Holiday time

Working at Papa’s shop has continued off and on throughout the year. Here J is working on a box for his brother.

The boated light parade happened at the harbor, so we had to decorate our little fishing boat and join in the festivities.

It was time to start buttoning things up for winter. Even the no snow sort of winter. Things like the bales of hay we had used for L’s birthday archery range needed to be donated to the chickens.

Still thoughts moved forward to spring, and fantasizing about spring sports (which we’ve never really done formally as a team before). Big brother gives little brother a hand in batting.

We’ve been working steadily on spelling for 8 yr old J all year. Spelling through osmosis is going on without my knowledge with his little brother. I found this on the couch one day :

The oak by the barn continues to inspire me, complete with each season’s offering.

Traditionally, our family goes to Grandpa’s house to find our Solstice tree. We usually dig one up and hope it will survive to the planting in January. We took our friends Ona and Joshua and their son Skye up with us this year. It was dumping down rain! We all found a perfect tree.

We continue on our journey of the farming year with daily chicken chores. They are much more enjoyable when it’s not wet and muddy.

Another tradition we have this time of year, is making a gingerbread house with my good friend Lydia, and her son, Ailin. We’ve been doing this for years now. We always have some sort of mishap with the gingerbread.

We never finish it with them. This next picture was taken a while later, I just inserted it with the first one. After collapsing once, we had to mend it with Papa’s glue gun.

Our friends invited us to their annual Chanukah party and this year, a housewarming, and the kids enjoyed lots of fun games, good food, singing, and, of course, candle lighting.

Family from Portland came to visit for the holidays and we joined a Winter Solstice gathering up in the mountains.

Oma had her yearly Christmas tree lighting / caroling party up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, so we participated in that community’s holiday spirit as well.

J wrote a letter to Father Solstice and left it out with a cookie for him and some carrots for his reindeer.

Our little tree looked so sweet. I had to capture a shot of it.

Our dog Buck was particularly happy on Solstice, though he had found another bone under the tree that was wrapped before it was time to open it. We found it out in the garden far from home.

We went on a Solstice Day hike at Delaveaga Park, nearby with our extended family. It was another very rainy day.

We use no electricity on the actual Solstice day, only candlelight when we need it. That way, we are entirely aware of the shortest day of the year, and the shortest amount of daylight.

That night we dug a hole and poured concrete into it to support the new teatherball poll and ball. We had to bend our no electricity rule a bit, as we ran out of daylight to do what we wanted outside. It was also an easy science and math lesson, using concrete mix and water.

As I write this, I realize how many traditions we really have around this time of year. Waking up early the morning after the Winter Solstice (usually Dec. 22nd) to go to the beach and wish the sun a happy birthday has also become a tradition with our family some other families. Our friend, Dean, makes a labyrinth each Solstice in the sand that is pretty spectacular. Mama was sick as a dog that morning this year, sadly, so the family went out without her. They came home with raving reports. And our friends sent us these lovely photo of the sunrise, thanks, guys…

On Christmas, we opened our gifts from Nana. A brand new rope ladder was a big hit.

We took a hike w/ Karl’s sister and brother up North to the Slow Coast to the brussel sprout fields and beaches. It turned into a fabulous adventure.

And we had plenty to eat for dinner, with all the rejects from the harvest.

Something for everyone at the water. It was that perfect post-storm beach day.

We found one good use for brussel sprout stems was a bat. The sprouts themselves served well as baseballs and dog toys.

Uncle Michael’s visit sparked a genuine interest in getting started in the treehouse project. Boys got going full swing:

New Year’s Eve was spent at the house of our good friends, the Sporleders. Lou served up pheasant (that he’d hunted) mole and the kids got to hold some of the game he successfully caught.

Not only was the earth blessed with a full moon that night, but it was a Blue Moon, the second full moon in one month. It was pretty spectacular, and the outside fireplace with good friends was a perfect way to wind down 2009.

Papa wanted to go to San Francisco bright and early the next morning, so we piled his brother and sister, the kids and 6 bikes into the van and headed North. First stop was the Exploritorium ~ we got there right after it had opened, no crowds. J and L had fun checking out gravity and steam

and made bubbles suspend eternally on a sea of carbon dioxide.:

Next up was a bike ride through Golden Gate Park and part way over the Bridge.

The rain started to fall and the wind picked up a lot, so we headed back to the car, hungry for China Town. We found the BEST restaurant ever, in the basement of some corner side street, which had a line out the door by the time we left. The kids had fun lighting sparklers and setting off snap caps in the street. It was a fun way to bring in the New Year.

A visit from old pal, Sophie, sparked more work on the tree house. Ladders got added.

For math that week, we gathered all the change we could find, along with the egg money the boys have earned selling their chicken eggs and set it out on the kitchen table. Putting the various coins in stacks, Jack quickly learned to count to $1 in various ways. We made several stacks of ones, then tallied it all up, taking a box of coins and dollars to the bank, to deposit some into the boys’ savings accounts, the rest to keep as spending money.

We played store, J sold me a crown, and other valuable items.  I only had a $20 and he came up with the correct change.

We took advantage of small crowds and hit the Monterey Bay Aquarium the week following break. J learned that octopus are shy, touched a sting-ray, learned how the folks who used to work in the cannery ground up the fish prior to packaging, discovered sea dragons which look like their surroundings to hide from predators and successfully identified an assortment of fish in the tank that he recognized from his fishing trips with papa (rockfish, rock cod, mackerel, sardines…)

With the cold and rain, come the need to feed our fire with firewood. We have no other source of heat. Papa helps the kids with the oh so fun activity of using the wood splitter. Some pieces are too hard to do by hand.

Since the Fungus Fair was coming up, I couldn’t resist a little lesson on mushrooms.

We gathered up as many varieties as we could find in the garden, and loaded them up into two fruit crates full of leaves.

Using our handy identification book “What the Rain Brought in and More”, we attempted to name a few. But bringing them to the fair (consolidating 2 boxes into 1 before we went inside) proved to be beneficial, as we left with the confidence that we could eat the chantrelle we had found that night for dinner. We cut it up and Jack sauteed it in olive oil and salt. The easy to recognize smell of apricot mushroom makes this one an easy one to remember for the future.  The boys got to dye silk with mushroom dye at the fair and proudly displayed their results when we got home:

We followed up with some pictures and writing in his main lesson book about mushrooms and good kids of fungus like yogurt, beer, cheese and bread. Jack really seemed to enjoy this part.

After lighting our candle and saying our morning verse, we sang a January song:

On the wind of January
Down flits the snow.
Travelling from the frozen north,
cold as it can blow.

Jack had it memorized by day two.

I’ve been telling the poem ‘Wynken, Bluynken and Nod’ and Jack’s enjoyed telling both L. and Papa the real meaning of it…

Jack has really liked solving the riddles we’ve been doing where I describe something like:

With a long, skinny body,
I have straight, blonde hair,
But people turn me upside down
And drag me everywhere.

We started a block about the people of the far North, the Inuit or Yupiks (Eskimos) and their shelters. Using Shemie’s “Houses of Snow, Skin and Bones”, we learned about igloos and how they are built. Since we’ll be heading to Tahoe next week, I figured this was a good time to learn about this. Jack wrote about it in his MLB and drew a picture, but the amount of words was daunting and didn’t seem to get us off to a good start.
We reviewed the 12’s times tables with clapping and finished up with a watercolor lesson in wet on wet with salt. I attempted snow in trees, and Jack’s sun and igloo with trees in snow turned out lovely.

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