Friday, July 08, 2016

The photo dump: Summer Edition

Most mornings, after breakfast, and before swim practice, we head out on the trail for a walk. This is how it usually ends. Lily abandons her bike, and Violet runs ahead with Daisy while I hold Casey's leash, and push the stroller carrying the bike. 

Last Sunday we decided to play hooky from responsibilities and chores and instead spent the day exploring Land's End in San Francisco. 

This was mile three of our four mile walk. Sometimes I feel that mother is synonymous pack mule. 
 We are revamping our dining room and family room with new paint, flooring and lighting.
While Daisy is at swim practice Lily and Violet swing. And swing. And then eat snacks.
 My parents came to play for a weekend, so a trip to the zoo was in order.  
When we got home from the zoo, we realized that Daisy had a fever. We spent the next 10 days with a summer cold passing through the house.
For my birthday, we went out for cocktails in nearby Walnut Creek. Then we bought paint and lighting fixtures from Home Depot before crashing in bed before 10pm. And people say that parenthood doesn't change you. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Lake week, I took two of my daughters to the wild.

It was the perfect early summer-like day, and I had a full morning with Daisy and Violet, a morning with no errands or chores needing to be done, one of our first days of summer vacation. Lily was spending the morning at cooking camp, and I asked Daisy: "What would you like to do today?" 

"Go hiking", she said. "I want to explore the wild." And so we did. 

We hiked up the giant hill of our favorite trail, marveling at how different the fields looked from a short few months ago. We hiked past the large broken tree trunks, where we pretended they were moose grazing on the land. We hiked past wildflowers admiring their many colors. We measured our shadows. We hiked over a thick sticky mess of mud, amazed at how the creek has dried up so quickly. We jumped, we skipped, we ran, we laughed. 
John Muir once wrote that "one day's exposure to the mountains is better than a cartload of books." I love books, always have, and I am not sure that I could survive without them, but sometimes when I stand at the top of the world, surrounded by the click of insects I cannot see, listening to the thud of my heartbeat and feeling the rustle of wind across my skin, I think that I could not survive without this. 
We play games out here. We mimic the sounds we hear, the whistles of the birds, the soft rubbing of leaf against leaf. We find broken sticks that become our magic wands. We pretend we are explorers finding new lands. We make believe we are bumble bees or butterflies or fairies. We explore - we run fast, climb trees, dig in the dirt and jump on rocks. We walk forwards or backwards, fast and slow. I do my best to not issue warnings. I encourage my girls to let them see the world through their own eyes. Sometimes we fall, sometimes we have scraped knees and hands, but we pick ourselves up and brush ourselves off. Learning that we are strong, learning to keep going, learning that hard work always pays off. 

Hiking, I have always called it. Walking, or birding, or nature-journaling, or exploring. A green hour, naturalists now call it, as they encourage parents to connect their children to the outdoors. 

Later that night over dinner, Daisy told Daddy about our day. "A whole morning alone with Mommy and Violet. We went to the wild and saw magic." 

As our eyes met, with a smile on our lips, I thought, "seeing magic in the wild." That sounds much nicer than green hour, don't you think? 

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Sneaky Spies

A couple of weeks ago, we heard the distinct sound of footsteps padding around upstairs well after our bath, books and bed routine had finished. We heard giggling and talking. We heard laughing and music playing. We dismissed them. Daisy and Lily share a room, and sometimes are up after lights out sharing stories and laughing about the day.

About 20 minutes later Lily comes tip-toeing down the stairs with a hoodie on over her PJs. Zippered. Hood up. Sunglasses on. She’s hugging the wall and creeping along into the family room.

“Don’t look at me. Don’t watch me guys” she tells us.

“Alright” we say slowly, unsure what is going on. She heads over to our shoe cabinet, reminding us to not look at her. 

Seconds later her shoes are on (now, why can't she put her shoes on this quick when we are running late for Kinder drop off?) and she heads straight for the garage.

J and I both jump up, asking the essential questions: "What's going on," "Why are you up?" "Where are you going?" 

She turns towards us with a deadpan face, speaking slowly and enunciating every word. She explains that she was going to sneak out and meet her neighbor friend for her first mission. "I'll be back before morning."

And this was the story of the time time one of my daughters tried to sneak out at night. I am very sure it won't be the last time either. 

Saturday, May 07, 2016

What I hope to teach my daughters

Tramp through the woods, climb up mountains and sink your feet into the sand. Breath in salty air and watch the waves crash into the shore. Banish gremlins. Dance with joy. Remember that the right person can make any situation fun, but know that the right person can be - and always is - you. Remember that the world is full of magic, and you can have as much magic as you want, you just have to believe. Connect - to yourself, to others, to the world. But, always know that the best thing you can do with your life is to feel and to love.

Cultivate gratitude, the way you cultivate a tomato plant or a strong caffeine habit. Practice joy. Hone your focus. Develop patience. But, most importantly, love yourself.

Revel in the simplicity of life. Fresh, in season, still warm from the sun, fruit. Remember how the rain feels as it falls across your face. Take in the breathtaking beauty of a sunset, or the shapes made from a streak of vibrant purple paint. Feel the way air fills your lungs. Spend time among trees. Admire their height, run your hands over the crinkly bark, admire at their deep, sturdy roots, feel their silky leaves. Marveling among the trees reminds you that the world is magic.

See the world. Travel to far flung places into the far corners of the earth, but also see other parts of your world - a new park or a small street you've never visited before. Celebrate different cultures, understand differences of opinions and rejoice in the variety of life. We were each created to be unique and special.

See the best in people. This brings out their best. Believe someone is amazing and they become amazing. If that amazing eludes you remember that life always works out. It may not be exactly what you planned or anticipated, but with enough time, even the most devastating event can be the best thing that happened to you. If you keep moving, and looking up, things get better.

Do what brings you joy. Every day.

Believe that life is a playground.

Believe that we are all connected by God's grace and love. He made the world a magical place with turquoise waterfalls and starry nights and created us with a bright spark of internal strength, which allows us to handle the tough stuff, love deep, and do our best work.

Believe in leprechauns and glittery fairies and unicorns and elves and that Santa Claus truly does exist.

Believe that love is all around. You just have to tilt yourself toward it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The books we like to read

We've been reading up a storm lately, while we are big readers here at Chez Stars - it is possibly a combination of the stomach flu that hit our house, rainy weather and a streak of really great titles that has propelled us to crazy new levels.

The Worst Witch: This was meant to be a independent read for Daisy, and I only read the first chapter out loud to the girls, but then we couldn't put it, we just kept going. It's a fun and sweet and we love the magical fantasy element. 

The Secret Garden: I loved this novel as a child, and I have a beautifully illustrated version that we have been reading from. At church (and preschool!) the girls have a "secret passageway" from the main building to the parking lot with a space they call "their secret garden" and thus, the reason for the reading of this book. Daisy and Lily love it. The first few chapters were a bit intense (apparently I blocked out the entire reason why she was living with her Uncle in the first place), but now they love it. 

I am #1: Sacagawea: Daisy has been fascinated with Sacagawea since she first read Fancy Nancy and the Book Report when she was a mere two years old. I have learned much about this amazing woman in the past four years. We both enjoyed this book and the subsequent conversations about life as an Native American women. In the after notes, we learned that there are more statues in the United States of Sacagawea than any other women, and Daisy wants to try and find them all. Along with another biography about her. Apparently, the obsession isn't over yet. 

The Princess and the Giant: I have loved all the books by this author. The illustrations are adorable and whimsical, the rhyming text is playful with a fun twist on a classic fairy tale.

Interstellar Cinderella: Cinderella has long been a favorite in this house, I both love it from a classic Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tale perspective and from a cultural perspective as it's one of the more popular fairy tales retold in many difference countries from China to Iraq to Native American to Greece and Poland. The girls have loved all the versions that I've read to them, of course, the Disney versions being the most popular, especially with Lily. So, it's really no surprise that this has been a popular choice. I do like that in this version Cinderella is a take-charge mechanic that doesn't need a prince to rescue her. She rescues him.  

Peter and the Wolf: We've been reading the story, listening to the music, we watched the Disney version one wet and windy afternoon.

SuperFudge: This is a special read aloud just with Lily. She asked for a special Mommy read aloud, and I never turn down a chance to snuggle up with my little jumping bean. 

Ollie the Stomper: One of Violet's favorite reads are the Gossie and Friends books, and of course, this has quickly become our morning read, our nap time read, our before bedtime read, and any other time in-between read. 

When Breathe Becomes Air: I've been seeing this pop up everywhere and frankly, I thought it just sounded depressing. However, between my personal connection to a thirty-five year old young husband and father who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and all of the amazing reviews, I thought I should give this a chance. This has turned out to be a beautiful book and I cannot believe that I waited so long to read the poetic words. I found this to be thought-provoking and beautiful. Sad, yes, but life-affirming and spectacular as well.

America's First Daughter: I just started this, so admittedly I'm only on chapter 2, but so far I'm hooked. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and the American Revolution is my favorite time period, so it has that going for me. I love the unique perspective and so far, it has completely captured my attention (like, I'm ignoring the huge laundry pile on my couch and the stack of essays to grade to keep reading this).

Next up on my reading list: Murder on the Orient Express, All the Light We Cannot See and potentially a re-read of the Harry Potter books (to get ready for this summer's new release!) 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A letter to my sweet Monkey girl

Dear Daisy,

Several days after Christmas we started talking birthdays. It’s really no surprise with Lily’s birthday and your birthday within the first eight weeks of the year. We talked about how we wanted to celebrate, what types of cake we wanted and if there were any specific birthday gift requests. A few days later, over breakfast one morning, you asked if you could have a tree for your birthday, a tree to plant in the community.

We had been learning and talking about trees. In school you were observing the changing of the tree in the courtyard, drawing and noting when the leaves changed color. You were scientists writing facts and drawings in your observation journals. At home we were talking about trees providing shelter for squirrels and birds and bugs. We read books explaining how trees produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the environment. We walked the neighborhood talking about which trees had the prettiest new blossoms.

I think this perfectly sums your personality: unbelievably kind, generous, curious, inquisitive and ready to make the world a more beautiful place. In the end, we had a tree-planting birthday party. We picked a Red Dragon Japanese Maple Tree for the meditation garden at our church, and with your friends you got your fingernails dirty digging, planting and watering the tree before diving into a chocolate cake at the nearby park.
Daisy, these days you are a wonder to behold. Besides the amazing gift you gave our community, you are also mastering the art of storytelling. You are constantly making books and writing stories. Creating skits and plays for you and your sisters and friends to act out. You live straddling two worlds: a world of dragons and princesses and fairies and unicorns. But, you also live in a world fueled by logic and precision. You are passionate about science and facts. You like order and absolute truths. I have to say that while I love the world of pretend and make believe, it’s been amazing to see these two worlds of yours merge together.

Honestly though, part of your ability to merge these two worlds is powered by your younger sisters. They are very much still enthralled in the world of make-believe, and the three of you love to play together. Whether you are exploring in your secret garden, or having a tea party with pirates, I watch the three of you together and am just left in awe at the relationship that you are forging. The three of you are building a friendship that I sincerely hope will endure for many, many decades to come. There is something special about sharing a childhood that creates a bond, which really cannot be broken. I genuinely hope that you enjoy experiencing life together for the rest of your days.
Daisy, sweet monkey girl, I hope you always have kindness. I hope you always enjoy storytelling. I hope you always appreciate your sisters. And I hope you never lose your creativity.

I love you more than all the stars in the sky and the water in the ocean. To me, I love you, just doesn’t seem powerful enough.

Love, Momma

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Monkey is SIX

Today is Daisy's birthday. In lieu of a babybook, I ask the following 20 questions to my birthday girl (starting with the third birthday). You can see Daisy's previous answers, here, here and here. So, this afternoon while she and J built with her new Roominate Dollhouse I fired away: 
  1. What is your favorite color: yellow 
  2. What is your favorite toy: roominate (Note: She received this yesterday from a friend for her birthday - and Daisy is IN LOVE. It's basically building a dollhouse through circuit building. But, she also loves playing with her dollhouse and riding her scooter and roller skates).
  3. What is your favorite fruit: watermelon 
  4. What is your favorite movie: Kung Fu Panda (Note: She is still obsessed with all things Asia.) 
  5. What is your favorite thing to wear: rompers 
  6. What is your favorite animal: zebras. elephants. owls.  
  7. What is your favorite song: (Momma's Note: She didn't really have an answer for this. She pretty much loves all music and audiobooks. She, too, loves the Kids Stories Podcasts, and she has a playlist of relatively soothing songs that she listens too at night sometimes and she's learning "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" on the piano.) 
  8. What is your favorite book: Any of The Adventures of Sophie Mouse or Owl Diaries chapter books 
  9. Who is your best friend: Sadie. Karly. 
  10. What is your favorite breakfast: a bowl of Cheerios    
  11. What is your favorite lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Luke's cheddar clouds, fruit 
  12. What is your favorite dinner: quesadillas or cheese pizza or grilled cheese. (Note: basically anything that is heavy on the cheese is her favorite)
  13. What is your favorite snack: popcorn; grapes 
  14. What is your favorite dessert: rainbow sherbert  
  15. What do you sleep with at night: blankie  
  16. What is your favorite thing to play outside: in our playhouse or to ride my scooter
  17. What do you want for your birthday dinner: roasted cauliflower grilled cheese, salad and roasted sweet potato "chips" (and we will have leftover cake from her birthday party yesterday). 
  18. What do you want to be when you grow-up: an owl scientist 
  19. Where is your favorite place to go: to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum (Momma's Note: this is where the obsession with all things avian started) 
  20. What is your favorite game: sorry

This girls amazes us daily with her creativity and kindness. For her birthday, she wanted to donate and plant a tree for her community to enjoy, and yesterday at her birthday party, she and a few friends planted a Red Dragon Japanese Maple Tree. We are so fiercely proud of this girl and we love her golden heart.