Mother’s Day School Projects

The boys bombarded me with awesome Mother’s Day projects today when I picked them up from school. I got a little verklempt when I read their lovely notes!

Letter from Ezra

"I love my mom because she loves me" from Finn

Translation from Finn-speak: “I love my mom because she loves me.”

Finn also made this “I love you this much” sign.

"I love you this much" from Finn

And Ezra gave me a pot with a snow pea seed and a flower marker he decorated. The pot says, “Mommy, you are the best mom!!! Love, Ezra.”

Flower and pot from Ezra

My heart is full.

Teacher Appreciation

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week so I asked the boys to make cards for their teachers. Ezra didn’t want to draw anything, so he wrote [brief] letters.

Ezra's note to Diane

Ezra's note to Thea

Finn drew his classroom on one side and then wrote a note on the other. For Ms. Jessica, his math teacher, he drew the D1 classroom and did some math problems on the other side.

Finn's D1 classroom

To Ms. Jessica from Finn

I love that each of the S’s in Jessica is going a different direction.

Ms. Vonni, his literacy teacher, got the D2 classroom and a sentence on the other side.

Finn's D2 classroom

To Ms. Vonni from Finn

The sentence is his standard version of “I went to the park and I had fun.” Creative spelling is a must.

Where the Boys Are

About a half-hour ago I was making dinner and realized I’d seen the boys ride their bikes past the kitchen window a while back but I hadn’t seen them come back. They are now allowed to go around the block and since we’d had a sudden thunder storm about an hour earlier, they were particularly excited to have sun again and be able to ride. Still, I was a little concerned so I went out to look for them. Here’s where I found them.


Sheep Canyon Hike


This was our sixth (counting an early trip through Salvador Canyon) trip through the Sheep Canyon wilderness and our last, at least for some time. We had entered from four other routes on prior trips. Peter, looking at the topographic maps, picked out a promising route in by climbing a ridge north of Salvador Canyon. It looked reasonably flat, and used an entry point from a trip described in Schad’s guide.

Ribbonwood up close

Ancient cans

On several of our other trips we were pressed for time, and had long, exhausting days. Trying to learn from this, we started in Friday night after dark. We first met at Carmelita’s, a Mexican restaurant in Borrego Springs with a surprisingly busy bar, and then drove in to the second stream crossing-as far as I felt comfortable driving my 2WD Escape. The moon was nearly full, which provided some light as we crossed through the willows, a densely vegetated area with a clear trail, well worn by horses. We hiked for a few hours, arriving at the base of the mountain, and made camp in a sandy wash. On the way we spotted a dead hawk, and a big fat scorpion sitting in the road. The moon was beautiful, and we each took several photos-all fated to not come out.

Friendly scorpion



I’ve long thought of playing music on a hike-even to eke out a few simple notes, but I had never learned an instrument. This year though I’ve been accompanying Finn to his recorder lessons and learning to play a little. I brought my mom’s old recorder on the hike, encased in a hand woven sleeve she made back in the 70’s, and three songs from Finn’s class (I can’t play anything by memory yet): Juba, When the Saints Come Marching In, and Old MacDonald. I played a bit by moon and headlamp. I’m no good, but it was still a pleasure to play, and Peter was a patient (that is, captive) audience.

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Heading in

Salvador canyon

We headed out at five the next morning, expecting it to get hot. We had a little less water than I would have liked, but we expected to get to a stream by midday. The climb up the ridge went well. There was a little navigating, but the decisions were relatively simple. Along the way we spotted two agave roasting pits (there’s a photo of one below).

Agave roasting pit

The Cahuilla used to collect agave in the mountains (where they grow) and roast them in a big, shallow pit. You can find these on the top of ridges. Once you learn to spot them, they’re relatively easy to find: a flat spot, with dark soil, devoid of any large rocks.

Huge ribbonwood



We crossed Sage Flat around noon, spotting a snake along the way, and were running a little short on water. The next section was a stretch where we wanted to learn the route, having missed it on other trips. We picked up a trail, but lost it, and, being a bit tired and dry, pushed on to the stream, coming to in the same spot we had stopped twice before. We filtered water, drank a bit, and, a rarity for us, took a nap–a perk of having started early the day before.  Picking back up, we dropped into the bowl and came across a long hose that wrapped around the mountain. I’m guessing this is for some irrigation for the mountain sheep.  I followed one end of the hose for a bit, and didn’t find the end.  Past this we detoured to see a curious rock formation and  continued until we found a decent site in the bowl and made camp.

Friendly snake


Filtering water

Even though I have a small, lightweight tent, I was glad to leave its weight and bulk behind on this trip. I always imagined I brought the tent even when it didn’t threaten rain to quell any fear of mountain lions at night. But I haven’t been really worried about a lion at night in a while—and I always knew any worry was irrational. And, as it turns out, the thought of a lion sneaking up and crushing my skull in my sleep wasn’t a concern. But I missed that moment of getting away from feeling exposed—to be in a separate environment for a moment. I played the recorder and read for a little while, but a cloud of bugs came and made it a bother.  A big spider also climbed into my bag—I presume attracted by the light, or all the bugs. I finally slept, a little fitfully. I woke several times to a big bright moon.

Rock formation

Looking into the top of sheep canyon


The next morning we headed down the canyon. Peter was in a route-finding zone, and led most of the way. We made good time and were out in a couple of hours. We stopped one last time to get water, and headed across the wash back to the car. The day before my heel was hurting a bit, and it turns out two sizable blisters had formed under it, deep under the skin, caused by my socks getting caked with dirt. Peter fortunately had some moleskin, which kept it from getting worse.


Dropping packs down



It was fairly uneventful back to the car, although hot (Peter’s watch read 103). It’s always pleasant to end a hike with a walk across the flat wash, and this was more pleasant than most, as we had made good time. I drove back home via the Salton Sea and Palm Springs, tired, sore, and happy to see everyone.

Peter's right leg

Exiting Sheep Canyon

Clubhouse Update

The clubhouse is moving right along these days although it’s been a while since my last post about it. The second two walls were framed a few weeks ago, and Bruce and Rob had another push last Saturday. Here’s what it looked like at the beginning of the day.

Before -- morning of 5/4

The goal for this work session was to get the plywood on the walls. They got right to it.

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With the slope of the roof, there was lots of measuring, sawing and small adjustments.

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And every time I went out to check on things, I was more and more happy that Rob was here so I wasn’t the one supporting the plywood while Bruce measured.

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Meanwhile, the kids had another fun day of bike riding, playing with toys and another round of plaster carving from woodworking class.

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I like the little perch that Ezra worked out for himself.

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By the end of the day we had walls!

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Woodworking #11

Woodworking #11 came up on us fast since, due to a schedule change, Woodworking #10 was only three weeks ago. Bruce decided to switch things up a bit for this class and instead of real woodworking the project was carving plaster. They still had a little woodworking to do when they made a base for their carving, but mostly it was all about the plaster. Bruce built a mold and poured 100 pounds of plaster, in batches of course, to make blocks for carving. It looked pretty cool.


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As a sample before class, Bruce carved Rob’s nose — it came out pretty good!


Here are Bruce’s instructions with ideas of things to carve:


The kids ignored the idea of making the base first and got right to the carving.








After the projects were done (or at least after some of them were done) we broke out the slip n slide for some water play since it was a freakishly hot day. I have never seen this group line up in such an orderly manner!


Here’s Finn mid-air.


Jackson’s rock on! move.


Jack opted to go head first.


Olivia, Ashlyn and Terra all had a similar method.




The water was so cold, I can’t really believe they kept going back for another slide. But they did.


After a while, we took a break from water play to have dinner … in various places around the yard.






Here are some samples of finished products.




I don’t have a picture of Jack’s mountain but it was awesome. And his mom told me that he cleared off his dresser so it would have “maximum visibility.” Ha!

I was having a very fun time taking pictures at this class … and I took several hundred. I uploaded some of them here if you want to see more of our super fun evening.

Finn’s New Bike

We’d noticed for a while that Finn’s bike was looking a little small for him, but he was reluctant to switch because the next size up is just a bit too big. Finally, after the camping trip where he did a lot of riding, he agreed it was time for an upgrade. Here’s his fancy new bike.

He's a big boy

Finn's new bike

Finn was so excited about his bike that he wrote about it. Keep in mind when you try to read it that he has just started writing and many of his letters are backwards. Oh, and word spacing? Not so important to a Kindergartener.


Translation: “I got a new bike and it is faster than my old bike. It is a blue and black bike.” Yay, Finn!

The boys spend a lot of time riding their bikes on the sidewalk in front of our house. There’s a part of the sidewalk that has been lifted up by tree roots and they use it for jumping. I’m sure they feel like Evel Knievel, but really they’re barely leaving the ground. You’d never know it from their faces though — especially Ezra.

Ezra gets some speed

Ezra jumps

Finn’s approach is a little mellower.

Finn jumps

They graduated to crossing the street on their own this weekend. They wanted to go around the block, but the street just north of us doesn’t have sidewalks on the south side, so in order to ride on the sidewalk they have to cross the street. It’s a big step in their world.


Finn's new bike


I’m trying desperately to catch up with my blogging, so here are some random images I’m shoving into one post. First, while Bruce was on his most recent backpacking trip with Peter, I took the boys to the credit union to open “piggy banker” accounts. It took a little longer than I anticipated and they got a bit unruly, but luckily the bank staff saved the day with coloring books and crazy pencils to keep them busy.

At the bank

My favorite part of the day was seeing their signatures on the bank forms.


Next, Ezra’s been doing some test prep the last few weeks as second graders participate in state testing for the first time. His literacy practice test came home about a week and a half ago and, as a self-proclaimed grammar nazi, I was horrified to see he missed this one.

STAR test prep

I’m pretty sure he knows how to properly use an apostrophe and that it does not, in fact, make things plural. He probably just wanted to torture me. Needless to say, we had a chat about it.

Last Monday Finn and I ran some errands during his sick day (he was coughing a lot), and one of our stops was Cottage. First, I have to say he looked huge in that setting. His former teachers all came to say hi; I think he was a little uncomfortable with the whole thing but he was relatively polite, if a little quiet. When we were ready to leave, we measured him in the little cutout with the tree.

Measuring up at Cottage

I remember when he started going to Cottage he didn’t even make it into the green part of the tree. *Sigh*

Last but not least, Ezra had two sick days last week when he came down with a random fever. Of course, even though his body was burning up, he felt like he was freezing and since it was a nice warm day, here was the remedy he came up with.

How Ezra treats a fever

Luckily, the fever didn’t last too long. In fact, his second “sick” day was really just a free day off since his fever was gone but we were obeying the 24-hour fever rule at school. It was a warm day and he couldn’t wait for Finn to get home. They filled up the [very dirty] pond and were happy as clams.

Filling up the pond


Extra arms


Both boys have had their annual checkups recently so I thought I’d immortalize the facts here. First, Ezra:


And Finn:


That’s right, little brother outweighs big brother by 4.5 pounds. But most importantly, both are healthy and on their own normal growth curves.

I didn’t think to take any pictures during Ezra’s exam, but covertly snapped this one of Finn because I thought he looked so cute.

6 year checkup

Afterwards, we headed to Penguins where they chose giant ice cream cones and enjoyed every bit of them.

Post-checkup treats

Student Led Conferences, Part 2

We had the second and final set of Student Led Conferences on April 23rd and 24th, where we got to see how the boys are doing and, more importantly for the evening, what they’ve been doing. Finn was up first and he’d worked out a special deal with his teacher, Ms. Jessica, that he could start with the 100s Board math job because he really wanted to show it to us and he wanted to make sure he’d have time.

Starting the 100s board

He was very excited that he managed to get through it all. He’s not actually required to do the whole job when showing it to us, but he is a little obsessed with this particular job.

Finishing the 100s board

Next he showed us his folder with some of his work.

Finn's work

My favorite was this life cycle of a butterfly done in pasta. I love Kindergarten.

Cutest project ever

Next we played “Kindergarten Yatzy” which was actually quite fun and is a good way of practicing addition.

Math game

Math game

Bruce, of course, plotted how many times each number came up and later graphed it for us.

Math game results

We were running out of time in Finn’s math class, but we took a quick look at his notebook.

Finn's notebook

And his journal.

Finn's journal

And then looked at a couple of his things around the room.

Finn's Math About Me

Over in his literacy class he showed us this word-making game.

Finn making words

After the conference we headed down to the cafe to try out food from the new lunch program (very good!) and get some stuff at the book fair. Author Diane Lang came back for a return visit and Bruce got to hold her pet tarantula, Terra.

Terra on Bruce

Ezra held her, too, but she was moving pretty fast so Diane was trying to direct her path.

Terra on Ezra

Ezra’s conference was the next day. We started in his math class and he showed us some of his work.

Math meeting folder

And the silkworms they’re observing.


He showed us some math jobs. Here’s his list of what he wanted to show us.

List of jobs

Big numbers:

Job #1

Beaded pyramid chains:

Job #2

We skipped the 100s board since we’d just done that with Finn the day before and went straight to his Fact Factory folder — a tough fit for him because it’s timed addition and subtraction problems. Doing things quickly in a fairly chaotic environment is not his strong suit but he’s working on it.

Math Fact Factory

Over in literacy, we took a look at his journal. Here’s a recent entry about the camping trip.

Journal #1

His most recent writings are much longer than those from earlier in the year — good progress!

Here’s another about a play date with his friend, Jack.

Journal #2

And one about having nothing to write about.

Journal #3

We also got to see the finished product of his book about Space. He was very proud.

Reading Ezra's non-fiction book on Space

After that, we headed to our traditional post-conference (boys’ pick) for dinner — Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Thank goodness there are only two conferences a year; their food is delicious but it’ll kill you!

Finn’s 6th Birthday

Finn’s birthday celebration lasted three days this year due to our mini-celebration at woodworking class, then Saturday where he and Ezra got to build the Lego he’d received, and finally Sunday with his official party. Before I get to the party, I want to share a couple of photos from the morning of his birthday. He’d been dying to open the present from the Becks that had arrived a few days earlier and finally it was time!

Can't ... wait ... any ... longer

He needed a little help to get it open.

A little help

Before they even took a look inside the box, both boys were completely entertained by the musical card.

Super entertaining card from the Becks

This is what we heard over and over again for the next few days.

At school he got a “birthday shower” and notes from his friends about what they wish for him. It’s a really cute tradition and Finn couldn’t wait. After school was woodworking (see previous post) and then on to the weekend. On Saturday, he got the chance to open the presents from us and then the boys spent loads of time building the Legos Finn had received.

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Sunday was the big party day, so Bruce spent his time organizing supplies for lava lamp and CHI orb making …

How to make a CHI orb

… and I did another round of cupcake baking. I decided to get a little fancy with the frosting this time.

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The party activities were a hit. Everyone made a CHI orb necklace.

CHI orb making

And many, many lava lamps.

Lava lamp making

And they ran around like crazy people, battling.


Finn and friends


When it was cupcake time, they assembled on the patio pretty quickly.

Then they gobbled up the cupcakes before heading out to play again.



They got a little nutty in the back experimenting with the leftover Alka-Seltzer, making things explode. No big surprise who was at the center of it all. [Ezra.]

Gang o' ruffians


Finally the party wound down and the house was quiet again. There may have been a few more cupcakes consumed that afternoon.

Happy 6th Birthday, Finn!

6 years old!

(Of course, I took more pictures. The rest are here.)