Sunday, October 31, 2010

Growing up for boys

Ami is also doing all sorts of new things these days although they might be harder to spot than those of Mimi's.
Ami is doing tremendous reading. He is a very polite boy (to him Mum anyway) and I am still astounded by it sometimes. I think he has figured out how being polite can get you things that you might not get otherwise! He is very helpful to me and looks after his little sister very nicely (at least on occasion...)
He is having lots of scary dreams these days and his imagination is very vivid. We have to make sure we don't read books that cause bad dreams (The Hinky Pink) or watch scary movies.... What is "real" and what is "not real" blur a lot these nights....

Ami decided to be a school bus for Hallowe'en this year. I decided that I wasn't up for making a big costume like last year's "bulldozer" ....
 ....or the year before's "excavator".

I thought we could change it up a little as in the previous costumes we encountered difficulties in ascending and descending stairs. I suggested we make a bus "hat" which would adorn Ami's head. He agreed that this sounded like a reasonable idea and so I set forth to create said hat. A hard thing about making a hat of this sort is that the boy is small and the boy wants that bus to be big.The hat does have the effect of making Ami look very penitential.
I made the box out of a box that Katie sourced for us. Ami hated to see it get cut down to the final size but I think that he now understands now why we had to do that! I ended up cutting the hole for his head a touch too large so we had to implement the use of the ball-cap to make his head a little more difficult to poke through the hole. I bought some awesome yellow paper to cover the box with (we have plenteous amounts of yellow paper now..) and Ami set about to decorate it. It is, of course, a Berkeley Unified School District School Bus. It came as no surprise that he was the only one to be a "BUSD school bus" at the Washington Elementary School Hallowe'en costume parade.

Even though I was just extolling the virtues of my little boy, Ami's adventures today included cutting off Mimi's bangs. It is hard to be too mad though. It is just too funny.

Friday, October 29, 2010

are you a follower?

I am fascinated by what it takes to get people to "follow" your blog. I have 4 faithful followers but apparently many more people look at my blog- from all over the world!!
would YOU like to become a follower? ! :)

growing up

Mimi is really growing up these days. Going to school 3 days a week has moved her into all sorts of new levels of development. She is learning to whistle, she does representative paintings of people, and she is no longer my little "ok" girl - she has her own opinions and is ready to stick to them.
Today she and Ami were playing bus and she told him that she wanted to be let off at ballet class at a location name that I can't recall. She clarified that it was in India. She is saying all sorts of hilarious and cute things these days. At dinner tonight she was using a "wath-cloth" to wipe her face and, like Ami did, she calls the first meal of the day "breakstets". She is increasingly interested in the alphabet and is using the fridge magnet letters to form words.

She has moved into a twin sized bed and it is GREAT!!! We got it from CDSP so it didn't cost us a thing. We gave our toddler bed to them in case another international family comes in the future with a child who needs it. She spends the WHOLE night in it!! This is probably the best part of the whole deal. I like sharing my bed with ONE other person! She is having "issues" with having her picture taken so here is peeking out of her new bed. I caught her!!!

Mimi doesn't like to climb the stairs, she'd rather take the cliff!

She is a great climber and very adventurous which, in turn, gives me the jimjams. These photos are from Indian Rock.

She decided to be a faerie for Hallowe'en and Auntie Babba and Gran will be happy to know that she has fully embraced her birthday presents from last year! It only took 11 months!! Here she is with Alexandra at the Washington School costume parade today.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Like last year I decided to get a subscription to the opera. Last season I didn't go to all of the fall shows and I really don't know why I didn't seize the opportunity. So far this season I have seen Aida, The Marriage of Figaro, Madama Butterfly and Werther. They have all been filled with excellent singing. I have been struck by why these operas are produced so often. They are really good!!! :)

I sit way up in the "gods" of the opera house and that affords very good acoustics but not always the best view.  I have been fortunate to have been at the opera when they have used their upper balcony screens. These are screens that descend from the ceiling and project close up views of the opera. This was particularly excellent for Figaro since I forgot my binoculars!! I am a little bit mixed about whether I like them or not but i think i do mostly.

Going to the opera is fun for a number of reasons. I take the BART from Rockridge station (so I don't have to transfer). It means parking in a potentially scary parking lot but I think it is probably quite safe. Taking the BART also means that I get time to listen to podcasts and learn all sorts of new things. I am particularly liking the TED Talks these days. I am also listening to ABM and Feldenkrais related podcasts which are very enlightening.

I will be going to Cyrano De Bergerac this week with Placido Domingo!! Well, actually he will be singing and I will be in my seat. We will meet after for decaf!! The last opera this fall for me will be The Makropulos Case. After I finish my commitment to the opera season I will rejoin the Angel Band at church. I figured that I could only do so much. . . . .


Having Mimi in preschool has meant that I have designated times to do things for myself! I am super fortunate to make a connection with the folks at the church that is beside the preschool and I have arranged to practice in the sanctuary on Monday mornings. This has meant a few things. I don't have access to the space until 10 (Mimi starts preschool at 9) so I have an hour to find things to do. I have been going for coffee on Solano Avenue most Mondays which is fun and a different slice of Berkeley than the "Gourmet Ghetto" area that I live closer to. A couple of Mondays ago I was walking back to the church and I saw a little sign on a path (Berkeley specializes in neat walking paths) that said "Indian Rock". I had wondered where it was as a friend and I wanted to find it to watch the sunset last summer. I still don't really know where it is other than from that little path!! I didn't have my camera with me so had to find these pic online. I think the rock must be very hard to take pictures of because it is so HUGE and there are houses and trees all around it.

the path to Indian Rock

Indian Rock

stairs carved into the rock

The view from the rock

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thanksgiving continues. . . .

So far we have had two Thanksgiving dinners- both nontraditional except for the "eating with friends" part! We had our Canadian friends over on Saturday (they are from Victoria) and they are expecting their first baby next spring. We ate salmon which seemed appropriate for us BCers for giving thanks! Then on Monday night I invited our neighbors Katie and Mary Anne as well as Jesse and Dominick for dinner. Dominick was busy so the 7 of us enjoyed a rather splendid dish of macaroni and cheese with cranberry sauce!! Sure tasted like "thanks" to me!! Strangely there were no left overs. . . . .  we will be going to another more traditional Canadian Thanksgiving dinner this weekend which should satisfy the October need for turkey. :)

We had dinner over at K and MA's Thursday evening. They (especially Katie) are having a really sad time in their lives right now. That was the day that they were to be expecting friends visiting from Portland. Tragically they both died in a murder-suicide at the beginning of September. Guns are just so wrong. Ami and Mimi are such a great healing conduit for both Katie and MA and we have been making sure that we go on lots of adventures together during this difficult time.

Last night we had a potluck/BBQ out in the courtyard with at least 6 of the households in our complex. Another reason to give thanks. A neighbor who lives kitty-corner from us came by yesterday afternoon with her darling little 16 month-old girl Koko. They have been coveting our grass as they have no yard at all and finally wandered in yesterday for a visit. Koko was so delighted to be at Nichols and we were happy to get to meet a neighbor and to share in the bounty of this place. Koko did NOT want to leave. I could feel that the woman was wishing she could live in such a complex- especially when it became apparent that we would all be eating together. It will be a culture shock when we move from here. This is the way that people are supposed to live I am sure.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Surprise day in SF with Mimi

Last Friday Mimi and I had a morning of adventure that wasn't planned. I decided to purchase some Himalayan singing bowls from a fellow in San Francisco who, in a strange twist, is actually a renowned ABM and Feldenkrais practitioner. I found him online when I was looking for bowls and I vaguely recognized his name and face. When I googled a bit further it all made sense since he was, until recently, Anat's assistant and he is in LOTS of the videos of her work with kids. I found bowls that fit my needs for pitches and on a whim I decided to just go and pick them up at the store in SF. We found the place very easily as we have been in that area of SF quite a few times. It is just at the end of Golden Gate Park. We spent quite a bit of time in the store checking the bowls and swapping out one of the ones I had picked out online. It was rather surreal choosing these bowls online! Ancient meets Modern technology.

After we left the store I decided we should check out the Randall Museum which is a place I had on my list of things to see and do! I wondered about waiting to visit there with Ami and Katie but thought it would be quite fun to go to see something by ourselves- a little Mum and Daughter date. Indeed it was fun although I had the feeling that Mimi really likes having Ami around - for interpretation, for giggles, for kid energy. The museum is located on one of the Twin Peaks and it overlooks the city and therefore has marvelous views. The museum specializes in exhibits about local flora and fauna. They had lots of rescued animals there which seemed pretty funny to be there - crows, a squirrel, a toad, a turtle, a king pigeon (rescued from starvation in Golden Gate park). Actually it was neat to see things up close that are usually running away from you. Mimi and I really really liked the California Quail- they looked very prosperous- and we even got to hear the male crowing. Mimi also really liked looking at the bee hive that they had with the little tube so that the bees could go out the window. I thought my Mum would be very excited to see the 3 or 4 owls that were living there. They were up on platforms in the exhibit room. An employee told us that every animal at the Museum is unreleasable. The owls were either blind or injured in some irreparable way. The barn owl was especially cool to see.  They had a nice photo display of images of a coyote seen on the Twin Peaks. Hard to imagine a creature like that in the middle of such a huge city. All of the photos were taken by a regular dog-walker on a point and shoot camera. They were remarkable quality.

One funny thing that happened was I thought I would help out by expressing my concern for the deadish looking upside-down beetle I saw in one vivarium. I couldn't quite believe my ears when the  employee said that "Oh, yeah, I'll go and stand him up again". He then told us was that this beetle only had 3 legs and was about 12 years old!!! Wowzers.

Mimi was really interested in the re-creation of a 1906 earthquake emergency house. It was about the size of our dining room and apparently people lived in them for up to 3 years. It had a little bed and a sewing machine set up in it. What more could you need?!?

After we had finished at the museum we were getting pretty peckish and I decided to continue to use the sage advice of Mighty Girl who writes the blog "Famous Among Dozens". She wrote a column which tells you how to see SF as a local. As a result we went to check out the restaurants at 16th and Valentia and got a super yummy veggie burrito and watermelon juice. We need more time to wander around the area. I'm sure we will go back there. 

We headed home in order to meet Ami at the bus. On the way home I think I saw a roadkill of a coyote on the freeway just off the Bay Bridge. Such a beautiful bushy tail. A very sad testament to the reality of the Bay Area.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

day in SF

Because Martin and I never went on an official honeymoon (he went to work at 8 AM the day after we had our wedding), I believe that we get to have mini honeymoons for the rest of our lives to make up for it. Saturday was a partial honeymoon day. As a subscriber to the San Francisco Opera one of my "benefits" is that I get a complementary tour of the opera house. I missed out on the opportunity last year as I tried to book too late in the season and they were all full. So this year I planned ahead and with our desire to experience as much of the Bay Area as we can during our last year here we set aside October 2nd for a day in the city. Since the tour was in the AM we decided to go out for breakfast before. Katie and Mary Anne graciously agreed to hangout with the kids and we set off for the BART around 8:30 or so. I had done some research as to where we could eat in the vicinity of the opera house and had found a place called Stacks a few blocks from the opera house that had excellent reviews. It was super fun to go out for breakfast. We usually think that breakfast isn't a legitimate meal to go out for since you can usually make it very easily at home but we might be changing our minds about that! Because it was just the two of us, and because we were on our honeymoon (!), we were very flexible about seating and decided that it would be fun to sit at the bar. It was indeed fun- easier to chat because we sat next to each other! We both had Eggs Benedict and I indulged and got a smoothie as well.

After breakfast we made our way over to the opera house which I have been in quite a lot. I have seen Aida and Werther this season and last season I saw Il Trittico, Otello and Daughter of the Regiment. The tour was lead by Michael, a gentleman of about 180 who was had a slight tremor and lost his thoughts a couple of times but was a lovely and capable guide through the building. He had an able assistant (Esther- also about 185) who followed us around. It was her job to make sure no-one got left behind or got lost in the warren that is back stage. She did round up Martin and me when we were lagging behind in order to get a better look at the prompter's station. No fooling around with Esther in charge! Both Michael and Esther looked like they could do with some serious ABM lessons!
From Aida

We both felt a little nostalgic for our lives that used to be spent so much in theatres. . .

We had made a tricky plan to spend the day with Katie in San Francisco. When we got out of the tour she and the kids met us at the opera house. They were all giddy from already having had some SF fun. We had plans to go to Crissy Fields and get lunch from an Italian deli that Katie loves. We decided to do a couple of other SF touristy things before heading for lunch. First we drove down Lombard street (the twistiest street in the world). Then we took in Coit Tower. The fog/clouds in the bay were quite spectacular was they completely obliterated the towers of the GG bridge. Then we went and got our lunch from Lucca Delicatessen at 2120 Chestnut Street in the Marina District. It reminded me of Bosa but with even less space to move around. They specialize in making fantastic sandwiches with really great breads etc. We took our lunches down to Crissy Fields to eat them. Now we had a sea-level view of the GG bridge with no towers!! The fog horns were very active and they kept sounding  an interval which sounded so much like a piece of music I couldn't quite name. When we checked at home it was indeed Pictures at an Exhibition. It was all very dramatic with the fog and the horns and the reams of cyclists with rented bikes racing past. We walked a little after lunch but the kids were not up for much walking- it was a bit chilly.

Before we left sea level we went to visit the "Wave Organ" that is on the yacht club pier. I had been wondering what the "wave organ" was all about and was very glad to get a chance to see it in action. Basically it is a project where you can hear the ocean/tide through tubes that have the other end in the water. The whole thing looks like a fabricated "ruin" with these weird looking tubes sticking out everywhere. Katie had already brought the kids here before they came to pick us up at the opera house but that did not diminish their interest in the organ. Apparently the kids were telling Katie what they understood the organ to be saying. I wish I had been there for that! I am ready to take my recorder down there and get some great samples of cool sounds.

black conveyor belt at front desk
takes shoes somewhere magical?
in the ceiling?
 Our last stop in SF was to the Camper Store where we hoped we could get Martin some new laces for the pair of Camper's Caitlin gave him. Alas no laces but we got to see and drool over the beautiful shoes. I hope to have an income some day so that I can even bother to try a pair on! They sent us to a really old-school shoe repair store 1.5 blocks away which was worth the detour.
It had a neat conveyor belt storage thing that had all the jobs that were complete (I assume) and an amazing stretch of conjoined chairs that looked like they were for getting your shoes shined. They told us that we should take pictures because they were getting rid of them any day.. . .

I wonder if there was ever a time that this many people were waiting for their shoes to be fixed!

We employed Katie and Mary Anne's parking angel "Kevin" very effectively for our trip to SF. He found us spots at Coit Tower, across the street from Lucca's, at Crissy Fields right down at the bridge and literally outside the door of the Camper Store. Thanks Kevie

A fun day in SF indeed!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

the search for coffee

I have been getting very interested in making really yummy decaf coffee. It started this summer when I began my quest to find a coffee maker at a yard sale or thrift store. I didn't want it to cost too much since we had plenty of Bodems and other coffee making devices in Berkeley. I was open to any sort of coffee maker and actually tried at least 3 different possible methods of coffee preparation. I tried a tiny Melitta,a bodem glass tea pot which I thought might work for coffee too (it doesn't BTW),
and a stupid thing in a little Melitta shape which was totally functionless. I was unhappy with all my findings until I went to the St Mary's Sorrento Parish Garage Sale. There I found the ultimate espresso making machine.
I have a feeling it had never been used. It was in its original packaging. It's called the Via Veneto and it says on the box- "will create at your home the atmosphere of typical Italian espresso bars". I can't stop saying buon giorno!  

Now back in Berkeley I was getting nervous that I couldn't find a really great "swiss water decaf" bean source. I had found a great company in the Shuswap that had yummy beans and I had brought the remainder of a bag down to Berkeley when we came. Now that is gone and I am on the search for a replacement. I've tried Jeremiah's Best and Peet's and neither seemed at all satisfactory. My other coffee friends were also joining in the chorus of unsatisfied coffee bean purchasers. Some are even importing their coffee beans from Portland (can you guess who that is?). But just recently I think I may have found an awesome source of YUMMY decaf. At Philz they specialize in blends of coffee beans with each cup being dripped individually. Maybe it was the cream that they put in it or maybe I now have my "source"!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oh Deer

The other day I was taking Bodhi around the block late at night. When we rounded the 3rd corner we came across a buck who was scratching his teenage antlers on a very small lollipop (manicured!) tree which was really no taller than he was.  We stopped and stared at it for quite a while enjoying this little encounter with wild-life.  Bodhi didn't seem to wonder what we were doing and he was nice and quiet with me. I was thinking about something my friend had told me about a shooting at a BART station a couple of days before and out of the blue a guy came rushing past me. He totally startled me and I jumped. He sort-of muttered something, questioning whether he had scared me. I said "yes, you did" and then I proceeded to tell him about the deer while he whisked up the hill. Of course his fast movement scared the deer away. The guy barely glanced to see what I was talking about but I don't think the concept of wild-life really registered with him. Bodhi and I carried on and the guy was way ahead of us on the block. Then he suddenly came to a stand-still in awe. He had seen the deer. He could hardly believe his eyes. Then he wanted to talk to me! He wanted to know where it lived, where it came from etc etc. He said he hadn't seen one since he was a kid. Perhaps if he just slowed down he might get to see things. . . .

Unexpected Milestone

Today was Ami's first day riding the bus this school year. It seems to take forever to get permission to ride the bus. In the mean time we have been enjoying riding the Radish to and from school. All September Ami asked me (not incessantly but almost) about the bus and whether he could ride it. Finally the word came from on high that Amiel was permitted on the bus starting last Friday. He and I decided (before I told him that he could ride the bus that day- was that fair?) that he would stay at home for the day as he was still getting over his cold and I figured that he could do with a little break from school. So today was the first day back on number 20 with Ms Erin. Getting to the bus stop with Dad was no problem. We have an eager bus-rider.

For some reason I wondered whether he would remember to take the bus home from school. I did a lot of calling around to let his teacher and the school know that I was expecting him to take the bus home. I also phoned the transportation department to check in with them about his ETA at the bus stop. They said 3:21. That seemed pretty exact. I set my watch to head up to the stop at around 3:10. I decided to send Martin and told him to ask the bus driver if she would let him off the bus if there were no adults waiting for him at the stop. Last year if there was no-one waiting for him they would take him back to the school. I wanted to know what the ramifications were if we were late on pick-up. I didn't have to wait long for the answer to my question because about a minute after I had asked Martin to inquire, Amiel walked in the door. He walked home by himself from the bus stop!! He looked a little surprised but quite pleased with himself. Martin and I just could not stop chuckling. I guess he can do it but I plan on meeting him at the stop in the future!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dandelion Nursery School

The torment that I went through deciding where Mimi would go to preschool ended after spending an hour and a half at Dandelion Nursery School.  It probably could have ended within about 10 minutes...
She spent a day at public preschool (and thought that it was pretty grand) and was hesitant about trying something else out. I don't blame her. I like sticking with things and not trying new things all the time too. She told me public preschool was her favourite. She didn't want to try something new. However, I told her that I would be with her for the entire time while she was seeing what Dandelion was all about.  We went for a "new kids" introduction to Dandelion for 1.5 hours and after that Mimi said. "Mumma, THAT was my favourite!"  When we were trying to leave she said " Mum, Mum, Mumma Mum, can I just spend 5 more. . . . hours in the kitchen?" She was so delighted with all the wonderful things to play with and the fun friends and the total freedom to play with anything she wanted. I kept trying to whisk her around to show her all the possibilities for fun. She was so engaged in anything she put her hands on, - marble run, blocks, creative play in the kitchen and dress-up areas, etc etc etc. We made the decision that this would be the place for the Meems.
Mimi goes three mornings a week from 9-12 and I can also extend her day by 2 hours at an additional cost if I need some extra time. We can also drop in on extra days if there are any other kids missing on Wednesdays and Fridays when we are not scheduled to be at Dandelion.
She has adapted marvelously well. Some of the other "first year" kids are very hesitant and find it difficult to leave their parents (the parents find it hard to leave sometimes too. . . ). Mimi just marches in and gets busy playing. She is making lots of friends and is finding it quite easy to manage all the new relationships. She has most recently made it "in" with the "big" girls (who were at Dandelion last year). There is one girl who has taken a big liking to Mimi mostly because her older sister has a friend named Mimi and she wanted her own Mimi too!! Her name is Juliet but everyone call her Ju-ju! Maybe Mimi wants her very own friend named Ju-ju too!!
There is a parent who is a "Music Together" teacher and when she has her participation day she does music with the kids. Apparently Mimi is very involved in it and loves it. I would expect nothing less!!
Meems on her first day at Dandelion   

Mimi said something very cute the other day. She was expressing to me that she wanted to go to Dandelion at night (which is something that really doesn't happen).  When I pressed her for details as to what that would entail she said that she wanted to "go there in the evening and have prayers for each other and then play!"I think she wants a mash-up of Dandelion and CDSP Community night! Not a bad idea!!!

Dandelion is a Parent Participation/Co-op so we have 2 hired teachers and every day there are 4 parents making the day go smoothly. The space is beautiful and large with both indoor and outdoor place space and there are about 25 kids every day. It never feels crowded or out of control. The great thing is that it is a community of like-minded parents who want to have an active involvement in their child's experience. I have been on duty for two days now and I am getting to know the kids and other parents.

I have been using our Xtracycle a lot and I have mostly been riding there in the mornings.. . . the hill back up to our house is a tad daunting.. .  more about the Xtracycle in another post. .

not really wanting her picture taken. .

Friday, October 1, 2010

Some things about September, seeing as it is over today

As I attempt to bring everyone up to date, please excuse the rather random assortment of information in the next few posts. . .

Well, Martin successfully managed to get my computer fixed -for FREE!! Now I have no excuse as to why I cannot post. . . I was so pleased to have my computer back with its brand new screen. Thanks to the encouragement of Julia and also a guy in a computer fix-it shop, I encouraged Martin to see if he could work his magic and  return the computer to the Mac Store even though it is 3.5 years old and quite beyond its warrantee. He said himself- "I am Martin Elfert, I can return a half licked lollipop"!! We are both mightily pleased at the outcome.

September has been really wonderful here in Berkeley. We have been enjoying days that have been a bit too hot for me at times. I seek shelter inside as I can't stand the idea of getting too hot. Unfortunately the kids have colds which has meant that for the past week we haven't gone swimming. We did go to Lake Anza Wednesday and they did immerse themselves very happily.

We went with our friends Sylvia and her girls Alexandra and Johanna. It is amazing to see what a year will do to a baby! Johanna is 15 months old now and is really keeping up with the big kids in her own way. She is super cute!
Sylvia has been ordained to the transitional deaconate and is now the head of the ministry for Families and Children at St. Gregory's of Nissa in San Francisco. It is a great job for her and they are very lucky to have her. She is full of awesome ideas. Gran Farmer would be so happy to see her breaking down the age barriers in parishes.

We have already been out of town since coming back here. We went on the Parish retreat of All Souls where Martin is doing his field placement again this year. It was at Bishop's Ranch - an Episcopal Camp, Retreat and Conference Center. It was a wonderful retreat from Berkeley and it was great to see its structure and programming as compared to Sorrento Centre! We camped in our tent and borrowed another tent for the kids! The kids loved the pool and the activities the parish had for the younger set!
Martin was one of 5 seminarians/priests leading work-shops on different forms of prayer. I lead an ABM workshop that 20+ people came to. Crazy! I have offered to give an ABM class at All Souls and many people were really interested in that possibility. I have yet to hammer out the details with the parish but i have some ideas brewing about what sort of format it will take. I am seeing it as a great opportunity to develop a course for use at Sorrento in the years to come!! The Angel Band (the parish's bluegrass band to which I belong) was busy jamming at the camp too which was very fun - although it was more apparent to me than ever that all the songs are the same. . . .
the beautiful chapel at Bishop's ranch
 In Other News....
I was invited by my friend Amy (who is doing the ABM training with me and who lives in Oakland) if I would like to observe her son Cypress' ABM lesson with our master teacher Marcy. I was so pleased to be asked and to get to spend a little time with Amy. The lesson was AWESOME and makes me all the more interested in doing this work.