Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First Grade Field Trip Frenzy!

And now, A Post Featuring our Son:

Larry's first grade class has been busy... very busy... enjoying events and field trips this year.  Their class has had three field trips in the past three months! Talk about a good time!! I got to go on two of them with him and had an exhausting, but good time :)

The December field trip was a trip up to Ohlone Community College to see the play "The Shoemaker and the Elves." That happened while Jon and I were on the cruise, so I couldn't go along... sad day...

But then, in January, all the first and second grade classes at Lincoln went to see the San Francisco symphony in a program called "Play me a Story." The program itself was incredible! The symphony sounded so so so beautiful! 

I'm not entirely convinced the kids enjoyed it as much as I did... in fact, by the end of the program, several of the kids on my row were fast asleep... can't really blame them; the journey to get to the concert hall was a little insane. We left first thing in the morning once school started, loaded up in parent cars, drove to the BART station, rode BART into San Francisco, had to wait at the station for 20 minutes since not everyone in the class got on the first train, then walked 3/4 mile to a park, ate lunch, then waited in line for another 20 minutes or so to get into the building... we all may have experienced some sour grapes as we watched the private school charter buses pull right up to the curb and drop off their students... grr... 

Even so, I think the trip was worth it for the exposure to such amazing professional musicians! The kids enjoyed hearing different instruments sound like animals (from Peter and the Wolf), like toys (a doll and a bouncing ball), and ride along with the "Flight of the Bumblebee." The concert hall was packed with kids from all over the Bay Area. 

It was a little nerve-racking to travel in and out of the BART stations with so many little kids, but the day proceeded without incident and I even got back right on time to pick up Jade and Xochitl from my friend's house before school got out!

The February field trip took us much closer to home (thank goodness!). We went to Tule Ponds in Fremont to enjoy a day learning about nature! We started the field trip with lunch by the pond and then went into the visitor's center for a presentation and hands-on  learning.

The kids got to see two monarch butterflies emerge from their cocoons and be released out the window! That was pretty cool! Larry insisted on wearing his "Safari Vest" that he got for his birthday from Nana and Papa. It was the perfect getup for the day and he used his magnifying glass on almost everything!
 Outside, the naturalist showed the kids many interesting things, including Tule reeds, a beehive in a hollow tree, a raccoon den, a skunk den, and bird and squirrel nests.
All the kids were captivated, excited learners, even if they were a little rambunctious by the end of the day.  We were a little late getting back from the trip; we were parking at the school just as the bell rang.  It was a little stressful getting the six first-graders I had taken in Eva, all carrying their own booster seats, to walk through the parking lot with parents pulling in and out... all well... the important thing is that they all got to make their Elder wood necklaces.

At another totally unrelated Lincoln event, the Health and Resource Fair, Larry got to meet a real Newark police officer and explore the police car! The police officer was very lovely.  Larry was excited to meet her because, as he adamantly declared in his "What I want to be when I grow up" paragraph, he wants to be a police officer and marry a lady police officer...and ride a motorcycle. Time will tell if any or all of those things happen...

So, all in all, first grade at Lincoln has been very good to Larry.  When asked, he might tell you he'd rather stay in first grade next year than proceed to the second... Sorry, Buddy, I don't think first grade would be nearly as fun the second time around...

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Young Author, A Young Athlete

A post dedicated to our Number One: Dawna K.

Dawna has had some exciting events in the past couple weeks.  First, her Young Author's contest.  
Dawna worked hard on her story, titled "The Wise Women," first drafting, typing, enduring critiques from a harsh editor (aka Mom), then handwriting each page (as per the requirements of the competition) and finally illustrating and designing the cover for her story. 
 It was a LOT of work! But she never gave up and was SUPER excited to see her book "in print" (each student who submitted a story got to have their story put in a hard-bound cover). All the work and late nights were worth it to see her light up upon holding her very own hard back book!
 But that was not all she got to be excited about... Dawna's story also took home second place for the third grade authors! AND (something I think is particularly cool...) her story gets to be copied and put in school library and the Newark public library! She had to autograph her books before they could be sent to the libraries:
 So proud of my Young Author!

Dawna's next exciting event was a fitness class at Slim Fitness in Newark.  Dawna ALSO won the prize for the most laps walked in the third grade during the October Walk-athon (you remember reading about it in that one post?? Anyway...) The prize was (appropriately) an hour-long fitness class at a local gym with her plus five.
 We managed to find her plus four friends to come enjoy the class. The instructor, Justin, was organized and the girls had a lot of fun doing circuits, relay races, Hopscotch 2.0, and a game where the girls had to figure out how to pass different objects from one bucket to another without using their hands:

It was all very cute, colorful, and fun! All the girls came away sweaty and tired...and giggling! Perfect!!!
Great work, Dawna! Thanks for giving us lots of reasons to celebrate!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jade the Wookie

Our kids have been really into Star Wars lately. So naturally when the Star Wars fruit snacks went on sale, I had to get some for our crystal prize box. Jade wanted to hold them while we were shopping and she started making this funny noise... 

Took me a minute to realize she was saying "Wookie: {wookie sound in cheek}" over and over again. I was impressed that she could connect the picture of Chewbacca on the box to the sound... and even more impressed that she could blow her cheek out like that... but then I remembered watching this video:
over and over and over again with the kids... so much so that they can sing the entire song... So Jade was quoting this Moosebutter song... take a moment to enjoy both awesome videos, Star Wars fans!

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Dad's Book Club: Dear Mr. Henshaw

Today I finished the book Dear Mr. Henshaw.  I enjoyed reading it very much (keep in mind that I particularly enjoy adolescent literature).  I'm not a huge fan of all things Beverly Cleary, but this book had an honest tone and the young Leigh Botts learns and grows in significant ways without some bizarre twist... just a regular kid growing up, adjusting to life after his parent's divorce. He learns about building friendships and finding faith in yourself and taking baby steps towards big dreams. I love that he learns by writing. Things he doesn't know about himself at the beginning, he discovers through expression in a diary. Plus he starts getting better grades because of it, too! The book is written as a series of letters to his favorite author (Mr. Henshaw) and diary entries. Cleary did an amazing job making the first passages sound like C+ homework, and then, by the end of the story, writing in an A style, if you know what I mean.

Bottom line: Very recommendable! Good read!


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Cruise Day the Last!: Back at sea, Back on shore

After a sentimental last boarding from Cozumel, we had a long thirty-something hours at sea before arriving back in port at Tampa. In a nutshell, we read, ate, ran laps, ate, Zumba-ed, ate, watched Dolphin Tale 2, ate, played more shuffleboard, ate, enjoyed on-board entertainment, and then, since we were hungry, went to eat a little something. We did get to see more flying fish and were happy to learn that we could walk off with all our own luggage and skip the baggage claim at the dock. Highly recommended!

We bid a fond farewell to the dear Norwegian Sun and faced the harsh realities of a world where you have to pay for food! We wanted to see as many sights around Florida as we could in the last 22 hours of kid-free vacation that we had, so we hitched a shuttle ride to the airport, rented a car, and went to...

1. Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Yes, the very one featured in the movies Dolphin Tale 1 AND Dolphin Tale 2! We got to see the stars of the movies, including Winter, Hope, Nicholas (who plays Mandy in DT2), Ricky and Lucy (who take turns playing Rufus in the DT movies), and the turtle who played Mavis.

While it is clear that the aquarium has HUGELY cashed in from the movies' success and the facilities there clearly were not designed for the huge influx of visitors that they have received in the last few years, there is something very special about Winter. She is an amazing and beautiful animal; stubbornly resilient, refusing to let her missing tail get her down, she goes through physical therapy daily to keep her spine in good shape and yet still plays energetically with her trainers, much to the amusement and happiness of the crowd.

Seeing her was really very similar to scenes from the movie: there were indeed a number of kids with missing limbs there around her tank trying to get a peek at her.  The small aquarium was packed the whole time we were there. I'd like to think it was just for Winter, but it might have also been because of the actor there for an autograph session...but I don't even know (or care) who it was... I just wanted to see Winter and her trainers.

2. Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center

After a short and complete visit through the entire Clearwater Aquarium, we drove out to the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center. We parked at the edge of the parking lot where we saw a trail heading out to a viewing tower.

Apparently manatees are attracted to the warm water produced as a byproduct of electricity generation at the power plant there. And see? This electric company is totally doing something good for the environment! (ahem...) So, we follow the trail for about a mile and get to the observation tower, climb all the way to the top.... and see nothing...

...nothing, that is, except for a bat ray and an intriguing sign in the middle of a "paddling trail." We'd never heard of such a thing, but it sounds like a lot of fun... so next time we're down at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center, we'll have something else to do...

Anyway, the point is, there were NO manatees.  None. At all. We were sad. We wanted to see these curious and lethargic creatures, but it seemed it was not meant to be.  We headed back the mile-long trek, enjoying the walk... but then as we approached the parking lot, we noticed that the people arriving were all heading to the opposite end of the parking lot, away from the trail we took to the observation tower.  What are they all going to see? we wondered... so we followed them the 50ft. to the other end of the parking lot.

What do you know??? It's a Manatee Viewing Center complete with docks to walk on, volunteer naturalists, and a manatee racing arcade game! oh, and an exhibit where you could smell a manatee's breath. Not recommended, but funny.  So, as it turns out, we had walked two miles to find something 50 feet from our car. No regrets on the walk, just a funny story to tell :) We did get to see plenty of manatees, crabs, fish, and pelicans. It's really a very nice place.

3. Lettuce Lake Regional Park

As the afternoon wore on, dark clouds settled in around us, but we still wanted to make one more stop to the park we missed out on before leaving for the cruise. We knew from experience that it was not a place to walk to, but with a rental car, it was easy to get into the park and drive around the spacious swampland. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was raining rather hard, but we knew we'd not likely soon be back to see Lettuce Lake Park, so we got out and walked the docks and experienced the swampy lake in cold, wet, misty, mysterious conditions. Definitely could return there and do more exploring... another time...

We finished off the evening with a picnic dinner in the rental car and then returned to Ginny's for a not-so-long night's sleep--we had to get up at 3am to go to the airport. The flights home were uneventful and generally restful.  Dad picked us up at the airport with two cute little girls in the car (the other two wanted to stay home).  Dawna and Larry listened to instructions and did not grow while we were gone, Xochitl and Jade, on the other hand, looked noticeably (to me anyway) more grown up...

Thus completes our epic ten-year anniversary cruise (and the ridiculously long blog posts about it). I returned refreshed, happy, and ready to face the rigors of life with my best friend, my chosen companion, my husband, ever by my side.  


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Cruise Day 6: Cozumel

Well, technically, we were only in Cozumel for a few minutes, walking down a dock and boarding a ferry to Playa del Carmen.  The ferry ride to the mainland was pretty much the most unpleasant thing about the entire vacation. Most of the passengers on board got VERY sea sick and once we got off the ferry, one passenger lost her breakfast on the side of the road... not so fun...

After that lovely experience, we then got to board a bus and travel for another long stretch to arrive at Tulum: the only Mayan ruins on the coast of Mexico.

The entire seasick, carsick journey was well worth it to be able to experience the ancient ruins.  They are like nothing I've ever seen before (having missed my chance to see the ruins at Tajin back in 2007).  Our tour guide was of Mayan descent.  His enthusiasm for the history of the Mayan people and the site at Tulum was wonderfully contagious.

It was a very blustery day (to use a Pooh Bear term), which made for some crazy hair pictures... but luckily, the rain held off until we were back on the bus. We did get to experience a huge downpour on the ride back to the ferry docks, however.

There were all kinds of interesting animals throughout the day. We don't know the names of all of them, but we got pictures!

On the way back on the bus, we were both starving! We both felt like, hey, there's free food on the ship, so why eat off the ship? But our growling stomachs made us give in... just a little bit... we found an exciting snack for the ride home: Takis Fuego Azul! For those of you with kids in elementary school around here, you know that Takis are ALL the rage!  Especially the purple Fuego con Lima flavor, which are ridiculously spicy... Anyway, we found this uniquely Mexican variety of Takis! Unfortunately, we couldn't get them back to Larry (our Taki-obsessed kid) so we just had to take some pictures:

Note for future cruises: If someone wearing a costume and hands you an iguana, they want money.