Monday, December 29, 2014

"My Middle Name is Bossy"

Yep, that's what G told me in the wee hours of the morning, when I was trying to work and she was demanding that I lie down with her.  "Bossy!" I teased, to which she responded confidently, "that's right, my middle name is bossy.  G. bossy M. W."

I smiled, recalling the debate earlier this year over a celebrity campaign to "ban bossy" as a term that diminishes girls who a natural leaders and the counter argument that "bossy" is an offensive way of directing others and therefore not appropriate behavior regardless of gender.  My amusement was rooted in her confidence and I whispered my dawning understanding of the power of the word as she snuggled back into my shoulder.  To be bossy, I said, requires two things.  First, to know yourself and to know what you want, which can't be underrated.  Second, to have enough confidence about what you want to believe it worth convincing others to see the world as you do and respond accordingly.  Or, as I once heard her retort to her older sister, "Mom says I'm bossy in a good way."  Yes, you are; you go girl!

I spend a lot of extra time cuddled with this "bossy" girl because she is the way she is. I am  better off for it, and for all of the love, wisdom, and inspiration she brings to my life.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Geek Gifts

Lots of fun science gifts for Christmas and lots of fun playing so far.  Charles checked with me to make sure that HE would have fun playing with whatever they get! And why not....  An anatomy set with squishy body parts, geodes (pictured below under the microscope, which is a cool view), construction materials, and more.  Add basketball practice and we have some down time to play together, which is great.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Second Day of Christmas Bike Ride

We actually were headed to the library, not realizing that they were closed on Fridays.  Great ride anyway and a beautiful day for it.  Stopped to watch a Great Blue Heron hunting on the way home.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day

A relaxing morning at home, then cake decorating, dinner, and visiting with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Basketball Practice

A new sport for K; G was just joining in the practice.   The first game is coming up right after the holidays.   Charles is coaching and these practices are optional because school is out, hence few participants. 

So far, so good... enthusiasm and smiles from all.  I love watching them have fun.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's Christmas Time in the City

One of my favorite Christmas memories is taking MUNI downtown with my Dad and siblings a few days before Christmas, depositing our allowance in the bank (they were so patient with lots of small dollars and coins), and then wandering around to look at the Christmas lights.  I took the girls to do the same, minus the bank trip (they bank around the corner) and we had a delightful day.  BART to the Embarcadero, exploring the decorations in the Financial District and at the Hyatt, treats at the Ferry Building (where my mom joined us), then a streetcar to Pier 39 at the Aquarium of the Bay, to which I had received free tickets. We walked back to BART in  the dark, admiring the light show on the Bay Bridge and the evening holiday lights.  Fabulous, relaxing day of no specific agendas and lots of fun enjoying each other's company.

Shorts, even in the city.  It was a cloudy but temperate day.

Gorgeous lights at the Hyatt

Touching sharks and bat rays at the aquarium

With Abuela in underwater tunnels

Awesome octopus (and K watching from beneath)

Stunning jellyfish

Petting a blue-tongued skink (non indigenous and rather out of theme - most everything was from the SF Bay - but interesting nonetheless)

G tried endlessly to get good photos of the fast moving river otters.  Then he posed, Bay Bridge in rear.

Overlooking tree at Pier 39

Friday, December 19, 2014

Aircraft Museum

Great trip! The girls most liked the flight simulation - glad that it was just a simulation for each of their first tries (one did a wild spin and the other ended up nose about four feet into the ground!  Yikes... harder than it looks).  Many thanks to good friends we see too infrequently who organized; great also to see other friends we hadn't seen for a while.

Rebuilt first aircraft from Wright brothers

Trying not to crash a helicopter simulation

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The girls have been taking an "engineering for kids" class that for the most part seems geared to a younger age than advertized; we've been pretty underwhelmed by the physics projects, which repeat activities we did with them when they were much younger.  However, the last weeks of the class have moved to coding - specifically, designing their own video games.  The girls still don't like the class itself - from what I can tell the louder kids get the teacher's attention and leave them lost and bored as they try unsuccessfully to learn a new subject.  However, they got very into it at home and G in particular had to be practically dragged from the computer for bed as she was so into her coding work, enhancing the video game they'd designed.  Now that's cool!

(Don't they look dramatic by the candlelight of our Advent wreath?  :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Weekend Parties

One on Saturday, two on Sunday; nice to relax with friends and family, meet new people, and enjoy the season together.  Charles and I agreed that we especially enjoyed driving back from Napa - traffic was less heavy on Hwy 101, so we came that way - and it was so nice to see rolling hills of open space, lots of green.  I never thought I'd get Charles (who doesn't even like camping) to admit that he's a "Nature Man," but he did, though he expressed it as a desire for open space and a dislike for traffic, huge buildings, and the ugly neighborhood architecture and industrial clutter that permeate the peninsula.  Nice to be on the same page; maybe I'll even get him camping with us more often!  :-)

Caught this accidental image at our first Sunday party, beauty within a beautiful wreath.

Another fun and festive party left us feeling grateful for good friends and new friends.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cutting Down the Christmas Tree

Puck's first excursion of this kind, his first Christmas!  When we decorated the tree in the evening, the first thing the girls did was to create an ornament commemorating Puck's first Christmas.  He was super thrilled, sprinting through the trees from one of us to another until we found ours.

G gets credit for all the fun today.  I usually prefer to delay getting the Christmas tree until closer to Christmas, but she was so eager to make it "feel like Christmas" that she worked hard to convince us, even offering her own money to pay for the tree.  We declined, but I admit that her determination translated into an offer of action probably convinced me more than anything else.  Well, that plus the fact that she literally started creating decorations, making a poster nativity scene, foraging through the craft supplies for ribbon and then creating garlands for the stairs, and even creating elaborate paper garlands.  Love this kid!  Amazing leadership skills. (K does too, but in this case she actually wanted to wait to get the tree next weekend and so was among those who needed to be convinced.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Club: Truman Capote's Short Story "A Christmas Memory"

Such a beautiful story; I wept through the last two paragraphs.  It has a simple plot and is composed as a boy's memory of a Christmas tradition of preparation that he shared with his "friend," a older, distant cousin who is "funny" (intellectually disabled).  They save their pennies throughout the year to buy fruitcake supplies, make fruitcakes to give away as gifts, decorate the house for Christmas, and then celebrate together.

As we discussed the story together, several key points of beauty emerged.  First, his "friend" has no other name and we speculated as to the reason for that, settling eventually on the likelihood that that was simply her primary identity to him.  There is also the gift giving theme, for they go to extreme measures to give away all that they have in the gift of these fruitcakes, but all they themselves receive from others are dull, practical gifts.  Still,  this reciprocal inequity is irrelevant, serving rather to emphasize the underlying message of the story, that the gift of presence that they give each other and the gift of the memory of their shared friendship is beautiful and more important than any material possession.

Some excerpts from the writing, which we discussed with appreciation:

"Is it because my friend is shy with everyone except strangers that these strangers, and merest acquaintances, seem to us our truest friends?  I think yes.  Also, the scrapbooks we keep of thank-you's on White House stationary, time-to-time communications from California and Borneo, the knife grinder's penny post cards, make us feel connected to eventful worlds beyond the kitchen with its view of a sky that stops."

"Here, there, a flash, a flutter, an ecstasy of shrillings remind us that not all the birds have flown south.  always, the path unwinds through lemony sun pools and pitch vine tunnels.  Another creek to cross: a disturbed armada of speckled trout froths the water round us..."

"You know what I've always thought?" she asks in a tone of discovery, and not smiling at me but a point beyond.  "I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord.  And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark.  And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling.  But I'll wager it never happens.  I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself.  That things as they are" - her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone - "just what they've always seen, was seeing Him.  As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

"I could leave the world with today in my eyes."  Ah!  Such a call to meaning, to appreciation of that which matters most, to focus on the activities in which we give ourselves to others and on the relationships that sustain with friendship and love.

Our own activities tried to mimic those in the book, making gifts to give to others (not fruitcake, though) and spending time together doing so.  The results were pretty awesome and are pictured below:

Kiwi, pomegranate, and pineapple tree snacks to get us in a festive mood in a healthy way.  (Ginger cookies and Chilean bean soup with cornbread completed our simple but festive shared meal.)

Hand soap decorated festively; practical and cute, too.

Festive "bubble gum machine" tree ornaments.  These may be hard to part with and perhaps will become a gift to ourselves, a memory of our own Christmas memory of this day of friendship and preparation.

My favorites:  The "candy compliments" are a jar of individually wrapped chocolates, each with a personalized compliment written inside.  In fact, we ended book club with a presentation of one individual piece to each person and an oral compliment of that person, which was, as my friend Marion would say, super cozy.  The Sugar Bath Salts are a mildly scented concoction that I may need to make more of... my hands smell wonderful and feel amazingly soft after cleaning up the bowls we used to make them in.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rain, Rain!

First time it has rained in about 14 months when we are NOT camping. Being able to go inside and get dry is definitely NOT overrated! We had a great walk, did errands for book club tomorrow, and got soaked. The girls especially - they stomped in the gutters, wearing shorts and capris, which I remember doing when I was their age.  Love it! Love the sound, the smell, the feel of it. And since everyone else seems to be inside, we are loving the solitude, too.

PS:  And for the record, Jacki, we ran around the Park and Rec building, shouting loudly and with joy.  Me too! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shakespeare, Math, and Studies of Peace

In other words, a great day for conversation.  First, K objected (as usual) to her math assignment, though she's actually quite good at fairly complicated math; way better than I am!  She glared at the book and said, "Thine numbers doth sear mine eyeballs, filthy book!" a curse tweaked straight from Macbeth.  Oh, awesome!  I had to scribble it down to remember she had said it while keeping a straight face and focus on square roots and decimals.

As for the peace studies, we came across this book about an incident that occurred during the Revolutionary War in which a group of Quakers meeting peacefully and without weapons thwarted a potential attack. Beyond peace, it was a story of identity, of a young boy caught between the tensions of the Revolutionary War and his own family's peace-oriented faith.  And it is a story of the various Native American people who lived in that region and their reaction to the events unfolding.  It lead first to some very rich discussion about the Just War philosophy and then later to K's own philosophical angst about the nature of being when we went for a long walk that night.  (Yes, wow.)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

NDNU's A Christmas Carol

A veritable Christmas tradition now, this was our fourth year seeing it (and its 29th in production).  One of K's soccer team mates was in it and it was super fun to look for her on stage and then have her scout the audience afterward to reward K's attendance with a big hug.  We went with friends and my parents, saw more friends there, and overall had a lovely evening: great time, great music, fabulously fun performance.  One that never gets old (yes, I cried. Again.)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Happy Advent

Ahhh... Advent.  I got the wreath together a bit late, ironically, but having this simple version  up is a reminder to slow down, limit the busy-ness, and be intentional about this season of preparation.  We have a number of family traditions around Advent - events that we attend, preparations that we make - and slowing down to appreciate and savor this time is something I am looking forward to.  Frankly, I am worn out and need some time to switch gears and have fun without rushing.

We are on a very limited budget, which at times creates significant stress.  The silver lining, however, is the relief from the consumer-focused element of this season.  Gifts?  We'll get a few for the girls, but that's it.  Cards?  If the budget allows I'd like to send some, but we will have to see.  A tree?  Well, hopefully after my next paycheck.  Travel?  Well, that sounds nice, but isn't in the cards for a while.  So we're left with quiet lovely time to enjoy each other, plan for next year's book club, do some local hiking, and be together.  Not a bad deal...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

TedX Talks for Kids on TV

The kids did the TedX Kids Club talks they've been preparing since September for a public access television program.  It was pretty impressive to see them step up their performances about the various topics they had researched and fascinating to see how such a program is filmed.

Sitting in the audience, waiting

On stage and...

... on the TV screen.

As the credits roll, on stage and...

... on screen

Acting as hosts, using a teleprompter to introduce the show.  Amazingly well done!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

California Science Center and LA County Natural History Museum

What fun!  Once we got there, that is... and it wasn't easy, for we discovered on arrival that the museums share a campus with the University of Southern California, which inconveniently scheduled a football game with Notre Dame (the other one) during our trip there.  The main street was closed, people were everywhere, parking was at a premium, and Charles said that he could never admit that he was at the adjoining museum instead of at the game.  Ha!  Methinks Science Dad forgets his very satisfying current starring role....

In any case, after being accused of harboring USC affiliations, we were allowed to park and found the museum... TWO museums, really.  We first went to the California Science Center and explored the space and physics elements partially before venturing onto the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum next door.  I could have spent a full day at each place; we regretted missing much as we ran out of time, but had a great time with what we got to see.  (Best of all, our Tech Museum memberships gave us reciprocal entrance, so we paid nothing either here or at the La Brea museum the day before).

These photos were from out in front, where there was a display showing the power of a lever... with this enormous demo, the girls were able to lift the SUV on the left; yowza!