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!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

LACMA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

We barely glanced inside - beautiful architecture and much to draw us in, but we ran out of time.  Not before the girls became part of the art, though.  We watched as one poor worker had the unenviable job of keeping the little ones from running, pulling, or otherwise playing with this art piece, which is clearly designed for interaction, though perhaps not the extremely exuberant kind.

Friday, November 28, 2014

CA History: La Brea (Tar) Pits

When I say "history," in this case I mean pre-history.  On average, one creature lost its life to the pits every decade... but over such a long period that by the time they were discovered and excavated beginning in the 1930s, thousands of animals, including some California natives that are now extinct, were found.  We had a fascinating tour; it seems much updated since I was last here (in 1984) and we learned a lot.  It was most interesting to learn about the excavations still in progress, animal fossils still being unearthed.
Watching paleontologists at work
Charles and G looking up!

Ongoing excavation
Some extinctions make backpacking easier!

Hangin' in a tree (until security told us to get down!)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

A marvelous beach Thanksgiving; good food, great company, and swimming in the Pacific.  A first and a very memorable experience.

Friday, November 21, 2014

K Gets Her Turn to Teach: Dissection

Each of the kids got a chance to teach a class and K did hers on dissection.  Some of the older boys opted out, but the rest of the kids thought it was "awesome!"

Prepping in the morning


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Be A Hero: Musical

Jason is a hero!

G was Hera, the back of Chiron, and a Harpy; K was Caliope the narrator

Very animated!  She had a singing solo; a first!

Grandpa came; thanks, Dad!
The day of the play always feels like a holiday.  The kids all seemed to have so much fun and we are grateful to SF Shakespeare artists Phil and Michelle for making it so much fun and being such great teachers; we're also very grateful to our friend Jacki for all of her work, inspiration, and guidance in making this day so special each week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Different types of beauty; physical and that associated with friendship and love. I couldn't resist the photo of my babies, still looking *almost* like the babies they were not so long ago, even though once awake they act so grown up. G found the leaf, shining with water from a recent (and wonderful) rain and we stood in agreement, admiring its colors. That camaraderie of appreciation was as beautiful as the leaf itself.

Anatomy: The Immune System

This anatomy unit syncs perfectly to our work with dissection later in the week. Well, except for the subjects, of course!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Puppy Power

Puck is fascinated by Cleo

Puck in costume as Macbeth.  MacPuck?

Box fun

Ike looking serious

Saturday, November 15, 2014

First Reconciliation Service

Such a big day; her first Sacrament since her baptism and such a milestone of moral independence.  K had her final soccer playoff game scheduled at the same time, so she and Charles dropped us off at the church an hour before the service.  I treasured that time with G.  We sat and read a kids' textbook about reconciliation, which emphasizes God's unconditional love amidst our imperfections.  Such a very powerful sacrament to celebrate again and again and more than a little awesome to realize that today was G's day to experience it for the first time.  The teachers kept reassuring, "don't be nervous," but she wasn't at all - she's such a confident person and so self-possessed.  She awes me in so many ways. It was a marvelous day to celebrate the fabulously unique and wonderful person whom she is.

With Grandpa and Abuela

With Godmother Kathleen

We had brunch at our house afterward and G entertained with science experiments

We had a great day enjoying the company of my parents and our friend Kathleen and celebrating G throughout the ceremony and brunch.  However, I was disappointed in the service as compared to what we experienced at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel with K.  This one struck me as a "fast food" approach to reconciliation, with the kids in rows quickly rotating up.  At OLMC, we had more of a ceremony, with both parents escorting their child to the altar, then waiting for them and together lighting a candle in a beautiful sand display when they were done.  Remembering the emotion of that day brought tears to my eyes (ok, down my cheeks, too!) as the memory helped me to reconnect more fully to the beauty of the Sacrament and to the vocation of parenthood, which includes beautiful challenges.  On this day, I was filled with appreciation for the dear thoughtful and awesome person G has become and simultaneously awed that she has grown so fast to readiness for this Sacrament when it seems not so long ago that she received her first.  She'll always be my baby, but she is also so independent, responsible, and so wonderfully so.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Club: The Trumpeter of Krakow

So, no one loved this book.  Including us.  There's action at the beginning and then really cool dramatic action toward the end - chemistry, mafia-style force outmaneuvered by the protagonist, a historic crystal with special qualities, hypnosis, attempts to turn bronze into gold, and a raging firestorm that educates on one of the many hazards of medieval life.  It included important messages about greed and power that are worthy of discussion in light of contemporary ethical dilemmas.  But between the very dramatic ending and an interesting beginning is a slow plot with long descriptions, a child protagonist who isn't fully developed, and only one female character with a name (the rest are just referred to as "his mother," etc.) though she does save the male protagonist through her wisdom and courage in the end.  Still, the girls vociferously objected every time we read it.

I am glad that we finished it and enjoyed thinking about Polish food, the beauty of medieval architecture, and trumpet music.  so little I know about medieval Poland!  Our book club plan was to focus on the scientific coolness of the book by doing some experiments that looked like magic (which one scientist in the book does, effectively foiling the bad guys) and create some explosions, repeating experiments we've had fun with in science class.  I also wanted to expand the discussions we'd been having about superstition versus science and the nature of scientific innovations, which has a fascinating history.  But...

Instead, friends/book clubbers suggested going to the Academy of Science for a free scientific drawing class that would give us free admission to the museum.  I loved the idea both for its own merits and for the fact that it freed me from tons of book club prep and so I jumped enthusiastically at the opportunity and the girls agreed.  "Pan Kreutz" (a.k.a. Science Dad) admitted being glad to be off the hook for the science experiments after a busy week, and as a result we all had a delightful, relaxing, rich day of fun, learning, exploration, and friendship.  And drawing! 

I so appreciate the lovely freedom to jump on such great opportunities; we had such a great day.  The book wasn't a favorite for any of us, but the rich discussions that it instigates aren't lost in the least; they will undoubtedly be part of ongoing conversations.  This last minute adventure at the Cal Academy left me feeling happy and rich in the ways that matter most.

We learned that dinosaurs were Giants fans.  :-)

Tree frog from Borneo

Butterfly detail

Butterflies aren't related to the book (though there are butterflies in Poland? But that's a stretch).  It's just hard not to celebrate this beauty!

We saw frogs last summer while backpacking; now we know why... and why I hadn't ever notices them before.  Very cool to learn the reasons for their declining population (historic stocking of high Sierra lakes with fish) and the efforts to reintroduce them.  Kids sure had fun with them last summer!

This was very cool.... learning about paleo anthropology in a private lesson from one of the Academy scientists.

The Skulls Exhibit is well done; lots of cool learning technology

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Science Class

Physics experiments with making a lava lamp style fountain.
CO2, Oxygen, role of plants.  Using an indicator to prove that breath is CO2.
Dry ice and Shakespeare quotations!
Making magnetic silly putty (and endeavoring not to make the whole house magnetic in the process, as it is quite messy! :-)
The face every science kid should have in class

Making silly putty magnetic

No, not the sad hands from a Grapes of Wrath movie, but the happy result of magnetic silly putty making.