Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Fun with Lizzy


Lizzy's Photo Op

Lizzy, the tiny baby alligator lizard that K found nine days ago, continues to thrive. We'd been limiting ourselves from holding her, as her size makes her seem so very delicate, but we made a temporary exception in these photos, inviting her to crawl only the kids' fingers. She's eating a lot - at least two crickets a day and watching her do that is fascinating. The crickets are about half the length of her abdomen and so you'd think that consuming them would be a impossible feat, but she does it quickly by swallowing them whole, sometimes taking a while to gulp down the final swallow as antennae remain sticking out of her mouth. Definitely gross, but cool, too.

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Look at those colors!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Not Back to School Photo

Whether they are in their self-designed uniforms (right) or just looking funky in their pajamas (left) they are having a lot of fun. Our first week of the new school year has gone well so far, even if we are doing it "light" until next week. Up early every day to bike or play basketball. Reading, writing, and math... the latter on a bit of family overdrive as we play with a cool math video program we discovered that is so complicated that it takes all of us working together to solve the math quickly and so progress in the game. Some of it was geometry I haven't done for ages. Both girls are teaching themselves cursive and Aunt Monica will soon get a birthday thank you note from G that might almost be legible. :-) And Lizzy the Lizard seems to be thriving, eating more crickets; hurrah!

In what I think of happily as
"NOT back to school uniforms."  :-)
In "school uniforms"
Ike is getting his professor look on!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


On telling her how she got her name and what it means, she said, "you never told me that story before.  But you've told me several times that you love me."  Just several times??!


Critiquing her sister's use of words in a story:  "'Vowed to get her revenge.'  That sounds like a Victorian English novel to me."
And then:

"The difference between diaries and journals is that in journals, you have to write about things that actually happened, like scientific discoveries.  In diaries, it is more metaphoric; you write using more metaphors."

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day of School Photos

What a day! We "officially" started yesterday, figuring that the first day of Religious Ed might as well be the first day of the new school year. Both days we honored our commitment to get up early and begin the day in outside play and both days we did that by playing basketball together. It was quite a challenge for the three of us to beat Charles (and we did it today only by cheating; yesterday he beat us DESPITE our cheating efforts to delay him with tickles and other unfair holding efforts :-).

When we got home, the girls opened their books to read while I made breakfast - and they did so without complaining! Our intent this week is just to do the basics, then add electives when classes begin next week. So we came up with a spelling list, practiced writing, did some reading out loud, and played with a new online math game that I found. We used our fun digital white board that Charles found for an amazing price on Craig's List (photos below) and it was awesome both for the math games and for watching School House Rock videos. It had been sitting in the playroom for months, but now hangs in our dining room, clear evidence that I have completely given up any hope of having an uncluttered spot in the house. Oh well. Second grade and fourth grade, already! The clutter won't last for long and when it is gone I will miss it. Or, maybe not... but I'll miss them if they aren't around and am glad to relish this time.

They decided that since it was the first day of the school year they should wear "their uniforms."  I believe that G designed both of them.  They actually wanted their hair combed properly and photos taken, then carefully critiqued the photos and told me what to do to improve their looks.  They had an awfully good time and I did too...


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Exploring the New Exploratorium

Lovely Kathleen went with us and we had a blast. Many exhibits we recognized, but in an awesome new building. The photo on the right below was from the rear of the building; a view that is hard to beat! The one on the left was a very cool exhibit I wish I could duplicate for a leadership class. Each of four players had one control - up, down, right or left - of a Pacman game. Players didn't know each other (sisters excepted) and stepped in voluntarily. They then had to coordinate directions to one another with no one designated as leader. It would be so interesting to do this as a leadership exercise and to see how adult reactions vary from those of kids. In this case, these two book-ended the controls and bossed around anyone who stepped into the middle panels - in the best way, of course. It was awesome to watch - sister power all the way. And super fun, too.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


A new friend.  K found her in a tiny patch of bushes in an industrial neighborhood while we were waiting for G's gymnastics class to end.  She's the tiniest and cutest lizard ever - an alligator lizard is our best guess.  My head told me to release her like a good naturalist, but my gut wanted to make sure she was safe... and once we looked up alligator lizards online and realized how many things prey upon them, I didn't have the heart to be a good naturalist.

She's scared us a few times now - so sleepy at night we thought she was dead and once so well camouflaged I was convinced that she had gotten out.  Both times I felt so guilty!!  But she was fine.  We visited several pet stores before finding one with lizard expertise and there we purchased the tiniest crickets they had.  When she ate one, all four of us cheered!  We've tried other tasty items since, but none beat her enthusiasm for crickets.

She's so cute!  That's K's hand in the picture - little Lizzy the lizard is truly tiny.  But when I put my finger in her little terrarium, she climbs right on and the girls think she is being affectionate.  OK, maybe I think it too!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fairyland Overnight

It was a tale of two extremes - enchanting and bizarre. Fairyland itself is a leftover from many decades ago: clean and well maintained, but tiny and unflashy. Love that. Spending the night camping in a crowd of tents on a meadow was about as expected - loud with the sounds of many young kids settling in. The location in downtown Oakland created the sense of bizarre - from inside our barbed wire enclosure, we could see people walking around in the dark and skyscrapers framing the background. Getting up with G to use the bathrooms on the opposite side of the park at midnight captured the experience well: sleeping outside in downtown Oakland, wandering through an empty amusement park.

A great celebration with cousins; glad that we did it!

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Science and Technology

Exploring sources of energy (top photos). A Stanford grad student showed the kids how to combine bacteria to make insulin and then they tried a similar experiment with jellyfish DNA and bacteria, making the bacteria glow. Pretty cool... and I like the cool-scientist look on both of them! Fun day.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fang Returns

On Sunday, we found Fang in his normal hideout. K caught him to show him to her cousins. Later this week, I found him again, lounging on the lawn. G grabbed him this time.

So funny to see so little fear among the several snakes that live in and around the creek near our house. There are four that we see regularly and have caught on multiple occasions: Fang and Fang Jr near the house, Ruby near the play structure in the park, and Glider down by the water.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Celebrating with Joy

She said that her birthday celebration was "the best so far!" Below - opening a favorite present from Aunt Monica - a lego camper kit that caused she and her sister to disappear and play for ages. Then playing at the pool with cousins on a tightrope; totally awesome fun!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cake Fun

Like me, she loves to bake. So even though it is a cake for her, she wants to be part of the fun. Like me, chocolate is a favorite... and tasting the batter is part of the fun. Like me... well, I admit I actually don't get quite so much on my nose. :-)


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Very Cool Birthday Present

A very BIG box. Surprisingly light. Instructions about how and when to open it written on the side. What could it be? A box of balloons! Each one had a treat inside; the real present wasn't the sweet, though, but the thrilled, surprised laughter that the opening created.

Happy B-Day week, G!

Thank you, A, A, and E!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Class on Patents

A friend/homeschooling dad who is a patent attorney offered to teach a class on the process.  Very cool and much appreciated; the adults liked it too.  And I was intrigued to learn that they had invented protective glasses... for chickens!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Summer of Creations

I'd written earlier in defense of unschooling - not our particular choice, but in my observation certainly a valid approach that honors children's natural interests in learning. This summer has been a study in unschooling for us as I have tried to honor their requests "to be school kids," which for them meant having the summer off from obligations. We still go to mass of course, K has her piano, G has her gymnastics, and I have to go to work but other than that we have tried to stay away from any specific schedule, learning goals, or agendas. We have unschooled, in other words.

According to many critics of unschooling, the kids should have been watching brainless television shows all day, but that wasn't the case. Instead, it was a summer of outdoor activities and creative endeavors - both have been painting a lot, G has initiated some sewing projects, and K has been playing geography games. Mostly, they have played together a lot; involved, extended, creative games. Nurturing that creativity and innovative thought is important to me, as is giving them the time together to nurture the friendship that I hope and pray will sustain them both for a lifetime.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013


The girls were playing, playing, playing.  I was working nearby, but overheard this, getting a glimpse of their brains at work narrating their imaginations:

"... she woke up with ten surgeons on her bed, untwisting her brains."

Yowza!  From our dear G, age 5.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Late last week I realized that we had no weekend plans. Hm, I asked K, "what do you think we should do? Should we go camping somewhere?" "Let's go to Yosemite" was her prompt response, music to my ears. I checked, there was a campsite available for two nights, we invited my mom to come, threw some sleeping bags in the car with the tent and whatever food we had that would fit in the cooler, and off we went.

Mom took off for her long run on Saturday (and saw a bear). We went to a ranger program, then wandered to the Happy Isles Nature Center for the tail end of another ranger event. In all the time I've spent in Yosemite and all the times I've walked past the Nature Center, I had never before gone in. Some interesting displays, but we learned more outside, spotting an acorn woodpecker and learning what a "fen" is. As we walked together, K commented that she liked having the three of us together. "Kathmomyana," to use her description. Me too.

Merced River, below Half Dome
Evening mass in the campground was lovely. Hearing bears at night is always cool. Playing in the river and walking all Sunday morning without seeing anyone were our favorites. Well, almost. Just the fact that K asked to go was really my most favorite thing. They like being together and they like being outside in my favorite places. Life is good.
Children who hunt lizards
Climbing near Curry.
Checking out an Ansel Adams-like
camera, which was a prop for the
history show we watched.
Acorn Woodpecker
With my mom by the river