Friday, November 14, 2014

This week in immersive learning: Coping with hard stuff.

First thing's first:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CALLIOPE!!  Our baby is definitely not a baby anymore...and of course we had to celebrate her growth with a party fit for a curious, imaginative soul like our Callie.  All three kids helped in party planning...thinking about what we needed, what we would have to get, and how to make it fun for our guests without breaking the bank.  They went through a few ideas that were wonderful, but a bit outlandish in terms of pricing, so we had to rethink within the terms of what was realistic.  Ultimately, it was an "art" party, we had giant rolls and reems of paper, glitter glue, markers, crayons, glue, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and puffballs...all sorts of crafts out and invited guests to create their own artwork, freeform.  It was pretty grand. The one real "party" item they insisted must be present:  BALLOONS.  So we got balloons.  Calliope wanted orange (her favorite color) so we spent a long time in the store looking for just the right orange balloons...and in the end she opted not to get any of the fancy ones, but went right for the good ole solid orange balloons with no bells, whistles, dinosaurs or frills...those were just perfect.  (And she was SO PROUD of having picked them out herself! she told everyone how these were HER ORANGE BALLOONS! THAT SHE PICKED HERSELF!!! It was so amazing.)

getting some reading practice in with all the birthday cards!

It was certainly a hit with the birthday kid, who promptly zonked out once it was done, cuddled up with her new Boo!
classic post-birthday sleep hugging your newest cuddly treasure
This week we also got to visit Kelly at work!  The farm she is working for has regular farmers market appearances, so we headed out to Dupont circle to see her in action and get to learn a little bit about the flowers she works with.

They had a wide array of flowers, as well as wreathes and pumpkin bouquets...we had a lot of fun exploring the different smells, textures, and looks of the various types - and even got an added bonus of getting to see a film crew in action, since Kelly was being interviewed for a student documentary as we first walked up.  It's always good to get to see things being created - right there in the action.

Another cool unexpected thing we encountered:  Praying Mantis!  Evidently these guys abound on the farm, and they had a few stowaways hidden amongst the flowers.  Whenever they found one, they relocated them to this bouquet so that they can make the return journey after the market and be released back at home.  These were the biggest ones I have personally seen up close, and the kids were really fascinated by them.  They were mostly still, but when they did move, it was with slow, somewhat jerky movements, all quite deliberate.  Definitely a treat to see!

There are at least three in this photo.
We also had the pleasure of getting to hang out with Pat and Scott!  We don't get to see them often since they live on the opposite coast, so we relish whatever time we can get.  We ran into a friend of theirs on the street, who recommended this playground, so off we went.  It was a pretty cool one!

on the...tri-totter??
Not sure what's happening here, but I love all of it - foreground and back!
And as always, we got some body control practice in by flying!

It's a Hazely starfish!
It was hike week at 4H, and we got some pretty spectacular views in.  The terrain here was quite different than our previous hike had been - much more rocky, fewer trees and underbrush...and we had our first experience hiking with a dog!  Pita joined us for this one, and seemed to have a lovely time, except for a momentary scare when a bigger dog attacked her for no apparent reason.  We were walking in opposite directions and without any discernible warning or reason, the big dog picked poor Pita up by the scruff and tossed her...Thankfully she was not hurt, and the other dog's owner was on it immediately, apologized profusely, and gave me their contact info in case any problems arose down the line.  Other than being a bit shaken, Pita didn't seem to have suffered any for it...She's a pug, so she's got plenty of extra skin on her scruff to protect against just that kind of attack, and I scooped her up even as the other dog was being pulled away, so it was all fine in the end.

It was a good teachable moment, though.  We talk a lot about animal safety  - about there being no reason to fear them, but it is important to respect them and remain alert around them, for everyone's benefit.  I have always been careful to explain that if an animal feels threatened or trapped, they may lash out, so you need to be aware of how you are changing the environment as you enter and move about a space with any living creature.  Its one thing to understand that intellectually, but quite another to see first hand how a frightened animal can lash out.  I can only think that - since we were moving in a pack of loud, energetic kids moving quickly down the path - the other dog must have gotten spooked and lashed out...but whatever the reason, all the kids in the group that day got an up-close taste of what it means to be around a threatened animal, and also - thankfully - a great example of how to behave in a situation like that from the other dog owner.  The fact that the response was to immediately pull the dog away, apologize, and then humbly but affirmatively check in with me about Pita's condition and volunteer to provide contact info is really great.  It could so easily have ended with the other owner blaming us or walking away to avoid confrontation or something - The response here was classy, and responsible. And for the record, I was also civil and polite. We treated each other with mutual respect in this encounter, high stress as it was, and I am actually really glad all the kids got to see that.

Thankfully that was the extent of the unpleasant excitement!  Then we were on our way, and we got to see this:


It is always slightly nervewracking to have kids (and dogs) on a cliff, but thankfully this group is wonderfully close.  I love the multi-age environment, as it allows the kids some really beneficial socialization.  I have observed much less clique-i-ness in these multi age groups, and I wonder if it isn't at least partially because there is no need for false hierarchies; the oldest kids take pride in being able to help the younger ones and can feel accomplished by teaching them what they have already learned, and the younger ones benefit by having those peers to learn from - and something to aspire to as they keep learning.  Anyway, this is all just to say that we feel relatively comfortable in this kind of environment because everyone has each other's backs, and those among them with more rock climbing skills/knowledge were fantastic with helping those without it - even if that meant warning someone not to go there or asking the nearest adult to intervene. (which has happened, but so rarely is it needed that I don't even remember how long ago that was.)


Ok so maybe it doesn't count as 'hiking' if you're riding in the wrap, but we'll give her a pass. She had great fun!


Pita enjoying the view
On our way out of the park, we saw this giant bird sitting on the dead tree...it was eerily beautiful!


Musically, this week, Hazel was just really not feelin' the violin thing for some reason.  Thankfully, she has an awesome teacher who is willing to work with where the kids are at, and seeks to inspire them to find their way back to that happy musical place.  Noticing that we have a hammer dulcimer, she suggested pulling that out and letting Hazel's music lesson this week be about finding new, inspiring sounds.  Hazel wrote this song and asked me to record it:




Sadly, we got some really awful news today...our dear friend Zoe, who meant to much to us, and to mom, passed away somewhat unexpectedly.  I have not been taking the news particularly well, it hit me really hard...we had plans for a family get-together soon, and then grand plans to celebrate the new year by watching the fireworks from her rooftop and having a whole-family sleepover...we weren't ready for another goodbye so soon.  I suppose I should count this as another life experience for the kids, learning about unpleasant things along with the pleasant, but...I kind of think that they've had enough death recently.

With the loss of Zoe so heavy on all of our hearts - she was kind of a surrogate great aunt to these kids - I was more than happy to indulge when we just happened to stumble on opening day of Santa's village in the mall.  (We were there to get Cadence a new coat.)  Why not spend a little time enjoying a spot of frivolity?  I think it is important to be kind to yourself in difficult times, and I want to make sure my kids know to do this for themselves as they grow up and leave the nest...and so, we end up visiting Santa at the mall in mid November. (I'm usually firmly in the midwinter holidays not starting until at least after thanksgiving.)

The kids dressed themselves this morning, wearing matching ruffly dresses, so I am sure anyone who saw us assumed I was intentionally dressing them up and making them meet the big guy for a pinterest worthy holiday photo or something...which was so not the case it's actually kind of hilarious.   (For the record:  I hate ruffles, I value self expression, I find the concept of Santa's village overly commercial and I don't like starting holiday season early.  And yet, here we are.)

The kids had ridiculous expressions on their faces in the photos they took, because once they got in their they were like...uh, why are we doing this?  WEIRD. But they still insisted on doing it, and so I have some classic awkward holiday photos for the memory book.

The experience was pretty neat, though, they had games and interest stations throughout, and since no one else was in line, we got to linger with each one.  This was a scanner, which would scan you and tell you which list you were on - Naughty? or Nice?  (I'm glad all three made the good list, or that coulda been awkward!!!)

Although really, who is surprised?
my ridiculous wonderfuls.
classic.
 Last thing I will share for now, a silly (and slightly creepy) takeaway from another of the stations in santa's village:  Elfies.  (you take photos of yourselves and make a few superficial choices, and it spit out this goofy video.


In case you can't (or won't) watch it, here's a freeze frame of the final image, just to give you a taste. you can click here to see it yourself!


Ok all, signing off for now...Quit dying on me and merry happy thanksgivamass early...or...something!