (even if he did spend most of his life in France). Worth a trip. I enjoyed the contrast between his more traditional work and his signature pieces. The girls were particularly fascinated by the more moving/grotesque images of war and violence. I stood behind for a while at one piece and watched them look, wondering what they were thinking.

Happy Half Birthday!

Half of a cake for a half birthday celebration. Hey, at this age, halves are a big deal!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011