Catching up

Tuesday, May 23rd

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Sorry for the long silence, friends. It has been an EXTREMELY busy few months. Gary traveled several times, the kids were involved in lots of sports, and I was up to my eyeballs in a Human Physiology class at a local junior college.

Some highlights:

Tomas is playing on the local Little League, and on a competitive traveling baseball team, and on a competitive traveling soccer team. Yes, it’s nuts, but he’s happy, and he’s not too tired, and he’s doing well in school, and we live on a mountain with only about 300 other people and the sports arena is where Tomas is meeting people and developing a social life. The latter baseball team, the Renegades, is doing rock star well, and has won its last two tournaments. In Little League, Tomas recently had a tough game; the tides turned as he was pitching, and a winning game turned into a losing one. He went to bed afterward feeling very sad and blaming himself, despite our efforts to reassure him that games are lost by teams, not individuals. But, in the following game, his confidence (which is sweet and modest) was restored when he was last at bat and hit a home run, then pitched and stuck his glove out to casually catch a line drive that might have allowed the other team to tie up the game or even to win it.
IMG_0714The karate schedule, too, is nuts, but we love it. Over the last few months, Phoebe earned her Advanced Orange belt, and Tristan got his Beginning Yellow belt. Phoebe’s focus is improving (she spends less time posing in the mirror), and she’s starting to look like a natural when she somersaults forward and chops the air, her blonde braids flying. Tristan likes to hit the instructors as hard as he can. Where else is he allowed to pummel grownups and get high fives for it? Mommy earned her Purple Belt in the adult class and was surprised to discover that she likes sparring. (The last and only time I came even close to a physical confrontation was in third grade, when Jozanne told me she’d beat me up after school. At 2:40 I raced to my red Schwinn, dialed in the number code on the lock as fast as my little fingers could swivel, and raced home to safety.) Liking sparring seems to run in the family; at her last test, Phoebe was overjoyed to fight  a second time when the master needed an opponent for the final kid, and, at his test, Tristan got to spar the grizzly bear-sized master himself. Tristan is confident that he won that match.

Tristan and I made several trips to UCSF for his treatments. All went smoothly, though one was a race wedged between my Monday and Wednesday classes and another required driving a crazy, long inland route when a huge rock slide closed Highway 101. The most recent trip south took place after my class finished, and Tristan and I enjoyed two nights at Chris and Agi’s. We have discovered the Aquarium on the Bay and have fallen in love with the baby stingrays that one can pet in a touch pool. They poke their funny little pug heads out of the water to get a better look at you.

I absolutely loved the physiology class I took. It felt good to put a different part of my brain to work again (I wasn’t sure it still worked!), and I was truly blown away by the things I learned. Why did I previously avoid molecular biology classes when I was given a choice?! You would not believe the incredible things that happen in our cells. There are little pumps and channels and transporters that all have their jobs, and that spring into action when the right hormone or other chemical or wave of electricity comes along and tells them to get off their asses! It’s amazing! I was inspired to Amazon order the 1968 movie The Fantastic Voyage, which I last saw forty years ago on our cumbersome RCA video disk player with its huge lever to eject the disks; the movie arrived in the mail and Gary, the kids, and I snuggled up on the couch to watch miniaturized scientists travel through a man’s body to repair a brain injury, get attacked by white blood cells, and suffer a massive earthquake in the inner ear when a life-sized human outside dropped a scalpel. All the while I narrated the movie with my newfound physiology knowledge. I’m sure it was only mildly annoying to the rest of the family.

From the class I learned as much about teaching as I did about physiology. The professor was fabulous, and she employs a technique called flipping: the students watch her lectures on YouTube BEFORE class, and then the whole “lecture” time is a discussion of the material, with study questions presented the computerized chalkboard and plenty of time to sort out all confusion. Students “click” using a app on their phones to answer each question, and immediately afterward the stats on how the class answered each question are presented, giving the professor instant feedback on how well-presented and readily-understood was her material on the topic. The teaching method totally flipped the memorization-to-understanding ratio for me; had I taken this class as an undergrad in a typical lecture hall, I would have spent lots of time and energy memorizing factoids soon to be forgotten. I barely did any memorizing for this super class. Loved it. Next semester I’ll take Microbiology…

And with that brief update on the last few months, now onto some really fun stuff. I’m sitting on an airplane right now, and we’re all on our way home from Tristan’s Make A Wish trip to Hawaii!

The next post is a summary of our trip, with lots of pictures to boot.

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