Monday, March 30, 2015

Sister Love, Overheard

Oh dear.  They were arguing over who had the worst sister.  G won, at least in the category of descriptive creativity:  "My sister is so awful  she even gets annoyed with my sound waves."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

Before the track meet we went to Mass and the girls sang in the choir. It was a wonderful performance, so well done that as they exited singing, I had tears in my eyes.  After the track meet we went to the pool; it was a super hot day on the track and we all needed to cool off. Hurray for a busy day of fun! 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Track Meet

K's first track meet ever; my first one since 1985.  Yikes!  It was super fun to be there and to remember my own triumphs and challenges on the track.  And, lo and behold, K's team is wearing jerseys not unlike the one I wore (red and white tank), so my photos of her with her teammates create a bit of deja vu.

Love the approach this team has - everyone gets a chance to try whatever they want, come to practice when you can, and have fun.  We saw some real talent and also saw a lot of kids trying really hard and not quitting, which I find truly awesome.  It was K's first meet, so she had just one event:  the shot put.  And she got third place!  As she said, not bad for a kid who had never even seen a shot put until earlier this week.

Note little sister in the foreground.  Can't wait until she is old enough for track; she flies like the wind and with as much joy....

Friday, March 27, 2015

Unschooling Time

I've read a lot about unschooling and can't argue that when it works, it seems an ideal approach that really allows children to be self-directed learners.  I don't know if my preconceived notions get in the way or if the approach just isn't ideal for all kids (I suspect the former), but regardless of the reason, I feel obliged to be a bit more structured, even though I am envious when I see unschooling work so well for others).  That said, we had some wonderful examples of 'assignments' done this week that were relatively rigorous in nature and completely unassigned, unmonitored, and unassisted by me:

After our daily Spanish lesson, the girls decided to try French and the enthusiasm is reflected in their faces.  Overheard, "After we learn French, let's learn German, okay sister?"  And then to me:  "Mom, G and I must have some deadly disease.   We are voluntarily doing homework!"

A friend came over to play and it evolved into a writing assignment: detailed written invitations to a future party.  I struggle to get them to write at all some days, but in this example they were putting enormous effort into it because it was entirely their idea.

As we enter Holy Week, I find this on the board with an accompanying explanation for each element of the collage of images:  from the left:  the Last Supper, then moving clockwise, Jesus on the cross, laying Him in the tomb, and finally rising with joy three days later.  Again, had I asked for a picture that describes the events of Holy Week, I would have been impressed.  But to create it with no direction was beyond cool.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Debate Class

This class sounds awesome!  This is an abridged version of their talented teacher's summary of this week's class:

The kids were assigned to debate "Being a superhero is awesome"and split into two teams, with two taking the affirmative and two doing the negative side. The affirmative side goes first, and both teams got about five minutes to prepare their opening three minute speeches where they present their two to four contentions (arguments affirming or negating the claim). They knew their own arguments so they used the prep time to organize their contentions and think about what the opposite team's strategy might be (nice!).

Debate: the teams took a little time in the beginning to think about definitions. What constitutes a superhero? Batman and IronMan weren't included in that definition, because they are basically humans with technology enhancements.

The we started the opening speeches. One contended that helping people, being able to fly/having superhero skills is cool, as is meeting important and famous people (like the President). K then started with a short rebuttal of some of those points and then presented their negative case: you have to lie to your family, having such power can corrupt you, and innocent people die when superheroes take the law into their own hands. The other team rebutted some of K's points and then gave one more contention and then it was K's partner's turn to rebut some of the other team's points and finish up the negative case.

After the three minute speeches by all team members comes the cross-examination period. This is more free-form, and can take up the bulk of the debate round in tournaments. Teams ask each other questions, trying to find weaknesses in each other's contentions. You must answer or rebut every single one of the other team's contentions in some way, or they win that point. They talked a little bit about quality of evidence, the difference between a science journal article and a newspaper article, and so on.

In the end, the kids enjoyed doing a debate, and learned the importance of research and thinking about arguments well before the actual debate round. Being prepared is important, as is thinking strategically about what your opponent might bring to the table so you can prepare rebuttals.  Some photos of the prep work of K and her partner follow, with thanks to Jacki for the photos.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Mr. S remains both girls' #1 enthusiasm, tied only by baseball for K. They are preparing for a May production of "The Adventures of Pericles." This week, G decided to advocate for more lines for herself; this photo is of her working with the producers to decide which additional lines can be added to her script. Love her determination, willingness to work hard, and self-advocacy.  This awesome kid can do anything!  (My thanks to Jacki for the photo.)

She's a funny kid: when something is bothering her, she runs off by herself, rather than seeking my help, support, or even comfort.  I talked with her about that this week and she told me, "Mom, that's because I like to solve things by myself."  All the more to admire, as I told her, as long as you know I'm always here if you need me. 
This conversation must be on my mind this week, as I've had several dreams about her, one in which I was watching her swim, only to see her submerge for so long I started to panic.  Just when I was about to dive in, I noticed that she was happily swimming at the bottom of the pool, perfectly capable and content.  A lesson for me, perhaps, although the same night as I was having a second dream about her, she woke me from it with a piercing scream calling me to her.  Another message for me, that she will call me when she needs me, which is always good, even when it comes in the middle of a dead sleep.  She really is a cool and amazing person: smart, strong, hardworking, and determined. 
Love her, admire her, adore her!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Three Friends Cookie Sale

Our next-door neighbor had a yard sale and invited the girls to sell cookies. That took up all of the weekend time that wasn't spent at church or at the ball park and they made a good profit and had fun, too.
These entrepreneurs were having a blast!

Sharing the table with lemonade-selling neighbor kids

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fan Mail

After K's game, her sister handed her some fan mail, composed by one of the younger siblings of K's teammates. It may be her first fan mail, it may be her only fan mail, but it is awesome either way. One says, "Why are you so good at hitting, K? I love you! Go Red Socks! You are the best!" Then the other says, "You are the best; I love you!"

I love watching her play, especially when she is having fun. She's a strong hitter and it is really cool to see her go up to the plate and watch all of the boys on the team get up, go to the fence, and give each other high fives because they know that she is likely to get a run or better.

I admit that I celebrate this demonstration of girl power, especially given the negative gender-oriented comments that she's heard while playing in this league over the past few years.  It is awesome to see little sisters with older brothers being inspired by her and to see young boys experience the power of a girl as a natural part of playing sports: they cheer her for her strength and her contributions to their score, not her gender.  I note this silently, however, because for K, all that matters is playing well and winning, acting and being treated as a ball player.  I respect that so very much and so keep my inner feminist cheering silently, quietly celebrating the positive messages that she is sending to both boys and girls while appreciating her athleticism and the joy she gets from the game.

Friday, March 20, 2015

TV Show Prep

Learning to make a digital movie; uploading sample pictures for the TV show opening they are preparing. Still in their pajamas and with their breakfast on the table in front of them, they were so intent and collaborative, both delighted to go through pictures of their friends in different adventures and highlight them in movie format.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It Happened!

K borrowed my clothes - not just socks (which we've been wearing in the same size for a while).  And then she kept them. (She asked.  How could I say no?)  Seems nuts:  my not-quite-ten-year-old, my "wasn't she a baby just yesterday" first born, is borrowing and then appropriating my clothes.  Weird.  Guess I should be glad I own anything cool enough to be borrowed, worn, kept...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Math: Area of a Triangle

Semiperimeters.  I have no recollection of ever learning this before, but I learned that it can be useful if you need the area of a triangle and don't have the height.  Proud that I'm still keeping up with K's math, even if just barely.

Oh, and the easier way to calculate area, 1/2bh, we remember as a double.  That's one half of a baseball homerun (b, h).  It works!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Club: Because of Winn Dixie

This was our first 12-hour book club; what fun!  Two of our friends arrived early and we decided to use that time to re-create the climax scene from the book in which India Opal and her friend Gloria Dump throw a party.  We made egg-salad sandwiches and "Dump Punch" and also laid out a huge jar of pickles, as per the story.  Then the kids took over the decoration, with streamers all over the house and photos of Ike to replicate the dog theme that "Sweetie Pie," another of the book's characters, insisted upon.  They worked really hard for nearly three hours before the rest of our book club friends arrived and we ate together while completing a "Ten Things I Know About Winn Dixie" list.  In the meantime, I had destroyed a batch and then made a successful batch of "Literature Lozenges," a twist on the "Litmus Lozenges" that were a tradition for another character in the book.

We do love this book, which is a sweet story about loss (the effect addiction has on children) and resiliency.  Love the themes of human imperfection, forgiveness, acceptance, love, and hope.

Oh, and the rest of the 12 hours?  Play... what a great way to spend the day!

Representing all the main characters from the book: from left to right: Preacher, Miss Franny, Gloria Dump, Winn Dixie, Gertrude the parrot, India Opal, Sweetie Pie, Otis (with his animal charming guitar), and the "bald headed babies"

Egg salad sandwiches (yuck! But whatever it takes to be true to the book!)

Our "Literature Lozenges," batch two.  Everyone said that tasting them made them feel sad and named a sad thing that they started to think of, just like the ones in the book that had originated after extreme loss during and after the Civil War...

Streamers (foreground) and dog-theme pictures (this captures just a few, but in fact the kids went to town with the streamers.  Opal would be pleased).

"Ten Things I Know" is a grounding technique used by the main character in the book.  "Ten Things We Know About Bookclub" coming soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Puck!

Doggie cupcakes to celebrate the day; they consisted of dog biscuits, canned dog food, some cream cheese, and more dog biscuits.  Happy puppy, happy big brother day for Ike.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

First Baseball Game of the Season

And the Red Sox won!  K's team decided that she deserved the team ball, as she turned the game around with a triple in the fourth that led two players to scoring runs.  She cracked that ball way out every time she was up at bat and fielded well too, with a sliding catch when she was assigned second base and three perfect plays when she played first.  I love to see her play and having fun!

With cool sunglasses and size nine men's cleats, she looks really tough!


In the outfield

She had to sit out when she was scheduled to be catcher because the equipment is too small for her.

Smiling and having fun up at bat

Afterwards, the team huddle

With the 'team ball.'

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Chinese New Year Parade Party

A fun party, starting with crafts and a homemade dragon for a kids' (and then adults') parade, then a trip downtown to watch the parade, which was three hours long. Really fun and worthwhile, including representation from all four of the first four schools I attended (Commodore Sloat, Aptos, Lowell, and UC Davis), stilt walkers (my favorite), a friend marching in one of the bands, and a first-ever seen 280 foot dancing dragon. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Riding back with the Math Counts SF Champion,.  Yahoo!

Little League Opening Day

Parading In

Our awesome girl!  Baseball lover...

K's biggest fan.  In everything.  All the time.  Totally awesome kid.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Children Who Catch Lizards

Trying to catch one while avoiding the Poison Oak

One of our elusive friends couldn't avoid the paparazzi

Lizard exchange at the end of a great hike.  28 lizards spotted!