Sunday, May 15, 2016

Biology is Life... and Death...

The words of Dr. Gary Booth have been echoing in my head this week... "Behold, Biology IS life!"
Unfortunately, we have learned this week that biology is also death...

On the exploration of life, our little Wolf Cub Scout went on a delightful nature walk with dad in order to identify four different animals that live in our area. The two of them had a great time! ...

Well, a mostly great time... as long as the pokey weeds stayed out of their socks. But the boys were very successful in finding some beautiful bird life out on the wetlands, including...

Male Mallard duck taking flight.

A Snowy egret striking a pose in the mud.

A blue heron striking almost exactly the same pose.

Lots... and I mean LOTS and LOTS... of these little snails peppering the mudflats.

This little Marbled Godwit spells death for those little snails... watch out for that beak!


After coming home, Larry named these four birds and told me how to identify them--by their color, size, and length of leg or beak. It was very helpful that dad had taken pictures :) Call of the Wild, Requirement 3: COMPLETE!!

During our research we learned that the Bar tailed Godwit (the species on the Asian side of the Pacific) have been known to fly over 7000 miles non stop. One named E7 flew from Alaska to New Zealand in one flight! That such a small bird is the record holder for longest single flight is amazing.
I really should have learned how to swim!



**Fair warning: this rest of this post is kind of a downer...because biology is Also... Death...**

For Xochitl's birthday, we took on a month-long science project: trying to incubate and hatch quail and chicken eggs. We tried this about a year ago with four little chicken eggs... none of them hatched and only one had developed at all. This time, we had 12 chicken eggs and four quail eggs. None of the quail eggs made much progress, but as for the chickens, we were able to witness a lot of growth and learn a lot about the hatching process.

We tucked our little eggs into incubators like this on April 20, to await a hatch on May 11. We turned our chicken eggs twice each day at 8am and 8pm (I know there's a lot of different ideas about how often and when to turn the eggs... that's just what we did) and monitored their temperature closely, just as the incubator instructions said we should...

(The eggs are marked with X on one side and O on the other so it's easy to tell if they've been turned)

About 12 days after starting the incubation, we "candled" the chicken eggs, meaning that we held a bright light underneath them to see if any embryos were forming. It's really amazing!
We took this egg from the fridge to get a "control" and set the camera settings to get pictures of the eggs. This perfectly clear, one color egg is unfertilized...
...but in a fertilized egg, you see shadows, dark splotches, and spidery veins throughout (if you zoom in on this egg, you'll see the vein patterns on the right side of the egg.) What's really fun about candling is that you can actually see the embryos responding to the light and movement... the little chicks actually wiggle around in there! At least four of our eggs had strong veins and movement when we candled them on day 12. We were feeling excited for our little eggs and were hopeful for a few healthy chicks to arrive!
On May 8 (day 18), Jade helped me set up the brooder with some shavings, food and water dish, and heating lamp for the chicks. After that day, we turned the eggs for the last time and set the incubators into "lockdown." At this point, the chicks are getting ready to hatch and they have to find their way to the air pocket at one of the egg to prepare to pip and unzip and hatch!

So we waited. Waited for the little chirps we were supposed to hear from inside the shells. Waited for the eggs to wiggle to and fro as the chicks positioned themselves correctly. Waited and watched for any little pip or crack to appear. Nothing. Day 21 (normal hatch day) came and went... as did days 22, 23, 24, and 25. Our eggs were just as still and quiet as they had always been.

Finally, at the end of day 25, it was time to call it quits. I put on my Biology teacher hat and prepped for the "egg-topsy" to find out if anything had developed.

I'll spare you any nasty details... suffice it to say that most of the eggs had not developed and some appeared unfertilized.

But then there were four... four beautiful fully formed chicks, dead in the shell, who had made it all the way to the last week, but for one reason or another, didn't make the hatch. Was the temperature wrong? Humidity too high? Too low? Not enough air flow? Not positioned correctly? I'll never know...

It was very interesting to examine the first little lifeless chick...but as the second and then the third appeared, I felt that Biology teacher hat falling off as I saw the sad faces of my kids and felt myself get teary-eyed for these little chicks that didn't make it. I knew from the beginning it was a long shot... it's a very delicate and intricate process to get eggs to hatch, but I couldn't help soaring up on the wings of anticipation, hoping for darling little fluffy chicks to appear... I felt invested in their survival, and felt that I had failed them to somehow.

But such is life. Sometimes, the circle of life is very small. Such are the ups and downs of the study of life...and death.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Beautiful + Functional = Fun For All

Last weekend, our family took a short trip up to visit Uncle Weston and Aunt Myra in Sacramento. After accomplishing the task for which we came (utilizing Weston's variety of woodworking tools) we spent the rest of the day CLIMBING!!!....I know that may come as a shock to those of you who know our family ;)

The Auburn Quarry is an amazing place for family climbing! It was a bit of a hike in--1.5 miles on a nice level, wide trail. Next time, we considered biking in with the bike trailer carrying all the heavy climbing gear. 

The Quarry opens up in a V shape with the trail entering at the wide top of the V. When we arrived at 2pm on a Saturday, there were climbers EVERYWHERE! It was difficult to find a route to climb on, but after a little exploration and patience, we all got our fill of climbing. 

The area is perfectly suited to our smaller kids. Between the walls of the V, the area is wide and flat, filled with all kinds of goodies like rocks, dirt, grass, and bugs for the kids to enjoy. Plus, no high cliffs for them to fall off! Between climbs, the kids really had a good time with the natural surroundings making cricket houses, playing wolf, making nests, etc... And as an added bonus: a porta-potty :) 

We were all happy :)
Dawna was happy, which is a major accomplishment for an outdoor climbing day.  She generally prefers the indoor climbing scene, but the Quarry even made Dawna happy with plenty of routes suited to her level. 
Xochitl was happy, which isn't too surprising, since she got to use her brand new chalk bag for a real outdoor climb! This girl is all about the adventure! Nothing gets her down when we're out and about.

Larry (unfortunately unpictured) was happy, which is a big deal for him on an outdoorsy trip. Although the hike in wasn't his favorite, he happily climbed a couple routes between bug hunting and rock smashing, and even committed to coming back and climbing again at the Quarry. Hiking out he was much happier :)

Weston (also unpictured) was happy to be with us. He belayed Jon on some of the more difficult routes and even climbed a few himself. He also helped get Jade to the climb site happily by allowing her to ride on his shoulders. 
Jon was happy! The Quarry offered a wide range of climbs at all different skill levels. Top ropes could be easily set and retrieved by walking up the back, there were all kinds of climbs in the same area, and everyone got to feel successful and challenged. I think even Jon would want to return to tackle some of the other climbs.  I feel like we just scratched the surface...
And I was happy :) After finally settling on a climbing route, Jon halfway joking asked if I wanted to try to lead and set the rope for my top-rope climbing kids to follow. I said, "Sure!" not really knowing what I was getting into... I had attempted lead climbing at the gym, but never outside. Makes me nervous just belaying Jon on lead because when he falls, I take a short flight up the wall... 

But, the route was rated well below my level, and everyone was doing so well, so I went ahead with the idea. Jon gave me a Reader's Digest version of what to do and I stared at the wall for a good 15 minutes and practiced the first few moves while the kids were finishing up another climb. It was not a long route, only three clips, bolted, with two chains already in place for the anchor at the top. Sure, why not? I could do this... What could possibly go wrong?

So I tied in, collected my quick-draws (device that attaches the rope to the wall), being sure to take a couple extra in case I dropped some in my nervous state, attached my personal anchor to use at the top, and said, "On belay?"

And then I was off.  From the ground to the first clip was the most intense. The first clip was about 10 feet off the ground, and if you fall before clipping in, there's nothing at all to catch you except your own two feet and the uneven rocky ground below... and hopefully your belayer is there to make sure you don't hit your head on something (as you can see in the picture, I forgot a helmet--NOT recommended...)

So I made it to the first clip and got it on the wall and got my rope in, and then I was feeling a little more confident. The next two clips went well also as I took my careful time and tested out each hand and foothold before committing my weight to it. And then I was nearing the top...

Before the anchor at the top, there was an edge that opened up to a crack over the top. When I got to that point, I really wanted to climb into the crack. It looked so much more comforting and stable than hanging out over the ledge. The only problem was that the crack did not necessarily lead up to the anchor I had to reach. Plus, climbing into the crack would put me way off to the left of my clips, which would result in a much more frightening swinging fall if I missed a hold... I had watched and talked to a climber before me on the route. He told me when I got to that point to hold the edge and lean away for balance in order to reach the top. It made sense when I was at the bottom, but looking at it up close, and thirty feet off the ground, was another story. Was that really the best and surest way to get to the anchor? Despite my fast beating heart, I trusted that it was. I braced my right foot, held tightly to the edge, and straightened my arms to relax into the leaning hold. Then bit by bit I inched my hands up the edge of the crack to the top, where there was a delightfully deep jug to hang onto while securing my personal anchor, then anchoring the rope for my family to climb on after me. Whew! 

And that was that. I finished my first lead climb! GO ME!

Finishing a climb like that (even one rated as low as that one) gives you a real sense of ownership of the route. I didn't want to let anyone else belay on "my" climb. I felt that I knew the route better than anyone and could guide them up the wall. Dawna, Larry, Xochitl, Weston, and Jon all climbed after me, and my rope kept them all safe-yay! 

I know this sounds cheesy, but a primary song came to mind: "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me..." and this climbing gospel metaphor unfolded in my head. Looking up at the rope I had anchored in, I asked myself: am I anchored spiritually to the surest bolts (Jesus and His gospel)?  Thinking of the conversation I had with our fellow climber, I asked myself: do I trust that the advice from prophets will help me reach my goal, even when I can't see how in the moment? Watching my kids follow me up the climb, I pondered: if those I wish to teach follow my actions, will they also reach that sure anchor? Feeling the rope slide through my hands as I belayed, I wondered, is my testimony (like the rope) strong enough to catch me/them if something should go wrong?  All these things were running through my head for the rest of the day and into fast and testimony meeting the next day... where the whole ward had to hear about it :) Being outdoors has always been a place of reflection and pondering for me as I surround myself in God's creations. So grateful to have a husband that will take me on adventures and a family that will happily come along! 

So, who wants to go climbing???

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Friday, April 22, 2016

A Night of Classics

This year's piano recital was Classics themed. I had three kids performing this year. The recital was in the chapel, so there's no original footage, but after the fact, I got a recording of their speeches and performances, so without further ado...

(I particularly love that she added her own applause at the end...)
Dawna's song was re-purposed for the Lincoln talent show...
Yeah, those are my kids :) So glad they put up with my nagging about practicing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Simply Six

Xochitl has turned six! After such an overwhelming March, we decided (well, Mom decided...) that simple would be best for her birthday. 

In the morning, she got to open family presents, including a home made blanket for Olivia made by Dawna, new Sunday shoes, an R2-D2 water bottle, and a pony for Olivia. Then, I brought Krispy Kreme doughnuts for her kindergarten class at snack recess and returned with Chipotle for her lunch. 


Since it was piano lesson day, off we went to Nana's house after school as usual.  Nana had prepared classic fun party games and dinner as requested by Naomi: hamburgers and French fries.
 Jon got to join us for the fun and brought a super special gift for her: a hot pink chalk bag for climbing. It was exactly what she had asked for and was tickled beyond words to have her own chalk bag!!
 For a little celebration with friends, we decided to do a dinner and a movie night at out house. Pizza, popcorn, and pals all night! Xochitl asked for a "Whale Watermelon" for her cake... ok... Those are always lots of fun to make... and way better than cake, in my opinion!
The kids sort of watched, but mostly the Lego Movie was going on in the background while the kids ate dinner, played Legos, and played outside. It was a fun, relaxing way to celebrate six!

Naomi is starting her sixth year wonderfully. She is a capable, confident, and caring kindergarten girl. She loves her gymnastics class and loves to go climbing. Independent and strong-willed (in mostly a good way...), and just beautiful in every way!

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Leopards Take Broadway

What a choir season we had this year! A rush of amazing music and intense work to bring to pass our spring concert: Leopards Take Broadway!

From the first Friday in January to the concert on March 18, the kids worked hard after school on Fridays and Tuesdays at lunch with our individual soloist and group features practice. I couldn't have done it without my mom's help taking the kids one at a time to hit all their pitches on solos while I scoured the playground looking for unsuspecting choir victims! 

 The announcers worked together learning a little dialogue for each song telling something we had to do to get on Broadway, including...
1. Getting up early (because Broadway is all the way across the country), so we sang "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma
2. Working Hard, so we sang "It's the Hard-Knock Life" from Annie
3. Getting a great sidekick, so we recited "The Naming of Cats" from Cats

(Those songs were sung by my 41 Cubs, the K-2nd grade singers... 
...after which my 30 Prowlers, the 3rd-6th grade singers, joined in)

4. Getting a great costume, so we sang "Masquerade" from The Phantom of the Opera

5. Leaning how to sing, so we sang "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music
6. Attempting the impossible, so we sang "Defying Gravity" from Wicked

(Time for intermission... the Cubs joined the audience and the Prowlers took the stage for their set... )
7. Having a great imagination, so we sang "Castle on a Cloud" from Les Miserables
8. Getting rich! So we sang "If I Were a Rich Man" from The Fiddler on the Roof
9. Loving every bit of what we do, so we sang "Seasons of Love" from Rent

Whew...

So... It's one of those things that sounded like a great idea at first: a collection of Broadway songs, each representing something that you have to do to get on Broadway...but then you start to realize that every Broadway song is difficult in its own way. I mean, these are songs written for professional performers with decades of experience, so why not have my kindergartners learn it???  Hmmm....

And most of the sheet music is written as orchestral adaptations or for Piano/Vocal/guitar. In order to cover the difficult music, I had to recruit a team of pianists: Mom and Brooke (with adorable assistant Alex). They were a dream team of piano talent and page turning (the longest song checking in at over 20 pages, not to mention the repeats, codas, and alterations made).
In spite of all that, everything turned out well enough. I'm always so impressed with the drive and determination of the kids to get everything learned. And I think the great thing about this experience was seeing the kids learn excellent music and having the kids and their parents enjoying the music together. I'm glad we all had a chance to learn together.

We had a good time and made great memories... but would I do this program again with K-6 singers? Don't count on it...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Lucky Trails to you!

This St. Patrick's Day was filled with fun ups and downs.  Some things were great; some things left a lot to be desired, but mixing in those ups and downs made for a more memorable day (I think...)

On the down side, there were no Lucky Charms for breakfast. The Leprechauns had been too busy getting ready for the Leopard Choir concert and forgot to bring them around for breakfast...

On the up side, Dawna had a field trip first thing in the morning. I got to go along as a chaperone this time and we had a lot of fun going to... the Dump!

(Well, technically called the Waste Transfer Station). The Transfer Station sent us a bus to ride which was super cool! Cushy seats, foot rests, and real laminate flooring! In the classroom there, we learned about the four R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. And we got to take a tour of the place, complete with safety gear!
 We got a peek at a HUGE bulldozer that pushed tons (not hyperbolic tons, actual tons) of garbage around!
 I haven't been able to throw away a Ziploc bag since then...grr...

But then, back on the down side, Dawna had an orthodontist appointment right after school, which usually isn't all that bad, but for some reason, they were really behind or forgot about us or something, so we were sitting in the office for over half an hour for our 2-minute appointment. The kids came up with a fun game involving chasing "dots"--sunlight reflected off our watches-- around the ceiling or racing to hit a particular letter on spot on the wall.

But then on the up side, the Leprechauns left a great treasure hunt for the kids when we arrived home: "Hats off to the Kobersteins for planning a great vacation!"
(It's kind of a long video...taken mostly for the benefit of Jon... since the kids would NOT wait until he came home from work to do the treasure hunt...)

The kids followed clues on leprechaun hats until they each found their very own suitcase to take on our upcoming spring break vacation!

I'm hoping they're brightly colored enough to be easily spotted on the baggage claim carousel :)

But then on the down side, dinner was kind of a disaster... because I went on the field trip early in the morning, I didn't get the corned beef in the crock pot until much too late... which means it turned out as the worst corned beef and cabbage I've ever made... the meat was chewy, the veggies soggy and over salted...

But on the up side, by dinnertime, the Leprechauns had brought the Lucky Charms that were missing at breakfast, so much of dinner was magically delicious anyway :)

I think overall, through all the ups and downs of this St. Patrick's Day, we came out on top!

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Kobersteinville Newspaper, Issue #003

Dawna, being inspired by the American Girl Kit Kittredge, has enjoyed writing a "Kobersteinville Newspaper" from time to time. Here's today's issue (some of which has been covered on previous posts, some of which is covered exclusively in the newspaper):

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Kobersteinville Newspaper

Let It Rain!

Rain has been pouring down on Kobersteinville these past few days. The wonderful rain will hopefully continue next Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Thankfully, Mom purchased two new umbrellas at Costco and Liz Tuitama brought us two fine rain jackets to use. Larry passed down his shark boots to Xochitl and uses his new snow boots in the rain. The duck puddle on the west side of the house is full and ready for some stompin’, splashin’ fun! Get on those rain boots and coats and open up those umbrellas to enjoy the rain!
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Kobersteins Sweep Young Authors’ Contest!
    Dawna Koberstein, Naomi Koberstein, and Lawrence Koberstein all placed in the Lincoln Elementary Young Authors Contest! Dawna won 1st place in the fourth grade category. Naomi won 1st place in the kindergarten age group, and Lawrence took home 2nd place for the second graders. These winners worked hard and we would like to congratulate them for their hard work.  Their books are available for checkout at the Lincoln Elementary School Library or the Newark public library. Or, write in to the editor to schedule an in-person reading from the award-winning authors of Kobersteinville!

Snow is Falling

Dawna, Larry, and Dad went snow camping last Friday and came back on Saturday.They had so much fun! They made a snowman together after sleeping in a well made snow cave. Snow angels were abundant in the morning. They also got very cold and wet. Luckily, Dad thought ahead and had them bring extra dry clothes to stay warm. It was a long drive and a long night of snowfall, which made for some long lasting memories of love.

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Scripture Reading

    Kobersteinville has begun a new tradition for scripture reading.  Each morning at precisely 7:45, one lucky Kobersteinville kid chooses a picture from the newly completed Gospel Art Kit. All enjoy a reading of the scripture story and talking about the picture. So far Kobersteinville has read scriptures each day in the month of March. We have been doing a pretty good job. Keep it up!
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We had a fun time delivering the newspaper to Nana and Papa :) Thanks for the news, Dawna!

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