Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

Our neighbors came over for what was supposed to be light snacks. But he's a professional chef and brought lots of food! So we had a feast instead and then played a dice game with actual dollars. I "won" both times in this game of absolute chance - either a result of the good luck black eyed peas I've been eating this week, an indication of good things to come in 2014, or both? Hope so! Fun, fun evening relaxing. Thanks, Susie and Tim!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Super Dad's Science Class

The gift request: a science class "gift of time" in lieu of toys or other material gifts.

Our reaction? Any chance to spend some time with these kids sounds great.

The result? A compliment in the form of a hopeful request - are we going to have this class every week?


States of matter; protons, neutrons, and electrons; energy and more through magnets, powering a clock with citrus, and making potions with dry ice (sublimation).  The grand finale was making ice cream with dry ice, which turned out very rich and creamy.  Too much for me, but a memorable experience for the kids.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Making Chocolate

A G project, with a kit she suggested and then recieved for Cmas. Lots of history - we learned that chocolate as we know it was pretty much unknown until about 100 years ago. A good reason to be here, now. We got to try cacao beans, which impressed me with their taste more than it impressed them. G took charge of the production process, but then decided to supervise her sister in the final candy production. She was quite a happy mess!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Playing in Tahoe

Since we try to celebrate all 12 days of Christmas, we stretch the gifts out over time too. But in emphasizing the entirety of Christmas, it is also a challenge not to turn that celebration into an excess of materialism. One way we've accomplished is to make some of the presents gifts of time or experience. This Tahoe resort was the perfect venue for this; just being there, playing in the snow, using the climbing wall, teen-zone, and crafting rooms were fun and definitely a gift of both time together and a unique and fun experience in a beautiful setting. The resort also had a bungee jumping contraption and an ice rink, so these became gifts of experiences... and for me, gifts of photographic memories, capturing smiles as wide as the sky.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

A White Christmas!

Well, sort of. There isn't much, even in the mountains. But it doesn't take much to thrill us. And we didn't get there until very late on Christmas night. But we are very grateful to Barb for her gift of her unused timeshare time in Tahoe and had a great time relaxing and enjoying the resort and our only real white Christmas so far.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day

Construction sets and robot building kits; favorite books and new characters for play. Many thanks to Grandma and Aunt Susan/Uncle Paul for coordinating the robe and slipper gifts. A quick morning of gifts and breakfast, then off to the City for celebrations with Abuela and Grandpa and cousins. Most likely the last holiday in that house, which brought mixed feelings of nostalgia and relief.

Christmas eve was very special with the girls performing in the church choir with the teen and adult groups. Lovely music and special chances to see neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family after mass, making the celebration feel special. 


Monday, December 23, 2013

Bethlehem A.D.

Along with seeing NDNU's musical production of A Christmas Carol, which is a free toys-for-tots fundraiser, attending Bethlehem A.D. is a favorite free-and-amazing local tradition. A Christian church nearby turns a vacant lot into Bethlehem, with live animals, people in costume, and a living nativity scene. It is noisy and crowded and yet so well done it is fun and worthwhile. We went this year with our friend Kathleen, which made it especially wonderful; she'd never been before and was impressed.

Signing in after paying taxes to Roman officials
Getting to cuddle with one of the live animals; baby goats were also a favorite.
Live (and huge!) camel.  Nearby, there were three
fake camels that appeared to be staring at a large
cow.  The cow looked nervous and we joked that she was
saying, "hey, why do you keep staring at me!?"

Dramatic nativity scene
They let the girls approach the baby and parents
this year and it was so sweet to watch them
go together, then return huddled in conversation.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Las Posadas Event

Las Posadas is a Mexican tradition in which a pregnant Mary rides a donkey from house to house with her husband in search of an inn that will admit her. I'd read about this before, but never experienced it and so jumped at the chance to volunteer, through my university, to participate and also to serve dessert for a local farming community. It was a beautiful night - crystal clear - and a touching celebration with music, costumes, and more. The girls did a wonderful job serving dessert and the entire evening was a high point of our pre-Christmas preparation.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Crafts

Finally, some crafts. I admitted when doing them that I actually do not much like crafting and K asked, "then why?" Good question with a combination of answers that we discussed: I think that G likes it (thought she is of late loathe to admit it, given big sister's influence) and I do like spending time creating something of beauty and purpose as gifts, however modest. In any case, we had fun together and created some nice items to give as gifts along with sweet treats that we also made together.

Thinking about and taking action on behalf of others - an important Advent tradition that I try to be especially intentional about. It is just too easy to get caught up in an "I am too busy" reality that distracts from what is most important. This season, I realized that I am bored of feeling overwhelmed with busy-ness and resolved to be intentional about NOT being busy. As people spoke about this "busy season," I countered with my own "slower season" intentions and it really helped. Sure, I left much undone... packages that won't get mailed until after Christmas day and cards that may or may not get out, but I've still got many days until Christmas is over and if they don't get out, life goes on....


Friday, December 20, 2013

My Gymnast

She loves her gymnastics class.  Most parents call it "living hell" because pick up and drop off is hot and crowded, but she loves it.  This day she won a contest within her class to determine who could hang on to the beam the longest.  She also made it to the top of the rope climb!  Later, telling Abuela and Grandpa about it, they compared her to Aunt Monica, who had records for her flexed arm hangs.  I pointed out that no one remembers me - I didn't quite hang on as long as Monica, but I still beat most other kids in our summer fitness program long ago by a minute or more. But second place - who cares?

I usually don't get to see her at gymnastics, since I am still at work when she finishes.  But this week I got off early and headed over.  The crowds are indeed hellish, but her reaction to seeing me was totally worth it.  Across the crowded gym her eyes made contact with mine and I felt a jolt of love between us as she smiled and signed "I love you" across the room.  For the rest of her class, she kept looking to see if I was watching and I kept watching and smiling, amazed at being blessed with the love of such an incredible funny, thoughtful, brilliant, strong, caring and affectionate kid.  My heart was bursting with love when she finished her class and jumped into my arms and my glow continued as I watched her organize her belongings to leave.  How grateful I am to be her mom.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Monterey Bay Aquarium Homeschool Day

Love free days; appreciate friends who spend the time online booking the tickets on the first day available to do so before they sell out and then share them with us. (Thanks, Cynthia!)

The trip there was great; I love days of adventure and fun when I don't have to rush back for any particular reason. We had fun inside and out; for the first time, we saw a sea otter in the bay just off the aquarium, looking just as amazingly cute as his/her friends inside the tanks. We were also especially enchanted with the jellfish display, even getting the chance to design our own to dance across a screen to funky music. When there were no kids busy with their designs, I snuck on myself. :-)

Three or four (??) friends clumped together, watching
the effects of waves on tidepools.
Touching the bat rays.
Jellyfish play; mine and Ks up, I believe.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Prepping

We finally went to get our tree. G had been at her most persistent, asking me each day many times whether we could go today. I like to wait for as close to Cmas as possible; it seems to make the holiday magic last longer. She wanted to launch a full celebration sooner. I admire her situational leadership, micromanaging through persistent reminders in this case until she gets what she wants.

We usually go to a tree farm, but I had early meetings throughout the week and we were low on time. We decided to check out the local tree lot first, but found it incredibly overpriced. Home Depot around the corner had cheaper ones, albiet not quite as tall as we liked. I left the final decision to K, since she was most set on a really tall tree and eventually she did approve the one that we got, though it is only an eight-footer.

We used extra branches for our Advent wreath. Why is it so hard to find purple and pink candles? In the end, we used colored tissue to decorate the bottoms of white candles. Not perfect, but the effect with the cross-shaped candle holder I bought in Peru so many years ago is lovely. It amuses and amazes me to be sharing this now with my wonderful girls when I knew them only as a whisper of love in my heart at the time of my purchase.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An Impromptu Music Recital

A sisters duet and then carols with friends. More Advent celebration of the lovely kind.