Monday, May 31, 2010

Arroyo Hondo Preserve - It's all in the docent

Today, the girls and I toured Arroyo Hondo Preserve on the Gaviota Coast. Another parent had organized the group tour of this once-home to Chumash people. We were happy to have been invited along for the ride. It's a beautiful, expansive, rugged parcel complete with a year-round stream (a feature rare in our half of the county). We saw the last throes of spring wildflowers, including a Humboldt Lily.

E is 10 now, and has started to branch out. She likes more and more independence, and asked to be in a group separate from V and me. No problem! So she headed off with kids her speed and age while V and I headed off with a different docent in a smaller group.

Well, it seems E had an entirely different tour than V and I did. E was totally jazzed by the time the hike was over and told us about some of the varied activities her group's docent provided to help the kids learn some things along the way while making the learning memorable. V, on the other hand, was bored out of her mind and didn't much appreciate our condescending docent. (Honestly, I couldn't blame her.)

The reserve is open to the public on the first and third Saturdays of the month, and there are miles of trails to explore, plus great picnicking opportunities. The creek alone is, for me, worth the walk. Is there anything quite so relaxing as the sound of water trickling through the rocks while the wind rustles through the leaves where birds call and bugs buzz?

Another mom in E's group posted some photos of the day. I hope this embed works for you.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Family Night Out , Civil War Ball style

Several weeks ago, our family enjoyed our first Civil War Ball. The dances were all called, the company was pleasant, the music was fun and the evening was full of laughs. So much fun was had by all that even those less inclined to dance (particularly in public) began talking about "next time" before we'd even left the premises.

So, this weekend we traveled north to Atascadero for another dance organized by the same woman. (You can find out all about the next ball, the requirements and further details here.) This time, we were treated to live music and some new dances, including an Appalachian dance which was probably among the most fun both to dance and to call. (The caller gets to wing it entirely, so dancers HAVE to listen to keep it together, plus there were some visually appealing steps.)

The most relaxing and fun-filled dance for me, however, was one to which I had paid absolutely NO attention to the directions. I was sidelined, you see, due to lack of a partner (Mr. B was dancing with V) and a need for a water break. But part way through the dance, one of the dancers blew out her dress (for the third time - poor thing) and the quadrille was one dancer short. I was waved in off the bench, then talked through the dance. Super funny, and a good time.

The next dance is in June in Santa Maria, then we'll have to hold off 'til December. I wonder if E's dress will be finished by the June dance...I'm working on learning button holes. Ah...the things we learn for our kids! :)

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Going to the Big D!

We managed a trip south to celebrate a certain someone's birthday at his favorite place on Earth. With the help from a friend, we were able to make the trip affordable even for a family of four. (FYI: If you're planning your first-ever trip, plan on spending AT LEAST $500 a day including entry to the park, food, and lodging. It's no cheap vacation.) In a rush tonight, but wanted to get some photos up.

Kinda sad to see the girls shy away from the characters. They've grown out of them. Ah...the very innocent years are fading much too quickly.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Sad Farewell to Springtime Soccer

Today marked the end of spring soccer - a sad day for E who determined this season that maybe soccer isn't all that bad after all.


Go back.

Last fall I signed up the girls for soccer because V wanted to play, and E needed a physical activity. Plus, I figured if she didn't learn the basics of soccer now, she'd never have a chance to hit the field in a game if she decided to pick it up later. (Teams around here are incredibly competitive, and players start at age 3 and 4 around here.)

On the first day of fall soccer, V was elated; E was borderline tears.

But as the season progressed, E found herself enjoying game days, despite the fact she never touched a ball during her gameday field time. Her coach was competitive, but still played her quite fairly, and cheered her all the way.

Fast forward to spring soccer sign ups.

I figured V would want to play again. She particularly enjoyed practices last fall, but it turns out game days really weren't her thing. So, when spring sign ups came around, she opted out. But lo and behold, E volunteered!

When E discovered spring soccer involved co-ed teams and a male coach, she was less than pleased, she told me on our walk home from the first night of practice. "But today was really fun! I like it!" Indeed, playing on a team with a friend she'd known for some time as well as an incredibly thoughtful, friendly, fun-loving teammates was a major plus. And the coach was fantastic - knowledgeable, but able to get the kids involved in game-like drills that taught them skills while they were having a hoot, but best of all, he laughed his way through every single game, regardless of the mistakes the kids were making on the field. "Good job," and "That's OK," were his mantras.

As the season wrapped up, E began asking why soccer can't be a summer sport, too, and started looking forward to her next season of ball. While she did score her first goal this season, I'm most proud that she found joy in the game, the team and the time on the practice and gameday fields.

Thanks, Coach!

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pac-Man Google Doodle Celebrates 30 Years - ALREADY!?

Friday, I turned on the computer to discover Google's best doodle ever - an interactive Pac-Man 30th Anniversary commemorative doodle. Google's front page often has special artwork related to particular days of note - great artists' birthdays, dates of historic interest, current events. But I've never seen one that was actually interactive beyond the simple click-through to information ABOUT the doodle and related event(s).

The mere fact that the doodle is a WORKING video game is cool enough, but click the "insert coin" button twice in quick succession and you get a head-to-head, Pac-Man plus Ms. Pac-Man, team board. The W, S, A, and D keys control Ms. Pac-man while the arrows control the original dot-munching yellow ball.

I found this screen shot, but couldn't figure out how to make the interactive Pac-man work here. So, check out the official Google site (where sound is also included) while it's still online this weekend. If you miss it, this site may carry it indefinitely.

Photo courtesy Aidan-Sally under Creative Commons License.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Learning By Doing in Cal Poly's Labs

This week, the girls enjoyed a day of hands-on exploration in Cal Poly's Learn By Doing Lab. The fully interactive day was led by outstanding Poly student volunteers. They offered boundless energy, enthusiasm and senses of humor.

The girls and dozens of other students began their day by donning lab coats and entering the lab where discussion focused on elements and atoms, covalent bonds and reactions. After a brief discussion of the topic at hand, the students were quickly put to work creating bonds of their own through cooperative games of Octet. Then the discussion turned to acid versus base chemicals, and a related hands-on experiment that provided welcome refreshment to some students, while bringing some serious pucker to others.

After some chemical-induced "booms," the group headed to the soils laboratory for a discussion of the water cycle, and finally experiments related to percolation and pH levels (measure of acidity and basicity of a solution) in local water sources.

After lunch one of Cal Poly's welcoming lawns (where I overheard another fourth-grader say, "This is such a welcoming campus. It's so homey here!), we headed to Kennedy Library for a tour of student artwork. The special exhibit focused on kinesthetic energy - perfect art for active kids. The students were asked to view the art, and try to determine its source of movement before guides gave away the answers. And, finally, the students were invited to make their own kinesthetic artwork - and left holding their homemade pinwheels, perfect parting gifts on another blustery springtime day.

Thanks, Cal Poly, for another great day on campus!

I was pleased to see the girls actively taking part in these discussions and projects throughout the day.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

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Knapp's Castle 2010 - A Family Trek

Sunday, Mr. B proposed a family hike to Knapp's Castle via the Snyder Trail off Paradise Road near Cachuma Lake in Santa Barbara County. The 8-mile-round-trip hike was moderately strenuous, and with today's warmer temperatures was a bit toasty, but the wildflowers are hanging in there, and we saw loads of various butterflies among the insects observed.

We were surprised this year to find a caretakers' RV in place at the top. Not a bad idea. The private property here has been heavily vandalized for years. A surprise nonetheless. The caretakers have clearly cleaned up a lot of trash in their first week on the site. I hope they remain safe as rave organizers discover their party place is now off limits.

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