Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Hermoine Granger, Professor McGonnegal, Crookshanks, Harry Potter, and Hagrid, ready to go trick or treating.  Great day and fun to share the evening festivities with friends.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Craft Party

A really fun Halloween craft party. The kids decorated cookies and did fall crafts; I got to catch up with friends and meet new and interesting moms.  Great, cozy, rainy morning!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Improptu Science, Math, P.E., and more

Friends stopped by and Super Science Dad went into overdrive, with sample chemistry lessons, "glotion" (glowing lotion), mazes, games at the park, and more. Fun!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Engineering Class

Project of the week: Make your own flashlight.  K was so excited that she ran out of class in the middle of it to tell me about it (I was sitting nearby working)!  Love it when I get effusive joy on her so-often stoic face (plus, since they are growing up so fast, I was happy that she is still eager to share things with me).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

St. Dominic's YAG Reunion

This was our third annual!  And it looked like rain, but fortunately was clear for a lovely Mass with Father Steve and then lots of play and catching up.  This was my only photo, of the four kids who remained after everyone had left.  Lovely, joyful day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My First Conference Presentation

It was a bit scary finding my name on that door!  But I got through it... and by the end gathered ideas for a new research topic, making the trip and the nervousness worthwhile.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

NDNU's Godspell

I wept.  What can I say?  That's what I do.  The intro was dramatic - set in modern Galilee with violence between competing groups and in the center, a peaceful man carrying a single red rose.  The singing was phenomenally good throughout and I cried again at the end when Jesus "rose from the dead" carrying a white rose.  The great acting that accompanied the wonderful singing was poignant at the end, with amazed and joyful looks igniting my tears.

The intro and concluding songs were different versions of "Prepare Ye," which begins solemnly and ends in a celebratory tune and it carries special meaning as it was the song that we had played when we walked down the aisle together at our wedding.  Our day was made special because Abuela came with us (as did my friend, colleague, and mentor, Lillian). 

A lovely afternoon!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

NDNU's A Midsummer Night's Dream

An intimate theater experience; the audience seating was in chairs right on the stage and we were mere feet from the actors. A really good production and neat experience and the girls recognized some of the actors from last year's Twelfth Night. That said, Puck always comes under the scrutiny of our resident expert, who was less than impressed with this sexy female version.  Then again, seeing a college student in action made her appreciate her own role more, knowing that she had memorized and performed almost all of the same lines three years ago when she was only six.  It is always gratifying to see her proud, as she's usually the one who is hardest on herself, so this was an added benefit to seeing this fun show.

Farallon Island Marine Sanctuary Visitor's Center

Love this place; great classes and enthusiastic docents! Afterward, we stopped at our favorite Thai place in the city; the only food other than pizza that they are both enthusiastic about.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I got last minute tickets from someone who preferred to see the Giant's play; yeah, right?  I was glad that they got a good game AND a win in consolation, because it was a generous gift.  The musical was both spectacular and mediocre - forgettable music and odd story line, great performances and gymnastics.

That said, coming and going were two of the scariest things I've done.  I used to work across the street, but that area near the theater seems much, much worse than I remember it... or maybe it is just the responsibility of two girls with me, as opposed to wandering through there alone with my tear gas in hand?  In any case, we've been reading the Percy Jackson series about Greek Gods in which the main characters are constantly being pursued by monsters and that's how I felt coming and leaving the theater.  Not the occasional homeless person or drunk, but groups of people drinking, peeing on the streets, and just hanging out.  There was a main plaza between the theater and the parking lot blocked off, with only narrow passageways open to walk and young men hanging out in front of the entrances at 11:30 at night.  We walked blocks around to avoid being in a situation where we could potentially be so trapped.  We were relieved to get back to the car and while I had turned a scary walk into a security lesson, I think I'd prefer the hypothetical to the practicum next time.  At least until they are a little older!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Science, Greece, and Jumpin'

In science class they moved back to chemistry and chemical reactions, creating some dramatic ones.  In Greek culture class we talked about the Trojan war and built paper versions of the Trojan horse.  Then, after a difficult week at work, the girls and I treated ourselves to a break - an hour at a trampoline place... unfortunately, because of my scattered mind, we arrived an hour after our friends got there and so the girls missed the play part of the day.  I hate it when I mess up... and it wasn't the only time that day - I later forgot to make a kale salad to bring to Auntie Char's birthday party and forgot to bring the cake I did make for the party.  Ugggh. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

CA History: The Oakland Museum with Auntie Char

Another visit to the Oakland museum to visit exhibits that we know and love, plus an exhibit on loan from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art about CA art. This one was really great - Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, plus a lot of art from UC Davis, which I loved not just because it is my alma mater, but also because its theme was poking fun at the highfalutin' art scene.

It was great to see Auntie Char, visiting from Ohio for the first time since our wedding.  87 years young, she was here to celebrate her birthday with us and it was wonderful to see her, to be reminded of my grandmother (she is my grandmother's sister), and to catch up with my Mom's cousin Reni, who coincidentally was here for business at the same time.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day: To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate....

... that was the question.  Whether 'tis nobler to extol the evils of Columbus' exploitation, or to take arms against a sea of protest and by opposing, look critically at the man and his legacy. 

Well, yes, there's that, but the 500 year memorials in 1992 have already covered that debate in exhaustive depth.  My dilemma was actually far more practical, less critically considered:  no classes for the kids, libraries closed.  But I had work and class.  So is it a holiday?  Should the kids do the full smorgasbord of subjects that they usually tackle on a non holiday week day?  Or do we wallow in laziness and read books just for fun.  Maybe go for a hike?

Charles saved the day from my indecision, which was fueled by a conflict between my desire for productivity and my exhaustion, which manifests as apparent laziness.  (Plus the staggered work meetings I had scheduled during the day.)  He got out the science kit and began taking inventory and using chemicals in various experiments.  The girls eagerly cooperated, of course.  What fun!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Opera: Partenope

Dress rehearsal with friends and seeing them is always a treat. Thanks to Terry for the group shot of four awesome girls!

The opera itself is also always a treat - incredible singing talent, staging, and beautiful music. That said, this story of strong women that we were looking forward to enjoying was a bit disappointing; the drama/humor combination didn't quite work and I had no ideas what some of the modern symbolism meant. The costumes, which were a 1920s flapper style, were stunning, though and the staging was creative and dramatic. An experience, one we are grateful to have had.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Book Club: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

We had multiple activities before beginning to eat and then discuss:  we made and wrote with quills, created a textural diorama of Blackbird Pond, made soap and added lavender sprigs for decoration, made corn husk dolls, and then made wax seals, the least successful of the projects.  When I read this book as a kid, it was the image of a woman stirring a pot and the main character's idle speculation as to whether it was a witches brew or simply soap that remained with me, so making soap seemed a good way to reinforce that image from the book.

For food, I found a great book about what the pilgrims ate, which supplemented the food mentioned in the book.  We had vegetable soup, corn bread with blueberries, cranberry cake, a corn and okra dish to acknowledge the African slaves that are not mentioned in the book but whom were part of America's story from the very earliest, pumpkin with garlic and sage, hominy (not a favorite), and walnuts.  Thanks to the other moms for the yummy baked goods!

Our discussion was, as always, about the real meaning of the book, which after discussion about the characters and their relationships and identifying the protagonist and the antagonist we concluded had to do with growing through exposure to differences.  There is much about the American character that continues to reflect both Puritan values and the ability of those extraordinary people to grow and thrive, so it was an interesting discussion.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Science Class: Germ Excitement!

I have never, ever, seen a group of kids SO EXCITED as this group was to see how many bacteria were growing on their swabs.  Shrieks!  Laughter!  Fascination!  And then it continued as they looked at them more closely in the microscope....  Whoo, hoo!  Looks what grows in my mouth, on my hands, in Therese's sink - ack!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Club: Harry Potter

This wasn't our regular monthly book club, but one that was the result of a "gift of time" that we gave in lieu of something material for my niece's eighth birthday.  Fun was had by all!  Missing from the pictures below is Professor McGonagal, complete with really wacky and inauthentic Scottish accent (ahem!  That was me.)  We made truly awesome and unique wands (Mr. Ollivander had none available, so we had to start from scratch with dragon heartstrings or unicorn hair; some also included a phoenix feather).  We made brightly colored quills for schoolwork at Hogwarts.  We created owls.  We drank butter beer and pumpkin juice and ate pumpkin pasties.  And each of the new Hogwarts students got sorted... Griffendor gained a number of awesome new brave students this day.

And then there was play.  A lot of play....

Making wands

The wand paint must be magic - it attracted a beautiful flying creaure

Elaborately decorated quills

Hedwig with a quill

Butterbeer is decadent!  Pumpkin juice (not pictured) is surprisingly good too!

Ah, the sorting begins... Griffendor!




Throw Like A Girl

I never felt like I encountered much sexism until I became a parent and saw how many stereotypes are still alive, how so many otherwise strong and intelligent women perpetuate them with surprising vehemence. Love this cartoon for so many reasons....

I have been shocked and appalled to see how many people willingly honor negative stereotypes about girls without thinking. This column, "11 things only parents of boys will understand" was forwarded recently and left me seething, not because of what it says about boys, but because it includes rude and offensive comparisons to girls.  This author expresses the same reaction I had and wrote a scathing response.  Reading her sarcasm helped, but seriously, why did any woman "like" the first column, which contained statements like, "Boys love unconditionally. They love unabashedly. They love with their entire little bodies. [No objection to these first three sentences, but then the negative comparison:] When your little girl stomps her foot and tells you to leave her alone, your son simply loves you. When your tween daughter is sullen and sulky and hates you, your son simply loves you. When you[r] teenage daughter gives you the silent treatment, your son simply loves you. Their love is solid. Their love is strong and consistent from the start. And it sticks around for the long haul."  So this author (and those who shared the article) believe that my daughters' love for me won't stick around for the long haul?  My own love for my own parents isn't strong and consistent?  Do those who "liked" or forwarded these negative stereotypes to be true about themselves?  I assume that the author must feel that way or she wouldn't have written the column, but for the larger population of loving, caring women who have good relationships with their parents themselves, I can't image that to be so.

On the other hand, trolling web sites after finding the anecdote to the "11 things" HuffPost column led to this one, about a mom who objects to Target, Kohls, and other stores propensities to sexualize very young girls in the clothing selections available.  Hers is an excellent mission and it is worthwhile to glance at the article, if only to see the visual representations of just how short short-shorts are for girls as compared to boys of the same exact size.  The author's point is well-taken, that this is both about objecting to sexualization and about creating basic comfort so that kids can play comfortably.  I'd add that it would be nice to have a greater selection of clothing options that are gender neutral, clothes for kids who want to play without making any other statement whatsoever, whether one related to fashion, gender, or advertising.  Some families like to push commercial products through their clothing selections (I say pay me if you want me to advertise your product, including your superhero or Disney character.)  Some opt for pink or glitter (mine say no way!)  The point isn't the preference itself, but that it would be nice to have more options in mainstream stores.

I grew up in the 70s and don't remember the gender division.  I wasn't considered a "tomboy" (a term I think should be disused as outdated these days) and participated in individual sports (running and swimming), not ball sports.  I read a lot, played with lots of different toys (dolls, yes; tea parties, no), and liked being outside in all weather.  I wore jeans and t-shirts to school, mostly whatever hand-me-downs appeared, usually unadorned by logo, advertisement, or gender identifiers.  Seems to me that all of the other kids I knew were pretty much the same, yet to make the same choices in clothes or activities now my daughters often feel like rebels, sorting through piles of overly sexualized clothing or shopping in the boys section just so that they can dress comfortably and without promoting a product, character, or brand.  (They choose for comfort.  I'm the one who pushes not to use our bodies as advertisements.)

It isn't impossible to find clothes, but the prevalence of gender-specific clothing and overly-sexualized clothes for girls sends a message to them and raises questions for me.  Why have we opted as a society to go in this direction, to send such limited stereotypical messages to our daughters when those messages seem opposed to how most people live and what we believe about the strengths and potentials of our children?   And why, when gender identification played such a relatively more minor role within our own childhoods, are educated adults embracing a false image that gender differences are so defining that they now require that children be treated so drastically differently?  This isn't the way that we were raised.   I don't get it.

On the other hand, noticing these inequities has driven my girls to be vocal feminists.  My hope is that through action and word they actively speak up for needed change in any variety of social justice situations, so maybe the silver lining of this cultural sexism will be noticing other inequities close to home and inspired ongoing activism on behalf of those who don't have a voice.  A positive thought as we begin Respect Life month....

Image courtesy Do Something via Facebook