Monday, June 30, 2014


Puck gets his own post.  Such a good dog, clearly worn out with the hiking, traveling, swimming, and playing, but always so very sweet and fun.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Markleyville Campground

We loved discovering Markeyville, a tiny and cute town in Alpine County, which has the logo, "just two people per square mile."  Love, love, love it.  The campground is a stunning site, idyllic amongst birch and pine trees, high grasses, and pink, purple, and yellow wildflowers (sweet peas, lupine, and wild roses, among others).  Set next to a beautiful stream that we could hear all night, especially once the wind died down.  Great place to relax and play, plus use as a jumping off point for local hikes.

I love this series of photos of the girls.  They were playing in the middle of the stream on a rock and at first, singing at the top of their lungs (first photo).  Then they got silly-serious.  Then (my favorite), they looked at each other for inspiration about what to do next.  I got the smiling camaraderie of that moment in the third photo below.

Between the tents.  Mom wanted us further away the second night, as we apparently laugh too loudly while we are reading together at night.  :-)

Fire starting training - the triangular sticks way

K in the bear box (seeking shelter from the wind), trying unsuccessfully to get a fire started with flint and steel.


Friday, June 27, 2014

CA History: Carson Hot Springs

This site was also new to me: a State Park in Alpine County that contains natural hot springs.  The local Miwok came to this valley for thousands of years to enjoy the beauty and the warm water.  We enjoyed both, too!

145 degrees coming out of the ground - learned a bit of geology this day, too!

Gorgeous - remote and quiet

Thursday, June 26, 2014

CA History and Summer Fun in the Mountains

Our backpacking trip with my Mom was derailed by bad weather that didn't show up when I checked from home. My goal is to have the girls love backpacking and getting soaked and freezing cold at 10,000 feet didn't seem aligned with that goal. So we had a marvelous time camping, instead.

We spent the first night at Jenkinson Lake, near Pollock Pines, south of Tahoe, then headed over the Carson Pass, where we encountered more California History - a likeness of a tree carved by Kit Carson, who navigated this pass with John Fremont on the first government expedition to California just before John helped incite the Bear rebellion. We had learned all about John from his wife Jessie Benton Fremont, portrayed by G. during our Yosemite history and prep. It was neat to see exactly where he crossed, knowing that Jessie was back in D.C. anticipating his move and bringing his trip to life with an elaborate map laid out before Congress.

This photo was taken above Red Lake, just east of the Carson Pass. Everyone is looking startled because K is "falling off." Silly girls and Abuela; love it! And yes, it was freezing even just from the parking lot at this vista point.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pool Party!

Awesome pictures courtesy of a mom with a much better trigger finger than I!  Great party, fun friends.  Or... fun party, great friends!  :-)  Either way, a warm afternoon with cool water, fun friends, and flying daughters is a perfect summer day.

We also got to visit with Denise and Anna, that fabulous and fantastic duo of friends.  Seeing them made it a perfect day.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Delightful Sunday

Charles helped a friend at an estate sale all day and we had fun. First Mass, then a hike to a local lake where we had a snack and read together, then some prep together for an upcoming backpacking trip. Lovely company! I appreciate these girls so much.

Puck kisses G while we read together

At the end of the hike

Charles brought home really cool old encyclopedias; K chose the one on spelling and G the one on mathematics.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

Last week, we went to an event launching a new local nonprofit.  Charles has been working with them and many people I know professionally were there.  In the midst of some small talk, I overheard the Business Dean at a local community college ask Charles, "what do you do?"  His answer was awesome, because he drew himself up tall and said, "I am a proud homeschooling dad."  That's right!

Our tribute to this awesome dad included breakfast in bed.  He had asked for real bacon, then declined to buy it because he didn't want to spend that much money on himself, so I had to sneak out early in the morning and get some for him.  It is hidden in the picture, but he got a full spread: pancakes, grits, fruit, juice, coffee, eggs, coffee cake, and bacon.  And cards from such great girls. 

Later, we visited my parents and got to honor my Dad, too.  He inspires me through his example of loving and calm parenting skills and I am grateful for him every day.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Valle Verde Overnight and Baseball Awards

No agenda other than to play this time.  We arrived and the kids went immediately to the creek; perfect on a hot June afternoon.  Then, when it was time to walk the half mile up to the property where we were staying, we threw our backpacks on and marched off.  G in particular carried hers as if she was born to backpack, which thrilled me.  The bad mood I'd woken up with had transferred to K (hate it when that happens) and she walked up more reluctantly... but it was a good thing to have a chance to spent time walking with her, apologizing for my own grumpiness and spending time together.   Movement and being outdoors are great healers.

Once up there, the kids played more and in every way, looking for turtles, swinging from the crazy fun swing, trying out the new play set and eventually cooking hot dogs (smart dogs) over a fire safely contained in a home-made brick chimney, doing some star gazing, and settling down in sleeping bags.  It was a cozy and beautiful night with a near-full moon; the funny part was when one of the other little boys started responding when G talked in her sleep.

Breakfast was hearty and delicious - more thanks to our hosts - when we woke early to another gorgeous day.  My first thought was, "I'm not in a bad mood anymore!" - a night outside will do that.  We had to hurry off for K's baseball awards "banquet," which was a shame; we all had a great time and are very grateful to our hosts for sharing their beautiful property, for the food, and for the wonderful company of friendship.

Morning by the pond; so many turtles to spot!

A breakfast feast with great friends

The baseball awards party turned out well.  It is great to see how well liked K is by her teammates and the coaches remarked on her strong playing and determination.  It was the second year in a row, though, that the coach made a comment about her gender as part of the presentation and it rankled a bit.  (Charles disagrees with me on this.)

Last year, the presenting coach added something like, "as she gets older, she won't be able to do baseball anymore, but we are glad she is here now."  Ow.  Maybe true, but ow.  Would you tell a kid who just made a great speech, "great for now, though you'll probably never be President?"  This year the coach was again trying to be nice and added something like, "she has the most determined look of anyone I've ever seen.  It is almost as if she is trying to prove she has a right to be here.  And she doesn't have to prove anything, because she certainly does deserve to be here."  His intentions were good, but in both cases, the comments stemmed from a negative perspective, one that uncomfortably revealed that he sees her not as just part of the team, but as a girl who is part of a boys' team. 

Last year, I wish the coach had just said, "we're glad she is here because she is good at [fill in the blanks]..." and this year, I wish that this coach had stuck to the game rather than to her gender.  He could have said, "her determined look when pitching intimidated the other team so much she got two strike outs."  Or "her determined look at bat consistently sent the outfielders on the other backing up." Both of which were true and more relevant to what is important about the sport than the fact that she is a girl. 

There may be a point at which she isn't good enough to qualify to play baseball anymore; that's also true of the boys on her team, who may or may not develop their skills to the degree necessary to play in the higher leagues.  But it doesn't need saying, doesn't bear emphasis, and definitely dampened the celebration for me.

In any case, I am proud of her, proud of her playing, proud of who she is, glad every single day to know and love her. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

You Can't Pay Me To Read

A while ago, to encourage K to read more, I offered to pay her to read to her sister.  (My mom used to pay me to listen to my siblings read.  Not much - I think I got $.10 for 30 minutes!  I think that's about what I make at my paid academic job now, come to think of it... but that's another story.) 

However, for K, the money wasn't motivating; I literally couldn't pay her to read.  But, showing further evidence that we all do things relatively effortlessly when ready and self-motivated, I recently spotted the scene pictured below.  Now she is reading for the joy of it, for free.  Away from adult commentary judgement, or motivation.  Much better, of course.

And, considering how much they have been bickering lately, this scene warmed my heart for the sheer coziness of it too.  Sisters, friends, co-conspirators.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Learning: Research

The stray cat who lives nearby may be pregnant and the girls must have wanted to learn more, because before I knew it, they were asking, "what are mammary glands?" "What are you looking at?" was my surprised response. They had done their own research and were reading a web site. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I began to challenge them to find facts that would keep them practicing the skill of research and they had fun surprising me with information... that is, until they realized that they'd been distracted from their purpose and left to see if they would find the cat and check out her nipples, which are apparently a sign of pregnancy. Tiger cat wasn't cooperating, but I had to appreciate their practical approach, combining disclosed facts with observation and thus applying important critical thinking skills. (When you look, it is amazing the unplanned, unsupervised learning that you see!)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Play Group

A mom friend organized a weekly playgroup for kids G's age.  G usually opts not to go, not wanting to be away from her sister, but this week we hosted, so she got her chance. I didn't have planned activities at all - they made up stories, dressed up, listened to Greek myths on tape, put together puzzles, played games, and created works of art.  I was impressed with their creativity and the diversity of their creations.

Park Day

Ugh, a really rotten final baseball game ended the playoffs on Saturday.  Bad umpire calls that went against them combined with having nearly everyone just not play very well made for an unfortunate ending to the season.  Unfortunate not because of the loss, which is life, but because it is hard not to be at your best when it is your last game for a while.  K was really upset all weekend following the game.

The Friday night game was wonderful (if forgotten after Saturday).  They actually lost, but played so well they didn't quite realize it.  Afterward, the person in charge of snacks had ordered pizza and it hadn't arrived yet.  Waiting, the kids started a pickup game with their own fun rules and really played baseball - full of love and energy and fun - in a way all of their practice hadn't quite allowed.  Some of the players opted for the playground or sibling's scooters, but not K... she can't get enough baseball.

Park day on this Monday was a perfect diversion and great to see friends we don't see often enough.  I used to go to this park when I was preschool aged and still miss some of the old playground structures, though the remodeled version is definitely better.  This distance shot is of the girls at the top of a massive rope web; later, the friends we had come to see scattered on lower levels of it.  Great day and we so appreciate the chance to see friends.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Learning at Valley Verde

I had thought that last month was our final month, so was pleasantly surprised to get the reminder to come.  Lots to discover, lots to play... this really is summer learning at its best.  My very best childhood memories are of outdoor play when on camping vacations in remote areas of California and I love seeing my girls doing the same.  Plus they helped with some gardening; perhaps not as exciting as seeing our own little "crops" growing, but anything they learn can help my brown (but wanna be green) thumb and is therefore great.

Sheer joy, gate style

Helping with the planter boxes.  Not me!  I retreated to the shade.  :-)

Trying to get a shot of her on the slack line - missed the full body context, but caught the smile!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Learning

Last summer, the girls asked to go to school.  But just for the summer.  Yes, they wanted the summer off with no classes, no planned lessons at home, "just like school kids" (though they didn't want camp either).  Buried with work, I agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to at least a few weeks.  It lasted much longer and I used the time to be intentional about observing their learning in an unschooling environment.  I was delighted with the results - they engaged rich, creative, and even skill building activities every day, with little intervention from me.

This year, we didn't even really have a formal discussion.  Various wonderful end of the academic year activities took our attention away from routine and then my need to focus on my own research was a further distraction.  Still, I've been watching.  The results I see support the free learning of an unschooling environment; unfortunately (and fortunately), we get tempted during the official school year by a rich variety of opportunities that become fabulous obligations.  It is a happy dilemma, but in the end our choices keep us in some classes and doing some school-ish things at home (math, grammar), which detracts from an entirely free learning environment.  It is our ongoing challenge to engage the best of both worlds.

This day began with a science experiment.  The girls had frozen about five of their Playmobil characters in water in a glass and decided to make a movie of the thawing process, setting up the camera to take a photo every 30 seconds.  Then I, interfering or - the way I like to think of it - inspired by their idea - decided to move the melted characters around.  Soon with the help of both girls, we made the characters move in slight, subtle ways as they thawed, including sitting up and climbing out of the glass slow step by slow step as the camera recorded each shot.  The science of melting water remained, but now it was encased in a silent movie with all five eventually thawing and the first four "rescuing" the final one by hoisting a handy lanyard.

Storytelling, technical skills, and more were at play in this delightful morning activity and resulted in a short but funny movie.  Charles thought that the thawing was what he would see when he watched it, since he had helped set the camera up for that purpose.  He got a funny surprise to see the characters not just thaw but then jump up and escape and his surprise made us all giggle.

Love the smile

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Home Run!

Last month, I got a teaching award at our university's graduation.  It was a heady experience, standing in front of thousands of people and seeing my own graduating students give me a standing ovation.  I've never had a standing ovation for me before and because I admire and care for them so, it was a moment that was deeply meaningful for me.

However, seeing K hit a home run at this game was an experience at least as awesome.  She is a solid player and she works so hard.  This year she has had some close calls that went against her, some outs that progressed the team, but sent her back to the dugout.  She's been disappointed, but keeps working hard, which is what is important in terms of character and life skills, far more than winning.  But still, let's face it, it IS nice to win.

When she got up at bat, I admired the determined intensity in her face, a look she always gives when at bat.  When she hit that ball and it flew, flew, flew far into the outfield with the boys from the other team scrambling after it, everyone started screaming.  She ran the bases easily and somewhere between second and third I started crying for joy.  (She said later that she could tell, but I had sunglasses on, so I think she just enjoys calling me a wimp.  Which I am not!  An admitted total geek, though....)  It was also fantastic to see her joy back in the dugout, with all of the boys on her team cheering, hugging, and slapping her helmet.  Just such an incredibly fantastic experience.  Love this awesome, hard working girl so much.