Letter to My Daughter, March 31 1849

photo courtesy of ushistory.org

Today is Day 2 of The Pea's school field trip to the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School. By tonight she will have learned a lot about the culture of the people during the California Gold Rush through songs, skits, demonstrations and other hands-on activities.

She'll also have read my first letter, dated March 30 1849 (parents were asked to write 2 letters to their children, writing as though it were Gold Rush times and our children were out in the gold fields), and no doubt will be looking forward to receiving the second one. Since neither Alfie nor I accompanied the class as parent chaperones (not that I mind: slaving away at a learning station all day, eating hotdogs and getting 20 excited fourth graders to go to bed with no cellphone coverage or internet connection for 3 days is not my idea of fun), I figured my way of contributing to her Gold Rush experience would be to make my letters as kickass 1849-style as entertaining, encouraging and authentic as possible. You be the judge as to whether I've succeeded.

Letter to My Daughter, March 30 1849

photo courtesy of Coloma Outdoor Discovery School

Today we sent The Pea off on a 3-day school trip to the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School. For the next 3 days she'll be hiking, baking cornbread, panning for gold, and learning about life during the Gold Rush times. It's a fabulous opportunity for her to gain some hands-on learning, not to mention a sense of responsibility and independence.

To further immerse the kids in their experience, parents are asked to write two letters to their children. The letters will be given to the kids at bedtime, one letter for each night they're away. We're supposed to pretend it's 1849 and our children are actually away in the gold fields. Apparently some parents really go all out to the point of aging the paper they write on.

I won't pretend I didn't think about soaking my paper in a tea bath to give it that yellowed look, but I didn't have time, so I had to content myself with sealing the envelope with sealing wax and a signet stamper (hopefully that will merit a few "cool" points among her friends). Here's what I wrote for Day 1:

Cranes (and hope) for Japan

If I were given the power to right just one wrong in this world, I think I'd want to put an end to children dying of hunger, sickness and war. Now that I'm a parent, the thought of any child leaving this world before he or she has even had a chance to experience its wonders just rips me apart.

Now that the tragedy in Japan has grabbed the attention of the whole world, I'm reminded of Sadakio Sasaki , the Japanese girl who tried to fold one thousand origami cranes after she contracted leukemia as a result of radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. According to Japanese legend, the crane is a mystical and holy creature, and anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish. Some stories say she only got to 644 cranes before she passed away (her friends completed the rest), others say she completed the cranes. Tragic as the ending may be, I like to think that the cranes worked, sort of: Sadakio's memory will live forever. Thanks to her, the origami crane has become a worldwide symbol of hope.

Is it still a vacation if you didn't have fun?

Did I once think that driving 6 hours for a trip that normally takes 3.5 hours constituted the Road Trip From Hell? How about 7 hours? Or how about 14.5 hours (15 if you count the half hour we spent digging the car out of the snow) the very next day? Sure, the skiing was great, but the 4 hours we spent on the slopes this weekend was an insignificant part of our "vacation" compared to the time we spent driving there and back.

In retrospect, I should have known. I know I'm an optimist and I realize I can be pig-headed obstinate when I've made up my mind, but you'd think I'd have learned by now, after that last time we drove up to Tahoe in a snowstorm, that Driving in a Snowstorm is Bad.

Restoring the Simple Joys of Maidenhood

I think perhaps that all the time I've spent with Alfie has dragged my mind into the (rain) gutter, because if I had seen this flyer fifteen years ago, I never would have looked twice at it. But I'm sure that if you put up an ad for Hyman Restoration Services anywhere in the UK, people would think it was funny. Bloody funny.

Pah! Who needs an Oscar when you've got this?

It has been a while since I've been picked to join a blog meme, so I was surprised and delighted to find that blogger Biz e-Mom nominated me for a Stylish Blogger Award. I have to admit, I'm not the first person in the world one would associate with the word "Stylish". Here are seven reasons why:

It's Time to Ski!

Having grown up in a tropical country, I've always envied people who can ski, especially kids; I love the way they schuss down the slopes with no fear whatsoever. So two years ago, when the kids started clamoring to learn to ski and snowboard, I really wanted to let them -- but we decided to wait and see. The 2 main drawbacks in my mind were safety and cost; safety, because neither Alfie nor I are skiers so there was no way we could teach them or protect them or even accompany them, and cost, because, well, skis and snowboards and lift tickets and helmets and lessons cost a lot.

Now here we are, two years later, having just completed our first family ski trip and already looking forward to planning another one! So what has changed?

My Favorite Machine

I always knew I'd own a Kitchen Mixer. My mother owned one, and I have many happy childhood memories baking cookies and brownies and cakes with that mixer. She always said a Kitchen Aid mixer was expensive, but it would last a lifetime, and my 9-year-old self really took that to heart.

Self Portrait

Until a couple of weeks ago, the only way I could take a self-portrait was to stand in front of a mirror, or hold the camera at arm's length and end up with a huge, distorted face.