Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy Holiday! Aren't my santa's little helpers cute? I knitted the hat on the left.

The allure of ties.

Pete and I have always chuckled over a picture of two from his childhood of Pete and his stairstepping older brothers all dressed up in jackets and ties for their birthday parties. Can you imagine? Turns out my sons can. A couple of weeks back we were dashing thru the mall searching for something forgettable that we didn't find. We did, however, find kids ties on sale. Quincy landed one that is pre-tied but adjustable around the neck. Aidan got a regular, albeit small, tie. They often wear them around the house. I also have a terrible time finding pants that fit Aidan, but recently did just invest in a few pair of dress type pants that fit. He now often dresses up around the house complete with belt and tie. He begs for me to buy him a dress jacket every time we pass the kiddie ones at a store. Target has them for only about $30 so I supposed I could consider buying him one - but I just can't imagine he'd actually wear it! He was all dressed up the morning of Aidan's party but then decided to dress down a bit when it came time for the party - off came the pants and belt and on went zip-off pants, the button down was unbuttoned, and off came the tie. Quincy however wore his tie. He doesn't have the whole look down like his brother - he wore it with fleece sweats and his shirt unbloused, but he was happy.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Field Trips

The kids school is blessed by a very active parent group raising about $660 per kid per year. Considering that we have to pay for our own art, music, PE, computer and language teachers, that $ goes fast. We do manage to set aside $75 per kid for field trips. This is usually supplemented by $25 - 35 per kid in the lower classes and more for the upper classes (who go on over night - more expensive - field trips). This translates into roughly a field trip per month over the year. Or in both kids' cases this year - a bunch of them these last few weeks before winter break. Aidan had been grumbling that he had only been on one trip (and the other 2nd grade class had been on 3 or so). And that trip was across the street to the park to look at dirt - hardly terribly exciting. Quincy on the other hand had been to the the arboretum and the park across the street and also a cool organic farm, Hidden Villa, about 45 min away.

Wednesday I accompanied Quincy's class on their field trip to a nearby local library (whose children's librarian is a mom of a first grader at our school). It is conveniently located across from a nice park and playground. Teachers (like parents) always have to multi-task so the field trip managed to incorporate "science" as well by studying and drawing a large pine tree that was in the park. The librarian did a very nice job with the kids and I got to check out some good books meanwhile (it is a better kids library than our more local library). The kids got some great run around time afterwards at the playground.

Thursday I accompanied Aidan's class to Crissy Field. A place our family goes often. The park service did a GREAT job. Apparently our teacher only paid them $75 for 3 hours. We had 2 science guys and then also a park ranger who went with us across the street and lastly an art guy. The science part was really well done. They had the kid pair up. Each pair had a bucket to play with - it had clay "land", removable sponge "marsh", and bucket for the "bay". They got to sprinkle dirt on the land then squirt bottle it with sponge both in and out to see what happened. Obviously the "marsh" kept the dirt from entering the "bay". Then they did the same with kool-aid "pesticide". Get it? Marsh protects the bay. They made a point of telling the kids that it was their responsibility to protect the marsh. It was very spot on for the kids - they were able to really understand what was going on and had fun with the exploration. They made a "hypothesis" beforehand then discussed their findings afterwards. Next up was a walk across the street to the marsh with "marsh bingo" sheets and a digital camera per pair. They had to photograph everything on their sheet. Some items to find "plant that can be eaten or used for medicine; a small animal; a bird; a shell or shell fish; a person enjoying themselves; something people enjoy looking at; the marsh". Afterwards while they dug into their lunches, the science folk were busy printing up their photos. Then back upstairs to the lab. Josh had waded into the marsh (in full rubber waders) and collected a big bucket of goo and distributed it into smaller containers for each pair to explore. They had a spoon and pipettes to use to scoop up any critters they could find and put them in a divided pitre dish and look at them through the 5x microscope (oh yeah - Aidan REALLY wants his own microscope). There were amphipods (look like mini-shrimp) galore and some worm things and itty bitty clams etc. Very cool. I think they could have done this for quite a bit longer but had to finish up and go do an "art project". They had a two sided "mask" to use. Idea was to do a collage from their printed marsh photos on one side and then a marsh animal on the other side. They didn't quite get done with the collage and took them back to their classroom to finish up. Aidan reported back that he did a "fox" face on his other side. I am interested to see it! Aidan said it might have been his favorite ever field trip. I agree - it really was very good! Of course Aidan's latest stated profession when he grows up is to be a "scientist" (he really wants to be a Mythbuster but figures that isn't really possible).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mother's Little Helpers...

Aidan shows off his dishwashing attire. The floor ended up a bit wet, the jacket was suitably soaked - but he told me he did end up with one dry hand! Meanwhile Quincy was unloading the washing machine and loading up the dryer. I was taking the time to wrap a few xmas presents out of sight.

Putt Putt! AKA Miniature Golf

After a rather lame hike by a beautiful reservoir (the big chain link fence got in the way of the view just a bit!), we took the kids out for their first ever game of miniature golf. We could have done without the wining about whose turn it was to go first, Aidan may have quite a little hip bruise from a Quincy shot gone wildly wrong, Pete may have just eked past me in total number of 2 putts, but in general it was still pretty fun. My camera just died shortly after this shot. Hopefully it is just the battery and I've ordered another - I can't survive long without a camera especially with a birthday coming up followed by the holiday season!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

birthdays everywhere. Yesterday Quincy had a party in a park to go to. Today at party at Randall Museum (sort of a tiny zoo we can walk to) for 2 classmates followed by one for a brother and sister at another park. Last weekend Aidan had one at the Party Place - a place with sort of a giant climb thru structure thing followed by pizza followed by an hour in the "arcade". The previous week he had one at a place that was filled with bouncy things called Pump It Up. The week before that was a mock sleep over and theoretically watching Karate Kid movie (apparently most kids just watched a few minutes then bounced off the walls). The week before that Aidan had his nerf gun party. 3 cousins always celebrate their birthdays when we see them for Thanksgiving. Quincy agreed to do a joint party with Ellie on Dec. 9th. He had told me he wanted a sushi themed party - but that was a few weeks back and he was no longer married to the idea. Julia and I sat down and went over the guest list that I had gotten out of the kids one morning before school when Ellie came over. There are about 5 classmates they said no to and only a few people from past classes to be included. Ellie had more of these people from the past which was part of Quincy's original reason for saying no to a joint party. Understandably he only wants his friends at his party. We're going to have it again at the old preschool - a great young party venue 1) it isn't your house 2) it has both inside and outside play space so weather isn't too much of an issue 3) it is pretty cheap 4) there are lots of toys and also a kitchen. We will do sushi making as an activity and perhaps also snowmen making with marshmallows and pretzels etc. I'm in charge of getting goodie bags so on Friday I headed off to Japantown to see what I could find. We decided to go with paper, pencil, Japanese eraser (they make ones that look like sushi etc). Turns out there is a very nice dollar store there. I selected a few things I liked and brought them home. I showed the bag to Quincy last night and asked him what he thought. This was his response "I think this would be a great party gift to give out. Number 1 it is easy to carry, number 2 it can come in handy and number 3 it is not a lot of stuff we have to get".

At yesterday's birthday I met some parents. One couple I was chatting with have their kindergartener at the other Japanese school in town. The public school my kids go to have only 13% free lunch kids, the district average is around 60% or a bit higher. They said their school is at 90%! Unreal. The program they are in used to be located far out toward the ocean but a couple of years ago it got moved nearer to Japantown in the "projects". Only half the school does Japanese (like at our school). The school they moved to was being threatened with closure. Half the Japanese population departed for other schools - it decimated their program. I was fascinated to talk to them about it. They are vehement in their support for the program although it was not originally one of their 7 schools in the lottery nor high up on their second list. As one of them said, they have to live up to their lefty politics. The dad said it is nice to be able to say high to people he would ordinarily have nothing to do with. They value the "diversity" and the education said diversity brings their kids. I asked if their son had come to them with any stories about dad's in jail, getting shot etc. He said he had heard anecdotal stories but not from his kid. He did say clearly some kids have some behavioral issues and some come to school without breakfast (no food at home). I read somewhere that a lot of these kind of kids suffer from post traumatic stress disorder - obviously making it hard to concentrated on learning (as does an empty belly). I just can't imagine putting my kids in that situation, especially Aidan ("there are no REAL bad guys in San Francisco are there?"). Another dad from our school was sort of arguing with the other dad that he wanted a place where his kid could focus on learning and not be distracted by that other stuff and diversity training was really something modeled by parents and not something you just get at school. I am glad there are middle class folks that are willing to take that leap of faith and enroll their children into schools that don't look like themselves and try to make it better for everyone, but I am also glad not to have to be that family. It is one thing to walk the walk yourself, it is another to make your kids do it. As most any parent, I just want to shelter my kids as long as possible.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Creative financing.

Our school site learned in late September that, oops, the district didn't have enough $ to fund us fully. Go on, find a teacher to "consolidate" (i.e. fire). You are $40K short, no, 20K, no 30K, well, we don't really know how much... Hmm. OK. This is a plushy school, hey, just ask the parent groups to pony up the extra. We have 2 parents groups and we each have over $200K sitting in the bank. Time to get rid of the librarian. We have a GREAT principal. Newish, but great. He asked the school district 3 times and got 3 different answers. How much do we need to pay to keep our librarian. $16,000 was the common answer. Oops! Sorry, we really meant $29,000. Turns out your librarian (who isn't credentialed thus we won't give you the $16K in city tax $ to use for librarians that you are owed) has worked for 30 years and is paid a lot more than the average librarian (I think that amount was $24K for 1/2 time - her other 1/2 time is spent at school under the auspices of the special ed department - separate budget - she helps kids read or something). Turns out our district (and probably most of them) use cost averaging for schools - each school gets a certain amount of site funding based upon number of students and a complicated formula of how many students qualify for things like free lunch, have learning disabilities etc. They then are assessed average costs for salaries - average principal, average secretary, average teachers, average lunch ladies, average librarians... (we are one of only about 3 schools to have actually had a librarian until this new tax was passed a couple of years back). We have many teachers who have been here much longer than average (hence earn much more than average - teachers are of course paid by # of years worked, not ability as they are union employees). Quincy's teacher has been here for 30ish years. Aidan's teacher about 10. The librarian about 30. In general this accounting method benefits our well established school - we get assessed average costs but in reality the district has to pay our staff much higher than "average". It really sucks for struggling schools that have poor teacher retention and are filled with brand new teachers - paid less than average, but the school site is assessed average rates. Make sense? Anyway, I seem to be one of the few who understand this (altho perhaps can't explain it). Turns out we would have to pay $29K to keep our librarian (and remember we are giving up a district provided credentialed one who is "free" to us) and our school would only be credited $24K for her. Kind of sucks! Turns out we have a mom who has a middle school kid at a school that had the same thing happen. When this happens to them they just fund the lowest paid teacher and get credited back more than they pay. Pretty smart huh? Our nifty principal hadn't heard of this, but he went back and made it happen. We now only have to pay $16K to keep our $29K librarian - and the school gets an extra $8K on the books to use against something else (or rather to help offset the funding deficit). It is unreal that public schools are so unbelievably under funded. We face union strikes every few years (for paltry cost of living increases and medical coverage - not for extravagant things). The parents have to fund the art teacher, PE teacher, music teacher, and librarian. Oh yeah, and all computers in the school classrooms and computer lab and teacher. And field trips. Our school has a much higher socio-economic group than the average in the district - only 13% of our kids get free lunch while district average is around 60%. Our parent groups raise over $300K each year to pay for our consultants. Did I mention that we had to "win the lottery" to get into the school? You put down up to 7 schools on your application and hope for the best. Our school was the #1 most requested school the year we applied.
crosswalk update

Apparently $270,000 was set aside in the mayor's budget for the work near the school. The DPT (dept of transportation) is just turning in a grant application (to the state and feds) for more $. Apparently $200,000 are earmarked to create a block long sidewalk (and retaining wall where necessary) and the remainder is for things like road paint... Amazing how much stuff can cost. Didn't you used to be able to buy a whole house - a nice one only a decade or so ago (not in the bay area of course) for $200K? Now you can't quite eek out a sidewalk for that amount. Crazy. I just read the grant application. I'd give us $.... Think it is likely to be a bit of a long shot however as there are people in much worse shape. It will be months before we hear anything... I have my fingers crossed but am not holding my breath.

Quincy was a clown for halloween we discovered that kids water based markers are EXCELLENT for use for face painting - much easier to apply and remove than face paint! FYI...

cousin Ellie was a forest fairy

Quincy's class after the school parade

Aidan was a ninja - hard to see in the dark!

We trick-or-treated on Belvedere St. again this year. The police cordon off the street each year and apparently if you live on the street, when you buy your house it is "disclosed" that this is a huge trick-or-treat street. I seem to recall hearing a figure of $500 for candy per house - altho that is awfully hard to believe! I prepared dinner for Julia & Phil and also Mai Ly's (Aidan's classmate) mom. Butternut squash soup, a black bean salad (get it - orange and black?) and another salad that had chicken and couscous and arugula and a host of other things. It was pretty good. The kids had hot dogs and seasonal pasta - orange and black spaghetti. The spaghetti was pretty cool. Then we headed out for trick-or-treating with Aidan, Quincy, Ellie, Maggie & Mai Ly (also dressed all in black but at least not sporting full face mask like Aidan). We all had fun and the kids averaged about 2 1/2 lb of candy which was around 75 pieces of candy. Not a bad haul. We'll inevitably still have some around come next Halloween...

Just before vermin were discovered in our house, we enjoyed a nice visit from Nanma Phyllis. She brought all her rain gear so we were blessed with dry weather and even some spectacular weather. Here is a pic from the sidelines at Aidan's soccer game. The kids had 1.30 and 3.30 games and this year they have both been playing at the Marina Green (right by the bay). In between their games we went and wandered around Fort Baker which is right under the golden gate bridge. Pete had to have this photo.

Soccer season is drawing to a close. Here are a couple of pics of Quincy at his 8.30 a.m. (yes, it really was ungodly early for a Saturday) game. Aidan didn't get to play as all games were canceled as of 12.30 due to rain (and his was scheduled for 2.30). Some kindly parent brought Krispy Kreme donuts for their half time and post game snacks. The kids were very appreciative! Quincy has come on well this year. He is a remarkably fearless goalie - scoops up anything that rolls even an inch over the goal box line (or whatever it is called) right in the face of flying feet even. Of course he stands so far out that good opponents can shoot past him - but that is a small thing. He clearly loves playing - he SKIPS down the field after the ball most of the time. Perhaps not the best approach, but hey, he sure looks like he is enjoying himself!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why does time fly when you are having fun?
Aidan asked the question this morning. Apparently staying home for lice treatments wasn't ALL bad. I remember pondering that question as well at around his age. I don't think I answered it to his satisfaction.

Oh my. As I lay in bed this morning cuddled head to head with Quincy I noticed Aidan standing at the base of the bed, freshly showered and shampooed, scratch scratch scratch on his head. Uh oh. Over to the light for you young lad. Sure enough I remove about 5 eggs in no time. Phyllis is just about to head off to the airport - well, since I'll be keeping the kids home from school they can accompany Nanma to the airport with their daddy. There is some magically folk called "the Hair Fairies" and another mom tells me a friend had a great experience with them. I call their # but they don't open until 10. I trek down to Walgreens and ponder the chemical shampoos instead. I select one that claims to be a fun "blue" color with a watermelon scent, metal combs, and some combing gel product that professed to make the combing easier. I did take a peak at Quincy's hair and indeed he too was infested - or at least had eggs.

The boys and I all shampoo up for the requisite 10 minutes. After the gel I start combing. Wait a minute! There are LIVE lice coming out on the comb!! Weren't the chemicals supposed to kill them?!? No matter. Out them and their little eggs come. Aidan led the way, Quincy had a few and I think I had one. ICK. I realized of course we needed new towels as the old ones might possibly still have critters on them. So I reach for new ones - but OH NO! Turns out MICE have been pooping on them! A couple of weeks ago I found the same and washed them all. I couldn't figure out what the mice wanted with towels - this time it was clear - apparently the Aveno oatmeal stuff for bath in the wire basket directly above is tasty. That is now gone from the house and more towels needed to be washed... Stupid (or should I say clever) mice. We discovered that we had some a few weeks back. We managed to catch a couple in traps and put most everything away and Simple Greened the heck out of all sorts of places. I even put out poison - which seems to have been completely ignored (perhaps for the best as I have heard horror stories subsequently from friends about the smelly messes that can't be found). One eve we were awoken by a mouse chowing down on a dark chocolate bar in a plastic bag that was stashed in the bookcase near our bed. No more of that! They also enjoyed a bag of dried cranberries before I discovered that that cupboard was not secure. Turns out they like to hang out on the TOP of our fridge. They like walnuts. They are especially fond of grocery store "everything" bagels. They completely ignore peanut butter baited traps. (the manufacturers recommended bait).

Back to lice day. We broke the news to Pete who enjoyed an itchy day. Turns out he seems to be louse free lucky guy! Just thinking about it makes you itchy though. The kids did a good job vacuuming up and stripping their beds - and even submitting to hair treatments. On-line I did some reading (esp after the chemicals seemed to have had such limited success). Mayo encased heads overnight seem to be popular. Also salad dressing - or at least oil mixed with or followed by vinegar. OK - smother the beasties with oil and then vinegar dissolves away the "glue" that holds the eggs in place. Sounds like a plan (oh yeah - invest in tea tree oil to add to shampoo and maybe some tea tree shampoo as well and heavy conditioner). Oil for 3 hours. OK. First up, Aidan. Olive oil. Ziplock baggie. Oops - dripping/oozing out of the bag... Lots of protests. I recall the person saying petroleum jelly much less messy than oil. DON'T DO IT! I switched for Quincy and myself. All seemed fine. Until time to wash it out. Aidan's washed out well (I did use Dawn dish soap - they all said use DAWN and only Dawn) and I managed to comb out one additional egg. Did I mention that earlier in the day I did a dry hair head check? Couldn't find any on Aidan but cut out an additional 6 eggs off Quincy. I washed my hair multiple times with Dawn, then shampoo. Upon multiple website recommendations I powdered up in gobs of cornstarch. Later on I also tried Simple Green and bar soap. Hah. I need to figure out a hair do that will work for me that has a "wet" look. Quincy seems to be in even a worse state. He may end up shaved if things don't improve.

I feel that we will win against the lice. Thanks to preschool experience (watching others) I know how hard you have to work at it. I also feel we can eventually get the mice to give up and leave us alone. Apparently the school had someone in checking heads today (Quincy's class hasn't been checked yet) and sent home 30 kids from 9 classes. Infestation. Clearly if people are relying on the shampoos they will never get rid of them all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nerf Gun Party!! For Aidan's 8th bday party it was all about boys running and shooting. What more can a boy want?! Aidan and I were floundering for party ideas so we turned to Pete who didn't hesitate at all and promptly offered up his take on every 8yr olds dream party. All attendees would be presented with Nerf Guns and the party would be spent using them for various games. They started off with target shooting from progressively further away. They moved on to a game that involved a few unarmed contestants trying to snatch a couple of flags before being shot. I think there was a who can shoot highest and farthest game. They finished with a capture the flag game. Poor kids had to put their guns down and play that one as tag. The kids had a great time and sure did a lot of running around. Not only was Pete a great master of ceremonies, he even made the cupcakes with the kids the day before. I organized some snacks, procured the weaponry, sent out the evites, and made the frosting. The kids decorated the cupcakes. This was the easiest party yet. Aidan had 8 of his buddies (all boys of course). He had a hard time waiting for the party to come. He was showered with cool gifts and has spent all his free time since putting together legos and playing with the other toys. He has been kind enough to share many of his gifts with his brother. Tomorrow is his "real" birthday. It can't come soon enough for him - there is that stack of presents from family still to open!! I also need to try to locate a restaurant that serves his favorite "calimari" - or failing that we'll head to Park Chow - a favorite.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The power of the few. Or maybe the power of the peon. Anyway - power to me! Last year I decided that I would join our school's Safety Committee. Mostly because I think pedestrian safety just outside school is a bit lacking. We have a nice overpass near school - but it is down the hill. Across the street to the uphill side of school there isn't even a sidewalk. So people jaywalk. But this is one of the few stretches of uninterrupted street in the city - a whole fast curvy, hilly, and often foggy mile. I decided to pursue trying to get something done about it. I downloaded a bunch of addresses off the city website, wrote a letter, and mailed it off to 20 or 30 people. Interestingly we never heard a peep back from the school district folks. Our district supervisor on the other hand has been GREAT (note to self - send him nice thank you card!). Wish he was my district super but my district stops just short of the school - or he would totally have my vote. Anyway, he put some pressure on the Department of Public Transportation (DPT) and we just learned that in the Mayor's Budget there is a line (or a few lines) for us - including new sidewalk across the street, a cross walk, and some traffic slowing techniques. Yippee! Of course it may still take years to actually get anything and the budget could be revised - but everyone told me that there would be no hope of getting anything real done. We also have a super principal at the school that has worked hard to follow up with DPT and he coordinates with the police to get someone out writing tickets to speeders periodically (which seems to slow traffic down enormously). I was tickled pink as they say when I heard from the nice DPT woman that we actually might have something in the works. It seems like they have already done some preliminary work on it. Apparently they never have projects specifically earmarked in the budget but instead have a general funding amount that projects have to duke it out for. We're still going after a state grant to help fund the project altho I don't think we

actually NEED such a thing. Yippee!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

City kids at play - the sidewalk is their chalkboard... and their scooting park and their bike area (altho we go further afield now that they need more bike room - local school's playground works well). Quincy also seems happiest to practice his karate katas outside on the sidewalk.

Summer trips... first trip was off to Fresno/Kings Canyon/Sequoia National parks. Pete planned an overnight in Fresno so we could hang at a water park in the 100 degree heat - a great idea! Remarkably there were times when Quincy was even a bit cold (purple lips) despite the heat. We stayed in Sunset Campground for 3 nights in Grants Grove area of Kings Canyon. Our friends the Goldschmidts met up with us for a day from San Diego (they let us know they'd be out at the Nat Pk and we thought that sounded like a nifty plan). Our kids had a blast playing with their twins (aged between our kids) and their youngest was just over 2 but a great tag along. We spent one day driving out along the Kings Canyon - literally a huge canyon (one formed like Grand Canyon - with a stream down at the bottom). Pretty awesome views. No where near as touristed as Yosemite - the Nat Pk just a few miles to the north along the Sierras. We had a great hike at Zumwalt Meadows down by the river but also around the meadow and through a section of huge granite blocks. Very cool. We also had picnic lunch and got our feet wet in the very cold river at Roads End. Literally where the road ended... Grants Grove area has quite a few of the giant Sequoia trees in various groves. They are truly impressive. We are rather used to the coastal redwood sequoia trees - which are the tallest trees in the world. The giant sequoias are known as the world's largest biomass (with possible exception of some fungus thing recently found somewhere) - basically tall, but hugely FAT trees. The coastal redwoods are primarily a single tree type of forest - all redwoods. So it is hard to get a good perspective on their size altho there are always a few that have fallen down that help serve as good sense of scale. The giants on the other hand are in a mixed tree forest - can't remember the exact trees now but things like firs and pines. But this serves to make the giants even more impressive. They are also pretty interesting looking - very red huge trunk with tufts of needles way up high. Very easy to spot! If you want to check out photos from the trip click here. I tend to spend my energies after a trip in getting the photos sorted out and uploaded and labeled - and am mentally done with the trip and don't need to blog about it. I also can't see to figure out how to locate photos throughout the story. Bit of a bummer. We did see bears in Sequoia as we were about to leave - it was 5ish and they were out foraging - one ripping up downed logs to the left of the road and to the right was a mom and her two cubs digging around. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Memorial Weekend we headed to Bullfrog Pond Campground (23 first come first served sites) in Austin Creek State Park – accessed thru Armstrong Redwood State Park just outside of Guerneville (on Russian River far enough inland from the ocean that it actually gets hot enough to want to swim). All about 1 ½ hrs north of the city. We were very fortunate (and thanks to Pete’s persistence) to get one of only 2 or 3 campsites to open up Saturday morning. Interestingly enough Sunday quite a few sites opened up despite it being a 3 day weekend – and never filled up. The campsite is surprisingly remote considering how close it is to a lot of people. It is supposedly 2 ½ miles up a very twisty and sometimes steep one lane road – that dead ends at the campground. Takes at least 15 minutes of somewhat nerve racking driving up the hill to get there. But well worth it! The views go on forever with no human presence visible. Our last morning we saw (and heard) a flock (?) of wild turkey meandering around the hillside. The campsite itself is in a wooded area which is great. The pond is a bit icky – like a pond probably should be – dragonflies, little fish, murky stuff etc. No swimming for sure! But it was fun to walk around – and toss in logs if you are 5 or 7 yrs of age.

We had another weekend at Steep Ravine the week before last. We had use of a cabin this time. They come with nothing except a wood burning stove, a trash can, and a broom. Otherwise all wood and windows – and views. It is a very cool place – only an hour out of town and located on a bluff above essentially a private beach and just a mile or so away from Stinson Beach – long white sandy beach and several cafes and shops to choose from. There were a ton of feathers that we found on the beach – including a few huge ones are attributing to pelicans. My little capitalists decided after our return that they should be “for sale”. Of course there is no one to sell them to exactly… they have been kind enough to give a few away to ogling friends.

We have something new in the house. A mosquito net! How many people can say that? We have some camping coming up and I decided to trek on down to REI to stock up on a couple things (like a Freeplay lantern - we are always having issues in the tent with batteries dying etc). We also needed gas and mantles for our gas lantern – which I don’t recall ever using, but after I returned with gas Pete showed it to me – BRIGHT! Anyway – one of the items I had been mulling over in my mind was mosquito nets and sure enough they had them. For some reason we are having major mosquito infestation this year – I can only recall the occasional one or 2 mosquitos in previous years but this year it is 1 or more almost every night starting a few weeks ago. Poor Quincy had (I think) a spider bit one day – huge welt surrounded by outer red circle. Then a day or so later he woke up with over a dozen red bumps all over – especially a bunch on his face and hands although some on his back etc. He is the person in the family that is clearly most sensitive to bug bites – and also clearly most tasty. Aidan sleeps a few feet away and yet wakes unscathed every morning. So far the mosquito net seems to be working well, the kids like it, and the bugs have decided to pester me in the middle of the night instead. My sleep is very interrupted, but at least I have a fighting chance – I have a fly swatter bedside and snap on the lights at first buzz. Got one confirmed kill last nite and another probable.

Had a girl’s nite out last nite – 1st time in a long time for that! My friend Heidi called up with free passes to new movie Hairspray. Of course sometimes there are more passes than there are seats so it pays to get there early. That was our plan… We managed to get there at 6.15 instead of the 6.00 we were aiming for – the line was along the whole of the 3rd floor, up the stairs and down the 4th floor hall. Hmm. Fortunately it was a big theater and we got seats – even decent ones as it turns out (thanks to Heidi’s perseverance in asking people – are those seats taken?). It was GREAT. We had a really fun time. Well acted (lots of big name stars too) and sung and catchy music and still a timely message. Then we headed across the street to Mel’s Diner for a shake and a chat. All together a satisfying eve.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

kids boating on the bay
Just caught up with the Portland Thompson's blog - yikes what bad mouth luck they are having! I thought Aidan's recent 5 cavities was bad. But it wasn't a root canal! Dentist thought that he was so good that he didn't need laughing gas - and indeed he was fine without it. He also seems to have several new teeth with bright white spots on them. Not to worry says the dentist. Maybe his teeth just got banged around before they popped out (I don't think so!). She has plans for some topping on his new 6 yr old molars that are still growing in. Too bad his cavities were all BETWEEN teeth where a nice topping won't help... I also noticed when there that a couple of his teeth show down pretty darned far below the gum line. Does this mean he will end up with gum surgery like aunt Sarah one day? I hope not but wouldn't be surprised. He has a nice crowded mouth (no surprise coming from these 2 parents) and new teeth present like shark's teeth - come in behind so he has 2 rows of teeth until front falls out and back one (hopefully) moves forward. One new back one has no room to move up. Doh.

Today we headed off into the Bay at 9 a.m. for a little "fishing" on cousin Phil's *new* boat (old one was bashed up against dock when ropes broke so considered "totaled" so they have a new old boat to replace it). Forgot the life jackets for the kids. Oops. Fortunately Phil has not only invested in a couple of extra kid jackets but he had them in the car! Phew. We did have our 2 new kiddie fishing rods in tow. One came with a whole bunch of fake bait and hooks. One was a Homer Simpson rod that came with a little 3 eyed fish. Maybe I should have thought twice about that one! The release button just gets stuck inside the reel and I have to pry it out with a knife or screw. I'll try to return it tomorrow. Aidan's rod's reel seemed to come off awfully easy... so easy in fact that not just once, but TWICE when I cast the reel when flying off into the water. Bad news. The first time at least the line somehow was locked and with the help of Pete leaning far far out with a bucket we were able to get it back. The second time we weren't so lucky. Bye bye into the deep it went. We were anchored several hundred yards off Crissy field in about 53' of water. Where no fish live apparently (at least none that liked the look of any of our plastic lures!). With a lot of patience Pete actually DID manage - eventually - to haul the thing up. Mostly because it pretty much ran down to it's last 50' or so of line... and/or the reel got filled with enough gunk from the bottom that the line was catching. Phil had the grown up type of reel - which didn't work all that well for Ellie from what I could tell. We had a stiff breeze and white caps but lots of sun. No real successful casting but the kids had fun eating bagels and mucking around below deck. Always nice to spend a morning on the water.

I am finally making my foray into the world of YouTube. If you want to see some of my kiddie videos like Quincy's 49 Cross Swords for the tournament click here. We'll see if that works. I am currently uploading some from Quincy's "dance recital" a week or 2 ago. Some are pretty humorous. I think once you get to one of my videos you can then see the others to choose from.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chattanooga for spring break. Might not immediately pop into mind, but it was a decent place to spend a spring week. Weather got up to high 80s early in the week and the car thermometer registered 25 degrees when we headed out of town early Sat. a.m. One of those storm fronts came thru Wed nite (complete with T-storm which the kids slept thru). Turns out there are quite a few tourist things to do in Chattanooga. If we had been particularly interested in Civil War you could stretch it out quite a few days. Uncle Chuck has quite a World War 2 collection - captured the kids imaginations. We stopped off at the public library downtown one day - I asked A what subject he would like books on (expecting perhaps space - his typical library fare) and was surprised to hear "world war 2" (shouldn't have been!). We read things from the "Quiet Hero" (the native american indian flag raiser) to the "Wahoo" (a sub). I learned a few things! Chuck also had the movie "Flags of our Fathers" which I hadn't seen - we watched it after the kids went to bed one night. Good movie. Chuck's land also backs up on a public park filled choc block full of ball fields - we headed over one night and watched 11/12 yr olds go at it. There were one of maybe 4 games going concurrently. It was nice for Aidan to see as he heads into his own T-ball season.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nunchucks are fun. Who would have guessed? Of course the ones the kids got from karate studio are nice soft foam with a string and not a chain. After their first class we came home and I demonstrated what I had learned watching them (I was WAY better than they were :-) ). The studio has all sorts of ways to get more $ out of us. Not like we don't already pay enough just to go to twice weekly lessons. Then there was the over $200 "sparring" gear. (includes their first jock straps!). The $30 "belt test" fee (every 4 months if you manage to stay on track). The tournament entry fees (trophy guaranteed to all entrants! very very shiny...). Now the kids can enter TWO things (double the entry fee!) - sparing and kata (routine). Quincy unbelievably wants to do both. Huh? There are days he is barely there. The other kids all do their routines in concert. Not Q - he goes at his own speed (slow) but at least he doesn't let anyone else distract him :-) Got to go - "Putt Putt Wins The Race" needs to be started up now for a 10 min session.
a dictionary

Can you remember ever being excited about a dictionary? I can't. I decided my 7 yr old needed one when he started to ask me things like "what's 'brutal' mean?". I remember being told "go look it up" and wanted to say the same - but realized that wasn't a reasonable option. An adult dictionary seems to require an adult vocabulary to understand the definitions. Little kid dictionaries don't have words like brutal in them. I went on-line to Amazon, read a few reviews and placed my order for a kid dictionary (along with some other reading books like "George Washington" "Spiderman" various Ricky Ricotta and his giant robot books (a mouse and his robot!) and one about the race to the moon. Oh yeah - a cooking book (or 2) for me. I later informed my son. Boy was he excited! Boy was I surprised. He started mentally listing words he wanted to look up - including "atlas" and "sex". We also wanted to look up "elipad" (if I am remembering correct spelling - quite possibly not - it wasn't in our grown up dictionary and refers to kinds of snakes). Turns out the sex definition he was after was the one regarding gender. The sex of the snake for example. He was also excited to find (multiple) definitions for "a". It WAS in the dictionary! Now he is back to lobbying for a desk (needs a place to keep the dictionary you know!).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Eskimo Kisses. Sounds cute right? Wrong! I made the mistake of introducing the concept to my 5 yr old a few weeks back. Mistake #1, the concept. Mistake #2, telling him when he had a gooey cold going on. Now every day - multiple times a day - I get eskimo kisses. And "nosey nosey". And he has to kiss my nose. And then he wants me to kiss his nose. The only good news is that his nose is no longer gooey...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I caught Aidan reading books - on his own! After school today he was reading through a book on sharks while he nibbled on his snack. Later on he spent some time with the Children's Atlas of the Universe (or something like that). He decided there were quite a few words in that one that he didn't know but the shark book clarified his "favorite shark" preference - the Maco (along with the Blue it is one of the fastest sharks going). Of course later on this evening just before bed Quincy was sitting at the table having a little cereal snack "reading" the shark book. That didn't impress me nearly as much - I have seen him enjoy quiet time with a book many times before. I think Aidan has finally realized he can truly read almost anything he wants to - until the words get pretty long anyway.

Pete and I had a nice week sans kids on Oahu a couple of weeks back. Brother Chuck was kind enough to come and stay with the younguns. We were not missed. I did call home a couple of times and Aidan was willing to answer the phone and chat - but Quincy happily passed up the opportunity to talk to me - he was much too busy having fun with Uncle Chuck! Apparently Uncle Chuck also let them enjoy "Mythbusters" and "Dirty Jobs" on TV and treated them to dinner at Burgermeister twice, crepe place once, dinner at the Reiffs another night. And cookies in their lunch boxes EVERY DAY! Lucky kids. We returned late Friday and Chuck headed off to the airport in the dark the next morning. Chuck reported that Quincy had complained of a sore throat "from talking too much" and it was clear when he woke up that he didnt' feel well and soon was in full throttle of a 102 degree fever. He spent the day mostly snoozing. Aidan didn't eat breakfast Monday (nor much of anything til late afternoon) and complained of sore throat and funny tummy so he got to stay home with Quincy on Monday. Quincy was mostly fine on Sunday until dinnertime when he had a low fever come back. I shooed both kids back to school on Tuesday. I had taxes and the like to tackle! I think they may well have had different viruses - and Pete ended up perhaps with Quincy's (aches and general crumminess) and me with Aidan's (sore throat). I read Rob's blog about their problems with Jack's virus and am thankful ours are so minor. Several kids at both schools were really sick - out for days - so we got off lucky (so far!). And best of all - Chuck didn't come down with anything. Maybe he'll consider doing it again sometime :-)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

So what is a parent to do? Aidan reported home on Monday that he hadn't been able to finish his lunch as he had been accosted by a "mean" boy in the bathroom who "double dog dared - which means you HAVE TO DO IT - to show him his privates" {privates = my term not his}. I wasn't quite sure how to receive this information. So... a pause... did you show him? "No" (Phew!). I told him I was glad he didn't do something he didn't think was tight and I was proud of him. I emailed his teacher Tuesday a.m. mentioning it - here is where I wasn't quite sure what I was "supposed" to do. I didn't really expect her to do anything - and Aidan didn't seem traumatized altho clearly it was important enough to him that he brought it up to me. I subsequently learned that he mentioned it to a buddy when he got back to the lunch table who said he knew "exactly who it was" as he had been mean to him the previous year (something to do with a stick). Turns out Aidan's teacher asked Aidan to identify the child (a 2nd grader) at lunch and he and his friend did and the other teacher and principal were notified and I understand that the parents are being notified. It seemed a bit much perhaps! I have been told that the boy has done something similar before and is ADHD (?) and on meds... not sure what being on meds has to do with this but teacher seemed to think that Dr should know about it in case a med change should be made (I can't imagine!). Aidan didn't appear to actual feel threatened although he also says the boy wasn't just joking around. Clearly all kids go through some sexual curiousity and I don't know if this fell into that catagory or bullying exactly. Pete felt I should have kept this info to myself. I asked Quincy's teacher (who I respect tremendously and who has been working with kinder age kids for over 20 years, has her masters and is teaching other teachers) what she (as a mother) would have done. She said she thought it was useful or important to pass along to the teacher so they can know about it and see if it is an isolated incident or more of a pattern or something that needs attention. Also that most importantly that I let Aidan know how proud I am of him doing the right thing and that he can get help if he needs help etc. I was really happy that Aidan felt he could tell us and even more that he didn't feel like he had to do something. I worry about him being suspect to peer pressure and making poor choices because of it. I don't worry about Quincy and peer pressure (we'll see if I'm right!). He is much more confident in and of himself. He is also much less concerned about right and wrong than his brother. So he may well decide to do the wrong thing - but it will be his decision not someone elses... He is happy to try to sneak candy or something like that - Aidan always asks (and points out when his brother hasn't!). I also can't imagine Quincy necessarily sharing the incident with me - in many ways he is much more private than his brother. Interesting how you can see all this at such young ages. We truly do have our personalities from birth IMO.
I love this time of year in our neighborhood. Somehow with our microclimate we are able to support trees in their autumn life next door to trees in full spring blossom while outside my bedroom window the trees are in full winter slumber. Several places within a block or so there are maples (or what look to me to be maples) in full glorious fall color especially gorgeous red leaves right next to fruit trees (plum and cherry?) with little pink blossoms breaking out all over. Pretty darned cool IMO. San Diego was a bit seasonless and to some extent you could argue the same about San Francisco - after all our summers aren't exactly balmy! But somehow with the changing trees especially in our neighborhood I get the sense of passing seasons much more (without the ick of Boston winters or muggy east coast summers). I did love visiting Joshua Tree or other desert lands to the east of San Diego - it was amazing to see them in full spring bloom - little flowers popped up everywhere in the middle of the sand and appearing so fragile yet in reality pretty darned sturdy. It helps to be able to drive to mountains of snow in just a few hours for a few days of "winter". That is about all I need!
the family on the Valley floor with Half Dome beyond

Pete & Quincy coming down the slope - a typical view of the 2 of them.

Sunday afternoon on the green "easy" slope.

A new year... We had our first vacation a couple of weeks ago - off to the snow! Of course CA has been very low on snow this year/season... We had plans to head to Yosemite and ski at Badger Pass for the kids' 1st ski experience. Pete found us a rental in "Yosemite West" which turns out to be a housing development that I think is technically outside National Park borders but logistically is only accessible from the middle of the park - it is pretty much at the base of the turn off to Badger Pass. Great location for us although there is nothing nearby except the mountain... The Valley is 35 or 40 minutes away and it of course has services such as restaurants and stores. We drove up Saturday afternoon and stopped off around sunset at Bridal Veil Falls (ooh ahh). We woke up Sunday morning to the tail end of a little snow fall - we had 2 or so inches outside which translated to 4 or 5" on the mountain - beautiful fresh snow. The resort is relatively lightly used (due to its more remote access than Tahoe I am sure and the fact that it is a relatively "easy" mountain most likely). The weekday Winter Access Passes are total deals. For $49 on Monday I got ski rental, lift ticket, and a one on one "group" lesson. Aidan got the same for $29. Quincy had borrowed skis and thus as a 5 and under child he was totally free. One of his classmates loaned us alot of gear including full ski clothes including helmets for both kids - Will conveniently has an older brother Quinn who is only a little bigger than Aidan. We had both kids take a lesson (2 of them and 2 teachers) on Sunday. Quincy spent the rest of his 2 days skiing going down the slopes holding onto Daddy's hand. Cute! Aidan by the end of day 2 was coming down blue (intermediate) slopes faster than I was (to my chagrin). Impressive how quickly they learn! We spent our last day, Tuesday, tooling around the Valley with lunch at the historic Ahwahnee lodge. All in all a very good trip and plans have been made to return next year...