Sunday, December 30, 2012

Celebrating Christmas

Yes, more celebrating! In a favorite way - getting a visit from friends who moved far away three and a half years ago. They are special friends, with us when we started our homeschooling journey and with me as I began teaching at the university level, offering practical support and needed perspective. We missed them terribly when they moved and so it was a special treat to visit again, going to the zoo together and reconnecting. A celebration indeed!

Just thought this curled fern
near the lemurs was cool

In the African savana section
Elegance hanging with the anteaters

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hope, Play, and Gender Issues

One of the biggest surprises I've had as a mother is learning first hand about sexism from interactions with people who would self-describe as liberals, in this strongly progressive region. I've always felt instinctively aligned with feminism (pro-life, of course), but the previous origin of my instincts was social justice, understanding that inequities exist and that they should be corrected, but not actually feeling strong recognized experience with them.

Having children changed that. At first it was amusing and minor - observers surprised on days when I chose to wrap my newborn in cozy blue hand-me-down wraps or dressed her in an adorable blue onesie that I selected becuase it had on it an image of a puppy that looked like ours. When people apologized profusely for thinking she was a baby boy, I thought, "she's a newborn; who cares?"

As my oldest daughter reached Kindergarten, the experience of sexism came home in a way that was less trivial and simple to dismiss because it was so very hurtful to her; this woke me up to a different reality. By chance, her best friends at that age were boys and when they started school, their behavior toward her changed markedly, excluding her specifically because of her gender. (By luck or design, I have never seen this behavior exist in the homeschool community.) She hadn't changed, but they had learned that they should treat girls differently. Oddest to me was how vociferously their moms supported behavior that was not only hurtful, but often blatantly rude. One of her friends stopped speaking to her at all and wouldn't even return her greeting; his mom gave him unapologetic support with explanations that made so little sense to me that I can't now even recall them.

My reflections about the differences between boys and girls are anecdotal and I recognize them as such. Each of my daughters is an individual and they have very different personalities, each crossing the boundaries of gender expectations in different ways. I want them to have this freedom, to be uniquely themselves, and am always surprised by criticism or broad statements from others that begin with some version of "all boys are..." or "all girls do...," which often come across as justifications for rudeness or exclusion and are based on inherently limited anecdotal experiences but confidently stated more broadly.

I took the photos below as my amused observation of gender play that crosses expectations. Both kids play often with their PlayMobil characters, which include a house, Nativity scene, veterinarian's office, spy car, rural Egypt, skateboard track, and a fairy castle. On this occasion, they were playing with a race car track, a new Christmas gift. I was gratified at their enthusiasm, knowing that this toy is one that is often associated exclusively with boys. I watched with amusement as they then combined gender expectations in their own unique approach to their creative play, lining up the doll house characters to watch the cars race, part of an elaborate shared narrative.  This play, with stereotypically gender-specific toys happily combined in imaginative play, gave me a moment of needed hope.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Memories 2012

Ike opens his stocking.  Treats!
A performance for all of us on Cmas day.
This is becoming a tradition -
decorating the snowperson cake with cousins and abuela

Glad that Uncle Paul and Aunt Susan came to visit

Showing her cousins a recording of a favorite recent
performance ("Old King Cole!")

Up soon!  Building Cmas traditions....

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Ending Advent with Joyful Comfort

We got our tree yesterday and decorated it right away. What fun, to go through ornaments from years past and explain their meaning or just enjoy them. We relaxed all weekend, baking, cooking, creating gifts, reading, and watching Cmas movies. I made candy, cookies, pies, soap (!), stationary, and recipe cards, perhaps redeeming my reputation, which has been damaged through the undeniable reality that I am a homeschooling mama without a crafting gene. This weekend was a lovely end to Advent and such a relaxing way to begin the Christmas season. More of the same to follow, I hope.

Fourth candle is lit

Gifts are made

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Choosing a Mary Day in a Martha Season

I saw this title on the post of another blog; that author's conclusions were slightly different from my own interpretations of what that means, but I love the sentiment.

Slowing down.  Letting go of the commercialism, of obligations.  Savoring that which matters and relishing those whom I so love.

We have no obligations over the next two days other than to get a tree and go to Mass.  I am tempted by undone work projects - I love my work, after all, and know that through it, I serve others in ways that are deeply meaningful for me.  But I am drawn instead to that which in the normal chaos of busy schedules gets insufficient attention - time with my family, uninterrupted by obligations, expectations, work, or other commitments.

I have a lot of "shoulds" left undone.  Work.  Groceries.  Baking and cooking.  Gifts.  Cards.  But at these concluding days of Advent, I find myself more inclined to orient myself toward choices that allow for meaning over obligation.  (Not to mention that with a fraudulent use of my credit card discovered, we have no access to money.  Goodbye last minute shopping plans!)

The Christmas season lasts for 12 days.  Perhaps that will allow time for catching up, for writing cards, for finishing our preparation of gifts.  Perhaps not.  But, ever a Martha, I am looking forward to exploring this choice to act for these few days in ways more like Mary, intentionally letting go of the obligatory busyness and drawing myself closer to the best and most lasting meaning of the upcoming Christmas season.

Our Family Tradition: A Trip To Bethlehem

Well, not exactly the kind of trip that requires passports - this is at a vacant lot a few towns south of us that is extraordinarily constructed for a few days to resemble the town of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, complete with live animals (camels! zebra! baby cows, goats, and sheep!), townspeople engaged in crafts, Jewish children at school with their rabbis, Roman soldiers, King Herod in a chariot, slaves, dancers, women at the well, children playing dreidels, and of course a live nativity. It is all very magnificent and moving and well worth the trip, even in the rain.

Recording the paying of taxes

No room at the inn.

Gorgeous, real sleeping baby.  I remember when G was in
the nativity pageant; she was not so much a peaceful
sleeping version of Jesus.  :-)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Country Day: Family Traditions

Each month for the past two and a half years, we have studied the geography, language, culture, food, and history of various countries around the world. This month we focused on family traditions; our own, with a look at where they came from. The girls did this by talking with each of their grandparents and with us and gathered information about how each of their adult predecessors celebrated Christmas as children. The presentation of their findings was less coherent than I'd hoped - they do dislike having play interrupted for anything even pseudo-formal - but the discussions we've had as a result of those conversations have been rich. I love bringing history home with a touch of anthropology to enhance understanding of self and others.  Mimesis three recognized, for my critical hermeneutic friends!

Applying makeup, just for fun.  Uh oh.  Red eye shadow may not be her look....
The photos are unrelated to the presentation; just fun pictures of one of the girls having fun on a delightfully relaxing day. (The other had fun too, but ran from photos :-) Thanks, Jacki, for hosting.
I thought she looked a gorgeous ornament in this tree!
A stretching class, becoming a CD tradition.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

SF History: Touring Mission Dolores

Mission Dolores is a foundational part of SF history. Back in September, when we were studying the original SF inhabitants, I stumbled fortuitously across an article in SF Catholic (a weekly newspaper) about one of the Mission docents who is an anthropolist/archeologist and an Ohlone (Native American from the SF area) who incorporates the perspective of the original SF residents into the tour. In this element, the tour was amazing and we even got to see the graves of his 5x great grandparents on the Mission grounds; he also gave more history of the tule house in the cemetery, taught us many Ohlone words and sayings, and gave interesting explanations about the lives of these ancient people.

One critique, however: he ignored and nonchalantly admitted ignorance of any of the Spanish or Catholic history of the church. Also, he was dismissive of the work of the original Fathers who helped found the mission, suggesting that the diorama showed them "not working." Not quite fair, I think. I have no trouble giving primary credit to the 1,000 Ohlone who made and laid the 36,000 adobe bricks needed to build the church, but in the same breath I doubt the two priests there were filing their nails and eating bonbons.

That said, it was a magnificent tour, wonderfully bringing several elements of SF history together both in the past and in contemporary relevance. Afterward, we had a wonderful lunch at a nearby restaurant with the friends with whom we tour SF history - at a hole-in-the-wall Salvadorean place that we all loved.

I found this diorama fascinating; the main building
on the right is still present, but the City covers the
area around and the hills beyond.  That stream is now
underneath 18th Street and the R&B house near the first
river curve.
Name of the village in what is now Dolores Park
Ringing the church bells
Two cultures; Spanish designs surrounded by Ohlone patterns

Sunday, December 16, 2012

More Preparations for the Christmas Season

At the Nutcracker with a favorite angel; making a gingerbread Christmas tree with marvelous Kathleen.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book Club: A Christmas Carol

We read Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the first time I've ever read the original. Our activities were holiday related - cookie decorating and making festive coasters as gifts and ornaments. Or so was my plan... in fact, the kids were more creative - the festive Ike crown is one such example. A fun day in preparation for Christmas.

Preparing the cookies

Friday, December 14, 2012

Painted Ladies Have Emerged

New and gorgeous life! We've also got some uninvited life in the house - ants! Ack! So hard to feed the butterflies with sugar water without letting the ants smell it.

Even the underside
is gorgeous.

Nativity Pageant

Townspeople in the parish Nativity Pageant. Love it! And pretty happy I could cobble together costumes; sometimes I feel so craft-challenged, so when I can pull off something that works, I'm pretty satisfied.  They were happy to be there too; makes up a bit for losing the tradition we had at our old parish where they loved the gospel re-enactment they took part in.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wild Day; Fabulous Location

We expected rain, but had instead a most fabulous sunny day, wet and clear from recent storms. Great hike, lots of exploring of beach treasure and even a beautiful red shouldered hawk.