You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2013.

And back to school we go!

Today was our first day with curriculum, but (to use my friend Rose’s term) we soft opened yesterday with a little photo booth back-to-school shoot at our house:

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A first grader and a preschooler, oh my! We had a good and productive, albeit exhausting, day today. I am reminded of how it felt to open in my classroom. This gig takes some energy, man. Especially now with two of them working on legitimate work simultaneously… First grade is no Kindergarten, either, I will say that. We were at it through lunch today with our four core subjects. I definitely felt back at work today, and there wasn’t much sitting.  I almost can’t believe we turn around and do it again tomorrow, but I know from experience that we’ll settle into the routine of things.

We’ll take a more abbreviated day tomorrow, since our ES is coming for a visit at 10:45 AM. But by then, we will have worked about four hours anyway! We are early risers (I ran 5.2 miles this morning, Katie and I read in a bio she chose about Annie Oakley from 6:30 until about 6:50, and we were officially opening school by 7:00 AM). At any rate, after our visit with Stephanie we are taking Katie to her favorite restaurant, which serves Afghan food, as a way to celebrate the start of school. I doubt any of us will feel much like hitting the books hard after lunch (let’s be realistic), but we’ll probably work some map puzzles and read. At some point I will have to return to the McGaugh Academy weekly wrap-ups as a way of chronicling what we are doing—and how I am working my way through finding points of similarity between what Katie is doing and Eric is doing so that, for example, we can both be working on the skill of “classification” but at different levels and looking at grade level content. The nice part about the State Content Standards is that they really do build, for the most part, from K to 12, and at least in English often seem to follow a progression along Bloom’s Taxonomy. So there are ways and tricks to match up some of what they are doing, if we look at skills and themes. Saves my sanity, at least, to approach it this way!

I think about all the prep I need to do after the kiddos go to bed tonight (this is the time of year when TV and movies become scarce for me) while still making it to bed at a reasonable enough time to fit in my run.  Adjusting to the discipline after a more laid-back summer takes some teeth-gritting. At the same time, I completely love teaching my children and am so thankful for this opportunity!

But I will say: whew! The trickiest part is managing a home and managing a school at the same time. Not a whole bunch of down time at the moment… Thank goodness we carved out some space and had a rejuvenating hour this afternoon with our homeschool buds at the park. The school part got done today, but the home part didn’t quite get done: that’s when we break out our easy dinners!

The McGaugh Academy/(River) Springs Charter School begins the school year next Tuesday. Since Bill started back to work on August 9th anyway, we have been slowly acclimating to our autumn schedule: early bedtimes and pre-dawn runs for me. We therefore won’t have such a huge transition in lifestyle next week, but we have had a summertime mentality of more relaxed learning and adventuring. We’re headed back into our routine and though I am excited to experience first grade and pre-school with my littles, I also have a bit of the back-to-school butterflies. It will feel so good to get a few weeks under our belt and be solidly into September. In the meantime, though, we are spending one last week bashing about, seeing friends and family, fitting in appointments, and in general living the life of kiddos on summer break. We have a few more days left!

Following Eric’s birthday, we enjoyed a beach day with my lifelong friends and their families:

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Katie and Abby at Del Rey Deli Co; with the Camps and Chariyasatits at Dockweiler Beach in Playa Del Rey

The following Monday it was off to Dr. Perry’s office for our dental exams:


This was Eric’s first time at the dentist!  Jan is always great with the kiddos: she let Eric help her rinse his sister’s teeth. They both did wonderfully well, including the time they were waiting for me to have my cleaning done. We were there for a couple of hours, but the time passed quickly. And in exciting news: one of Katie’s front teeth is starting to wiggle. I predict it will be out by her 6th birthday!



After the dentist we did an errand and then treated ourselves to Golden Spoon frozen yogurt. Lunch for me, and oh-so-heavenly!



Katie and Eric have been loving their scooters and helmets.


My parents have been coming over in the late afternoons for a swim at our neighborhood pool. Katie and Eric love to scoot their way there.



We tried our hand at making homemade ricotta cheese. Fairly straightforward, and we’ve been using it in various dishes.


Last week I attended a day long curriculum conference at the Pechanga conference center with my friends and fellow homeschooling moms. This was my first time going, and I really had fun!



We’ve been playing a popsicle math game this week.


Katie and Eric had an art afternoon one day and made prints using tempura paint and kitchen objects. This gave way to making new colors and various other creative experimentation on their parts. They had a blast!


One day we woke up and had no particular agenda, so we scooted our way to the park and back for a 3-mile roundtrip. Ah, summer…


Loving the farmer’s market in Old Town on Saturdays. Always a new find!

Last Saturday I took the kiddos on a mommy-daughter-son (Daddy stayed home to rest) date to see Planes. Another first for Eric: his first time at the movies! Katie went to the movies for the first time shortly after turning three, also. Eric had a great time, and he and Katie have been playing “movie theater” with the playroom chairs ever since.


The U.S. Air Force had an actual fighter plane present at our theater, and the kiddos got to peek inside. So fascinating!

On Sunday we had a visit from our friend and former student Kevin who is now a teacher in New York by way of Korea. Oh, we love Kevin!

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What a treat it was to have Kevin in our home. This guy has a truly interested mind in just about everything: film, music, philosophy, statistics, literature, science… So fun to catch up with him and to hear about his life in Brooklyn!

Then on Monday…DISNEYLAND!!!!!!!! WAHOOOOOOOOO! Our passes are no longer blocked out for the summer. Oh I have been missing this happy, lovely place. I could live there and never bat an eye. Disneyland has it right: let’s focus on what is joyful. I don’t think I’d miss reality very much at all, actually, LOL! Someday I hope to write a blog entry about why I adore Disneyland so, so, so, so much (precision, emphasis on optimism, its awareness of itself as a literary place, the ways in which it entices us into narrative-making, etc), but for now I am just over-the-moon to be back!



First order of business: the delicious twists from Maurice’s cart in the Fantasyland Faire. Oh my. Yes, we ordered all three and split them. Hog-gleemish! And also two boysenapples… While we were munching away, the Disneyland Band came out with Mickey and friends and played by the castle. The four of us started imprompt dancing right by these benches here—what a happy, happy memory.

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And then: O.M.G.!!! They were running the canoes. I haven’t seen them run the canoes since I was a child, although perhaps they have and I just missed it. The CANOES! I have been wanting to go on the canoes for years. It’s so retro! I swear to goodness that if all I had gotten to do at Disneyland on Monday was to row those canoes, it would have been more than enough to make my day completely. I get so excited about things like that. Our guide was so funny, and I love those corny Disneyland jokes.



We had another visit with Tiana, too!


Eric fell asleep in the Peter Pan line!

The bonus for our Monday trip? We were able to join my cousin Jed, my little cousins, and my aunt and uncle for ice cream and fireworks. Great end to the day!

And then today we drove down to Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Vista to meet up with Beth, Jocey, and Kd and to have lunch at Norte:









I love and appreciate these women so much. I had a couple of issues about which I wanted to ask their advice today, and they were all so helpful at reminding me who I am and how to keep my eyes, heart, and mind focused on what is good and loving toward other people no matter the circumstances. I am so thankful for time with them. I am thankful, too, that even now when we are adults we are still longing to be with each by choice and friendship and the bond that was created as children. It’s a pretty special thing we have going here.



Early this evening, my mom got in on the scooter action!

Life is good. As one of my cousins put it, we all know life has its ups and downs but we really do need to focus on what is going well and to celebrate those moments when we have the chance, out of profound gratitude. When there are trials, both big and small, the well-trained mind is better equipped to deal with those (and more quickly) if we make it a habit to appreciate the many good moments we’ve been gifted.

So, Summer 2013, you’ve been a summer of ups and downs for sure: first speeding ticket, amazing trip to Indiana, Nana’s health changes, Eric’s Peter Pan birthday, my own little health issue a couple weeks ago, glorious running, kiddos squabbling, kiddos hugging and playing happily together, jury duty summons, beach trips and family parties, etc. But mostly? Mostly you’ve been great, Summer 2013, because what else can you be when I am alive and have my family here? Mostly you’ve been great because life is about the adventure and the stories you have on your deathbed about how passionately you lived when you had the chance.

Peace out, Summer!  I’m getting ready now for my favorite of my four favorite seasons!

Happy Birthday to my sweet boy, one of the most genuinely happy and playful people I’ve ever known. Eric, I love your sense of humor and how you are constantly laughing and making jokes. Your kindness and empathy toward others is such an amazing gift. I am so thankful every day for you. I am better because I have known you.

A couple of months ago, Eric mentioned wanting a Peter Pan cake for his birthday. This was not surprising since Peter Pan has been his favorite character this year and since he wears his Peter Pan hat almost daily. I decided to incorporate the Peter Pan theme as much as I could into all of our celebrations.

On Tuesday night (the 6th) we had reservations at Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. We had had a dinner there as part of Katie’s third birthday celebration, and so we thought it might be a way to create shared and similar memories for the two of them if we took Eric there for his third birthday also.


Eric went to his dinner in style! I had made a birthday shirt for Eric with his name and a “3” dressed up in a Peter Pan hat and a Peter Pan belt and dagger. Eric wore his hat and his sunglasses for extra panache. I love my sweet little goofball so much!


Uncle David and Auntie Ashley joined us for dinner at the hotel. So much fun!


Before stopping by Disneyland, we went early over to Nana’s house. Eric opened his gift from her (Disney’s Peter Pan dagger and bow-and-arrow set). The dagger has barely left his hands. We pretended to duel as Peter Pan and Captain Hook.


He cut off me hand!


Grateful to have a birthday visit with Nana.


So many friends came to visit at Goofy’s Kitchen, although a favorite for both kiddos was definitely Princess Jasmine! Eric was asking all about her jewels and told her that his “3” was dressed up as Peter Pan on his shirt!


On the 7th, I took the kiddos on a long walk to the park, played there for a couple hours, and walked back with them. They got to rest in the afternoon, and this gave me time to put together our single gift to Eric this year: a train table. He has been wishing and wishing for one of these for months. I kept it hidden in our bedroom under a comforter over night.


Katie and I brainstormed and made a pirate treasure map for Eric to use when finding his train table (since I couldn’t wrap it). We used cream linen paper and burned holes in it and around the edges to make it look authentic.

Today, the 8th, we had a Peter Pan themed kind of day:


We painted wooden treasure chests while listening to the score from the Disney film.


We played in Mermaid Lagoon.






My afternoon project: finishing Eric’s Peter Pan themed birthday cake


I’ve never considered myself a very good cake decorator, so I was actually quite happy that I pulled this one off…





A watermelon pirate ship for the fruit salad


Wearing green in honor of the birthday boy




Appetizers: apple wedge and cheese boats; Pirate’s Booty (of course); Smee’s cannon balls (grapes); and vanilla wafers as gold doubloons. Dinner: farfalle (evocative of Tink’s fairy wings) dressed simply with Temecula Olive Oil Company’s Late Harvest Lemon Reserve and grated Romano; watermelon pirate ship fruit salad; roasted broccoli and cherry tomatoes; Caeser salad; and fish sticks.



They actually make crocodile birthday cards! Score!




Opening his treasure map












This morning Katie read him a story


Seeing his cake for the first time


His treasure chest was filled with M&Ms!


Trying to hold up three fingers



Arrrrrrrrrr, Peter!



Captain Hook captures Wendy and Peter. Who says a KitchenAid dough hook is just for bread making?



Making a wish…



Look of pure joy when he opened Katie’s present she picked out: a Peter Pan doll.