Monday, August 31, 2009

So Many Blessings

I am so thankful for the life I have with my family and my friends. I am filled with such gratitude that often I feel a bubbly happiness rising up from my heart. This is a time of change for me as I open myself to the full amazement and awe I feel as I watch my daughter and reexperience the world with a child's wonder. I know that life is so much vaster than we can hold in our minds and that, with all the balance of good and evil on this earth, sometimes we just need to believe that ultimately life is truly good and transcendent... and that our purpose here is to be one of love. Everyday I work on driving away my pride and arrogance; motherhood is a totally joyful and humbling experience. Just when I think I have it somewhat figured out, I find I don't at all. Other times I am surprised and encouraged when I see lessons like picking up and helping taking root and becoming part of Katie's behavior.

Katie everyday make me laugh happily with her thoughts and words. I am going to be more vigilant now about writing them all down in our little notebook. She is talking so much now that it is difficult to catch everything. Today she woke up from a morning dream, looked around her, and asked, "Where did the mermaid go?"

Later, I was changing her diaper and asked her a silly question from The Wizard of Oz: "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" She gave me a puzzled, bemused look. I said, "Mommy's silly, huh?" She replied, "Just like Daddy is." Ha ha ha.

We went to get adult flu shots (meaning none for Katie) from the pharmacy today with Amie and Boppa. We wanted Kate to watch it all, so that she could see we weren't scared or hurt. I made myself smile the whole time. She cried out in concern watching Boppa and I get our shots, but then she seemed fascinated watching Amie get her shot. When the nurse said it was time for Amie's shot, Kate said, "Sorry, no!" But then she was fine watching it transpire.

On the way home from frozen yogurt, Boppa taught Katie a new refrain, "No property taxes!" Kate kept repeating it and we were all laughing. Then: "No socialism!" She said it and squealed in delight. It was pretty funny. I know that David and her Great-Uncle Eric would have been wheezing with laughter.

We have also been loving up all the time with the (rechristened) Tuna Cat. I think she considers herself ours now. We bought her a little feeding bowl, which we decorated, and we feed her everyday. She seems to like to hang out in our backyard and would come in if she could... We draw her pretty pictures around her bowl area with sidewalk chalk. Today she played with us after our walk and before Katie's Toddler Time class.

On Friday we were so grateful to spend time with the Bergon ladies. Lauren is such a good mom and so inspiring. She has really done so much more substantial reading and thinking about being a mom prior to Madeleine's birth, and she has been amazing with the nursing. I love talking with her, and Madeleine is the most peaceful young lady and so alert!

We had a quiet weekend this weekend, as Bill continues to readjust to work. Can't believe it is September tomorrow. August went by in a whoosh!

Love to all and joy in your hearts!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hungry Caterpillar Lesson Plan

One of my favorite inspirations for lesson plans is Kate's book collection. We had such a successful lesson with Bee-Bim Bop that I wanted to find a way to extend another book into real life for her. Whether teaching high school students or my own daughter, I always always enact a lesson plan and then immediately think of ways it could have been improved. Not only are there ways in which I could have "tightened up" this lesson, but also I know there are many possibilities for further extension of its basic ideas for an older child. So I may just get a chance to repeat it and refine it in a few years. Nonetheless, I want to report what we did:

The inspiration for my lesson plan today was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Kate has loved this book for awhile; indeed, it was an early favorite and one to which she responded verbally, quoting the "pop!" when he bursts out of his egg initially (as a baby caterpillar) and also laughing when he became fat from eating so much.

To begin, I used a cut-up egg carton. The indentations for the eggs look just like a caterpillar's humps when you turn them over. I also pre-painted it green with a non-washable paint. It dried overnight and was ready for us today.

Kate sorted through our pipecleaner collection and chose a sparkly red one for the antennae.

She chose pom-poms and sequins for decorating his body. I had her guide my hand, which held the glue, to the spots she wanted to put glue dabs. Then she would press on the caterpillar's decorations. We also glued on some googly eyes and made a smile together with a marker.

We took him outside and he crawled up trees, hid in our fort, and ate leaves. The blue pipe-cleaner around his set of antennae is a "headband." Kate wanted to give him accessories, all her own idea.

Since we are working on counting (Kate can count up to ten now), as well as sorting, I decided to take Kate on a leaf hunt around the yard. How many different leaves could we find for the caterpillar to eat? She picked them and we collected them in a bucket.

As we sorted the leaves, Kate gave her caterpillar a kiss. She was also pretending to be "Katiepillar." Note her pipe-cleaner headband.

Caterpillar and Katiepillar.

Here is another close-up of our finished product.

Our collection of leaves. We counted them and sorted them by color, shape, size, and texture. We might review this part of the lesson again tomorrow, because there really is so much a person can do with a leaf collection. Perhaps we will find a way to preserve them... Hmm, I sense another craft coming on!

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Day of School

Kate and I have had absolutely the best day so far! After rising at 6:00 to prepare breakfast for Bill, I snuggled a little more with my daughter while reading the news on my iPod Touch. We were up and out the door for an early morning, cozy-in-the-thick-fog two mile walk by 7:15 AM. We stopped a few times to look at the dew on fir trees and on spider-webs, but for the most part we got some good exercise. On the way home, we stopped by the corner Starbucks for a special mommy-daughter breakfast al fresco (Kate loves the classic egg and sausage sandwiches). Starbucks was quite the place to be this morning before school, and we saw many younger children and their parents with backpacks and school supplies.

When we returned home, we dressed and packed our own backpack for Kate's first Toddler Time class. I am so proud of my daughter and how well she did absorbing the experience of the new class. There are approximately 25 toddlers in the class, and after just a little sensible reservation, Kate acclimated quickly. I like the philosophy of the teacher, and we had so much fun singing and playing the freeze-dance game and marching to the alphabet. One highlight was making a little lamb by gluing pulled cotton balls on paper shaped like a lamb. We were left to our own devices as mothers and fathers to involve our children in the craft, and so I had Kate help me pull the cotton balls. I also had her help me squeeze the white glue onto the lamb, and of course we put the pulled cotton on the glue---she was especially good at that. We each wrote her name on the back and attached a large popsicle stick. It is her first official project made in a class...

I am so excited for Kate as she embraces an autumn full of enrichment beyond our home. She adapted really well, and we were one of the first pairs to play with the legos during a "free play" period at the start of the class. I am looking forward to being inspired in my lesson plans, also. I don't have too much of a background in early childhood education, so perhaps some of the craft projects will inspire some new ideas in me that I can adapt for home use.

Our Toddler Time class extends through November, and we have our music class starting in two weeks, as well. We also have a third day of the week ear-marked for library storytimes if we feel like we want to, or on Thursdays when we aren't visiting with family and friends.

We are officially on our back-to-school schedule...a busy time of year, as mealtimes and playtimes and learning times are much more structured. I am still adjusting to the earlier mornings. I perhaps ought to have napped when Katie did today, but I decided to study some of my real estate principles course instead. Indeed, back-to-school for all of us!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summery Summary

Officially back at work, Bill has his first day of students tomorrow. On Thursday, Katie and I brought lunch to Bill in his classroom and visited some of my friends.

I am eager to embrace our new autumn routine, for this is always a cozy and comforting and productive time of year. I am, of course, already planning Katie's birthday and thinking about the yummy fall flavors to use in our dinners. We have a couple of classes scheduled for Katie this season, and we also plan to attend the library storytimes. How exciting to be able to share moments of discovery with her! We plan to commence formal homeschooling (pre-school) next year at this time, and so having a more structured autumn this year will start preparing her.

We also will be renewing our efforts to rise around the time Bill readies himself for work so that I can make him breakfast. I have been trying to rise at 6 AM. Kate and I went for early morning, hour-long walks on Thursday and Friday. We try to leave by 7:30, and we so love to be together, chatting the whole way. Then when we get home, we eat breakfast and begin the day's activities.

As the summer season closes, I want to recapture all of its joys one more time, a sort of adieu to our first season in our Hummingbird Home. We have had so much delight here... Here is a list/brainstorm of the many sounds/memories/flavors/images that will always remind me of this summer:

It was the summer of hosting parties...Midsummer Night's Eve, Father's Day, Bill's birthday, 4th of July, AP c/o 2008 reunion, Nana's birthday tea... and several lunches with friends. It was the summer of a trip to the Bay Area to see our best friends, our loved ones, and the newest members of our friend group...the summer of a glowing moon hanging high over the San Francisco fog...the summer of showing Katie Stanford, a place that celebrates a true love of learning...the summer of lunches and swims at Nana's house...the summer of watching the Perseid meteor showing in the silence of the night while my two beloveds slept soundly in their beds near midnight...the summer of The Little Mermaid and The Wizard of Oz and Katie's new ruby slippers, which made her fill with delight the first time she ever put them on...the summer of Baby Cat across the street and tuna...of trips to the library and books, books, wonderful books...the summer of seeing Heart perform again...the summer of old-fashioned, churned ice cream on the back porch...the summer of Katie talking in phrases and then sentences...the summer of time at the beach feeling the waves and building a sandcastle and meeting "seaweed man"....the summer of a hummingbird flying into our home...the summer of tea brewed in the sun and of fingerpainting and birdseed pinecones...the summer of bonfires and smores and music drifting outside through the kitchen windows...the summer of a romantic date to Tom Ham's Lighthouse and seeing Moody Blues, songs which became part of the summer soundtrack and which now will always remind me of this time...the summer of wagon rides to Amie and Boppa's...the summer of playing with pillows in the guest bedroom...the summer of Richard Scarry's Best First Book Ever...of Eloise Wilkin illustrations...of classic Little Golden Books...and other favorites...the summer of indulging in The Bachelorette after Katie fell asleep (which I should probably not be admitting)...the summer of macaroni and cheese and hotdogs...of building lego houses with Kate...of picking out toenail polish colors together at CVS...the summer of barbecues in the backyard...the summer of running through sprinklers and using the wading pool...the summer of Kate's water shoes...the summer of studying more about Hitchcock (one of my intellectual passions)...the summer of Top Chef Masters...and So You Think You Can Dance...the summer of Play-Doh sessions by the swingset...and coffee at the bistro table outside...the summer of greeting wild rabbits in the evening...the summer of sidewalk chalk...the summer of watching sunsets in the evening...and of cozy morning fog in late August...the summer of making memories in our new home together...of Kate sitting near me on the counter and helping to make meals...the summer of June rainstorms and hail...of Saint-Saens and Le Carnaval des Animaux...of bubbles and running and playing in the backyard...of a million magical instances, pressed forever to my heart...

I love my life, and our lives all together...

Goodbye, Summer 2009...we have loved you and taken joy in you, in all aspects of your season...

Contentment in the present moment...

Saturday, August 15, 2009


As a mom I am always aware that my to-do list on any given day is much too extensive to be reasonable and doable, especially when I cast it aside to embrace some of the grandest and best teachable moments ever presenting themselves; I always go to bed feeling ambitious, yet I know how often I overshoot---especially on days when Kate doesn't need to nap.

Yet today is one of those rare days when the universe aligned and when Kate was eager to be interested in Mommy's work, and so I accomplished even more on my wishlist than I expected. I always like to celebrate those days, for they are few and far between!

I usually find it fairly easy to incoporate Kate into whatever I am doing by making a game out of it, or talking with her the whole time. She sits on the counter while I do my hair and make-up and likes to look at all of my bottles and put on lotion, etc. Today I had her help me in the kitchen several times, and she loved it. She helped me make popovers with blackberry jam, sausage, and scrambled eggs for breakfast---I have her do everything she is capable of doing, even when it makes a bit of a spill or mess.

After breakfast we did three loads of laundry (sometimes I hand her the clothes to put in the dryer) and cleaned the upper bathrooms and straightened up the playroom. We took a couple of play-breaks in between, but I also give her her own sponge and scrub brush and sometimes we sing and talk in rhymes.

Then we walked over to my mom's, and we all made scones for tomorrow's breakfast and visited with my dad. Kate helped with the flour and unwrapping the butter.

When I got home, my helpful husband, who was attune to my hopes, sat down and played Play-Doh with Kate while I reviewed some reading on encumbrances and transfers and took a quiz on which I scored a perfect score (they are technically open book, but I pretend they are closed book to hold myself to a higher standard, one to which I will be held for the actual real estate salesperson exam---I want to make sure I am actually learning and that I am keeping track of what I really know). I then started the next (big) section on types of contracts, which is three chapters... I usually read each chapter once, do a practice test, wait a day, read it again once to review and take a quiz. I might try to do the whole contracts section all together, though, and take three quizzes at once. We'll see.

Fortunately I got my reviewing and my quiz done and my next reading done fairly quickly and then Kate and I started dinner.

Dinner was extra fun tonight! We have a book we love from the library called Bee-Bim Bop, the subject of which is a Korean dish...."mix mix rice." Kate and I both adore this book and have read it MANY times. It talks in verse about getting the ingredients and depicts a little girl helping her mommy make this favorite meal. We bought the ingredients at the store the other day. Katie helped me make the marinade for the beef and got to handle green onions and the papery garlic skin as I chopped the cloves. She helped me make rice in our rice pot and put the carrots and spinach in the pans to steam. She loved it. We referenced the book as we were cooking, and she was extremely aware of what we were doing and why (to replicate the book). She loved it and was giggling and smiling. I even used certain bowls ("big bowls striped in blue") to match the bowls used in the book. Right before dinner, I re-read the book to Kate and Bill and when it said, "Mix it!/Mix like crazy!/Time for bee-bim bop!" she squealed in delight and mixed it all up as her daddy did, too. She is such a good little eater in terms of variety. She ate the big wilted spinach leaves and steamed carrots and I cut the strips of beef into chunks. She took a huge delight in the whole dinner, and it was a synthesis activity that links the book to the practical outcome. We had fun!

Our day started off especially sweet, as well. Kate was with us in the bathroom as we were getting ready. Bill said, "I love you, Kate!" And Katie replied, very clearly, "I love my daddy, too." We were just dying over her use of the comma and the "too." We are so so so pleased with her language development. We might never be able to prove it in front of most people right now (because she tends to be as reserved as her parents in most situations), but her verbal skills (and memory skills and directional/spatial skills) are quite stunning. I write down little examples here and there in my gratitude journal. I usually try not to brag too much, other than to her Amie and Nana---I mean, what parent doesn't think his or her child is amazing? And Bill and I come from the school of thought that true talent doesn't need a lot of bragging attached to it. Kate will have ample time to prove what we know she has...As for her, we tell her personally everyday how proud we are of her and how smart we truly think she is, so she knows how we feel and that is the most important thing. In fact, I often joke with Amie that Bill and I (well, maybe not Bill because he is WAAAAAAY smart) are going to be outclassed in the brain department pretty soon!

So we had a great day, one that felt especially productive yet without sacrificing Kate's need for interaction and engagement. I think we're going to step the pace down a little tomorrow, though, and go to the park and the library. Tomorrow will be a day of total fun and outdoor time. Then on Monday she starts a toddler class.

Balance in all things. My wish for my readers and my wish for myself.

Good night, All.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


There is so much I love in my life: Bill and Kate, our home, the ability to spend time with my family and to raise my daughter according to our values, and the freedom to give her experiences that enrich her and make her well-rounded are just a few broad examples. Bill's income has provided for us in this year that I have been staying at home, and we are comfortable without too much want. I love being with Kate and teaching her. I love our life so much that I want to make sure I can fully protect it. For the first time in my life, I have an absolute fire in my belly to find a way to protect the quality of our lives and her future---forever.

I need to think ahead to a time when I may need to generate some income for us. I often, especially at this time of year, have little twinges of missing teaching and the types of skill and competency it requires. In my dream world, I could teach a course or two a couple of times a week and still have ample time for all of my traditional home duties. Yet the world of high school teaching is all-absorbing, especially with all the English papers and clubs and committees. I know there is not a way right now for me (in my mind) to balance the raising of a young child with the responsibilities of being a teacher who seeks to build mentoring relationships with her students. Therefore returning to teaching full-time at any point in the near future is not an avenue I intend to pursue.

So it is time to reinvent myself and ready myself for a new field. I am almost in the same position as a recent college grad---except, this time, I don't feel pressure and I feel like I have time to think and create myself slowly. With experience and age has come the wisdom that I do not have to follow a linear course and that the best opportunities will happen by being open to new people. For the first time in a long time I have some of my fearlessness restored. There is no fear at reimagining myself---and I have so many more ideas and more confidence than I had right out of college. This has been an exciting time for me as I have been mulling possibilities.

Last week I signed up for three real estate courses (online) with the goal of obtaining my real estate license. My dad, a broker, just incoporated Matics Realty, and I desire to become part of what has been the family business---on both sides of my family.

I have started my first course and LOVE learning all the laws and legal terms---even though the vocab is a HUGE wallop and will require attention to nuance. However, I know I can learn this, and my mind loves the new challenge. My goal is to finish my courses and sit for the Department of Real Estate salesperson license test this year. I am excited because teaching, at heart, is a sales job---and I feel like this is a natural transition.

With the idea of pushing myself, retaining my skills as a public speaker, and trying for self-improvement, I also went with my dad to my first Toastmasters meeting today. I love the adrenaline rush of impromptu speaking, and I want to become a better storyteller. I loved everything about the meeting and think I will officially join. I am eager to practice the prepared speeches, too, and would like (eventually) to work my way to the competitions. Just dressing the part today, feeling the buzz of excitement in my stomach and mind, stepping just outside my comfort zone with a new audience---all these things make me feel competent and fresh and vibrant. I have been feeling more and more that life needs to be lived in complete absence of fear and my larger goal this year is to challenge myself in as many productive ways as possible.

So...this is what I have been up to lately. I am not one (usually) to speak of plans that have not yet come to fruition; I usually wait until I have accomplished something tangible or made a decision to speak about it. I still feel it is relatively soon to speak about my real estate courses given that I have passed just the first chapter and am now on chapter 2, but I also want to share with friends and family my plans because now I know for sure they are in motion.

Now, how will I fit all this in with a 21 month old? It's tricky, but fortunately Bill and Amie can help with watching Kate here and there if I need to study intently---otherwise I can study when she sleeps. I also want to blaze ahead now, before I get pregnant with our second. We aren't preventing that from happening anymore, so now is the time to take my courses and get all set. One of my best friends, Marguerite, is my inspiration here. She finished law school (at Berkeley, no less), studied, and took her finals all with a newborn---whom she was nursing!!! She even took a nursing break during her timed finals and still finished and while she was doing Law Review. Talk about no fear! Totally inspiring...

So this is my life at the moment, and it excites me. I want to grow into the best possible Sarah for my children and for Bill and very importantly, for myself, and I also want to position myself to protect what I love with all the ambition I feel...Nothing in life has ever been more motivating than my daughter is to make sure that I am thinking about the future.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cat and Library

Our delights are simple but lasting, no further than our own backyard, the mead of which childhood memories are made. I love these summer days with my daughter, who everyday talks with me more and more. We have been communicating verbally all along, even since her birth (I could often tell by her cries what she wanted), but having her use full sentences now absolutely delights her daddy and me.

We've been making friends with our neighborhood stray cat, who now hails officially to the moniker "Baby Cat." We first met her a week ago, as we read some new library books on our bench in the front yard. Last night, as we helped Boppa with a sprinkler project, we met her again. So enchanted with her was little Katie that I decided to open one of the cans of tuna we have (we still have a few cans left over from the days before I discovered Costco white albacore tuna---the best quality tuna I've ever seen in a can and for a remarkable price). I brought out some tuna and a bowl of water and we watched Baby Cat eat. When Baby Cat retreated across the street for a moment to clean her face, Katie called, "Come back please. Come back, Cat" and "more petting" and "I love you, Cat." She also was saying, "Nice to meet you" (which she says to most new loves in her life).

When we came back inside, Kate was pretending to be Kate-y Cat. She wanted me to pet her head and she was using her hands like paws to clean her face. She also kept saying, "I like tuna. I like tuna." This is the third time that she has used her imagination to inhabit a persona other than her own. The first time was a week ago, when she---entirely on her own---pretended to be a character out of a favorite book (Princess Baby). She was quoting a couple of her lines and doing something Princess Baby does. Then a couple of mornings ago, she came up with the idea to be Winnie-the-Pooh, looking for honey. Again, she initiated it all. And last night, she pretended to be the cat. I saw something online that suggested that this sort of pretense play (a theory of mind type of thing) doesn't usually happen until age 4 or 5, but I am still investigating that... At any rate, watching her little mind in action is very, very cool.

Tonight we brought out some food to Baby Cat once again. Kate had waited patiently all day. As soon as Cat saw Katie from across the street, Cat came running. Cat seems at peace with her and her good little animal-loving heart. Tonight she recreated Cat's sharpening of her claws on the tree by sharpening them on Daddy's office door. She is so sweet.

We also had our first trip to the library a week ago on Monday. She loves it! I love being surrounded by books too....and the freedom to indulge in any whim or fancy I feel like without having to spend any money. I've been reading voraciously during Katie's sleep times (we're back to napping more now that our pace has slowed down a bit). I finished a Daphne du Maurier novel (I am obsessed with Hitchcock and everything he has ever documented as having read), and devoured a nonfiction work about San Francisco. I am also starting to collect ideas for all of our homemade Christmas gifts this year out of crafting books...

Today we returned for more we were walking through the children's section (we can't wait for fall storytimes there!), Kate exclaimed, "I like books!" She will fit in well with her daddy and me!

Good night for now, All!