Christmas Letter Part 1

Hi everyone,

Part of the reason I wanted to put the Christmas letter on the blog is to save a little bit of paper, but also because I can put in lots of pictures and write as long of a letter as I choose (that might not be a good thing for you all, however!). Anyway, we have had a good year, with no big news, except we lost our “young” cat, Fritz, who was 17 1/2 years old, and gained a new chicken named Jaina. John is still working at FX Pal, and the boys’ and my days are filled with lots of 4-H projects, science and homeschool groups, field trips and activities, our nature hikes and of course schoolwork.

Luke was three this year, and has developed into a very creative, fun-loving, dramatic and funny kid. He is always finding new ways to play with everyday materials, like this box:

He’s our big pretender, and dresses up almost everyday in his fireman costumes, superhere cape, anything he can find. Here he decided to dress up as Bob the Builder (we have some of his books) to help take back the bottles to the recycling center and then a ferocious pirate:

Here’s Luke pretending to be a monster in the bathroom, he is really big on monsters, insisting that they are everywhere!
Luke is an expert in messy art projects, and probably paints at least once a week, more when he is in the creative mood. He especially likes watercolor paints, and has finally learned a little goes a very long way. Clay is a favorite medium, for truck play and cookies for tea parties.

One of his recent favorite things to do is to hang out with Daddy or the brothers in the backyard and just putter. He plays with the scooters, his tractor, the wagon, digs holes, helps Daddy make the coop for the chicken, and swing once in a while.

He’s also big on tea parties, and playing with Legos, the bigger the set the better, although he needs Daddy’s help on those.

And of course, being a 3 year old boys, cars, trucks (especially firetrucks!) and tractors are all favorite things. Here he’s playing with a friend’s riding lawn mower – he spent about an hour just sitting on the tractor and telling a story about his cousin Zoe and her dolls.

Finally, he is a big bookworm, just like Chance and Jack were at his age, although I’m afraid he probably doesn’t get quite as
much reading time as his brothers did just because we are so busy most of the time with other things. But between Daddy, the brothers, Grandma and me, he manages to get 10-20 books read to him every day, sometimes more if he’s lucky. I try to keep the library shelf stocked with books for him, but he usually picks a book from one of our shelves; his favorites lately have been the Easy Readers about Lego adventures (the illustrations are Lego men and buildings – no wonder he loves them!). So I have now been reading the same books for over 10 years, but at least he only wants to read the same books 4-5 times before moving onto a new favorite, thank goodness for small favors.

We are still running our nature hike group, with about 3 hikes a month in the wonderful parks we have in our area, although it sometimes takes an hour or more to reach some of them, with the traffic or having to take side roads up mountains. Some of our favorite times are on the trails, with Luke running and exploring the greenery, and Chance and Jack walking with their friends (we have a nice group of regulars now who have been hiking with us for years) talking, or just playing. I don’t have a lot of pictures of Chance and Jack on the hikes, since they are usually with their friends in pictures (don’t want to put pictures of friend’s kids on internet without their permission) and plus, for the last few months, we have been dividing the hikes into a shorter hike for the little kids and a longer, tougher hike for the bigger kids, and I’m usually with Luke. Even so, Luke and I and the other little kids still manage to do 2 miles most days. This first picture is from the Christmas card, but shows you Luke and I way up on the rock at Mt. Diablo. The other pictures are from other places in the Bay Area, with my very favorite one of Luke walking amid the trees with sun and shadow.

All three boys posing for a picture after a long muddy hike near Mt. Diablo.

Luke trailing behind on the trails out at Round Valley near Brentwood.

One of the boys’ favorite activities on the hikes is to play their made up game called the Talking Game with their friends. The Talking Game is a very portable version of the old Dungeons and Dragons board game, but you don’t need any dice or books, you just set up a scenario, give the other players a chance to decide what they are going to do, and then come up with what happens as a result of their decisions. Jack is really good at being the game master for these games, and Chance does pretty well, although he tends to get a little complicated with the scenarios and consequences. Both boys are heavily into all sorts of board games, along with Dungeons and Dragons, military strategy games and regular board games that even Mama can find time to play sometimes. They received a double card table for Christmas this year so they can set up some of their complicated games that can take days to play up in their bedroom.

Other than hikes, the other big demand on our time is 4-H, and the 4-H projects we do. Chance is in Photography, Gardening and Plastic Eliminators this year, while Jack is doing Poultry, Knitting, Gardening and Plastic Eliminators. Plastic Eliminators is a 4-H project about educating the public about the problems with plastic pollution and its effect on marine life, and why it is important to find ways to replace disposable plastics with more sustainable products. Jack did a poster on the Great Pacific Gyre for the Alameda County Fair last summer, and they both worked on an informational poster for the fair about native plants and pollinators for the Jr. Master Gardening project (second picture). Chance made an I-Movie with his friend Clay called “A Plastic Predicament” which they did for Presentation Day and also for the County Fair. Chance and his friend showed the movie at a San Leandro City Council Meeting and at an Alameda County Waste Management Board (committee of all the mayors from Alameda County who decide waste and recycling matters for us) to help convince them to ban plastic shopping bags. Here’s Chance before that presentation:

They also manned an informational booth at the San Leandro Farmer’s Market for 4 months, which was hard for Jack, being a little shy, but very worthwhile.
Some of the other environmental activities they’ve done are shoreline cleanups (Yech, 2 big bags of garbage – including an used syringe – from the beach right here in San Leandro), and pulling invasive plants from the shoreline in Berkeley. They’ve also helped to plant and care for live oak trees seedlings (live oak is a native oak tree in the Bay Area).

See the second part of the letter for the rest!

1 thought on “Christmas Letter Part 1”

  1. I read your 2 part letter and loved ever bit of it 🙂 You are such a great example of a successful homeschool family! It looks like you have so much fun! Every year Joey asks if he can homeschool again — we miss the fun (and sleeping in!)

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