Friday, May 28, 2010

4th Anniversary and Anniversarymoon!

Four years ago when we were choosing our honeymoon location for our wedding, Bill and I did not yet know quite how fortunate we would turn out to be when we chose a B&B in Idyllwild. At the time, we wanted a location nearby as we had to resume work the next week. We thought about Newport or places in San Diego, even L.A. We knew, though, that Idyllwild had been a favorite of ours and that our essences are drawn there. We didn't really know much about the B&Bs up there, so we chose The Strawberry Creek Inn based on reputation and its website. I know for sure that this was the place we were meant to be, and over the years we have created so many special memories there.

We are so glad now that circumstances led us to pick a honeymoon spot that we can now easily return to every year. Of the many traits we have in common, sentimentality is one that binds us together. We love revisiting our inn, returning to our special dinner spot, our symbolic walk by the creek the first morning we're there...

The Strawberry Creek Inn has a series of journals that accompany each room. Full journals are kept downstairs. We had to hunt a little, but we finally found the journal entry that I wrote in the Oak Tree Room four years ago on our honeymoon. Then we found the journal entry from our stay in Nancy's Room the next year... and so on. Reading our journal entries was powerful and emotional and moving. How I felt as a new wife... the next year when we were 4 1/2 months pregnant with Katie... a little piece of our history, a moment in time, is there at that inn. Bill used a scanner app on his iPhone to scan all the pages so we have them now.

Because we went last night, before the Memorial Weekend guests arrive, we had the inn all to ourselves. That was perfect. We had booked the Oak Tree Room, but Rodney and Ian surprised us with an upgrade to Maggie's Room, which was truly wonderful. Still, with no one occupying the other rooms, we did wander in to Oak Tree and thought about our time there.

We definitely made good use of our time, yet the afternoon, night, and morning went too fast... I love spending time with my husband. We definitely missed Katie, who was under the excellent care of her grandparents, yet is a special joy to be able to devote time especially to each other.

We left yesterday around 12:30, and we stopped first for some In-N-Out, our wedding reception meal. That was another fortunate choice we made for our wedding: now we can have our wedding meal every year, and we do, in honor of that day. I also make our wedding cake every year, and I plan to make it tomorrow as we continue the celebration of our marriage with Katie (cake, watch the wedding DVD, etc). We do make an extended event out of our anniversary, I must admit. ;-)

Here is Bill on the bed in Maggie's Room. We loved the bed, and we thought the canopy was really charming and cozy.

Bill had two dozen red roses and chocolate truffles left for me. He is so sweet and thoughtful. He has surprised me every year we have returned (we missed our 2nd anniversary there due to David's Berkeley graduation, but every other year this has been tradition).

Bill at Cafe Aroma for our special dinner. He ordered the sausage lasagne and a cherry cheesecake. We both had vanilla creams.

I took my time choosing, but in the end I had a salad and four cheese ravioli with sundried tomatoes and ordered a cream and chocolate chip cannoli (which I took home and shared with Katie as a surprise).

Bill at breakfast this morning. The inn served pomegranate lime juice, baked eggs with fresh herbs and ham, a croissant with mango jam, and a fruit salad. Breakfasts are always delicious here.

With my decaf tea in our room before breakfast.

Visiting the chickens at the inn. They got chickens last year, and the eggs are perfect! I love chickens so much, especially since I grew up with several. Their little noises bring back delightful memories to me.

On our walk by the creek after breakfast. We always remember our first morning there. I kept thinking and saying to Bill how thankful I am for this time with him here. You never know what will happen to the people you love, or when you will experience something with them for the last time, and I just wanted to impress this moment on my heart forever. This is a special place for us.

We sat on a big rock and looked at this view while we talked.

A view of the fir trees in the breaking morning light. I wish I could describe the beauty of this morning...mountain air scented with pine, the golden light shining with glory on the treetops, the burbling creek, the serenity. If there is one place that is us, this is it. Away from bustle... in nature... peaceful... We love it there.

Downstairs at the inn. Before leaving, we chose another one of our "fly-through-the-window" bird magnets. Half the body goes on the outer part of the window and half attaches by magnet on the inner part of the window, so it looks like the birds are flying through the window. We have one for each year of our marriage. The inn decorates with them downstairs, and I loved them the minute I saw them on our honeymoon. Each time I see ours, I think of our time at the inn. And now we have four! Where has the time gone?

Bill in the clearing...

Thank you to my Oneness for a beautiful anniversarymoon. I am so thankful for this time with you. Walking along our trails was even more special as we could picture our daughter Katie there, too, loving the snow back in February. She loved the chickens back then, too. This is a place that will always be dear to us. We even sat in the same seats in the gazebo after our walk that we had sat in while pregnant with Katie. And now we are pregnant with Eric. Our life continues to change and cycle and come full circle, and by returning to this place, we mark those moments of our marriage symbolically.
Thank you also to my parents for watching Katie so we could have this memory together. We did not have to worry at all, knowing she was in perfect hands.
Now, let the celebration continue all weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

To my Perfect Oneness,

Happy 4th marriage anniversary today, my perfect Bill! Everyday I am so thankful that you have chosen to journey with me in this life. I would marry you again and again. I cannot imagine a best friend and husband who is kinder than you are. You are gentle and loving, and when I trusted you with my heart, that trust was not misplaced. It is the greatest privilege in the world to be the caretaker of your amazingly intelligent mind, your soft and sensitive heart, and your beloved and respected autonomy. I love that we are two very independent people who work together to achieve a great love built on respect. We have never tried to change one another. Even as we evolve through the years, you are fundamentally consistent with whom I know you to be. I have never met a more genuine, self-actualized person. I love that you are always "Bill." You are deeper and more complex than many people might guess, and I love that you are driven by passions that are also balanced with a rational mind. I hope that I can always help to protect you and that I have made our home a shelter from the parts of the world that keep you awake at night. I know that I am far from the perfect wife, and that I do not always tend to the shelter well enough, but I am grateful that you have given me your heart and are patient with me always.

You have given me the greatest gift of children. When we thought before marriage about making more children, it was always very much on my mind that in procreating with you, I would be privileged to have the use of your amazing genes. You are intelligent, athletic, sensitive, independent---I see so much of you in Katie. I know this might sound odd to others, but I have to say that it has been the greatest gift to mate with you and create spawn. ;-) Anyone in the world, if they were thinking about it, would have to want to your children, so thank you for choosing me.

It is not always easy now, with children, to find all the time I wish we had to let you know how valued you always are each day. Our lives this year are far from the days when we had the same schedule and I could devote all of my attention to you. I know that sometimes you must feel second to our children, but you have never even once so much as started to complain or ever even hinted at such a thing. That is one of many reasons why you are such a perfect husband and father: you know that young children need much attention and that it is vital to their success and thriving. Hardly a moment goes by, however, when I don't think of you. In taking care of Katie (and Eric) the best way I know how, I am always aware that I am a custodian of a person who embodies part of you. You exist in our children, and helping them to thrive means that part of you will always endure...

One of my greatest fears in all of life is losing you to age. You have been working hard this year to be healthier, and that has meant the world to me. You are my best friend, and there are moments when my whole chest siezes up thinking that one day you will be gone. Who would I tell everything to? Who would I laugh and joke with? Who would understand everything about me? And who would I understand everything about in return? But, we have always known that we had an age gap, and it has been better to have this time with you than never to have had it. I cannot imagine ever marrying anyone else. You are my true love, the one person I was meant to be with. No one could ever fill your place: I have just one husband. I wish you were immortal.

Our 4th married year has been filled with changes and love and adventure and challenges brought to us when we weren't expecting them. You had to make some difficult decisions this year, and you had to navigate your way through an impossibly difficult situation this winter. You made your decisions on your own, but with the knowledge that I always support your intelligence, integrity, and your ideal that all people should face the full consequences they bring to themselves (the latter of which always keeps me on my toes around here, let me tell you!) Even though I may not have chosen to make the exact decisions you made, and even though you worried I might judge your decisions as harsh, I know that you are the leader in this household, and I know that you have a far greater understanding of human nature than I do. I know you also face the saddening consequences of the decisions you felt you were forced to make by someone very close to you, and I wish I could take away the entire hurt. I also learned during that time how much it was not a mistake to trust you with my heart. I learned that we can face even very difficult circumstances together without fighting between ourselves. I learned that we can deal with enormous stress and sadness from the world and, even if we may have different reactions or initially come up with different solutions, that we can respect each other's "thinking space." You know I will never judge you. I respect how your mind works. I am just sorry you had to deal with something so difficult at this time of your life. I still wish it had never happened or that things could go back to how they were before this winter happened, but I know that I am often in a dream world and that you are the caretaker of reality. I also know that you protect me often from my own naivete or moments in which I would be too forgiving and place myself in harm's way.

Everyday you teach me how to be a better parent. You are infinitely patient, it seems, and you are such a natural teacher. I know you wonder what it will be like to have a son, but I know that Eric could never have a better father. I have always loved the kind of man you are: in your head, loving to read, not someone preoccupied with machismo, well-rounded, self-assured, independent, respectful toward women. In fact, it would be wonderful to raise a son exactly like you. No mother could be prouder than to have had a son like you. I would have loved to have held you and cared for you as Baby Bill and protected you from everything. I know Eric will be in good hands with you.

As far as being in my dream world, you are someone who seems to love and appreciate that I am in one. No matter what kind of crazy adventure or made-up holiday I plan, you go along with it. For example, when I wanted to fold bunny napkins, you helped me. I know those kinds of things would not otherwise be inherently important to you, so I realize how much you love me when you venture into my world. I think you do everything possible to allow my little Sarah world to endure. I feel totally loved by you and appreciated for my quirks. You are the person who allows me to remain optimistic and childlike. And even when you have a much better grasp on human nature and reality than I probably do, you never try to bring my happy little world shattering down. You allow me to be myself and to feel passionately happy about life. In fact, you are a main source for that happiness.

So thank you for being the perfect husband for me. Thank you for supporting my friendships and my relationships with my family members. You know how important those people are in my life, and you have been so open to the various ways in which I try to nurture those relationships constantly. You have the most loving heart I know, a huge heart. You are so creative and good and talented at so many things, but I think you are best at being my husband. I love you exactly as you are.

Thank you for marrying me.

I love you for always.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dance Class

We look forward to our Wednesday morning dance class:

Katie arrives at class.

Clapping and stepping with the teacher across the floor.

Working on footwork with Miss Holly.
Dancing brings Katie such joy, and she is all smiles during our session.
After dance class today, we went with Amie to pick some more blueberries. Can you believe we've eaten our way through almost six pints in a week and a half? Two of those pints are part of a blueberry syrup that we are using for various dishes, including buttermilk pancakes this weekend, but the other four have gone into parfaits, fruit salads, and other yums.
Yesterday my dad and I went to Toastmasters, AND even more spectacularly, Katie had her first outing in her big girl underpants (just to Baron's and back) and in her first attempt, had no accidents. She doesn't need a diaper in the house anymore (other than overnight), and now we are working on going out and about in the world. I fully expected (when she started using the potty chair at 18 months like I did) to have her trained much sooner, but our move last year did slow down our process and we've been practicing here and there until she increased her readiness. She is doing really awesome now, and I am thankful.
On Monday, I was delighted to have the company of two of my former students (who are now married), Megan and Jim Caton. I felt honored that they included me on their list of people to see while down this way (they live in northern California). I made a lunch of chicken salad veronique (chicken with grapes and tarragon and celery with a dressing), popovers with strawberry jam, fruit and cheese, and lemon poundcake with mango sorbet. I also made my first batch of sun tea (decaf) for the season. We had a lovely visit, and I am so impressed with this young (and yet mature at the same time) couple. They had several people voice concerns over their marriage (the summer after Megan finished high school---Jim is two years older), but I always saw that, if any two people could make life work and be married so young, they definitely could. They have such a mature outlook, both in terms of their educations and in terms of their ideas of personal responsibility and work ethic. They have really planned together, and two years later, they are following the trajectory of success they set for themselves. It helps that both of them are intelligent and forward-looking, and both prioritize the kinds of things that lead to success in a marriage and success in life. I am very proud of them, and proud to have been their teacher, and proud that they consider me a friend now.

Katie absolutely adored Megan. In fact, I have never seen her trust someone so quickly. Megan was amazing with her, so maternal and patient.
It has been a beautiful week so far!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Productivity and...Polyphemus?

It was a beautiful, productive Saturday in the McGaugh household. We all ate a breakfast of homemade honey raisin bran muffins with honey butter, served with yogurt (I buy lowfat plain yogurt and add the vanilla and sugar myself to control the sugar quantities---premixed yogurt can have an average of 27 grams of sugar, yikes!) topped with fruit: peaches, mandarin oranges, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and Temecula blueberries. With healthy fuel for the day, we were ready to learn and play.

Bill watched Katie while I took a 3-hour practice real estate exam. My score was decent and encouraging, yet still not reaching the mastery that I would like to demonstrate to myself before the actual exam. I am, however, training on older exams. Questions I've seen that were written more recently seem to be leagues easier than the ones on the older exams---a phenomenon I've noticed with certain AP test sets, as well, most notably the AP US test. Yet if the older exams are in fact more difficult, then I should be even more confident about my scores. We'll see what happens, of course. I figure: train on the hardest exams I can find and hope the real test is actually the easier version. We can hope, right?

After finishing my test, scoring it, and reviewing the answers, I browsed the library a bit for some more books to take home for Katie. I love the non-fiction section for the older kids in the children's section of the library. There are some real gems in there: art books, mythology, science, and more. I get so inspired... Lesson planning for her and figuring out what to tell her about next is absolutely my chief hobby at the moment, in addition to crafting (scrapbooking and cross stitching, cooking/baking, and speech writing....and I guess, studying).

When I returned home, I pittered around awhile and had some lunch (I had left a lunch in the fridge for Bill and Katie before I left) and organized my brain for the rest of the afternoon.

While I was gone, Katie and Bill had done three pages in her math/numbers workbook, and she earned three stickers! She loves these little workbooks we found at the teaching supply store. One of the pages, for example, had her count several sets of objects and then circle the number that corresponded to how many objects she counted (kind of like a multiple choice). She is a great counter, and we are so happy that she recognizes so many of her digits. Anyway, when I got home I had her re-explain the page to me to check for further understanding (did she understand the task well enough to tell me about it?) and she seemed to.

Then we worked more on her alphabet book. We are spiral-reviewing as we go, so I had her trace some more "Bs" and we reviewed the sound. Then she had two activities to do. In the first, she had a set of several pictures (ball, candle, boat, dog, etc) and had to circle only the pictures whose name began with the "B" sound. She did them all correctly. The second activity was a variation on the first, just to solidify the concept. Then we started "C." We did some writing and talking about the sound, but we'll do practice activities tomorrow.

We then switched to another activity, and I intended to show her a couple of the art books I brought home. We recently purchased one of those wonderful Eyewitness books, though, on mythology (also we own ones for the human body, dogs, and the universe...and we checked out the Renaissance and one on volcanoes from the library last week). They are written for much older children, but the pictures are fabulous and I can paraphrase some of the information as we go. They are illustrated encyclopedias of a sort. She LOVES the mythology book and has been captivated by some art depicting the most famous cyclops, Polyphemus. The other day, I told her about Odysseus a bit and recounted just the episode with Polyphemus. Today she begged to hear about him again during some of our reading time.

Well, I had a surprise for her. I found at the library an illustrated prose version of the Odyssey (really basic since it is written for middle schoolers) with supplemental maps, artifacts, and history blurbs in the margins. Since I know The Odyssey inside and out after teaching it for several years, I mainly borrowed this book for the illustrations. I wanted her to be able to compare the artistic renderings of Polyphemus with our Eyewitness book, mainly.

As it turned out, she wanted to hear the WHOLE story. Not just about Odysseus' encounter with Polyphemus. She sat next to me listening intently and asking questions as I narrated highlights from The Odyssey for about an hour. Her attention span and interest astonished me. By the end, she was talking about Penelope, Telemachus, Circe, Scylla... I actually tossed out a couple of themes and big ideas (not just plot points), because, hey, why not? She is just as capable of learning as a high school student when the concepts are presented certain ways. We talked about Odysseus' tragic flaw of pride and how he taunted Polyphemus after poking out the eye. We talked about Argus, the loyal dog who greeted the disguised Odysseus when he finally gets home...and how the dog is loyal like Penelope. Katie LOVED hearing about Penelope and Odysseus' tree bed and how Penelope tests Odysseus by suggesting that her maid move it. Katie had the right reaction to the suitors---she wanted them to go away and not steal from Odysseus' house. I told her about some of the Greek gods and goddesses. She perked up when I told her that both "Athena" and "Penelope" were names I had seriously thought about naming her, because I love both those characters so much.

Some people might think, hey, but this is a text that is taught in 9th grade, sometimes even later. Why now? I promise you, there is nothing in The Odyssey that doesn't absolutely rival every Disney animation I've ever seen. In fact, so much of western culture in some way alludes to, or takes its shape from, The Odyssey. Fairy godmother? Try Athena. Wicked witch? The beautiful Circe. The Little Mermaid turned sinister with bird wings? The Sirens. The Odyssey is filled with both the imaginative and the classic archetypes which captivate the mind at all ages. I have nothing against Disney films, by the way, and nothing against modern children's lit. We enjoy those fully at our house. Yet there is no reason to confine our children to them: there is some really awesome material from antiquity, truly. Plus, I love the themes of the Odyssey and we can have some discussions about developing one's own character. Why is Odysseus punished in the story? What does it mean to be faithful to a friend or husband? Why is "home" at the center of Odysseus' heart? Why is Odysseus known as "clever Odysseus?"

Amie is also working with us to supplement Katie on Tuesdays when I am at Toastmasters. Since Amie has all of our Greece pictures, she came up with the idea to get our Greece scrapbook out on Tuesday and show her pictures of us in Ithaca (home of Odysseus) and to talk about the islands, show her some pottery we bought, etc. Amie also has some workbooks and arts/crafts supplies to use with Katie during their times together. Part of the beauty of homeschooling/learning at home is that Katie can experience so many different teachers and styles. She got to work a bit with Daddy today, and she can work with me, Amie, and Boppa. Every family member has something to teach her. One of Bill's brothers would be a perfect fit to teach the bird-and-nature-loving Katie about bird species and life cycles. And my brother has much to teach about music. Everyone a talent or a passion, and we hope to expose Katie to all of her family's passions. People who love what they do or who love to learn make the best teachers. Already I am seeing how immense is the potential for designing our own curricula. I tend to think and design thematically, and Katie seems to respond well to that.

Anyway, we had a great day as a family and a great day of learning for everyone!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Little Eric

I had a very reassuring and happy OB appointment today: no more irregularity was detected in Eric's heartbeat today. It has either repaired itself, or it was a fluke to begin with. I've been mostly at peace this past month, knowing that life unfolds the way it is meant to, but the past few days I have been a little more stressed as I wondered what kind of news I would receive today. I am so happy that his heartbeat is regular and strong. My intuition told me that he would be fine, and he is. He has been kicking around so happily...

I do need to be more mindful about what I am eating, though. Dr. Elfelt was very tactful, of course, but he did mention that my weight gain for this month was a bit more than he expected, based on how I had been doing so far (I'd really been keeping it under control). I know that I have been a little more permissive with my diet this month and with skipping exercise, and I knew I felt bigger... But it is time to get back into stricter habits so I don't become absolutely ginormous. I was thinking about printing out a picture of Dr. Elfelt's face from the office website and attaching it to my fridge so that his words could be a constant reminder.

Also, I received my RhoGam shot today. I was thinking it would be next time, but I am pretty far along with Eric now (this pregnancy is zipping by, so I am trying to savor it all). It feels good to have one of those out of the way. We'll have to see what his blood type is when he is born to determine if I need the second dose. Katie's Rh factor is negative like mine, so I only needed one preventative dose with her and not one after she was born.

So my next appointment is in a month and then I am finished with the 4-week schedule and start seeing the OB every couple of weeks and then weekly until birth. I can't believe how quickly it is all going! For the most part, I really enjoy being pregnant, and I am trying to impress upon my heart and mind all the sensations and happiness of this phase of my life. It is a phase that is too short-lived in many respects. Pregnancy is a very special time.

Eric and I stand outside of our OBGYN office after our appointment today.

Katie and I started our morning with a walk, and I am trying to return to my routine. We've had a few too many lounge-around-in-our-jammies-before-breakfast-mornings this past month. We need those now and then, but I also need to make sure I fit in daily exercise. Although I take the stroller with us, Katie loves to walk alongside me---or, as was the case this morning, jog alongside me. I thought she might have trouble keeping up with me, but I actually was making my best effort to keep up with her! She went from our house all the way to Meadows Parkway (so, for those who don't live here or have never lived here, several blocks) jogging most of the way. After that, we used the stroller, and I love pushing her because it is more exercise for me.

Here is Katie walking along...

As we neared home, she started asking about the pumpkin we had carved last Halloween and what has happened to it. This sparked an entire existential conversation. I told her that we had let it become part of the earth again, and we talked about Boppa's compost pile. Well, she wanted to know all about that process and why things decay and wilt. I took her home and showed her some roses and rose petals in various stages of life and decay. I told her about the soil-making process, the role of oxygen and nitrogen and roly-polies and worms. She started asking why plants die. We talked about living matter and cells and how cells die off. After that she made the jump to PEOPLE dying. Then of course she asked, "Why do our cells die?" Then she wanted to know where Grandpa Don and Uncle Eric were "going back to the earth." I talked about Nana's roses (where Uncle Eric's ashes are)... Next she said the inevitable, "But I don't want to die." I tried to be as reassuring as possible without making it scary but without embellishing.

It was a pretty heavy conversation in theme, but she was totally fascinated by the whole thing and I seemed to dodge potentially terrorizing her (miraculously...thank goodness for being able to choose my diction wisely). I was astonished that she was asking about such topics and seeming to process some of what I said at 2.5 years old. I don't think I thought about plants, cells, or death, or the life cycle until I was very much older. She continues to surprise me and challenge me as a parent---and as a teacher. How do you explain such complicated processes to a 2.5 year old and make it understandable? On the other hand, I take the Atticus Finch approach with her: in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus always answers Scout's questions with precise language and never talks down to her. We don't use baby talk with Katie and we have always tried to embrace her questions with full explanations. Still, when she asked "Why do our cells die?" I had to reach back to high school biology. I can see how she expects me to know an array of topics, and I am challenged to make sure I do---and am ready when she asks.

I see some more lesson plans in my near future. After I used the roses as an impromptu visual this morning, I thought of about a million more things we could do with them as I revised the teachable moment in my head... I bet the library has some bio books, too. I also realized that we could extend into some mathematics with the rose petals and collect our samples and then use graph paper to graph how many of each we found... And see what kind of petal (healthy or decayed) is more prominent on our yellow bush...or even take a sample from all the bushes and see if any bushes are further along in the life cycle than the others... I mean, the potential for extension never ends... It is such an amazing gift of time to be able to pour my passion for teaching into my own children. I know that if I ever do back into the public field for any reason, spending time teaching young children will make me a 1000% better of a teacher than I was before: she constantly pushes me to explain and keep explaining, and to use examples from outside of my main discipline and to tell narratives. I feel I am much stronger at my craft than I was even a couple of years ago. I love teaching so much.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Katie's First Dance Class

Katie had her first dance class experience this morning at Temecula Valley Cathy's Dance. She loved it! I had been waiting to follow her lead: I had asked her a few months ago as we were choosing our spring classes whether or not she wanted to take a dance class, and she actually had said "no" at that time. In fact, she wanted to take gymnastics. That was a great decision on her part, because gymnastics has turned out to be a good fit for her.

Lately, however, she has developed a love for dancing at home. I approached her again a few weeks ago about starting a dance class (classes through the city are 6 week sessions). This time, she really wanted to take the class and was so excited! As we give our children opportunities to explore new passions, Bill and I are hoping to follow their lead. As a parent, we think, you want to provide opportunities and encourage new experiences without being one of those pushy parents. Although it will be inevitable at some point to counsel Katie and Eric to stick with a disciplines, sports, or hobbies especially when they become hard work or get tough (as all passions do if you are really trying to achieve), we also believe that the quickest way to kill the love for something is to force it or push it on the child. It is a delicate balance as a parent to guide your children toward opportunity, achievement, and success while still remaining flexible enough to respect their passions, likes/dislikes, and fundamental autonomy.

I am glad Katie wanted to try a dance class. She really had a great time, and she tried every move the teacher asked her to try. She has such an enthusiasm for learning, and within this year I have seen her confidence blossom and her approach to new people become more open. Several months ago, it would have been difficult for her to jump right into the program today with so many strangers---yet today, I saw a child who has confidence in herself and in the fact that her mommy is right with her and in own abilities.

The Temecula recreation department has been amazing this year. They offer so much, and we can't wait to sign up for swim classes as soon as online registration opens for the sessions we're planning. I love that we are signed up through the city for classes, and yet we get to have exposure to different companies to see if we like them. It is a good way to observe and experience TVCD, for example, without having a huge commitment at the outset. I know that there are a handful of dance companies in Temecula, and it would have been a little initimidating knowing where to start if I just set out to pick one. But here we get to see a glimpse of how one of the companies operates, and we can take our next steps from there.

Katie is so physical and adapts very quickly to new physical tasks (she has Bill's genes for this, quite clearly), and that has been to my greatest surprise and delight as a mother. I love fostering this in her. We will finish our dance class this spring and then by next year we might need to make more of a decision about which sport to begin more in earnest: gymnastics, dance? Or even something else?

After dance class, we met up with my mom for a little trip to the mall. I needed to finalize my wedding attire for David's wedding, and I also wanted to pick up a few other items. I admit that I got a little splurgy at Motherhood Maternity, but in truth most of my maternity clothes from Katie were either worn out or geared more toward working. Some of my t-shirts and comfy clothes from that time shrunk with washing or are no longer in existence. I had a gift card to help a little. I have been so hesitant to buy any new maternity clothes for this pregnancy because I definitely know that Eric is our last baby, and pregnancy lasts for so short a time. But now as I enter my last stretch, I am no longer able to get away with using my non-maternity clothes as I have been. Let us just say: it will be nice to have a pajama camisole that doesn't start riding up on my belly tonight!

Katie also picked out a sunhat and some sunglasses. She was debating between two pair of sunglasses, one much more stylish than the other, and I let her work it out herself. She tried on both and looked in a mirror, and she cracked the salesperson up when she said of the blander pair: "Hm, these are more sensible." Katie was right: they were a little more classically designed, but also more boring. In the end, she chose the more stylish, less sensible, but still functional pair. I am tickled to death that my daughter uses the word "sensible" and uses it correctly. It sounds just like something I would say. I am also pleased that she has her own sense of style. Children are often at their best when they are not replicas of us.

This has been a busy week for us. I had my glucose lab on Monday, and tomorrow I have my actual OB visit. We have made our own "fig newtons" with my mom's homemade blueberry jam and some store bought jams. I've been working on trying to catch up on some house projects (which are never-ending), and I gave my penultimate Toastmasters speech (well, penultimate with respect to earning my Competent Communicator award). I've also been lesson planning for the summer so that we can continue the momentum with some of our art studies (Katie's last art class for the year was yesterday). Fortunately this weekend will be a bit more mellow...the last weekend before a whirlwind two weeks of fun: our anniversary weekend and David and Ashley's wedding weekend!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Family Date Night

After a fun morning in music class and a nourishing afternoon of blubeberry picking (see post below), we enjoyed a family date night with Daddy last night! We love family date nights, and Katie was excited. She loves her daddy so much. I remember how my dad used to take me on movie-and-a-pizza dates when I was growing up, and I think it is so important that parents set the standard for what "dating" should actually be. We want Katie to chose a beau (or beaux if need be) wisely, and to have high standards for how he treats her and high standards with respect to what she seeks in another person. It is important that her first dates are with people (us) who are totally committed to her and love her---so that she can see what that feels like and hold that expectation for the rest of her life.

After a dinner at home, we went down the street to the CRC amphitheater to attend the city's Hullabaloo concert. Hullabaloo consists of two gentleman who play folky children's songs, so it was perfect for us.

Katie and Daddy walk to the concert.

Holding hands.

Katie, with a scarf they passed out, listens to the music and thinks about dancing. There were also kid-appealing snacks and juice provided.

Waiting patiently for the concert to start.

Daddy and Katie at the concert.

After a few songs, Katie wanted to go down to the floor and dance----and boy, did she dance! She danced for the rest of the concert: spinning, twirling, stomping, waving. She is a dancing machine. They played a bunch of original songs, but then Hullabaloo also covered a bunch of standards that we know, too. Katie sang all of "Twinkle, Twinkle" with them.

Dancing! She asked me to take her sweater off so she could twirl better. Bill has some other pictures on his iPhone from farther away, but I haven't had a chance to peek at those yet. Katie had so much fun, and afterwards she kept talking about how she loved the dancing.

Although the concert ended fairly late (8:00), since Katie had had a good nap, we decided to enjoy some hot cocoa at Starbucks before they closed. She has never been at night, nor has she ever had her own drink, so this was extra special for her. She felt like such a big girl. She talked about being able to do this because she is now a "big sister." It is so cute how she is liking that role more and more and understanding that being a "big sister" has certain perks, privileges, and advantages. Anyway, here is a picture of Katie with her first-ever Starbucks drink, a yummy hot chocolate which she loved!!! (By the way, I asked the barista to make Katie's a cooler temp, and the barista absolutely got the temperature perfect for a toddler---nicely done, Starbucks, nicely done)!

What a lovely date with our daughter!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Opening Day of Blueberry Season!

After music class this morning, we slathered on sunscreen, gathered our hats, glanced once more at our blueberry recipes for measurements, and met Amie for a delightful, heart-and-body-nourishing afternoon of blueberry picking at our local u-pick farm!

We have been counting down for a few weeks, with Opening Day marked on our calendars. Katie was so excited when she woke up knowing that today was blueberry day---and no doubt, so were Amie and I.

I love blueberries right off the bush, so much different from any other blueberries I've ever tasted. We have made a yearly tradition of picking our summer blueberries---I know we will go several times this season to partake in the bounty---and Katie has now been part of this tradition every year of her life. There is something so honest and simple about gathering one's own food from the source, and this farm is truly a Temecula treasure.

The first day of blueberries: it must be summer!

Katie and I pick berries on Opening Day 2010.

Katie has her bucket and is ready for gathering!

Katie made up her own song (lyrics and melody) as her happy heart bubbled over with delight: "I pick my blueberries/All day loooong." I love how she allows herself to be moved by joy and that it comes out in song.

Beautiful Katie among the blueberry bushes.

The simple joys. Sunlight, deliciousness, hard work, fresh air. Togetherness.

This year, Katie took a big role in choosing which rows and bushes we picked. She was quite good at spotting the lush fruit.

With Amie.

When we got home, we made the treat that we always make on the first day of blueberry picking: frozen vanilla Haagen Dazs topped with sun-warmed bluberries and honey made by bees at the blueberry farm. Yum! Everything gets gooey and tangled and yummy. A real treat...
Blueberry picking feeds my heart-source, filling it up. What fun and happiness! I am going to appreciate every moment of the season!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Working on Phonics

With reading such an integral part of our home culture, Katie has been expressing a desire to learn to read for the past couple of months. She very much wants to be able to read her own books and often laments that, right now, she cannot. It is time to build on that desire, and I find myself heading now into exciting but, for me, relatively unknown territories of teaching. Teaching the process of loving and analyzing literature is entirely different from teaching the process of reading at its fundamental level. So this is new curriculum for me. I have been looking at various resources, but most resources presume that the student is in first grade (or thereabouts) and therefore tap other skills that Katie does not yet have; few resources seem designed for 2.5-year-olds and their motor skills.

Bill and I are also firmly in the phonics camp (versus whole language, which was the trend for my brother's generation of students). So while there are a couple of programs being advertised on TV claiming that tots will be able to read after studying some high frequency word flashcards, we do not believe that this really teaches reading---which we define to be a process of using phonics and roots to decode new words. We need to build Katie's skills with the fundamentals.

Fortunately my elementary school, Friends Christian School in Yorba Linda, put me through a rigorous phnoics program. I still have all of my "reading group" books from kindergarten, and those are phonics-based. Those will be a useful resource eventually. I also remember vividly the use of flip-charts and drills. I cannot quite remember what we did in preschool, though. I think those were the days when there was still an expectation that four and five year olds came to school knowing basic things: alphabet, letter sounds, how to cut, etc. I know my parents must have taught me all of those skills. I wonder how they did it? Bill's current research online suggests that most pre-school and kindergarten programs are now expected to teach those skills---students are not presumed to enter school with those skills. I wonder if this is very much the case?

We are lucky that Katie has a desire to start young, that she has a natural curiosity to learn. We have also tried to surround her with books since birth. We have thousands of books among the three of us in the house, and she has always been allowed to touch them and look at them---even Mommy and Daddy's books. She wants to read the first thing when she wakes up, the last thing before bed, and several times in between during the day. She sees Bill reading quite frequently. Though she rarely sees me reading (because I read when she is asleep), I try to make it known to her that I am, in fact, an avid reader. I talk with her about my favorite books and show her what book I am in the middle of. We want to make books feel as fundamental to her life as air or water...And she certainly sees that modelled from both of us.

So the challenge before me right now is to start presenting a system to her that will help her to read as quickly as she wants to. There are a few words she recognizes "on sight" but it is time to be systematic about it.

We started an Alphabet Notebook this afternoon, and we are starting with the consonants first. Vowels can be tricky (so nuanced), so I think I will save them for a little later. So "B" is our first study. I made three pages of activities in a blank notebook: 1) I drew a big B and little b with hash marks for her to trace; 2) I drew several more smaller sets of Bb to trace; 3) I chose a handful of nouns starting with "b" and then we looked for those objects in some magazines and cut them out:

She traced the "b" at the start of each word with her pencil and we worked on practicing the sounds. We couldn't find a picture of a banana, so she drew one on her own. Not bad, eh? Then, next to the "blue" shoe, she wanted to draw a little blueberry.

The challenge for me is: what next? Bill suggested we could go on to "c" and everyday do a spiral review. I definitely think he is right about the spiral review technique, but I do think I want to spend one or two more days making "b" a highlight. Should our next page be a collage? We could paste on a button... color and cut out a butterfly? Find and cut out as many "b" letters as we can find in magazines? The trick is, she knows what the letter "b" is... and has since last year (1.5 years old). I need to figure out ways to make the sound of "b" stick in her mind forever (especially when contrasted with the letter "p" for example).

No kidding: teaching is pretty hard work. But it is very exciting work! It is hard and exciting because it is a process of constant experimentation, revision, and creation. If one idea isn't working, we have to think of something else. Hmmmm.

How to teach reading: that is my big project right now, for sure.

In other news, Eric's rug came yesterday! I finally found one from Pottery Barn Kids. Decorating for a boy is more of a challenge because so many stores want to attach certain stereotypical masculine motifs to boys (sports, transportation, space exploration, etc). I think many of these rooms may come out cute, and are fine for later---once a boy is older and decides for himself what his hobbies are. But we don't want Eric to feel like he has to like certain hobbies (especially highly gendered ones) right out of the womb---and this has been a particular philosophy of Bill's, with which I very much agree. We kept Katie's nursery fairly gender neutral, too (I initially did hers in blue and yellow and only after meeting her did I know I wanted to change it---and I had plans to change it even before we moved). We are making Eric's nursery green, blue, and red, but we're trying to use very classic designs. So finding a rug without a motif on it but those colors has been a bit of a search. I ordered it just a few days ago, and by yesterday it was already here! My mom came over and we rolled it out together. I really think it is perfect for what I have in mind, so I am excited!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day and Ashley's Shower

What a busy weekend, and one blessedly filled with family old and new. (It was also filled with allergies, a sinus infection, and pinched nerves in both arms and two nights of basically no sleep and therefore utter crabbiness and a childish tantrum on my part on Sunday---but that's another story. Thank goodness for a sweet and supportive husband). For the most part, we'll just focus on all the people and events that brought goodness to this weekend.

My soon-to-be-sister-in-law Ashley had her bridal shower on Saturday. What a lovely afternoon. Her maid of honor, Katy, really did a good job organizing activities and keeping the event flowing. I loved watching Ashley open all of her presents and the time we got to visit with family. I also really appreciated and enjoyed watching Ashley in her role of auntie to Katie, taking time to hunt for the kitty with her, bringing her a little treat, and letting her help with the unwrapping. Ashley was very patient and kind with her, and Katie has taken to Ashley very quickly---especially for Katie.

We got to spend time with Nana and give her our Mother's Day present, and though we usually have a Mother's Day tea, we decided to forego that this year and just enjoy each other's company on Saturday with all the family.

It worked out for the best, because on Sunday I was an absolute sicky, sleep-deprived, cranky mess. An epic fail on Mother's Day for sure. I cannot even begin to describe how not into the celebration mood I was, and how much I wanted to be in one---a fact which, by itself, was beyond depressing yesterday. I am usually filled with energy and can-do spirit. But it simply isn't advisable to throw a party with two nights of no sleep, clogged sinuses, and a bout of severe moodiness. Normally I would take some Tylenol or a Claritin and be fine, but I don't want to do that while pregnant, so any ailment is really uncomfortable. So, we all agreed to postpone the barbecue I had planned for the family. Bill and Mom helped with Katie all day so that I could try to get better, and thankfully, I did. Everything worked out in the end, because I was able to sleep very well last night, and I woke up feeling almost as good as new this morning. It also helped that Bill plied me with a GINORMOUS box of chocolates. It is difficult to stay cranky when you are eating chocolate.

Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling like I had rejoined the world and by this afternoon our Mother's Day barbcue was shaping up nicely. Katie helped me make our "crazy cake." Crazy Cake is actually the name of this home ec recipe I learned in 8th grade. I have never known why it has this name, but I suppose it has something to do with the ingredients. It also lacks a few ingredients used in many other batters, namely eggs. Katie did an amazing thing, though. After we put all of the ingredients in, I asked her, "What makes this cake different from other batters? If you think about pancake batter or some of the other cakes we've made, what does crazy cake NOT have in it that our other batters do?" I was mainly trying to get her to say "eggs" but she came up with "milk"'s the wild thing..."baking powder." She is right: this cake batter was not leavened with baking powder. It rises with baking soda and vinegar. She knows the difference between the two, but nonetheless I was impressed. I certainly wouldn't have come up with that at two-and-a-half.

We also shucked our corn, made some strawberry lemonade, prepped yams and potatoes for homemade fries, and readied the produce for the burgers.

My mom also surprised me with my Mother's Day present, truly a gift: she cleaned my entire fridge from top to bottom. All the shelves, bins, drawers...everything has been scrubbed and reorganized and scary items in the back have been tossed. One of the best gifts ever. Now I need to keep it that way... Hurrah! I love it.

Dad came over and did all the grilling.

It has been a great day. I think I had to experience the trials of yesterday to have an even more appreciative heart for today. I know for sure that I have the most loving parents and also the most loving husband. I really snapped at him yesterday, and the guilt won't leave me because I never do that... And I hate making him feel bad and sad. It was a really awful thing to do, because we never fight---and I do mean never---and his expectations of me are so high and he was just trying to help me with something. We take pride in never yelling and speaking to each other as respected autonomous individuals, and I know I let him down with my response. Not sleeping for two nights is not really a good excuse, but I do see why sleep-deprived people go a little insane: the rational part of the brain cannot work properly.

Anyway. I was also given another gift today: my cousin's wife Hannah wrote me the nicest, sweetest message saying that she would like to host a baby shower for little Eric and me. I am totally humbled by her generosity and how special and loved she made me feel. I never expected a shower with a second baby, and that she would think of it really makes me feel amazed by how good life can be even when I have been a total pill (like I was yesterday). I am so excited, and I feel so lucky to have my family. It means so much to me that my family wants to celebrate little Eric in this way. I loved my shower for Katie, and I will love preserving those memories for Eric, too, in his little baby book.

So, onward to a better and brighter week!

Mommy and Eric on Mother's Day weekend. He is already my little person and has been since conception. This was my first Mother's Day with two children.

My mom, my brother David, and Katie.

With my two children.

Nana, Amie, Katie, and me: generations at Ashley's shower.

Ashley opens her presents. See how much Katie already trusts and likes her?

My mom with her two children and two grandchildren on Mother's Day weekend 2010.

Katie gives Nana the flower pot she painted and the tea roses she picked out.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Girly-Girl Day!

Katie has been adjusting to so many changes lately (big girl bed, little brother on the way, a few hours away from me on the weekend when I study) that I wanted to take a whole day to focus just on the bond we share and to let the magic of mother-daughter love fill up her whole heart so that she feels safe and protected in it. Our house needs tidying and there are always a million chores to do, but for today none of that was going to matter and my plan was that we would do nothing but totally fun things all day long. As I cuddled her to sleep last night, she pressed her little nose against my nose and put her little arm around my neck to hold me close as I told her everything we had planned for this morning. This morning, she woke up totally happy and excited...

The first part of our plan was to stop by Katie's favorite eatery---Starbucks---for a mother-daughter breakfast. We haven't done this in a long while, primarily because I am not drinking real coffee anymore (decaf is okay in a pinch) during my pregnancy and also because we've just been trying to cook at home as much as possible. Katie was so excited to return today! It was a lovely morning, and of course we walked there taking the long way for exercise, and as we walked we reminisced about all of the classes we've taken together this year (we used to have Starbucks every Monday before Toddler Time back in the fall). Katie wanted a black cherry parfait and a classic egg and sausage sandwich today, and I just decided I would eat whatever she didn't finish. It worked out to be about right for both of us. I also discovered that caramel frappucinos can be made with decaf coffee (I know, I know, ordering decaf while at Starbucks?? only during pregnancy, believe me) but it was quite the discovery.

Katie plays on the fountain at breakfast. This picture doesn't show it well, but she was actually swinging her legs and singing. She is such a pleasant little heart to be with.

After breakfast, we walked apace to the nearby CVS to stock up on our beauty supplies. Katie is my girly-girl, loving all manner of lotions, lipsticks, accessories, powders, you name it. Miss Girly wanted to pick out some new nailpolish for Ashley's shower this weekend, and I needed some eyeshadow actually. Katie also picked out her very own lipstick just for fun (it was $1.99), and she picked a bright fuschia color that looks pretty on her. She gets to wear it at home if she wants to, and this is her first lipstick. She was deadset on that color and so proud to put it on when we got home. We also picked out a body spray that smells of summer (she LOVES body sprays). One of the really fun things about Katie being my daughter is that we get to be all girly together. Sometimes after bath, she will say "Let's beautify!" I often try to deemphasize makeup a little, even refraining from putting it on when I otherwise would and telling her, "I'm not going to wear make-up today because I am pretty as I am" and "Daddy likes it when I don't wear make-up." Yet I figure that her inclination toward beauty products is also a good opportunity to teach her how, when, and why to use make-up and how to do it properly and for fun. My mom let me experiment with make-up at a young age, too, because I was interested and she taught me how to use it correctly and for what purposes. I think that was one reason I never have gone overboard with it and have good self-esteem even when I am not wearing it.

Walking back home, we decided that we would do a few projects outside before bringing out the wading pool. We filled up our finch feeder sack with nyjer seed, replenished our peanut butter-birdseed pinecones, and cleaned and refilled our hummingbird feeder. We love inviting birds around us, and we wake each morning to birdsong as a result. Birds make everyday more cheerful, I think.

Then we painted some ceramic magnets for our refridgerator. We got them in kits at Target for a really good price, and since one of them was a dog, Katie was in heaven. She painted three and I finished one, and after they dried, she put them all on our fridge. Katie loves our paint projects.

Following this, it was swimsuit and pool time! All in all, we spent about four hours outside today, and about three of those hours were playing in water.

Katie is a happy girl!

A little poolside silliness! I think I may have been about to squirt her...

Katie uses her squirt gun to squirt at me... We love those squirt guns. Another Target find a couple of months ago. Definitely a hit this summer... Miss Girly Girl gets a little tough in this picture. ;-)

Poolside popsicles.

Daddy brought some home this past weekend---he chose well, just plain fruit with no added sugar. Katie loves them. We also savored fresh fruit on this sunny day: we recently cut up some whole pineapple and some papaya and some watermelon. I am obsessed with watermelon right now. Eating cold fresh fruit out in the sun with the scent of sunscreen and birds chirping is a moment of perfection.

While we played, we opened the house windows and listened to some music drifting out. We chose old standards today: "K-K-Katy" by Rob Carriker (Katie said, "It's my song!"), "Splish Splash" by Bobby Darin, "The Way You Look Tonight" by Frank Sinatra (this one always reminds me of Katie, and we listened to several of Sinatra's standards today), "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (Celine Dion's version, though I love Roberta Flack), and selections by Doris Troy, Doris Day, Etta James, Michael Buble, and others. With the music, the popsicles, the gentleness of the warm day, I really felt like we had stepped into another time altogether.

After lunch and more play, we decided it was time to come inside and make some cookies! We made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and ate them warm. We only made a half-batch so we don't have too many, but boy were they tasty. Katie loves to help bake cookies.

Now she is napping. I figured I would blog a bit and then maybe look over some of my study materials.
I am so thankful for this happy day with my little girl!!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Busy Spring!

I was just looking at my calendar for May and June as I sat down to schedule my real estate exam, and I realized that this will be a very busy spring:

Ashley's wedding shower, Mother's Day, finishing Katie's art class, continuing music class, starting dance class, Hullabaloo music concert with Bill and Katie, blueberry picking season begins, my monthly OB appointments and a glucose lab, my monthly Thinkers' meetings, my 9th and 10th Toastmaster's speeches are scheduled, our 4th marriage anniversary and a trip to our bed and breakfast in celebration, Violet's 2nd birthday party, David and Ashley's wedding (with me officiating), Father's Day, Bill's birthday, Midsummer Night's Eve party, registering online for Katie's swim classes...

Whew! I am so fortunate to be busy, but I also have to make sure I keep my mind balanced and my heart's priorities straight. I also need to make sure to continue to fit in study time.

Life is never boring, that's for sure. Thankfully today has been pretty slow after we got home from gymnastics and an errand to Target. We've been napping and reading and taking it easy. Every once in awhile, we need a slow day...

Little Eric has been so active today! I love it! He has been kicking and moving around all day...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Studying Mary Cassatt

Katie and I have been studying the work of Mary Cassatt (leading American female painter who studied with the Impressionists in France and was good friends with Degas) this week. A portrait of hers, "Children at the Beach," appears in one of our "touch-the-art" books (references for purchase at the end of this post), and we really love it. I figured that Mary Cassatt, known for her paintings of mothers and children, would be especially accessible for Katie as we pursue our art history studies. Indeed, Katie has responded well to her artwork. I borrowed a huge book of Mary Cassatt's work from the public library, and we have spent time looking at the works, talking about them, speculating about the thoughts of those potrayed, and picking our favorites.

Her work also ties in perfectly to a medium Katie already loves: oil pastel. Boppa picked out a set of oil pastels for Katie for Christmas, and we love using them. Until now, however, we haven't placed them in any particular context. Mary Cassatt, though, regularly used oil pastels in her portrait work (although that was not her only medium). Looking through the big book from the library, I showed Katie a few portraits that used the pastels, and without telling her, has Katie deduce what material Cassatt used. I pointed to the smudging and the brightness of color (Katie is familiar with the properties of her pastels) and told her that she likes to use these, too. Katie immediately guessed, "Pastels!"

And so today's lesson plan was born. I decided that I would use a couple of our favorite Cassatts as inspiration for a mimicry project. I chose these:

Children at the Beach. Mary Cassatt. 1884. Oil on canvas.

A Kiss for Baby Anne. Mary Cassatt. 1897. Oil pastel on paper.

With our inspiration works chosen, I went into my photograph files and selected corresponding images:

Katie and Mommy on the Beach. July 2009.

A Kiss for Little Katie. August 2009.

From there, it was easy to make little reproductions for use with our pastels. (Please don't chuckle, as I am no visual artist myself)!

A more simple version of us at the beach.

And here is a version of our kiss...

After some review of Mary Cassatt's work this morning and teaching Katie a little bit more about Cassatt personally, we were ready to begin our pastel work. Katie was so engaged in the project that she made me call her Mary Cassatt as we were working, and she said I could play the role of her friend Degas. When I asked Katie what Degas (she has seen some of his work, as well) was famous for painting, Katie exclaimed, "Ballerinas!"

Katie works with her pastels. I participated as well, and so some of the coloring is a collaborative effort.
Katie holds up her finished work.

A closer view of our project.

We had fun with this project, and it was personal for us as well, as the love between a mother and child is at the core of most of Cassatt's work.

Katie really has an attention for art and art history. We first encountered the "touch-the-art" series of books by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo in our Tuesday morning art class. When Katie kept talking about the books even after our first class session, I decided to invest in them (something like $9.99 apiece from Amazon). We have "Make Van Gogh's Bed," "Brush Mona Lisa's Hair," and "Feed Matisse's Fish." There is at least one more that Katie hopes we get ("Pop Warhol's Top" which features more modern works). Through these books she has been exposed to famous works by Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Raphael, Monet, Rivera, Vermeer, Van Eyck, and many more.

Because she loves reading these books so much, I checked out several other art references from the library in addition to some of the textbooks we also own. She loves to look at paintings and hear about them. She is so curious, about the elements in the works ("Why is that shoe there? Who is that?") and the artists themselves. She was so tickled to learn that Diego Rivera colored all over his parents' walls with his crayons (similar to her artistry in the supplies cabinet a week or so ago). We talk about symbolism (she loves dogs, and so I have been pointing out dogs in marriage and romantic portraits---dogs are often a symbol of marital fidelity in classic art), and color and movement. Just today, we sat for about an hour or more just combing through an art book and talking.

She even has her own interpretation of Mona Lisa's expression. :-)

It really wasn't until high school that I knew much about art (either its elements or its history), and I learned quite a bit through studying for Academic Decathlon. Art interpretation is so much fun that the art category was one of the categories in which I earned a medal during my last year of competition. Since then, interpreting and enjoying art has remained a hobby of mine, and I love being able to share it with my daughter.

I am not sure who we will study next---maybe Degas. There is a natural connection to him through Cassatt, and Katie is starting a dance class in a couple of weeks so she will have even more context. I will have to think about it. I am also gearing up to start a rocks and mineral unit with Katie, since she has shown interest in my rock collection lately. I checked out some books at the library and we have some whole quartz rocks to hammer open. But that unit will need more planning and review on my part first (to know what to teach) than the art will. No matter what though, I have always LOVED lesson planning and lesson planning for my own child/children is even more fun! We're able to dive into any subject we want to, and Katie is just so curious and engaged---teaching her is a real treat!