Saturday, January 28, 2012

Family and Love

We were there for an unthinkable reason; honoring the life and grieving the untimely death of our cousin Sharon. She died with no reason, no warning, young and with much to live for. Her memorial was full of joy, faith, and deep, incomprehensible grief. Our minds have focused on support for her husband and family, but our hearts continue to feel disbelief: how could this be? At her service, cousin Keith spoke of his wife with enduring love, of her deep and abiding beauty. She was indeed a beautiful person; so relaxed and accepting that it is impossible to imagine her without a smile; love, acceptance, and friendship were attributes that she exuded. We miss her terribly....

The photos reflect the love that we felt from family over the weekend, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents. We know that this will sustain Keith and his girls for many years to come. Our love, our prayers, and our thoughts remain there with them.

One. Awesome. Kid.

That's a unanimous opinion from all of us. Our niece/cousin is amazingly cool. An athlete who has the intense enthusiasm and amazing athleticism of her mom. A student who exceeds the most ambitious standards. A lovely and loving person who is great with her younger cousins. She's interested in everything, which is such a joy and a wonderful model.

The girls adore her completely. So do we!

Friday, January 27, 2012


Good travelers, I should say. I was proud of them. Charles left earlier in the week to be with his cousin and family in a difficult time. The least expensive flight that we could find was pretty late at night. We'd had a full day. We walked to the train station, each of us traveling light with our own backpack, and - thanks to my apparent misreading of the timetable - missed our train. Sigh! So we waited - I had worked out a plan with lots of "wiggle room" and we had scary-fun as the express trains thundered through the station and we huddled together in a group hug, screaming at the loud rush. We connected with the next train and the airport tram with no problem and then waited for the flight, peppering a friendly pilot with questions as she waited with us at the gate.

On the plane, K watched everything intently and with glee... just getting a soda late at night when they passed out drinks was exciting. (She set aside half for her sleeping sister. Awww....) G fell asleep almost immediately and when we arrived and made an immediate stop at a restroom whispered to me, "why did we get on just to get off again?" I realized that she didn't know we had arrived. I pointed out differences in the two airports, but since both are new to her, she apparently wasn't impressed because it wasn't until we were leaving the airport that she said, "NOW I see that we are in Las Vegas." I asked what she noticed that was different and she said happily, "Daddy is here!" Running to meet him was fun and fabulous and even though (or perhaps especially because) the weekend's purpose was so difficult, I finished with renewed appreciation for how good the girls were. Hopefully, remembering that will sustain me through the reality of their every-day bickering! :-}

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Country Day: Peru

First, photos of some of the evidence of our prep work, including Peruvian props (pisco) borrowed from Abuela and Grandpa. I had fun pulling out my photo albums and the nativity scenes I bought in Cusco years ago. The girls had created tanta wawas (shaped bread art), Incan medallions, Incan tunics, and Incan shields.

K and G did their presentation on the Rediscovery of Machu Picchu; another friend had a complementary topic and in addition we learned as other friends taught us about Peruvian food, weaving, Incan counting systems, holidays, New Year's traditions, the Peruvian rain forest, animals of Peru, the Nazca lines, ancient Peruvian bridges, and more.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Peru Prep Part III: Cooking

Our newest curriculum addition started this week – a cooking class to complement our monthly Country Day studies. It is run by professional chefs and takes place in a friend's house. The kids had fun, academically it is a great enhancement, but perhaps my favorite outcome were the yummy leftovers I got when I got home from work. Veggie empanadas and quinoa stew – hurray!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Motherhood: Realities and Grace

Translating Regular Time into God's Time

I saw this article posted over and over again last week; it was clearly resonating with a lot of moms. The author complains about people who come up to her in public as she is struggling with the day to day challenges of being with young kids, and tell her, in apparent contradiction to the moment that she is experiencing, that she ought to "enjoy every moment." Her reality, which has got to be shared by all, is that not every moment is worth relishing. The kids misbehaving publicly. The begging for things at the store. The tantrums. Etc. The message I got from it is that we ought be thinking about practical ways to support mothers, rather than idealizing motherhood in a fantasy that doesn't address very real and practical challenges. Doing this would allow to women better relish their experiences as mothers, turning such advice into support.

I agree, of course. That said, I've been reflecting on the article because some part of the message, especially perhaps the many comments that followed it in various forums, made me a little uncomfortable. Motherhood IS hard. We DO need to be more practical in our support. On the other hand, I know that I also need more practice in relishing the everyday, looking for grace, seeking reasons to be grateful. I've had those comments addressed to me as well and try to let them remind me that the seeming drama of the moment is really trivial, that in the bigger picture we do have much to relish, and that in motherhood as well as in other life endeavors, regular reflection with gratitude is something we can all use more of.

I learned that from our dear friend Mary. Her celebration of life is this weekend and we will be there in spirit, reflecting on and celebrating the many ways that she enhanced our lives and continues to teach us about living well and with grateful love. Another friend reflected specifically on how Mary's love inspires her and it is a beautiful read, inspiring and relevant.

My reflection on the need to focus with gratitude reminded me of another article my sister Elizabeth sent me a few months ago. The author reflects on her unique experience of motherhood, for she knows that her son has a terminal disease and will not live past the age of three. Her conclusion is that "parenting is about loving my child today." Those of us who are blessed to have more time with our kids can take wisdom and inspiration from this, working to support moms in practical ways while also making ongoing efforts to find grace in the middle of chaos and the temporary trauma of every day life.

In thinking about the original author's frustration with those who want her to "carpe diem" with her kids all the dang time, I began reflecting on the way that kids themselves live. Her thought is that it is practical to distinguish between "chronos" (clock time) and "kairos" (God's time), having a 'carpe diem' attitude about the latter but being more practical about the former. Again, I agree in concept that a balance is good... and yet, as I watched my kids play today, it occurred to me that most adults have a lot to learn from kids about really living in the moment because they deserve our best efforts to translate more chronos moments into times of kairos. As they go about the day, they aren't thinking about the next thing, other obligations, the need to rush to get things done or many messes they've created. (These are admittedly attributes that create their own frustration!) Still, I have to appreciate that they approach most of life's moments in a way that is e fully engaged, really living in the moment as they are acting out their imaginative play, telling stories, engaging in projects, or telling me their ideas. As a result, my conclusion is that before resigning myself to the practical reality of chronos, I want to commit to BE more readily present, learning from them how to successfully translate regular time into God's time.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Our Creek

View from our back deck. Love the full creek, the freshness of the rain, and the carpets of eucalyptus bark all over campus.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Different Bee Movie

The kids love "Bee Movie," the Jerry Seinfeld cartoon. So I had to warn them - this movie that we were to see at a friend's house with a group of kids is about bees, but will not be the same! It was, however, very interesting. It begins with the picture below and when I turned to see if the girls were paying attention, I caught these expressions, oh-so-telling and appropriate that they made me giggle.

The movie, on the other hand, made me want to become a beekeeper. Someday? Lots learned. The naturalist/beekeeper/Waldorf educator who facilitated suggested that the most important thing for young kids is that they just not see nature as foriegn, that they feel at home around bees and other living things, that they learn to be part of the natural world by observing and interacting. OK, talked me into it, twisted my arm, if you insist (hee, hee).

(That said, we all have limits, and a slow naked dance while covered with bees would definitely exceed mine. And that's okay!)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Preparing for Peru

Preparing for Country Day is always fun; lots to learn, lots to do. For me, it can feel like a vicarious adventure, traveling either on memories or imagination (or both). But it helps to do it with friends - more synergy for ideas, plus deadlines to make sure it doesn't always happen "tomorrow."

On the left, below: storyboarding four Peruvian festivals; on the right; playing a traditional Peruvian instrument.

Below left: four Inca warriors with tunics that they created and decorated in traditional ways, mock decorative pendants, and geometrically decorated shields. We learned about Inca gods, compared them to other cultures (Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and Christian), and made Andean stew (below, right) with "smart" (meatless) llama and cuy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Love a community matinee. Great seats (we sit in the box seats), great price ($5, including a CD and workbook), great to see friends, great to see music played and explained live, and a great amount of time (any longer and I'd fall asleep - unsophisticated, but true).

Inside the Symphony Hall:

Outside the Symphony Hall (K is my better poser these days)

My one critique: learning about the organ was fascinating (with 8,000 pipes, one of the largest in the world), but that piece was awful and even upsetting... unclear if it was a carnival or a funeral and the organ drowned out the other instruments when played in person (not so much on the CD).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book of Spells for Book Clubbers!

A long day in the City celebrating with family after a 49er victory. Arriving home with bed (them) and then work (me) on my mind. We walk in the door to a surprise package. K quickly reads the cover and yells, "spells and potions!" A box of magic ingredients. A book of spells. An impromptu writing exercise with no coercion or angst, practice and imagination working hand in hand as new "spells" are devised and recorded by "Wizard B.K." and "Witch Annie." I have a secret magic name too, but only book clubbers with access to the secret book are allowed to guess which one I am.... Yahaha!

To Jacki we owe yet again gratitude for imagination shared. Hope the goblin's blood, powdered magma, or puppy tails don't spill en route to the next book clubber!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


For us, it feels like we've really "arrived" in our new home when we can make spontaneous plans. Wake up with an uncertain agenda and be surprised; pure loveliness! Today, a family hike evolved into a tea party followed by a newly explored trail with friends on a beautiful afternoon. Hurray!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ike Cute

Ike. Otherwise known fondly as, "the best dog in the world." He's patient, gentle, big as a polar bear, and a love. He begins each day giving K and I snuggle hugs. In this photo, K. posed him with a dog a friend sent us, stuffed, but remarkably like him. Being Ike, he sleepily ignored our silliness.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Club! Dealing with Dragons

This book is a favorite; Cimorene is a princess with imagination, courage, and intelligence; in discussing the book, I realized that I want to be like her! We did our normal fun activities, this time offering "tea and deportment lessons" for any "proper princesses" and fencing, Latin, magic, and cooking lessons for those who related to Cimorene's love of knowledge. What fun! Dragon style, the food that we cooked included (super healthy) chocolate mousse and cherries jubilee (minus the kirsch).

We also celebrated our SECOND YEAR ANNIVERSARY of doing book club by adding a new dimension to it, launching into literary analysis through a "book detectives" approach. We discussed why the author chose the setting she did, how it moved the story forward, who the protagonist and antagonist were, what the climax of the book was, and what each of these elements told us about the overall message of the book. My conclusion was that the book was about empowerment - being empowered to make your own choices, beyond blind expectation about what is "proper." As usual, I learned from the discussion and was impressed with the kids' perceptions.

Gorgeous cards courtesy of Caryn; great way to introduce the discussion!

Latin lessons (with Prince Therendil on left); K as fencing instructor on right.

Discussion doesn't mean that Ike isn't included... or that participants can't get cozy with him while analyzing the text!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Wild Days 2012

We started a new nature program this year and it is off to an awesome start - Charles and I are leading it, a real dream come true for me. I thought I'd do this in my NEXT job, after I retired, but when the opportunity arose, I was filled with joy and couldn't resist.

Photos below: G thought we needed a sign in sheet, even though we know all of the kids well. So she created one, and checked off the kids as they arrived. Below right, K and friend begin to build a fort.

More progress on the fort; everyone is part of the effort.

Writing in the group nature journal

Final views of the fort, below. On the left, a view from outside the "windows." On the right, the kids posing from the "front door." Good work; awesome day!

The kids found this awesome skull shortly after we arrived, along with the rest of the (mostly) rotted off carcas. The smell was still noticible... and memorable!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


The notes below are from the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel blog:

What does it mean to say, “I believe…”?

“We want more from religion now than rules. We want something to help us find meaning in life when all the rules cease to make sense, when all the old systems breakdown or fade away. We want a glimpse of God here and now… There is something beyond us; there is something bigger than we are that calls us on; there is purpose to life.”

“Belief is not contrary to fact. It simply transcends it. To believe something is to know its truth not so much in our minds, but in the center of our souls…. In sum, belief is the ability to know what we cannot see… Belief is sure in the way that truth is sure. It rings in our hearts like tines on crystal.”

“To say ‘I believe’ is to say yes to the mystery of life.”

Practice: Take some time this week to tune into the amazing mysteries of life that surround you. Don’t try to understand them. Just notice them, acknowledge them, and recognize God as their origin. Then tell someone else about them…

I feel like this blog is my way of noticing mysteries, amazing, everyday mysteries of love and life and beauty and so much more. There is no way that I can understand them, but by noticing and acknowledging them, I am filled with gratitude toward God for so many gifts in my life. Giddy with gratitude, every day.

Also check out the OLMC blog for a great article about Bronco's quarterback Tim Tebow.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Christmas Bird Count

The Audubon Society has been doing a Christmas bird count for over 100 years, but this is only the second year that they've had a kid-specific event. We participated last year in San Rafael, a very COLD day; this year we had lovely warm, sunny weather at Point Reyes, which is always gorgeous. We saw lots of beauty - birds, yes, but also landscapes and even tons of colorful fungus in exotic shapes. A wonderful day with friends whom we hadn't seen in a while, which is always especially wonderful.

Below: the skull of barn owl. Beautiful, no? And on the right, an avid ornithologist looking at acorn woodpeckers.

Below, left: fascinated by the fun beauty of friendship! On the right: checking out three hawks that flew by at the same time.