Friday, November 30, 2012

Old King Cole Rocks!

K had the King Cole role in a production of "The Trial of Mother Goose" that she was in with her friends. She was everything the role called for - loud, angry, commanding... she was totally awesome. Best, it was so clear in watching the 12 kids that they are all good friends, supporting each other and having a delightful time together. Bliss!


Thursday, November 29, 2012


David Strohm of Boomerang! Magazine has been teaching the kids and their friends classes on storytelling; this was the final class and time to record the group story they'd worked on together. G stepped right up to the task and I can't wait to hear the recorded result! K had her own class, but I wasn't there and so lack photo documentation (will have to wait for the recorded version). Hurry, David! :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Favorite Science Project

Last summer, Aunta Monica gave G a habitat for butterflies for her birthday.  Well, the caterpillars needed to be ordered, so we didn't get started right away, but G being who she is, found the order form, insisted that I take action, and gave me needed reminders several times a day until I did.  They arrived this week and we measured them: one centimeter when we got them and three and a half only six days later.  Love the process of charting their growth and knowing that if all goes well we will have beautiful new life right in our kitchen.

Being part of simple but incredible and complex wonders like this makes me feel immensely rich.  "Rich beyond measure," which is my newest favorite phrase.  Capturing such experiences and being authentic about and mindful of appreciating them is what I hope to be intentional about celebrating this Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wild Day in a Storm

I love being in the woods in the rain; not so much in a storm. So instead of heading outside, we picked an indoor location as our "Plan B" and started with a kids book about "Humphrey," the Humpback Whale who entered the SF Bay in 1986 and ended up 64 miles inland in a slogh near the Sacramento River. The kids were all a little old for the book, but didn't mind as many hadn't heard the story.

We then headed into the Bay Model, a fabulous museum (and free!) that models the entire bay in a fantastic working system that is spread over two acres inside a huge warehouse. We found Humphy's slough, indeed shallow and far from main waterways.  Imay have been more impressed than the kids, but then, I remember the incident.

The Model was empty, or nearly, as usual.  The displays include much info on the bay, including historical artifacts such as the Miwok boat and basket shown below.  It also includes a fun display about the Sausalito shipyards, where dozens of enormous war ships were built between 1942 and 1945, the fastest in only 28 days.  When the winds slowed and the rain decreased from a steady stream, we headed outside and played, played, played, checking out several types of waterfowl, sea birds, shells and more treasures at the same time. Great day, great kids.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rethinking Holiday Gift Giving

The above is the title of a post on a friend's blog, and it has me thinking about preparing for Christmas.  I love the real meaning of the season, so much so that I am eager to find new ways to soak it up and celebrate it in ways more and more meaningful.  We are reading Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol," perhaps the first time I've read the original.  The idea of basking in good will, no matter what your circumstances, permeates the book, yet is in stark contrast to the barrage of advertisements that take over everything this time of year. 

For example, this time of year is ripe with commercials for diamonds, which to me epitomize the contrast between what really matters and what is so distinctly meaningless.  I remember a couple who announced that they were moving in together.  He explained, "I'd like to get married, but I can't afford the ring she wants until we save some money."  She was also present and I romantically assumed that she would run to him and say, "oh, honey! I don't care how much money you have.  I'd marry you with a cracker jack ring."  But she didn't.  She nodded, unembarrased and righteous in her demand and their consequences. 

Christmas celebrations seem to have much of the same approach - as much as people talk of eschewing that which is so overtly commercial, there seems to be an engrained entitlement and downright hostility to any suggestion of toning it down.  Even in the post above, which comes from a popular blog with a readership eager to learn more about "slow" living, the response was near-silence.  I've seen many self-righteous articles by those who dismiss the thought of decreasing gifts with the claim, "well, I LIKE showing the people I love how I feel about them."  Yeah, yeah... but how much STUFF does it take to prove that point?  And perhaps aren't there better, more meaningful ways?

I find this attraction to comercialism interesting, but my priority is not in examining it but in replacing much of it with other activities and traditions.  So, in the midst of preparing for the busy-ness of the season ahead, I have begun my annual search for Advent-appropriate activities.  That is, ways of slowing down during the season before Christmas, appropriating just the right amount of the commercial elements of Christmas, having a mellowness of spirit about the conflicting expectations that we can feel, and truly relishing that which is most important. 

If you have ideas to share, please do! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Fuddled Wuddle

That's how parenting feels sometimes, especially for an introvert (internal processor) like me, who needs time to reflect but doesn't always get it when hit with a parenting surprise.  Stuck somewhere between fierce advocate and team player, wanting to do the right thing in the moment and still apply appropriate perspective.  Yes, I'm in a fuddled wuddle and needing to align myself with strength and uncomplicated goodness.  Thank goodness for wonderful friends.  And grounding Faith.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Words of Wisdom, by Shrap Magee

"If a mad dog growls at you, don't pet it."

And then:  "Daddy, I'm going to go work on my Shrap Magee book now."  Here's the cover:

(More Stuart Smalley or Lemony Snickett?  Time will tell....)

Wild Cat Show

For 22 years, I've done something to celebrate my birthday with my friend Denise. Today we got that chance again. As it turned out, we both talked about our friendship to our girls as we drove to meet each other. My girls were disappointed that I was already an adult 22 years ago: "You mean you haven't known her since you were a kid?" Her daughter is more mature and was actually impressed. I'm just appreciative. And honored. To count such a deeply wonderful woman among my closest friends is one of the greatest gifts of my life and one I never take for granted.

The girls are below, left.  We met them at a wild animal show at a local community college.  The first photo on the right of of a 12-day old serval, a wild cat indigenous to Africa.  He takes the prize for cutest of the cute.

Mountain Lion!
This mama is why I warn the girls
to stay close when we hike.
Cheetah!  So magestic and marvelous to see him close up!
Bad photo of a ocelot;
totally gorgeous coat.
Bobcat!  Just like we spotted on our wild day.
Some fun facts:

The bobcat has "fake eyes" on the back of its ears to scare predators, who don't like to attach an animal that is watching.

The ocelot has a velvet-like coat and is one of several small wild cats indigenous to South America.

The cheetah is the only cat that doesn't hunt at night.  It has "dog claws" in that they don't retract; for a long time, scientists argued whether they are in the canine or feline family.  DNA put them with the cats.  We learned that when they are young they have a mane like a horse.

We also saw a Geoffries cat; it was small, though, and I didn't get any good pictures.  Also from South America. not in the rainforest, but in the areas where my mom and I traveled.

The mountain lion can leap up to 18 feet up in one jump!

Friday, November 16, 2012

SF History: Gold Rush Tour

A rainy day to take a free walking tour of Gold Rush San Francisco, but the kids hung in there through the discomfort and we learned a lot. We began by walking along what used to be the coastline and marveled at the many blocks, full of skyscrapers, that now extended the City. We walked through the very streets that in 1849 had been full of tobacco shops, hotels, and brothels and learned about the history of the Pony Express, the origins of banking in California, and more. The tour was great, but an excellent stop afterward was a real gem - the FREE Wells Fargo Museum, complete with a scavenger hunt, lots of gold samples, and lots of history of banking, from stage coaches to more modern female banking tycoons.

$1.50 a week for a room.  Gold Rush-era sign!

Our rather wet but resilient kids
 in front of the Pony Express memorial
This had zero historical significance, but I loved it.
In a redwood grove, surrounded by skyscrapers,
a statue of "puddle jumpers." 

Local stage coach routes

Profiling one stage coach driver
Love a museum with a replica that can be played on!
African American female bank president
Getting ahead of ourselves in history... who could resist?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Country Day Prep, Science with Bubbles, and More

Finding Lebanon
On the swings
Bubble science
Molecules and more.  Oxygen was one
of the elements of the day!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Birding Bike Ride

A beautiful late afternoon ride. The tide was out, so the bird viewing was plentiful: a hawk and Great Blue Heron pictured here, but with binoculars we could have spotted many more, especially water fowl. Best of all was the company; lovely daughter, enthusiastic and strong, riding on a narrow crest of dirt above the paved bike trail. I'd never do that... I'd be too afraid of falling, but she is confident and fearless and I love her style. And her company. We kept going until she suggested we return and I was secretly glad that I wasn't so out of shape that I ran out of steam before she did. As it was, we got back just before it got really dark; perfect timing for a perfect afternoon with a daughter who is perfect to and for me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Club: Pollyanna

A really lovely day with great conversation about the book. We have approached our book club with a more analysis-based approach since the beginning of the year and the kids are getting quite good at it, staying and discussing the plot, protagonist, antagonist, climax, setting and other elements in order to figure out what the book is really about. We had really rich discussions about why book and movie details are different, whether Pollyanna herself is someone the kids would want to be friends with, and even how we can use the perspective analysis in life, seeing a situation through someone else's eyes and thus gaining sympathy and understanding.

A wonderful day with great friends.

Our literary dog, comfortably surrounded  by beautifully crafted character and characteristic cards from the book.  Hee, hee!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Opera - Die Fledermaus

Free dress rehearsal. Though we'd had a full day, the girls were awake throughout and G leaned into me at one point during the very colorful dance scene, full of fabulous costumes, and whispered, "I love this!"

We discussed it more the next morning. We agreed that we loved the production, the singing, the acting, and the costumes, but disliked the characters. Oh, it is a comedy, but still, not one had a redeeming character; they were all cheating one another and that made them hard to like. The "trouser role" is always hard to adjust to also, a woman made up to look like a man and playing in a male role. We researched it and learned that it has historical roots, but still it feels odd.

From San Jose Opera web site

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Country Day Prep - Lebanon

Exploring traditional ethnic costumes from Lebanon, which included fancy decorated braids. My skills at this need development!

Later, in science class, the kids explored the way that copper reacts with a magnet, creating a neat reaction and strong force.  I was as fascinated as they were!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

SF History: Gold Rush!

Studying the Gold Rush of 1849 and its effect on San Francisco's growth. We mapped the changes in the City from the Ohlone to the founding of the City by the Spanish and the growth of the village of Yerba Buena. We examined the routes that people took to get to SF from around the world and the conditions that they overcame to do so. We played being Sam Brannan and shouting "gold, gold, gold" while running through the streets. We ended with a little panning for gold ourselves; no luck (gold hasn't been found here ever, to our knowledge), but the kids had great enthusiasm and technique (and the lovely creek setting was gorgeous with fall foliage).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Happy Retirement, Mom!

My mom retired from her medical practice and we celebrated her many accomplishments and new opportunities with all of her children and grandchildren and a grand mass of colleagues and favorite patients, including her very first patient, now 27 years old.