Saturday, November 29, 2014

This week in immersive learning: thanksgiving

I had all three kids sit down and write out their letters to Santa this week.  I like this exercise because - in addition to getting in some handwriting practice - it is an opportunity for us to sit back and think for a moment about what we really want...and what does that mean?  We always have interesting discussions about what to ask for; do we go totally grandiose with the most giant expensive materialistic bauble we can think of?  do we go completely in the other direction and only ask for things we need?

We decided that it was not appropriate vehicle for say, a grocery list, though it would still be a very nice gift to not have to spend the time or money on them, but that isn't particularly special, and it's ok to want special things somethings.  At the same time, Cadence was quite opposed to giving Santa too much work, and spent a lot of time narrowing down what it was that she wanted most, so she could prioritize that, and ask for just the important things without a lot of unfair superfluity.

Hazel really enjoys what has become a tradition now of incorporating wildlife rescue into our midwinter celebrations; be it donating to support the cause of her sisters' favorite endangered species or asking Santa to donate on her behalf. 

The result was that they both landed in a pretty human middle ground.  Cadence wrote:

Dear Santa, 
What I want for christmas is an American Girl doll
(PS I also want to donate money to the people in need.)
From Cadence.

She finished off her brief note with an illustration, although it kind of muddied her message a bit, I think:
Cadence's note
Hazel tried to write out her letter, but I think the excitement got the better of her and it ended up being an energetic string of 'R's with her name thrown in...but she told me that it says:

"Dear Santa,
I would like a kit to help animals stay unsick and alive, and also an American Girl doll. 
Love Hazel"

And she also added an illustration, for clarity.
Hazel's enthusiasm took over
And of course, since she is an artist, she decorated the envelope as well.



Cadence attempted to help Calliope with her letter, to mixed results...Calliope also wanted an American Girl doll, but she also insisted that she wants Nala for christmas.  Nala is one of the two resident dogs at Urban Evolution, and while Callie adores them both, she has a soft spot for Nala's calm, mama-dog demeanor.  Cadence, in trying to reason with her that Nala already had a home and a family who loved her, wasn't up for grabs, and suggested a Nala costume instead of Nala herself...Calliope somewhat reluctantly agreed to let Cadence write that down, but I think Cadence rushed through it in part because we all knew that wasn't REALLY what Calliope meant...she wrote it out quickly on top of the illustration Callie made and they stuck it in the envelope before it could become a problem.




On a writing kick, I suppose, Cadence popped up in front of me later on with a list of dishes to make for thanksgiving in one hand, and a list of the necessary ingredients to buy in the other.  In a sombrero and sunglasses, like ya do!

Puy seems intrigued, too!
There was much violin-ing!  Cadence and Hazel have been tasked by their teacher with practicing together, and playing composition/rhythm recognition games as well as getting used to playing duets. This is great, except that then Calliope wants to play too, but usually she just uses the violin of whichever sister isn't currently practicing...so this presents a problem.  I still have my 3/4 size violin from when I played, so I let her (carefully) play around with that.  She was thrilled, and frustrated, since it was so darn big.


Eventually, we decided to see if it would work better as a cello.  It didn't quite work, but I think it was easier than trying to hold it up!


Cadence got it into her head that she was going to build an airplane out of legos, and has spent a decent amount of time engineering her way to that goal.  She's proud of what she has done, but not satisfied yet and continually returns to the project to make improvements and change things as she comes up with better solutions.  It's fabulous.

One of the earliest versions.
We also got to visit one of our favorite places with some friends this week:  The National Zoo!

The surprise hit of this particular trip were the American Bison.  They caught our attention in part because this exhibit is new and this is the first time we'd seen it, but all three kids (and especially Cadence) were quite taken with them.  We spent a surprising amount of time at this one station, watching the two bison there, and reading every single plaque more than once.  And then coming back to re-visit them later.  Cadence has already asked for my phone on multiple occasions so that she can look up even more bison facts!


We timed our visit just right, and got to see the elephants getting fed, and got to watch one trainer play games with one of them - its supposed to be at least somewhat intellectually stimulating, which is crucial to maintaining their health.   The photo caught at a somewhat awkward moment, but the elephant laid down here after a correct response and was leisurely eating a treat.


And it was lunchtime for the iconic Pandas, too!

We walked around the cheetah enclosure because my kids wanted to see if there were still any cubs about. Last time we came, as we rounded the back of the enclosure, two fuzzy little puffball baby cheetahs came tumbling out of the grass and watched us as we watched them, and played with us a bit.  I had warned them that we probably wouldn't have another experience like that, but my attempts to temper expectations were evidently unwarranted...after watching for a while, we were about to turn and go when suddenly:

pretty grown up now!
It was one of the same two cubs, come to play again...though MUCH bigger and faster this time around!  It followed us up and down the fence, bouncing playfully now and again, and the kids would laugh an shriek and run...it was one of those really awesome, sweet moments tinged with a hint of "how strong is that fence, REALLY?"

We even got to see the beaver swimming about on this trip!  That happens pretty rarely, usually they say in their dam, but this time we lucked out. It was really neat to look at the mechanisms at play as it moved through the water!


We must have been walking in just the right direction, at just the right intervals, at just the right times, because we got to see even more special mealtimes.  How often do you get to (safely!) watch grey wolves have dinner?

All white gray wolf
Running with the sealions has become an all-time favorite, and we spent a long, lovely time with them on this trip!


We didn't have all of our classes this week, but we thoroughly enjoyed the time we did have!

Hazel and Calliope got into this (I think 1,000 piece) puzzle while we waited for Cadence at jiujitsu

And we got some hang time in. :-)
practicing! 'scorpion', I believe!
Even Calliope got in on the action!  Perhaps fueled on by her amazing new circus pants (We call them Polly Pants, after our good friend -and their first ever aerial teacher) Calliope asked to be allowed to try straddle back, too!  I helped her very gently, but she has watched me teach that move so often, she basically had it down pat.  Her technique puts many grown ups to shame!

And the big kids got to practice some of their partnering skills.  Partnering skills take so much communication, strength, timing, and trust, and I am happy to say that these guys bring all of that to the table.


And what would a thanksgiving post be without the big feast?

Cadence made a 'pomegranate salad' - which was basically a giant bowl of pomegranate pips, but I didn't argue.  
Yum!  but the kitchen...


Kelly didn't stick around for us to get to spend thanksgiving, but she did leave behind this packet of mushrooms; which she had acquired at the farmer's market but wasn't going to be able to use, but the catch was no one really knew what so...
into the stuffing they went!

Mushroom Mushroom!
Ultimately, I think the night was a success. The kids made color coordinated place settings for everyone - shaped like hearts; as Cadence would say: because thanksgiving is about gratitude and that is like love.
Hazel's face explains how we all felt about all of this food at this point.
Thank you so much to our wonderful guests for coming to join us!  It was such a lovely evening, and we were honored that you chose to share it with us.
Ready to feast!

...and with that, peace out...I'm beat!

I actually fell asleep like that...