Thursday, August 30, 2012

SF History: Native American Playdate

Kicking off our San Francisco Curriculum with a "Native American Play Date" in which the kids decorated "deerskin" clothes (G left) and wove baskets. I tried too, without the skill of the Miwok. It was also a goodbye to dear friends who will be homeschooling from Spain this next year, which affected my mood about taking photos.  Happy for them, but sad to be away from them for so long.  And yes, fodder for travel dreams....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


While her sister was finishing (more) work, she made herself cozy and started on this book (thanks, Grandma!) I like watching her mind at work - she's far more clever than am I and thus I am always surprised by her great ideas and various interests.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rides, Mission visit, and then MND - again

We had another chance to see a Midsummer Night's Dream, this time a production with several friends cast as fairies. The stage was the front of California's oldest winery; a long but gorgeous drive and a fun afternoon and evening. We stopped at Traintown for the rides, briefly visited Mission Sonoma, had a picnic dinner, and watched the play. The best part of the wonderful day was watching both girls (but K especially) laughing so hilariously at the production. (Thanks, Christina, for the invitation and tickets!)

Just Live Your Life, by Shrap Magee

This is what I heard at breakfast this morning:

You should just live your own life, not someone else's.  Never think that you want someone else's life because your own life is perfect for you.


I know this because I decided to write a book about it.  I just thought of it!

If you think you have a horrible life, live some more, then you will think you have a nice life.

Mommy, you shouldn't get mad at me.  ["What do I get mad at you for doing?"]  Like for hitting my sister.  Because I just have to live my life.  Kids do these things.  You did.  It doesn't matter that I hit my sister, because I just have to live my life and be who I am.  I love my sister, I just have to do the things I have to do.

My pen name is Shrap Magee [a.k.a. G, age 5. Stay tuned for more; I think she's on a roll].

Song, also by Shrap Magee:
Oh!  Never get mad at yourself.
Oh!  Never get mad at yourself.
Because you just have to live your own life.
Because you just have to live your own live.
Every week, every day.  You just have to live your own LIFE!

[Good?]  Perfect!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tough Cuties

So....  rushing this morning, off to a faculty retreat.  The girls had just woken up when my ride arrived, but when I went to say goodbye, I was surprised to find them back in my bed, curled up together.  So cute, I thought, cuddling together.  Sisters.  Best friends.

But then I got a surprise when  K told me what they were so earnestly discussing: 

"I'm teaching G how to punch." 


"Yes, you hold your fist like this, see, not like this...." 

As I said goodbye, I laughed about my own misplaced assumptions, and smiled at this reality.  I have no love of fighting, but I do think it is good for a girl to feel confident about her ability to protect herself.  Having that confidence probably eliminates the need in most cases for actual violence and I'd certainly rather have them prepared than victimized.  And I learned a few things from K's tips, having never actually punched anyone (yet?) myself!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

21 Years Later...

If I could have imagined where my life would be in 21 years, I would have been very surprised and very happy, both by what has changed and what stayed the same.  Travel adventures, friendships, professional journeys, marriage, and of course my most favorite endeavor (parenting) have all so much exceeded the  wildest imaginings of the person I was as I stood by that sign with a borrowed pack and no clue of the physical trials I would face that day (or the beauty and agony of the 17 that followed).  On that day I had not even begun to imagine many of the journeys that would follow this incredible adventure.  

Going back to that spot brought deep joy, for friendships old and new, for beloved daughters with whom to share this love, and for the beauty of this space, these mountains.  It also brought intense feelings of gratitude for God's care and continued awe for the beauty and magnificence of God's creations. 

I am already plotting our return!

PE Class

A new class taught by an awesome coach; K got to play basketball and football, doing drills-as-games in a totally fun and skill building way. In the meantime, G discovered a climbing wall... and totally channelled Tory Allen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Backpacking Joy


Two nights in one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been.  Thunderstorms.  Deer. Bear prints.  Tough girls. Wonder.  Joy. 

1) K losing a tooth during a thunderstorm.
2) G's toughness, never complaining though her stomach was upset the whole time.
3) Nearly every moment, every day.  Such beauty!
4) So many memories in this loved place; so much imagination about future possibilities.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Secrets to Handling Stress

As I was triaging one of many resource lists I subscribe to, I came across a question for parents who work and simultaneously homeschool.  The question led me to reflection and my own personal response, which follows:

You had asked about stress for those who work and homeschool too. I have failed at this as much as I have succeeded; it is a work in progress to be sure!
First, I try to remember that being a parent of young kids is such a temporary state of being. They grow so fast. So if at this stage of my life I am not exercising, sleeping, reading, exploring, etc. as much as I used to, want to, or need, that's okay. I am strong, I have lived amazing adventures pre-kids, and now is the time to (hopefully) relish what I have.
Theoretically, I get up before they do and do a long run. Hahahahaha. Every day, that's the theory. The reality is that I only manage this every once in a while and most of the time am taking "this one day" to catch up on some must-do deadline for work or a homeschool program and will have my long run "tomorrow." My mindset is hopeful and optimistic: as soon as I finish this one new task, I will get on schedule. I have always run marathons, so long slow runs are part of my body's need for relaxation; not having that time does take its toll. The reality for now, however, is that hope of exercise, not actual exercise, is my best current anecdote to stress. Did I say that this is imperfect?
The stress that causes the most recurrent feeling of panic is the reality of never being quite good enough to meet my own expectations. I'm not good enough at work, where other professors can write more, or present more papers, or contribute to more committees because they aren't simultaneously teaching Latin to six year olds (while learning it), facilitating book clubs, deciding where to lead our group of nature kids, or deciding between curriculum types. I'm not good enough with my kids because I'm no expert in (fill in the blank, it is a long list), I sometimes feed them peanut butter sandwiches for dinner (on the good days when I have time to shop), and I often fall asleep when reading to them at night. I'm not good enough because I'm not making the money I used to and don't have enough for tutors or camps or many classes. This is all a very real and on bad days is a real source of stress and panic.
One way I combat this stress is my own version of a "gratitude journal" that a wise friend started to keep when she developed cancer. Instead of stressing over the many things I am NOT good enough at, I make lists (mental, through a family blog, and sometimes on paper, esp. for work reviews, a tenure folder, etc.) of the things that I HAVE accomplished. They are much shorter than the "haven't dones" that plague me in moments of panic, but once I start making the lists, they are satisfying nonetheless. Number of students in my program. New infrastructure for faculty and students (newsletter, manuals, FB page, new concentration, internships). Self-analyses from my students about why their experience made a real difference to them. Things my kids have done, learned, experienced. The richness of camping adventures. Amazing thoughts that my kids have. The time to listen to those thoughts, discuss deep and not-so-deep questions, impart values, and enjoy books, music, opera, nature, and each other. It really is a huge stress reliever to make those lists and I find the process enormously reassuring, especially when I am in a panic.
My spiritual beliefs and religious faith are also a cornerstone. Ultimately, this is the biggest single factor in sustaining me through times of stress and chaos.
Carefully using electronics, not being used by them, makes me counter-cultural, but I find it extremely important to controlling my stress and managing my time. The phone can go to voicemail. Email can wait. I need to focus on the child/student/person who needs me and not necessarily on the one interrupting at the other end of the phone/computer. My approach to this is also imperfect, often causing stress by irritating those (my mother and at least one of my sisters) who don't think that I respond with the immediacy that they expect. But relishing the precious present and the task at hand is enormously important to me - even and especially if that task is simply being present - talking, reading, listening, playing.
Also, a lesson I learned through years of backpacking - when I am really stressed, the most important thing to do is to help someone else. No matter how impossible it seems to do everything AND add something for someone else, I find it is really important to get out of myself. Reaching out can provide strength, helps put the stress in perspective, and is thus enormously empowering. Mentally, it moves you away from thinking of yourself as a victim/focusing on your weaknesses. In the mountains, I have pushed myself on extended trips until I have literally wept alongside the trail. However, the worst days were always relative and if someone else was further back, in more agony, that knowledge somehow gave me the strength to get beyond my own exhausted pain to help. I remember the day that I climbed Mt Whitney with 11 days worth of food on my back - the pack must have weighed 70 pounds and we did a 15 mile day with many thousands of feet of climbing. I made the summit and then descended to a lake on the north side of the pass with a friend who was just beginning a 17-day trip with me. She lay down in complete and utter exhaustion and watching her, I knew that it would be up to me to cook dinner, set up the tent, and get the food from our packs so that they weren't a temptation to bears. Her need gave me that strength. I try to remember that lesson in the more mundane - but also more important - daily tasks of taking care of a household, homeschooling two kids, and working full time, that the impossible task of making more time to reach out to someone else is both important and empowering.
Hope that helps, even without the drama of dirt, sweat, tears - and bears! As I said, I am definitely still learning....

Friday, August 17, 2012

Insect Discovery

Giving the dog a bath, we inadvertently upset an ant colony, then watched as they rescued their larvae. We felt bad, but it was fascinating, too.

Butterflies were more dramatic and gorgeous and catching them was fun!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Visiting Stanford

Beautiful architecture, incredible views all the way to the City from the Hoover tower.  Amazing campus.  Wonderful tour guide!  Fun train trip.  And then the should-have-expected but did not...  we moms left the three kids for a few minutes at a fountain to grab them a juice treat.  We told them they could take their shoes off and put their feet in, which can be seen in the first picture, otherwise known as the "before" shot:

As we approached we began to anticipate what "after" looked like, seeing full-on fountain wading:

And then the official "after," completely soaked.  Uncomfortable for a train ride home, but they had fun and will probably never forget this visit!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Birthday Postscript Conversation WOW

G:  "Mommy, do you know what I REALLY wanted for my birthday?"

Me:  (Expecting fairy wings, costumes, or something else material): "No, what?"

G:  "I wanted everyone to be happy."

Me:  Stunned silence.  Slowly I looked at her she played quietly by herself in the next room.  Then, I asked, keeping my voice intentionally casual, "did you get what you wanted?"

G:  Quietly, thoughtfully, "yeah."

Not what I expected; a wow moment of appreciation and gratitude.  We DID have a lovely afternoon, relaxing and playing with a simple party, simple food, relaxed agenda, good friends, and special cousins.  Love.  LOVE!  Hearing this and also observing her sister's happy anticipation of the big day, which was completely (magically) free from sibling tension, I can't imagine feeling more blessed. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Delightful Daughter!

Excited about new camping gear
Both girls have been making elaborate decorations
Sisters and best friends
Six clues led to this treasure hunt conclusion

Happy Birthday!
Silly Daddy loves to dress up, too.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Our seats were great too. 
Thankfully, we left before a Raiders fan caused a brouhaha, which
resulted in a lot of angry shouting, from what we saw from below.
Way down below...
Taken from the amazing lower seats

I was excited when my boss offered me her 49er tickets (have I mentioned that she is wonderful?)  We had two separate pairs of seats, so I sat with just G at first in the upper balcony while C and K sat down below in great seats 25 rows up from the 15 yard line.  Seeing the game live was really a fun experience and we all had a great time. 

I also loved the chance to appreciate again what a delightful person G is.  She was enthusiastic and curious about everything, switching her red shirt to wear it OVER her purple zip up fleece so that no one mistook her for a Vikings fan.  Fashion forgotten in the spirit of the moment!  She cheered enthusiastically, booed appropriately, and lept to her feet with joy at a dramatic interception. (She reported that shouting "DE-FENSE" was her favorite part of the game.)   I'm certain that she had no idea of the rules of the game or the significance of the action; she just poured herself into the spirit of the experience, which is what makes her such delightful company.

We soon will celebrate her fifth birthday and her company this evening was such a fun example of what I love about her.  Of all of the wonderful things she accomplishes, it is the basic essence of her heart that I thank God for every day.  I told her that, too - when God made her, the world clearly became a better and more beautiful place.  So deeply true.

Park Day Plane Tag

Applying some physics, then putting it into an energetic game with friends. We hated to leave early!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Amazing Dragonfly

One of the most intriguing, amazing animals that we have studied. This one landed just outside a window and then posed, seemingly playing 'peek-a-boo.' Look at the details on those wings!  Awesome.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary

Lots of shore birds, but the bird pictured was the friendliest one we encountered at the sanctuary. She truly has a way with animals....

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I'm Shrinking! And Old. But in Good Company....

Overheard recently:

Assertion (G):  "Mommy doesn't know everything yet because she's not fully grown."

Response (K):  "Mommy IS fully grown; in fact, she's so old that before you know it, she'll start shrinking."

And Then (G):  "But Abuela will shrink first!"

Friday, August 3, 2012

Faces, Faces, Faces

This was very Michael Jackson, from the "Man in the Mirror" video. My favorite Tech exhibit was one in which the camera took photos of our faces, split them in thirds (forehead, eyes, and mouth) and then rotated them randomly with others. It was pretty amazing, I couldn't take my eyes off of it. Below are some of my favorites.

Rotating eyes; Charles is up there with K and G

Charles on top, my eyes, K's mouth

K and G's eyes, other's foreheads and mouths

On the right, G with a beard?
My eyes, K's mouth

Awesome Tech Museum Day

Looking for the train....

Lions that perfectly matched G's outfit

At the Maker Fair exhibit

Below right and left: designing their own rollercoaster on the computer and then sitting through a simulation.  Awesome!

Deep sea explorer vessel (not originally designed for double occupancy!)

What a great day, awesome museum. Fun to train down, too. We went for the Maker Exhibit, but were enchanted by so much else. The Born to the Wild IMAX movie was touching and amazing; stories of women who raised generations of baby chimpanzees and elephants and then released them to the wild. An earthquake exhibit that simulated about eight different quakes - so fascinating to feel the difference. A simulated space probe and deep sea probe. A computer that sketched both girls. Lots more....