Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tiny Insect Discovery (and Huge Spider)

Found this guy while studying at the library and G got close-up photos of him.  An aphid, foe to gardens, food to ladybugs.  Tiny and almost - dare I say it? - cute.  Science everywhere...

This dude, not so cute, but fascinatingly creepy.  Found him on the porch while cleaning.  He was actually much smaller than he appears here...

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Farewell Mass with Friends

Our friend Father Steve is headed to Anchorage to be a pastor at a parish there.  Lucky Anchorage!  We went to St. Dominic's for his farewell homily, which was meaningful and memorable, as so many of his homilies are.  His parting thought was related to the word, "Mass," which comes from the Latin word, "mittere," or "missa," to send and his point was that the wisdom and strength that we gain from being in celebration at the Mass should carry out into our week and the secular activities we engage.  He gave examples that remind me of other homilies he has given, of the importance of service to others, of doing what you say you are going to do, and of showing up and being present for others.  As someone who has been present for us in so many ways since we first met him nearly 20 years ago, the message has particular meaning as it is one he lives by example.  It was wonderful to see him and other friends and reassuring to know that all roads lead back to St. Dominic's for him; it shouldn't be too long before we see him again.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

SF Opera's Carmen

Dad took the girls, as I had work meetings that couldn't be rescheduled.  They did what we've never done before and left at the intermission, as (I hear) did many others, due to warnings about "full frontal nudity" in the final scenes.  Oh my!  I watched the trailer and, indeed, it looks very graphic, both in terms of sexuality and of violence.  Dad said that he overheard one kid, seated just beyond G, ask, "what are they DOING?!" to which another responded, "you're not old enough."

Now I'm curious about the reviews... Dad's review was that it was just too "in your face" with the sexuality and the violence, at a level unnecessary to tell the story.  Interesting!  The girls were unfazed, just glad to be with Grandpa.

Image courtesy SF Examiner

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Growing Vegetables

We got a late start planting, so only the strawberries can be harvested yet, and not many of those, but everything is growing well and since our neighbors also planted in urban-style pots on the porch, coming home is delightfully green.  Our hopeful crop this year (which G planted with my help) consists of tomatoes, bell peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, mint, strawberries, and zucchini.  Not bad, considering that I only wish I had a green thumb...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fun at the Pool (And Year-End Assessment)

Oh yeah.  We need to do this more....

We spent part of the day reviewing the CA State standards to see what we missed, if anything. We call this the "George Washington Carter" check, since after K's kindergarten year I went through the State Standards and realized that I'd covered everything except one specific detail: the bio of George Washington Carter (we later covered it). We couldn't find anything they had missed from fourth or sixth grades, though... I gave them both brief oral tests at the library to see what they'd retained, reassuring myself that we were on track and setting rudimentary plans for next year's academic approach. The best part is always planting seeds by asking what they WANT to learn, beyond any minimal State requirements. K has been asking for Mandarin for years, so I really do need to get on that...

Monday, May 23, 2016


K is in the playoffs and we get little warning of when each game will be.  Their second game fell during my class, so I had to miss it... thus no photos of her GRAND SLAM!  Ugh!  I did get text updates and let my class know exactly what was happening.  :-)  So awesome to see her hard work play off, and in the playoffs too.  The game was apparently close until this point and after that they were clear winners.

On to game three now, not scheduled during a class and therefore with some hope of photos (though no guarantees as I've been known to get too excited cheering to get a clear shot).  Proud of this girl!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Track Party

A great sixth grade team to celebrate:

The official photo of the whole team:

A nice video with some shots of K in practice, running, and throwing:

 And, finally, some shots that an amazing photographer took:

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Club: Jane Eyre

This is a picture my copy of Jane Eyre, which I bought on a bus trip from Yosemite to Merced at a used book store near the bus depot.  It has been one of my favorite books:  I read it first in high school when I was 16 (not for a class, at first, then again for a Literature class) and then again in my 30s.  The second time, I felt like I was reading it with my 16-year-old self, remembering my initial reactions at the same time I experienced my more adult reactions.  Reading it again in my 40s was different though:  Mr. Rochester's attentions no longer seemed flattering, they seemed borderline psychotic.  The girls reacted similarly, as did most of the kids in our mother/daughter book club.  Still, I'm not giving up on a classic, so instead of letting it go, we started reading all kinds of other stories about the Jane Eye characters, including:

Jean Rhys' "Wide Sargasso Sea," which gave a perspective from Bertha (very sexual and creepy, but also written in such a subtle way that I wouldn't have caught the references if I weren't reading the footnotes).

Helen Dunmore's "Grace Poole Her Testimony," in which Jane is portrayed as a conniving schemer and the first Mrs. Rochester is seen sympathetically.  Mrs. Poole is also given a backstory as the former lover of Mr. Rochester and the mother of Adele.

Francine Prose's "The Mirror" in which Jane's story is told beyond the wedding in which she begins to suspect that Mr. Rochester drove poor Bertha into insanity... and is attempting the same with her

Salley Vickers' "Reader, She Married Me" in which Mr. Rochester admits that Jane was a passing infatuation, but provides his own sad backstory about Bertha, which is sympathetic to both of them.  In the end, he feels stuck with Jane, her determination a hammer that she uses to pummel her way into the life that she wants and the story that she wants told.  This was K's favorite version.

(The three latter references, above, are from Tracy Chevalier's 2016  "Reader, I Married Him" collection of "Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre," which I was fortunate to stumble upon in the library.)

In other words, we dove into an analysis of the book, even watching both a 1990s version and a more recent one for different interpretations of Mr. Rochester and Jane herself.  The acting and directing and storytelling were great; we'd recommend both, for different reasons.  What fun to dive deep in research and conversations together....

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Track Championships

Trust K to turn a bit of team spirit (red hair dye) into a bloody drama.  In the end, her sister left her hair red but K decided it might bring her too much attention.

At CSM ready to cheer

After her event, with Abuela.  K did really well, throwing almost her PR and earning important points for her team, which got a third place win by only 1.5 points for the first time since the 1960s.  She was a bit disappointed not to place a bit higher, but was a good sport, saying "good throw" quietly to each competitor after each try.  And I thought she was awesome:  fourth place among all sixth graders in 19 competing schools.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

First Communion

Celebrating an awesome kid's First Communion.  I bought typical First Communion gifts (books on the Saints) but the girls declared them inappropriately boring.  Instead, they insisted, we needed to create something that he would REALLY like.  So, inspired by their love for him, they spent ages looking up phrases in Latin and Swahili that reflected the sacred elements of the occasion and expressed them on a baseball, making their gifts as unique as the awesome kid they were celebrating.  I love their creativity, expressed love, and super great ideas.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Little League Day at the Giants

The rest of Mother's Day was spent at choir, which is always very beautiful, and then at the Giants game, where the Little Leaguers got to march in and parade around the field before the game.  Then, moms and kids got to run the bases after the game.  THAT was completely cool - I sprinted (to the best of my ability) from first to home and was rewarded by being told to "SLOW DOWN."  Ha!  I laughed - I don't hear THAT too often!  Great experience....

Mother's Day

I love my cute package, courtesy of two awesome girls.  It was almost too cute to open, but contained a beautiful mug that they picked out themselves.  Love their thoughtfulness, too.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


I love gorgeous details: the first was on G's leg at a baseball game before it found its way to the bench and the second was on a railing outside of church.
The girls called this a "Lemony Snicket" spider because its body looks like a lemon.  It looks like some sort of orb spider, but I wasn't sure of its specific identification, despite some help.
Apparently, this spectacular caterpillar is a orgyia detria, which turns into a rather dull looking moth.  (My ID may be off... bug guide is a great resource, though! 
More details...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Google's Self-Driving Car

This is also a local experience, but it isn't history... we are so lucky to know one of the brilliant people working on Google's self-driving car and extremely fortunate that he agreed to give us a tour/explanation of how it works and the process toward bringing it to market.  (Thank you Julien, Bridget, and Jacki!)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Local History

We keep finding new and interesting things about our seemingly-boring little town (Ohlone artifacts!  A Pan-Pacific Exposition building! The first university in CA to offer bachelor degrees to women! (Just had to throw that last one in...))  This is an odd little building we've driven by hundreds of times.  It is situated at a busy corner of a residential thoroughfare and looks like a single turret that has lost its castle, no windows, no real space for any utilitarian purpose, yet occupying a garden island in the middle of the crossroads of several streets. 

This time we stopped and sent K out to check it out.  She took photos to best explain the history:

OK, not devastatingly interesting, but good to know.  I'm almost embarrassed that we never looked into it before...

Monday, May 2, 2016


Love that they love each other... Aunt Terry makes the best family dog choices!  :-)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Yosemite Day Three: Climbers and Hikers

Perhaps because these four are now related by marriage to famous climber Tori Allen, they can't stay off the rocks!  Great times, if a bit heart-stopping for watching moms.  Great hikes, too!  Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!

Happy Birthday Pie!
The funny thing is, one of the challenges I once got about homeschooling was whether we were "required" to have an outdoor education experience, which referenced the topic of the conversation I was listening to: their school's "nature week."  "Required?"  Well, no... but when I think of the regular exposure that these kids get to the outdoors, including being blessed to see our favorite National Park in so many seasons and to experience corners of it that most people never see, I feel truly rich.  I even caught G putting the backpacking trips that she and her sister complain about so much in proud context once, saying to one of her friends, "I have seen beautiful parts of Yosemite that most people never see!"  I'm so glad that she values that - it always makes me feel privileged myself (and may remind her of that in the midst of the inevitable complaints half way through our next extended-day backpacking trip.  :-)