Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Summer Strawberries

Every Tuesday morning since school started I've been walking over to our local Farmer's Market with a girlfriend and her young daughter. We stroll through the produce stands, sampling the delicious fruit and taking in the sights and scents of the flower booths. This week I bought six baskets of strawberries, thinking I could make some shortcake and use them in other recipes.

I washed them, hulled them, and put them in a large container in the refrigerator, where they lasted only until the boys got home from school and went scrounging for after-school snacks. Poor little berries, they didn't stand a chance against my two growing boys who love strawberries at least as much as candy and almost as much as I. I think I managed to grab one or two before the feeding frenzy was over and the container was empty.

Who needs shortcake and whipped cream when just the simple sweetness of a whole strawberry will do? And how long are they in season anyway? I'm doubtful we'll find them now that the fall pumpkin parade is on display...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Writer Boy

Third Grade is a big deal to me. It is the first year that I remember very well. I remember the school, my friends, my clothes, and major events like the total eclipse of the sun, and my Grandfather's passing. It was also the year I discovered writing... the ability to arrange words in an order of your choosing to create a story or a poem and provoke a response in the reader. That was the year I declared I would be a writer when I grew up. And if you define writer as someone who earns money from the written word, then I grew up to become one. So it's just somehow stuck in my brain that this is the year that somehow counts more than all the years before.

So far the year has gone well. Nathan's teacher is the only male at the school, and I was delighted my son was assigned to his class. I was even more thrilled when I found out that our district started a writing program last year that really pushes the 4th and 5th graders toward developing writing skills, and the 3rd grade spends the year preparing the students for the program. It takes the kids away from a reporting style, "I saw a red truck. The truck was going fast. It made a lot of wind," and pushes them toward more interesting phrasing, "My hat flew off in the wake of the red streak of a speeding truck."

The homework has been fun for Nathan. He's been coming up with sentences that show rather than tell, "The boy's head sunk to the desk and a low moan escaped his lips after reading the next assignment," instead of, "The boy didn't like the next assignment." I think this style of writing fits his dramatic personality perfectly!

We read some of his stories at Back to School Night, and both Michael and I were laughing out loud at the crazy situations his characters (always Nat and his little brother Ben) get into, and the outrageous ways they get themselves out of it, using teamwork and creativity. All the stories were clever and humorous, and a little bit violent. All I can say is that I'm grateful it's coming out on the page and not in real life!

On Monday, Nathan came skipping out of school and even did a little leap when he saw me. He told me that he'd been presented an award at the school-wide assembly that morning which honored his story writing skills! I was so proud that I promptly burst into tears. The award came with a free dinner at TGIFridays which we'll have to enjoy during a week when Michael isn't working round the clock. Nathan said he was a little embarrassed that he got the award in front of the whole school, but I told him that being creative is a highly enviable talent, one he should be proud of. Life is just easier when you're creative... there's always a way around the seemingly impenetrable road block if you just think in a creative manner. He agreed and rattled off a few ways being creative can solve common challenges.

There are few things more satisfying in life than seeing your offspring recognized for their strengths by someone other than you. I don't know if Nathan is going to remember this day for the rest of his life, but I know I will!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


There are some families who gift the kids with new pajamas each year for Christmas. We're not one of them. Instead, I thought we could be the family that gifts the kids with new pajamas to celebrate the first day of school. With flannel on sale at rock bottom prices at the fabric store, I couldn't resist picking up a skateboard print for Benjamin and some guitars with flames for Nathan.

They only took about an hour to make, start to finish, and were a big hit. Who says you can't sew for little boys? We'll see if this is a tradition that catches on come next Fall!

Friday, September 18, 2009


Every weekday at precisely 1:30 p.m. I get this mysterious feeling in my chest of restlessness and intense longing. I distract myself with busywork- cleaning the kitchen, balancing the checkbook, pulling weeds. And then, at 3:12 p.m. I greet my boys at the school yard gate and the feeling evaporates when they take my hand and tell me of their adventurous day at school.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Now it's time to say goodbye...

For the last several years we've gone to Disneyland on the last day of summer vacation. The Park is always empty since the schools in both Anaheim and Los Angeles have already started, and it's just our little district that is late to start. We head for home in the late afternoon in time to see the classroom assignments posted at 5:00 p.m. on the school gate. This year I had the pleasure of bringing my friend Cassi's son, Jake, who also has a Disneyland Annual Passport. It was fun to bring along a friend for my boys to play with.For our very last ride we went on the Grizzly River Run, a whitewater rafting attraction. Normally I despise water rides and make Michael take the kids. There is just nothing worse than spending the day walking around in wet clothes! But since it was the last ride of summer, and because poor Michael was working instead of playing with us at Disneyland, I gave in to the three pleading boys. We made it through most of the river with just a few sprinkles. And then as we rounded toward the very end of the ride, our raft went over a huge geyser that shot up in the air and then poured down on us for about 20 seconds. To put it bluntly, we got hosed! The boys were thrilled. I was not! We waddled and dripped our way out to the car and back home in time to find out who the boys got for teachers and then put them to bed nice and early.
What a great way to bid farewell to Summer Vacation! Thanks for coming along with us, Jake!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Good Bye Summer

We did one last trip to the beach on Labor Day, along with tons of other people. Perfect weather and perfect company.
Then we went for ice cream.
Which the boys seemed to wear more than they actually consumed!

Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Michael!

Normally Michael's birthday falls on Labor Day weekend and we take advantage of the three day weekend to head out of town to celebrate. This year his birthday was smack in the middle of the week and we needed to use the three day weekend to do more work on the house. So poor Mike had to spend his birthday working, where people in the office made some fun birthday decorations featuring his lovely face. Then he met the boys and I at Disneyland so he could take advantage of getting his free "Fun Card" as part of this year's promotion of getting in free on your birthday. If you already get in for free because you have a season pass, then Disney gifts you with a Fun Card in the dollar amount of a one day pass into Disneyland. They just raised prices, so it's no small gift on Disney's part!

We rode on the Indiana Jones Attraction (it was Daddy's choice) and then we ate at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. We only go there about once a year, and every time we do, Mike asks if he can get the chocolate Volcano. I always say no, because it's so huge for one person (I can't eat chocolate, it gives me miserable migraines). Well that and the fact that it costs a fortune! But this time we ordered it and Michael and the boys ate about half of it, taking the rest home to eat later.

Happy Birthday, Daddy! We love you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Peach fuzz

Benjamin decided he was old enough to start shaving and attempted to remove the invisible offending hairs off his chin using Mom's razor. Of course, we didn't catch what he'd done until the afternoon when it had formed a little scab. I totally thought he'd fallen! The crazy thing is that I thought we were past the stage where all sharp objects have to be locked up and out of reach! This seems like something they should have tried to do as toddlers! Oh well. The razor is now totally out of sight and Ben is counting down the days (make that years, Baby!) until he can start shaving in earnest. I'm so not ready!

He's still my baby faced Benjamin boy, with clear skin and a toothless smile. Just give me awhile longer to hold onto that image...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Smokey Sunday

Other parts of the U.S. can count on a yearly hurricane or tornado which sweeps through, leaving disaster in its wake. In California we have earthquakes and wildfires. Right now we've got quite a few fires up and down the state, and yesterday two firemen were killed north of Los Angeles when their truck rolled down a fiery hillside. Many homes have been destroyed and thousands of acres of land are charred and smoking after being roasted by flames.
This week the Palos Verdes Peninsula caught fire on the hill above our town. We stood outside on the lawn after dark, watching the line of flames light up the night sky. The next day the area north of downtown Los Angeles caught fire. Of course, we've had quite a chilly summer, lots of "three outfit days" where you wake up and put on jeans and a sweater, change to shorts and a tee in the warm afternoon, and then throw on a jacket in the cool evening. But summer eventually comes to the South Bay in September and early October, just when the local department stores start stocking parkas and woolly socks. It's ironic that when the beach weather finally comes, there are no bathing suits to be found! Of course, the fires started right as our So Cal summer roared in with high temps and low humidity- the perfect combination for massive destruction through fire.

Yesterday we drove through downtown L.A. (barely visible in the photo above), which looked wickedly smoggy but was actually just sooty from the fires. In the afternoon we decided to drive to Orange County and hit up the rides at Disneyland. The OC was HOT, but Disneyland was empty and we didn't wait to board any rides.

Of course, we had to stop by and check out the progress on the work Michael is doing at Disney's California Adventure - a huge show called World of Color that is going into the giant lagoon (currently drained) in the middle of the Park. They put in a visitor's center where you can see elements from the show through artist's renderings and video clips. There was no mention anywhere of the specific key element that Michael is working on, which led us to wonder if it's a secret. And so just in case it is, I won't mention it! The show opens in Spring of 2010, and I can't wait!

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