Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A Winter Fairy and a Knight; they trick-or-treated at the houses immediately surrounding us and then ventured to a friend's neighborhood where the streets were blocked off and the houses were elaborately decorated.

Unfortunately, I couldn't be there; it was the first night of a new term and I had to teach. Oh, I love my work, but missing the festivities with my girls made me feel pretty sad.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wild Day, New Venue

New venue! And, typical of Bay Area microclimates, we discovered blackberries and wild strawberries, even this late in the year. Fun! Many places to play, some incredibly beautiful bird spotting (white kites!) and urban views on a rainy looking fall day.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Visiting Family

The conference was the excuse (and the means), sightseeing was a side pursuit, but visiting family was the best purpose of our trip. The girls and Charles had a great time with cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandma when our family photographer (me) was attending conference meetings, then we got to visit with more family when we went to the Pittsburgh area. The first photo below is of the girls and Charles with Charles' grandmother; the photo on the steps is with Charles' mom and one of her sisters on the steps of their Great Grandmother's house; both girls had a great time with their cousin (with K playing football below right); and we even got to go to Akron to have lunch with my Great Aunt (bottom left).

While we were in the Pittsburgh area, we made time for what I call, "the Charles tour," in which he gave us a driving tour of the houses he has lived in (and even the location of the one that was torn down).  En route he also covered the fields he's played, the schools he attended, the creeks he caught crawdads in, and more.  Later, K added, "he even showed us his first memories!"  I remember loving stories of my parents as kids when I was their age and giving a visual setting to the stories not only made the recollections more memorable, but brought out new stories from Charles. 

It was also wonderful to look through their Grandma's albums together to see their Dad, Grandma, and others when they were all younger.  I have noticed that kids often most easily connect with other kids and so giving them the chance to relate in a different way to Daddy, his siblings, and now-grown cousins as kids was great.  We had a similar experience when we were in Akron, showing the girls the house my mother and her siblings grew up in.  We briefly explored the woods behind and the railroad tracks nearby, which was like Charles' memory tour but in this case punctuated with place names like "Wolf's Cave" and "Indian Ledge" that evoke images of fabulous adventures and great fun. (Apparently, Ohio in the 1940s and 1950s lacked PC-awareness.  Ooops!)


When we were kids, my parents took us on many camping road trips, often visiting amazing places. But, as much as I love such things now, I remember at the time just wanting to play and my memories to this day are more clearly of the other kids we played with and the clubhouses we built than of monuments, magnificent sites, or my parent's adult friends (unless they had kids). So I can't help wondering how much of this fantastic trip they will remember and my hope is that what sinks into their consciousness is 1) love of family and appreciation of time together and 2) a love of exploring and learning.

A funny story from the trip launched this reflection: we visited several friends during our trip, wonderful people we have known from different former workplaces or volunteer endeavors, most of whom we haven't seen for a long time.  We are grateful to Susie and John; Jessica, Ray, and Matthew; and Zoe and her girls for their time and friendship.  We are also grateful for our vist with Jill and Sage; they most recently lived in Egypt and I got to hear their firsthand story of a dramatic evacuation and separation when headline events crashed into their lives. Sage is in her first year of college now and at one point G asked me for something and I directed her to ask our host, Jill. "Which one is Jill?" she asked. "The mom," I answered, thinking my description was obvious. "But which one is the mom?" she replied. I thought this was funny, having forgotten that what seems so obvious to me is so much less so to a young child for whom all adults, whether 18 or 50, are pretty much the same age.

This exchange reminded me that for kids, our adult chatter will blur in their memories, but they will cherish the time they spent with important people who played with them. Aunt Danyell is held in high esteem because she taught G dance moves and encouraged an impromptu performance by the girls (dancing by G and dramatic monologues by K); Uncle Junior likewise is super cool because he played ball with them again (last time was in Las Vegas, which they remembered); and of course Grandma is special beyond words and has always been in a loving class of her own.

Happily, they do entertain themselves well even when the visiting is on more adult terms and I was so appreciative that we got time to catch up with loved ones. Charles and I also staggered our attention well; we each most enjoy having our whole family together, but it was great to allow each other moments of adult visiting while the other supervised the exuberance of the girls' play.

All in all, a great trip. Now on to the happy chaos of a new term at school, catching up with the girls' learning activities, finishing unpacking, and finding time to catch up on lagging work projects while implementing the new ones I dreamed up while at these last two conferences.

FINAL NOTE:  Yes, that orange Giants shirt does appear repeatedly.  It had to: it has been proven to be good luck.  Happily, K's diligence on behalf of her team paid off.  Congratulations, San Francisco Giants!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The White House

No photos allowed inside, but we did get a tour. Believe it or not, I made my request months ago - organized for once! Charles got stopped at security - apparently his name is associated with someone else who is trouble - but eventually we got through together. It is impressive to be there, getting inside views from a place we more commonly and often see just from the outside. We enjoyed a video introduction that gave us fascinating history of the presidency and the building. The photos are taken outside afterward...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Touring the Capitol

We had a wonderful Capitol tour, beginning at our Congressional Representative's office. We got pictures in the office and then an intern walked us through the underground tunnels to the Capitol visitor's center. Our tour guide was funny and sweet, getting G to promise to invite her to the inaguration when G becomes President and offering to throw herself into the fountain so that K could "rescue" her and be the youngest person ever to earn a Congressional Medal of Honor. Beyond her humor, she was full of facts, even adding appropriate details about specific states or even countries for the individual family groups that were part of our larger group.

Each state gets two statues in the Capitol: California's are Ronald Reagan and Spaniard Father Junipero Serra, pictured below.  I was also impressed to learn that Emancipation Hall, where the visitor's center is, does not allow statues of anyone - however otherwise impressive - who ever owned slaves.  We loved finding Sacagawea, a family favorite.  My personal favorite was of three pro-life feminist heroes:  Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, who were apparently put on "temporary" display a few years ago but no one can bear to take them down.  Good!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Monument Marathon

Well, not REALLY 26 miles, but it felt like it after a full day at a conference (for me) and a long day walking to and at the zoo for them. Still, it was magical watching the sun set on familiar monuments while exploring new (to us) ones. We visited, in the order that we walked:  Jefferson, Mason, FDR, MLK, Korean War, and Lincoln and also saw at a distance the Washington and the World War II memorials.  This long walk that was especially worthwhile because of the time of day... sunset, dusk, and then darkness, all of which gave us spectacular views and memorable experiences.

Perhaps the most memorable moment was at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial.  As we stood there, we heard shouting and Charles said, "uh oh, watch out" thinking that potential trouble was headed our way.  Instead, we encountered exuberance:  a family from Texas led by a man shouting each quotation on the monument as if giving a speech that must be heard.  A perfect way to experience the relevance of the monument.

Washington Monument


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Korean War

Jefferson reflection

Monday, October 22, 2012

Air and Space Museum

A favorite for all of us; K and Charles took off to have their own flight experiences while G and I adventured where she wanted to go. We were pressed for time and so splitting up allowed both girls to follow their own interests. Turns out that they were similar, with both ending up with flight simulation exercises - different ones, but all very cool.  Next time we need more space-oriented exhibits, since K says that she wants to be an astronaut (and a baseball player and an actor and....)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Visiting Mt. Vernon

I have always wanted to visit Mt. Vernon; more ever since a educator-friend told me about their new four-dimensional movie experience. We even tried visiting on a previous visit when K was a baby, but arriving just before closing time didn't make the price of admission worthwhile then. We had a time-crunch this day too as the conference I was attending started that evening, so our visit was quick but oh-so worthwhile. The grounds are gorgeous, the displays informative, and the docents helpful and full of information. We learned a lot and especially loved getting snowed upon in the movie experience!  For me, the visit was just enough to whet my appetite for more (but we're already engrossed in both ancient world history and SF history, so I may have to wait).

C and the girls with George and Marsha Washington and their grandchildren

In front of the mansion at Mt. Vernon

Love the lighting of these pictures in a side building that was once used for the servants of visiting guests.

(Apparently, everyone wanted to visit Washington and he complained
that he hadn't eaten alone with his wife in 20 years!)

View across the Potomac, virtually unchanged since George Washington's time
(thanks to Maryland, which made the land across the Potomac a State park).
Fantastic visit; definitely a place to (hopefully) visit again.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fun and Full Day of Learning

We have moved from Greece to Korea in our country studies with this little group; they made sticky rice rolls and Korean paper boxes after finding Korea on a map and discussing the meaning of the flag. Spanish, storytelling, and science complete the day and the whole package is really fun; great kids, great topics, cool activities.
Korean paper boxes
Making sticky rice balls
Learning about chemical reactions and carbon

Wild Day at the Beach

A very warm day, so we headed to the beach for tidepooling and more. Harbor seals were in abundance and a sudden flock of pelicans suprised us. Lots of fun as usual and the perfect venue for the weather.