Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Swim Team: CLAS Ropes Course

To celebrate the end of the kids' summer swim team course, they held a potluck and party at the CLAS Ropes Course down by the lake.
We'd never been there before, but they had lots of fun things to do. This is Will playing aeroball.
Maddie and Emma take a canoe out for a trip down to the lake,
and Rob took Sebastian and even Joss in another. Joss insisted on bringing that monstrous oar, though he never got it into the water.
In addition, there were things that required a harness:
This is Will going on the big swing. I could tell that he was scared to try it. I could also tell afterward that he was pleased as punch that he'd done it.
Emma's littlest brother scaled the rock climbing wall. Since he got hoisted higher each time he got stuck, it seemed pretty easy.
Maddie was the very last person to get to swing. In this one, you can see everyone else who has to pull her up to the top. Everyone agreed that it was disconcerting to let go when you were flat on your back 20 feet in the air.
We even found horses to pet. It was a lovely evening and everyone found something to try.
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

End of Summer Pool Party

On the last Saturday of summer, our generous neighbors opened up their pool to the whole neighborhood. "Pool" doesn't really cover the amenities; another neighbor calls it the water park. Here Rob is taking Sebi off the high dive.

Another generous neighbor brought an underwater camera and took pictures of everyone there, then e-mailed the movies to us.

Maddie and friends take the plunge from the high dive

Rob and Joss on the slide. In the video he looks concerned.
But once he figured out where it was, Joss went down this slide about 20 times. He just assumed Rob would be there to catch him.
thankfully Rob was.
Maddie sporting a disco leap.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Day of School

Everyone was nervous to start school this year. All three kids are attending new schools.
Maddie is going to a pilot GT program for 7th and 8th graders at the high school. Yes, kind of a shock for us to skip right to PHS! She was plenty worried the night before, but she loves her classes, loves her teachers, and has friends in all of her classes ("except GERMAN! Why do I have to take German?!"). She's even been riding the bus home each day which is an incomparable luxury for me. Once swimming starts she's going to stay after school in the library to work on homework until it's time to walk to the rec center for practice.
Sebastian is starting first grade across town in the Mandarin dual immersion program. He went to a week of summer school where he learned some numbers and colors and family members, so he had seen his classrooms and met the teachers and students. He seems pretty nonchalant, but still had some wardrobing issues on the first morning, so I knew he was nervous. He's moving from a three hour day to seven, which will be an adjustment. He's also learning how to eat in the cafeteria (more luxury for me).
Will is also moving across town where he is in a 5th/6th combination taught by his Aunt Betsy. He is bringing home violent cartoons and teeny tiny origami, so I'm not certain what he's supposed to be doing, but I trust Mrs. iMac to do it right.
Looks like it's going to be a great year!
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Zucchini Sweeps Week: The Downside of Seasonal Eating

Our cup runneth over. We are so often gone at this time of year that I will always take zucchini. Until now.
Um, thanks, but we're full here. Our zucchini plants are one of the few things that produce in the garden. Then we got a whole row from family on Monday night. "We'd better leave a note, so they know they're zucchinis of love." said Bulk. Betz agreed.
Then today we just got the equivalent of a CSA box from our neighbors who are going out of town.
They're probably leaving so that they can eat something besides squash.

So to vent celebrate, here are some of the zucchini recipes that work for this household:

Zucchini Wheat Bread from Nedra

Beat until foamy & thick:
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. oil
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. molasses
2 t. vanilla

Mix together:
2 c. flour
½ c. wheat flour
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 t. soda
½ t. baking powder

Stir wet and dry ingredients just till blended.

Gently stir in:
2 c. coarsely grated zucchini
1 c. raisins
1 c. nuts

Pour into 2 5x9” loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 350 till pick in center comes out clean.

Here's a new recipe from a friend. I love the flavors which are much more summery than the usual: Sweet Ginger Zucchini Cake with Lemon-Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

Then there are two from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable, Miracle: Disappearing Zucchini Orzo and Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies. The former really does take up three large zucchini, and the latter is a big hit with the kids. Even the kids who helped to shred the zucchini.

Finally, when you and your family can take no more zucchini, teach the kids how to use the food processor and shred the rest. Measure into ziploc bags in two-cup increments and freeze for later. Once it turns cool, we love to make Golden Cheddar Cheese Soup from the Moosewood Cooks at Home cookbook (page 27 of this link) and I dump in a bag of the frozen stuff.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Point Discovery Garden

In the last weeks of summer, it got increasingly difficult to keep the kids happy. If I made them do chores, they felt justified and grumpy. If I took them out somewhere fun, they were unjustifiably grumpy. But I dragged them out anyway so that they would stop grazing through the kitchen all day long.
We used the annual pass again and just went to the children's discovery garden. I think it's been five or six years since we last went.
It was just the right speed for Joss. He ran around saying "Oh! Dewh's a geyyyysewr!"
Maddie taught Joss how to warm up on the dry cement.
[click to enlarge] In addition to the water play, Joss loved the labyrinth where he dragged us into corners and shouted "Uh, oh! We're stuck!", the tunnels and bear caves, and the fish pond and flowers.
But we had to finish up at the ark with a complete dousing. I should have left the shirt off!
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Feisty Female Road Trip

When Maddie was six months old, we moved from our beloved Victorian apartment to the UNofficial Married Student Housing at Berkeley. They were long low buildings perched on the steepest of hills between a grove of eucalyptus trees and the Hayward fault line. Our next door neighbors were another LDS family at the law school. Their daughter was one month younger than Maddie and my only memory of her was that she was perhaps the most darling baby ever. Emma and Maddie mostly screamed through the wall at each other until Emma's family moved away.
Twelve years later and guess who is on the same swim team and going to the same school? These girls are so funny and brainy and enthusiastic and similar that it's a kick to listen to them. One minute they're critiquing tween pop, the next they're reciting Shel Silverstein and then they're discussing swim strokes and cracking open the Complete Works of Shakespeare.
For their birthdays, Kathrine and I decided to take the two girls down to the Shakespeare festival. Emma and Maddie are also alike because they each have three brothers and no sisters. They were so excited for a girls' road trip where we promised them there would be no stops at the side of the road for bathroom breaks! We drove down on a Tuesday, got lunch and saw a matinee of Pride and Prejudice.
Then we checked into our motel, swam, ate dinner on the grass and watched Much Ado about Nothing in the evening. Both were just fantastic productions.
I knew that Maddie would love Elizabeth Bennett and Beatrice, witty women of quick retorts.
The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast and then drove up to Cedar Breaks.
We took the alpine pond hike this time and it was a completely different feeling than the Spectra Point hike we'd done before with the family. We had lunch by the pond, nearly wore out Kathrine's brakes, and came home to happy husbands and brothers by dinnertime. It was such a fun trip!
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ode to the Humble Huckleberry

a poem from the professor:
Oh, Huckleberry, blue as the Hound you endowed with your name:
How do we invoke the language to properly honor
The hard-won sweetness of your indigo bulge,
the bright citrus flash behind your ubiquitous navel?
Drenched in Deep-Woods Off, bearing jury-rigged milk jugs
We hie off to the secret glade, like initiates at Vesta's altar
Led by the High Priestess and her Minion
Hoodwinked, and led by the hand into the stooping rites of Huckleberry Hill
At first, we think: "Damn. One frickin' berry every forty feet.
Like Sal and her cub-friend, we kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk
until suddenly, 'twixt the fallen trees and mosquito clouds
We find it--Shangra Huckin' La, with berries at every turn
My Huckleberry Mojo comes and goes, but as the time comes to leave
to return to the abandoned children at the cabin, weeping in their squalor
my empty carton has become a stained-glass window of red, blue, dew-dropped purple
And I must turn back one more leaf, then one more, a crack-whore praying to the future pie.
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo

Thursday night saw us heading out to the local rodeo. The closer we got, the harder the wind blew and the rain poured. But we were determined and sat out in the exposed cheap seats, huddling together and wearing rain ponchos for warmth. Joss had a meltdown and we thought we might have to go early, but it turned out he was just hungry and a bag of popcorn set him to rights again.
It began with the bucking broncos. The kids loved the rodeo because they'd never seen one, but Rob liked it because it felt authentic: these were young kids on the rodeo circuit, some of them still teenagers and one of them had his first certified ride that night.
Then came one man roping
Then the calf-tail races. Naomi and Sebastian were in the eight-and-under category. I don't know if either of them got anywhere close to the calf, but all participants got a gold dollar, and they were pretty satisfied with that!
So were Maddie, Sophie and Will here. Their calf gave all the kids a good run for their money.
Then there was barrel racing, two man roping and bull riding. I was rooting for the kids who wore helmets and mouth guards when they rode. I think their mothers and dentists would be so proud!
The rider in back here was a woman who ran the show. She was a hazer in the roughstock events, she participated in the barrel racing and the two-man roping. She was incredible.
But it was getting cold and the littlest kids were shivering. I told John I thought we should go as soon as the last two bulls in the bucking chute had gone. I told the kids that we were leaving after two more bulls and they were so disappointed. Thankfully those two bulls were the end of the show!
Once we got off the main road, we were flagged down by one of the barrel racers on her horse. She was riding back to her truck when something (she thought it was a bear or a wolf) spooked her horse and she wanted us to shine our headlights out to scare it off. Rob gallantly offered to ride alongside her until she reached the truck. Our girls were so starstruck.
Thankfully we had warm huckleberry pie and huckleberry ice cream waiting for us back at the cabin
and the kids held their own rodeo.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Democrats With Guns

I can only hope that this was an intensive and exhaustive lesson on gun safety. John is one of the people I'd trust to do it right.
Armed with Cutter's Tropical Scent Spray bug repellent, Sophie goes into battle against the mosquitoes.
Will turned out to be a crack shot.
John the pro
Maddie improved immensely when she learned which eye to keep open and which one to shut.
Rob dusted off more merit badge skills and nailed the hapless tin cans. He had as much fun as the Thanksgiving where Ron brought out his automatic weapon and they blew up menacing zucchini.
Sophie had a great advantage from taking archery. Grandparents will be pleased to note that everyone came home with all their digits and limbs intact.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grizzy & Wolf Discovery Center

On Thursday morning I took the kids into town to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. The exhibits were fun and informative and it wasn't terribly large. We learned about bears' diet, cubs, winter lethargy and the past problems and present solutions with bears in Yellowstone. Maddie and I learned that we stink at telling the difference between black bears and grizzlies.
We watched a short film on how to recreate in bear country.
There are two different wolf habitats and groups at the center: riparian and high country. The high country wolves mostly wanted to nap while the riparian group was concerned about some construction going on nearby. I was hoping to see them rip something to shreds, but no luck.
The bears were hanging out, splashing in the pond in their exhibit.
[click to enlarge] The best part is that the geniuses at the center built a playground there! When Joss started to go wiggy on his leash, we took him there where he slid and climbed and explored the tipi and the bear traps and the cooler/garbage can/dumpster exhibit. When a company develops a new container that they think is bearproof, they submit it here and the folks put something tasty and tempting inside (fish, meat, chocolate or jam are all hits) and toss it in with the bears for 90 minutes. If it survives, it is officially "bear resistant". We saw a lot of examples of those that were sent back to the drawing board.
Afterward I took them to the Rustic Candy Shop, gave them a budget and let them run wild. This one ran around saying "kika! kika!" and putting more and more candy into his little paper sack. We found out that he loves licorice and is not fond of peanut butter taffy.
decisions, decisions . . .

The satisfied customers.