Tuesday, February 28, 2017

learning to read

I bribed Liesl with a stuffed animal - a beanie baby - if she read out loud to me for at least 15 minutes every day for 2 weeks. I think it's time for her to put it all together and become more fluent in decoding words on the page. It's been amazing - she's been so focused and I love seeing how committed and capable she is when it comes to meeting goals. She has insisted on reading every day, even if it meant perching on the kitchen floor while I did dishes, or reading in the car backseat. Mostly, though, we have cuddled up on the couch and she has read, becoming more and more fluent as the days have passed.

Liesl reading from B. Avery on Vimeo.

Liesl reading from B. Avery on Vimeo.

Her prize arrived today. :) Well worth it.
I've got the next prize lined up already... a set of Pinkalicious books.

Monday, February 27, 2017

weekend report

On Saturday, Sebastian had a basketball game at 11 and an indoor soccer (actually futsal) game at 5:30, and then on Sunday afternoon he had a baseball evaluation at Lincoln High (for a more competitive team, which we don't actually want to end up on). Three sports! All of his friends! He was pretty excited. The tryouts went well, he said - five basic drills including throwing into a net (with a timer), hitting, fielding fly balls, fielding grounders, and short sprints. He didn't really know what he was in for and thus was not nervous beforehand, which was surprising and good.

In the meantime, Steve and Liesl tried to make a water-bottle rocket with baking soda and vinegar. It didn't work - too leaky at the cork - but I love that they tried and the design certainly appeared outstanding. :) They will try again with a more stable and stronger bottle.
It's been a busy week at work for me - registration week for PSU students, which always entails three weeks of 15-20 advising appointments each day and dozens of emails. In the evenings, I've been busily plotting out our summer childcare schedule, armed with a color-coded calendar, email addresses of all their best friends' parents, and a list of possible summer camps. I need them to go to camps some weeks of the summer - other weeks, we will be out of town on vacation or I will hire a babysitter - and of course they only want to go to camp with a friend, and of course they have different interests, and of course I need them to go to camp with a friend during the same weeks so that I'm not paying for both babysitter and camp.... it's a ridiculous amount of mental space and energy trying to coordinate those 10 weeks. I think I've got it mostly figured out, though. Mostly.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Herman Pinnacles mama hike

We went out yesterday for our first mama hike of the season, to Herman Creek Pinnacles in the Gorge. It's been cold and rainy all week, with the threat of snow, but Saturday was miraculously sunny. We were surprised by just how much snow remained on the trails, however - we were hiking and slipping on snow nearly the whole time. There were also hundreds of trees and branches down, evidence of the harsh winter that we have experienced. It took us a really long time to hike the 8 miles given the conditions - clambering and climbing over trees, threading our way between branches, fording swollen creeks, stepping carefully on the snow. But it was glorious to be out in the sun with friends, seeing the green forest again.
We got a little lost in the beginning - ended up taking a half-mile detour on a forest road under the powerlines - which was my fault. I usually study the map before these hikes and am the designated navigator - I have both a better sense of direction and better map sense than most of my friends - but I was really busy at work this week, and didn't. But we recovered and found the trail again.
This was the Herman Creek waterfall, coming down in a narrow cut-through. We were expecting to see the Pinnacles - huge sharp-edged boulders within a quarter mile, but never saw them. Never! Eight women couldn't find huge rocks in the forest. It cracked us up, but it was also supposed to mark our turn-around spot. But we were reluctant to go back the way we came, because it would have been uphill on the snow over a number of creeks. We knew if we kept going forward, the trail would pass by Dry Creek waterfall and then come out in the town of Cascade Locks, and it would be downhill or flat the whole the way. The only problem, of course, is that we'd be 3 miles from the parked cars. We decided to risk it - someone would run to the cars, or we would hitchhike, or call an Uber.

Dry Creek Falls and an octo-selfie!
We came out into Cascade Locks and got extremely lucky - a couple we'd seen a couple of times on the trail, hiking the opposite direction, came out at the same time and were happy to give us a ride to our cars. Phew! Escaped! It was a great introduction to the summer hiking season.

Friday, February 24, 2017

science fair project

Sebastian has been collaborating with his friends Nathan and Wyatt on a project for the upcoming science fair at their school. They've been helped along by Nathan's parents, who brainstormed possible projects and have spearheaded the design of the experiment. We've had weekly science fair playdates - so fun - at which they do the bare minimum of work and then play together. :)

But the project is due on March 15th, so yesterday found them making flash cards and a results table, and practicing their explanatory spiel; we are ready to move ahead with the experimental phase. Their hypothesis is that children are able to retain more information - their memories work better - after exercise. (So more recess = better learning outcomes!)

The experiment: show a set of 10 photos (all of common food items) to a child and ask him/her to remember as many as possible. Then have the child do some exercises - jumping jacks, running in place, pushups. After a break, show the child a different set of 10 photos and see how many he/she remembers. Record the results in a table. The final phase will be to collect results, display them, and present a poster at the science fair.

I have no idea if their hypothesis will be proven correct or not, and the number of factors affecting their outcomes is huge. This is clearly not going to be a controlled, statistically significant study. But the fact that they're talking about a hypothesis, constructing an methodology to test their hypothesis, and carrying out an experiment, is huge. I love that they're doing it at all.
 Practicing his speech:

science fair from B. Avery on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

star student

It is Liesl's turn to be the star student in her classroom this week - for Tuesday, she made a poster about herself to share and display. Wednesday, Mrs. LaTocha read one of her favorite books at circle time. And today, Liesl brought in a bag full of favorite objects and photos to share*, and I got to come in and provide the food for snack time. It's sweet and she has been so excited.

*Objects included: a sand dollar, a seashell, ball of lichen, and twig, to represent outdoor adventures; a bunch of photos of our family; a kittycat hat and wings to show dress-up, her favorite game; some random stickers and buttons; nail polish; her Omega gymnastics medal.
All about Me!
My favorite food: macaroni and treats
My favorite color: rainbow with pink
My favorite book: Jealous Jackal (a Sweet Pickles book)
My favorite thing to do: play with friends
My favorite toy: bunny Foofoo
My family

After we passed out blueberry and caramel scones and cheese sticks (L's pick... actually her second choice, since her first was cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles, which I vetoed as not being a good choice for morning snack), the kids did some dancing to a video by Go Noodle. The dancing was my favorite thing to see.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

happy Valentine's day!

It was a school day and a work day, but we still celebrated Valentine's Day. The children made cards for each other and Steve and I exchanged notes; I picked up some tulips on the weekend; Steve brought home some truffles from Cacao, the amazing (expensive, delicious) chocolate shop directly across the street from his new office. Both children had in-school parties where they exchanged notes and candy with all of their classmates - Liesl was thrilled and painstakingly read each and every word on each and every card from all of her 24 friends. Sebastian picked off the candy from his cards. :)
 After school, Liesl and Nora had their cooking class - heart-shaped cookies with sprinkles this week!
I made fettucine with a bolognese sauce for dinner - and a radicchio salad - and baked strawberry shortcakes for dessert. Not quite as cute as the heart-shaped brownies I made last year, but pretty tasty for a winter night.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Wonder Girl

Could anything be better than a Sunday hike in Forest Park with my Wonder Girl?
Wonder Girl also did some long overdue smashing of the Christmas gingerbread house.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

s'mores cake

It was the lovely Camille's 7th birthday this weekend - we had our usual family dinner together on Saturday, this time marked with a special birthday cake. I had made my usual fudgy chocolate cake - tasty, but not spectacular - when Steve had the brilliant idea of making it a s'mores cake. He layered marshmallows on top of the finished cake and then sprinkled chocolate chips and crushed graham crackers on top of that - a few minutes under the broiler and it was amazing. It smelled and tasted just like a s'more, but better.
Camille was so excited - and Liesl was inspired to dance in joy.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sebastian's basketball season

Sebastian is once again playing with his friends Ethan, Cason, Peyton, Cameron, Nick, and others from FPE on a basketball team through the YMCA. It's a good group, although they are not nearly as skilled and dominant in basketball as they are in recreational soccer. But it's fun for him to be on a team with his friends; I like that basketball uses different muscles and requires different skills than soccer or baseball. They played Saturday morning and won in a close match.

I took a couple of videos, but it's hard to capture - they move pretty quickly and my little camera isn't really set up for it. Last year I was truly amazed at how much they improved from the beginning of the season to the end, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they do this year.

Sebastian basketball 1 from B. Avery on Vimeo.

Sebastian basketball 2 from B. Avery on Vimeo.

Sebastian basketball 3 from B. Avery on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

1000-piece puzzle

I bought a 1000-piece puzzle for a family Christmas present this year, with a children's book theme - the children were predictably intimidated and reluctant to start on it, but I had a hunch. So we unwrapped it a week ago, started sorting edges and then colors, and have been steadily pecking away at it all week. Everyone got in on the act, which was awesome. Liesl and I had a very fun and successful time one afternoon - Sebastian worked on it in the mornings before the rest of us woke up - Steve sorted and grouped pieces to make it easier for the rest of us. (Steve also sat on his hands and exercised his patience while waiting for the rest of us slowpokes to hurry up and finish it.) We finished it this afternoon! Seb and Liesl were so proud of themselves, and I was too. It was really fun as a group project and everyone is feeling enthusiastic about another. I think there's one with a candy theme that might be just the ticket...
School was again closed on Friday - there was a scheduled teacher development day, but also an ice storm that would have closed schools in any case. So we were home again together. We tried to go out in the morning but it was too icy to be much fun, even at the field. So Sebastian and I played a game of chess and a game of Scrabble, we all read books together and separately, I baked a double chocolate banana bread and made braised pork shoulder for dinner. Liesl's friend Nora came over in the afternoon for a playdate.

Seb and I played Scrabble for a bit and then got tired of it. Steve came wandering through and found our abandoned board and tiles.... see if you can spot the moment when he took over and started playing both sides. :)