Saturday, May 30, 2009

Up


Go see this movie! Splurge and see it in 3-D! Kids will love it! Adults will love it! Even adults without kids will love it! We just got back and I'm carefully rearranging my list of favorite Disney and Disney-Pixar films to fit this one up at the top. Plus, there was a trailer for the Toy Story 3 movie, coming out in June 2010. Quick, I know it's late, but it's a Friday night and they have late shows... go grab the kids and get to the theater to see Up!

Might as well laugh

Although melancholy by nature, I do love to laugh. More than anything. I love to be around people who make me laugh. I love to point out the obscure things that pop up in our daily lives that are worthy of a good giggle. I love to make my kids laugh. A recording of Ben laughing is the ring tone on my cell phone. And I love that my boys regularly do things that make me laugh, every single day.

As we work on getting my new computer hard drive up and running, there are all these little quirky things that keep happening. And my dear husband has given up quite a lot of sleep to get these quirks straightened out. I'm flexible and trying to roll with it so I can get my work done and just jot down the weird things that pop up to be dealt with later.

The most noticeable thing is how my email seems to have taken on a mind of its own. I have four work email addresses, three personal ones, and one junk mail address. In a single day I get around 50 to 60 emails in total, which I think is somewhat manageable. But during the downtime while the computer was at the doctor, I accumulated 175 emails. Once I had access to them, I deleted most and dealt with the rest. But here is where the quirky part comes in: every time I log back into Outlook (my email program) these same 175 emails come zooming right back into their various in boxes! All fresh and happy to greet me with their bright bold Unread status. Sometimes I go through and delete them, and sometimes I just let them sit and wait for their duplicates to come on in and get deleted all at once.

Several times a day I hear that lovely little ding that indicates I have email... and look to find those same emails, coming round again! Mike did some voo-doo magic and fixed the problem so that it stopped... for about 24 hours. And today, mid-day, it started back up again. I wanted to be frustrated, but I couldn't help letting out a little laugh... Why hello there all my old friends! You are back again! What's this? There is a sale on at Old Navy? And my friend Doyle has been released from the hospital? Well this is all very great news! Except the excitement is sort of wearing off after the thirty-seven other times you brought me this same news, today alone! And although you are kindly reminding me to pay that water bill, the joke is on you! I already paid it! Ha-ha! Ho-ho!

Through a conversation using the wonders of instant messaging, I let Mike know that the flood gates had opened and once again those same 175 emails were back on the march through the ether and into my in boxes. I lamented the fact that none of them (None! Not even one!) were emails of the personal sort... the kind that say "Hey there Heather! How are you? Gosh I was just thinking of you and wanted to say howdy because that's the kind of great friend I am!" I thought that if there was an email like that, it would make the other 174 emails easier to wade through and delete, yet again.

A few minutes later, Outlook buzzed to life and in came the parade of emails again, followed by that happy little ding. But wait! What is this? An email from my husband! Sent to every single one of my addresses! Saying the exact same thing! "Hey there Heather! How are you? Gosh I was just thinking of you and wanted to say howdy because that's the kind of great husband I am!" I was delighted and started laughing, because it was sweet and I needed to let out some of that building tension from the constant deleting and searching for the one email I need amongst the hundreds I don't.

And then Michael's email came in a few more times! And brought with 175 of its closest friends like Old Navy, Doyle, and Mr. Water Bill! Oh the joy! The irony! The sick and twisted random firing of emails through the atmosphere bringing me to my knees desperately calling out for mercy! I started laughing. And then I laughed louder. I laughed so loud and so hard that tears started streaming down my face. This drew Benjamin to my side, who sweetly asked why I was crying. No Ben! Not crying! I'm laughing! Because if I don't laugh, I will cry for real!

Ben walked away, hands on his hips, shaking his head at his silly mom who clearly doesn't know anything about anything. And now that I've wiped away the tears, I will have to walk away, too, and leave this mystery to Mike!

***When I was a kid, I loved this scene from Mary Poppins... I thought that surely if I laughed hard enough, I too would be able to soar up and take tea on the ceiling!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Technical Difficulty


Wow! On top of an already busy month, my computer hard drive gave up on me, causing a small amount of panic. Do not fret, it appears that all data was recovered and my techie husband was able to get it all back on the new shiny new hard drive now safely residing inside my computer.

But just in case that wasn't enough drama (can you really ever have enough drama? I'm from the school of thought that says no), Michael's work laptop also did a little funky dance of its own. Thankfully it was under warranty and he was shipped a brand new laptop. Which sounds nice at first, but you have to know Mike makes his computers do a ton of stuff, just short of jumping through rings of real fire. So to get it set up how he needs it to be means putting in some serious hours.

Just for the added fun, and by "fun" I mean "temporary torture while Heather figures out how to work this thing", we also went and got a network back up thingy (oooh! So technical!) that is constantly backing up all our computers so that the hard drive suicide we experienced a week ago doesn't necessarily cause hours of fretting and tears ever again. We have an external hard drive that we manually used to back things up, but that only helps if you remember to back things up! And the last time we did that was January. We've still got some work ahead of us as Mike continues to work on his laptops, and then the next big surprise for the kids will arrive on Friday... a computer of their own we got for a song! We'll need to put it in full parental lock down, but I'll be happy to not have to share my primary computer with them.

I remember when we got our first computer growing up... a Commodore 64 (shown above) which the entire family used. The thought of a household having more than one computer seemed incomprehensible. The thought of a five year old having his own computer was beyond incomprehensible, right into laughable! And now we have between six and eight computers in our house alone (on various parts of the working spectrum) for a family of four. I love, love, LOVE living right here, right now, in this moment in history. Life is good. And I have sooo much to update you on! We've had some fun adventures since we spoke last! So keep an eye out - it's coming!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Gap

Over the weekend we went on a road trip to Northern California. A great time was had by all, but especially the boys because they got to swim in the hotel pool. While splashing about, Benjamin smacked his mouth on the metal handrail. I heard it, then I saw his hand go to his mouth and come away with a small white pearly tooth. He shook the tooth off his hand, into the water, while his mouth filled with blood. I left Ben to Daddy and took off after that tooth. It was a front, top, baby tooth, and unfortunately, it was the absolutely least wiggly one of all. Oh well. When Nathan lost his two top front teeth, the enormous grown up permanent teeth were fully in place within 7 days. I have exactly two photos of him without his front teeth! I don't think we'll be seeing Ben's grown up tooth there any time soon, there's nothing but gum!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nate the Great

On Monday Nathan was honored at the all-school assembly with a special award for "Outstanding Artist and Creativity". He was bursting with pride when I picked him up from school, pulling out his certificate and prize (dinner at the Lazy Dog Cafe). I was so proud of him!

All year I've watched as other kids were recognized for things like "Outstanding Citizenship," "Perfect Attendance," and "Top Math Scores," and I'm confident that one day we'll see Benjamin up there getting one of those. But I've always felt a little twinge inside when I thought of our first born being left out of that circle, as Nathan is an intelligent kid, but not a stellar student in the traditional sense. He was once the recipient of a hand-me-down tee that said "I tried to be good but I got bored"... it was the perfect description of Nathan (when he grew out of it I gave it away as it doesn't suit Benjamin's personality at all). He's a quick study with an amazing grasp of how things work, and more interested in putting his knowledge to work rather than to sit and be lectured or tested on it. And once his interest has moved on, it's really difficult to get him back in review mode.

I once emptied Nathan's backpack of math tests that were filled with amazing sketches and thought I wish there was an award for "Best Doodles on the Back of Math Tests" award. So for him to be recognized in front of the entire school for what is obviously his biggest strength is no small thing. During those long months of pregnancy Michael and I would dream about the future for this long awaited child, and our hopes and dreams for him always revolved around living a creative life. How blessed we are to see those hopes and dreams flourishing in this way! Way to go, Nathan!

Friday, May 15, 2009

May Madness

I don't know why, but the month of May is always our busiest. A quick peek at our last four years of giant wall calenders confirms that it isn't just this particular May where we are double and even -gasp!- triple booked for several events and appointments. For whatever reason, this one just feels even more unusually packed.

It's not all drudgery and doctor appointments, we've got plenty of fun packed in, like back-to-back road trip weekends and show tickets every week, and random house guests here and there. But there is just no blank white space for chilling out! So I'm grabbing it where I can, which is generally really, really late at night! At some point I'll get back to the blog and fill in all the details of our crazy fun month, but not right now! There are people to pick up from the airport right now! So check back soon! In the meantime, we are packing up the car and getting ready to hit the road! Woo-hoo!

Monday, May 11, 2009

To My Mom

I love you.

Thank you for everything you've done, I wouldn't be me without you!

You are the best Mom ever!

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

What a perfect Mother's Day! I was showered with so much love!
Roses, chosen by Benjamin!
Handmade card from Nathan!

Handmade card from Benjamin!
Crafty goodness!
A trip to Barnes and Noble, by myself!
BBQ beef ribs made by master griller Mike (and he cleaned all the dishes too)!
Cake! My favorite!The annual photo of Mom with the boys!
And a nap, curled up on our bed while the boys were being exceptionally quiet!
There is no greater day than this!
Hope your Mother's Day was especially special!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Tea

Every year Mrs. Kajikawa puts on a Mother's Day Tea hosted by the Kindergartners in her class. I was thrilled to participate back in 2007 when Nathan was a Kinder, and even more excited this year. None of the other seven kindergarten classes do anything like this. It takes a ton of work. The children learn good manners, and seat their moms as they enter, serve her tea and cookies, present her with gifts and cards, and then perform six songs and a couple of poems. My heart was fluttery at how earnestly the children attempted to be on their best behavior and sing their hearts out.

They also do a couple of special projects. First, the kids do some special art which is sent out and put on a plate. The second is a portrait of Mom, painted by the student. The kids get to mix the paint to the appropriate skin color, hair color, and choose a color for Mom's shirt and any embellishment, like a necklace. I've had Nathan's plate hanging in my kitchen the last two years, and we framed his portrait of me which hangs in our hallway. Both years the boys were very particular about mixing the exact right shade of rusty orange hair, making Mrs. K continue adding orange or yellow until it matched. I find it funny because between Nathan's kindergarten year and Ben's, I've changed my hair color three times, coming back to the current rusty shade I sported in 2007.

It was a wonderful event which all the moms enjoyed!


The kids singing. Ben is in the blue and white striped polo shirt. You can see all the portraits on the wall behind the kids.


Here is Ben's portrait of me. He chose a green shirt for me since that is my favorite color. And he created a jeweled necklace that I seem to like wearing around my chin.

Here is Nathan's portrait of me that hangs in our hallway. He also chose a green shirt. They know me and my love of all things green pretty well!
Here is the plate that Benjamin made for me. They had to draw on a special type of paper which was then mailed out to a company where it's transferred onto the plates. I was a little shocked when I saw this, thinking that Ben thought I was really, um... wide. But no, Benjamin explained, the green expanse behind me is simply my cape. It's what all the Super Moms are wearing this season.

Here is Nathan's plate, a little faded after two years. His handwriting has not really improved during this time. And in Kindergarten he absolutely hated to draw or color. He complained heartily whenever he had to do it (which was every single day). Something changed in first grade and now that he's in second, his drawing skills are off the chart and he fills notebook after notebook with his sketches and doodles.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Three Years

36 months.


156 weeks.


1,095 days.


26,280 hours.


1,576,800 minutes.


94,608,000 seconds.


Half of Benjamin's life.


The longest we have ever lived anywhere.


What a record for us, the people who pride ourselves on being nomads.


Our neighbor, who believes us to be the best neighbors on Earth despite our wily kids who constantly throw balls over her fence, play loudly in the back yard, and ride their scooters in her driveway, bought us an ice cream cake to mark this incredible milestone.

Wow! Now what???

Friday, May 8, 2009

George Lucas

The big report for second graders is the "Someone Famous" report. It involves finding three resources and taking notes which are used to create a written report, a detailed visual report, and finally an oral report where the students dress up as their famous person and give the report as that person.
Nathan chose George Lucas. This ended up being an inspired choice as the parallels between George's childhood and Nathan's (so far) are quite pronounced. Both love comic books. George's dad actually had to build a shed to contain his collection! Both were intelligent but lackluster students, with wild imaginations. And both are creative but with a definite flair for technology.
Today we all got up early to begin the transformation of Nathan as a eight year old boy into George, a 65 year old man. Nathan was most excited about the fact that he got to wear a real beard and mustache, applied with spirit gum. I also added some silver and grey hair color and did my best to turn his baby fine stick straight hair into a full head of big curls. It brought back memories of college and all the classes on hair and makeup and prosthetics. Nathan loved how it turned out! For his costume, I found a retro original Star Wars tee shirt and a 90's suit for a whopping $3.05 at the local Salvation Army thrift store. Glad that was cheap, as the human hair beard and mustache weren't!
We all got to school where Nathan was treated like a rock star and his classmates asked for his autograph. And then one astute student pointed out that the oral presentations are next week, not this week. Oh NO! The school bell rang and his teacher walked over, to find me with my head buried in my hands, and poor Nathan with his arms crossed and head down. I have to say she handled my king-sized mix up with ease, excitedly telling the class (who were snickering at Nathan and the mix-up) that George Lucas was a special visitor this week instead of next.
He started out shaky but came in strong. The best part was after the prepared speech was over and his classmates got to ask "George" questions. He answered them like a pro! All those weeks of study paid off! Go Nathan! And now next week he'll be cruising on easy street while his classmates fret over having to do their reports.
What a week. I don't think I can handle any more excitement!

Applying the beard and mustache.

Ben had to try it on, too.

Nathan the celebrity.

Giving the report.
Answering questions as George.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lock Down

Since becoming a parent I cannot watch television or films where there are children in any type of danger. I can't handle injustice towards kids to be used as "entertainment." I can't even handle the news when they report a child abduction or other crime against a young person. There's this fierce, protective part of me that never surfaced until I was responsible for protecting children of my own. But what happens when there is no way you can protect them?

We live very close to our boys' school, right around the corner. If we climb over our back wall and walk through our back neighbor's yard, we'd be in front of the kindergarten playground. Being this close, we hear the school bell ringing throughout the day. Today was hot, and I was expecting our new oven to be delivered so I was waiting at home with every window and door flung wide open. Close to 11:30 a.m., I heard the school's fire alarm bell ringing. They have regular fire drills, so it's not unusual to hear it ring for about 10 seconds. Today, however, the bell continued to ring for nearly two minutes. Odd, I thought, and then continued doing household work. A bit later I heard police sirens, which made me glance at the clock and note that it was lunch recess time. It's pretty quiet for recess, I thought. And then I heard a helicopter, which sounded quite low for this area. I looked out the back door to see a police helicopter circling from the school over our backyard and back to the school. And then, quite predictably, I completely freaked out.
I sent Mike a text and rang my Mom saying I was going to the school and didn't know what I'd find and to please say a little prayer. I drove around the block and saw the giant school yard filled with balls and jump ropes, but totally empty of children. I pulled up along side a police officer and asked what was going on. He tersely advised me to go back home and lock the doors and windows, but that is all I could get out of him. I rang the school and was simply told the school was on a lock down... all students were in their classrooms with the doors locked and no one was allowed to come onto the campus or to leave the campus, but no other details. By then I was furiously texting Michael gibberish as my hands were shaking, and when he stepped out of a meeting to call me I was nearly hysterical on the phone. He hurried home, calling Torrance PD on his way and was told there had been a burglary in the neighborhood and the suspect had fled near the school. Precautions had been taken to assure that the children were safe by locking them into their classrooms. Mike relayed this info to me and I calmed down a bit but continued to pace back and forth at our back door, watching the helicopter circle around and around.

To be so close but to not be able to get my hands on my offspring, however safe they might have been, was the worst kind of torture. Michael tried distracting me with details of an upcoming project, but I only half listened, my ear tuned to any sounds coming from school's direction.

Finally the helicopter flew away. Michael called the school to find the kids had still not been released. Without the sound of the helicopter, every little sound in the neighborhood set me on edge. Five minutes before 2:00 p.m., we heard the long "all clear" bell rang. We called the school and were told we could get the kids.

The kids were puzzled as to why both Mom and Dad were there to pick them up, but we tried to play it cool and keep big smiles on our faces. They were excited to tell us how they'd had a "shelter in place" drill! Only it hadn't been a drill! And they'd had to stay in their classrooms! And eat their lunches there! And they got to watch movies!

Later I heard from some of the moms who were there to work in the classrooms and weren't allowed to leave, how the classrooms without attached bathrooms had to set up emergency port-a-potties in a corner of the classroom, and how the emergency kits we send at the beginning of the year had to be raided as the cafeteria couldn't deliver the hot lunches to the students who'd ordered them. All reports were that the students were hot and wiggly from being cooped up, but everyone was calm.

I have so much to be grateful for tonight. That all 900 students, staff, and parent volunteers were safe. That there was no tragic end to this story, for the police or the suspect. That I have a husband who will drop everything to be at my side when I'm in distress. That my Mom is always a calming force when I call her hysterically crying any time night or day. That my boys perceived this to be a "fun" experience. And that right now they are both safe and sound and softly snoring in their beds, resting up to face another day where just about anything can happen, good or bad. I'm just glad this one is over!

Happy children, perplexed over why both parents came to pick them up...

Walking home, telling stories of eating lunch in their classroom...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lucas Grabeel

Okay, so this really doesn't have too much to do with my kids, but here it is anyway. I'm a huge fan of Disney's High School Musical movies. I'm a huge fan of musicals in general!
I've been a theater junkie since age 5 when my parents took me to see Peter Pan starring Sandy Duncan at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. We sat in the back row in the highest balcony as far from the stage as you can get without being outside, but the magic pixie dust of live entertainment still made it's way up to my seat. I was smitten. More than smitten, I was obsessed. I can recall that matinee show with perfect clarity, including the intermission when I looked up at a bored usher and told her I wanted her job when I grew up so I could be around the theater all the time!
My parents saw this love of theater blossoming within me, and despite several lean years, they always managed to find money to take me and my little brother to see professional theater, most often at the Glendale Centre Theatre in Glendale, CA. Bit by the acting bug for awhile, I did several shows in Jr. High. And then the first day of high school, my family moved to a rural community. I had a choice between two high schools. One held their drama productions in the cafeteria. The other, in a California State Historical Landmark theater built in the 20's. You can guess which one I chose! Of course, it was there that I discovered something better than acting... stage managing, directing, and finally playwriting. I left small town life to go back to Los Angeles for college, where I majored in theater and met someone who loved theater as much as I, my husband Michael. Together we have our own production company that does project management for all forms of live entertainment. Every day I realize more and more how unusual it is to fall in love with something at age five and then get to be doing that very thing for a living, three decades later!
Of course, once the kids came along we introduced them both to the theater early and often. They are frequently wild and unruly boys full of energy to spare, but never in a theater. They sit quietly, laugh and clap during appropriate moments, and are very respectful of all the people around us (who always comment on how well behaved they are). But best of all, they are as enchanted by the stage as we are. So when the three High School Musical movies came along, the entire family gathered round to watch them and enjoy them. They are light and fun, with just the right amount of drama and the bratty teens gently get what they deserve in the end, just in time for a big closing musical number. What's not to love? The best thing is how the movies created a cultural movement for teens and tweens to start seeing and performing musical theater! I'll advocate anything that expands this particular art form!
Most girls who see the movie promptly fall in love with the lead character of Troy Bolton, played by Zac Efron (currently on the big screen in 17 Again). But not me. I think the singing, dancing, acting, and plaid sweater-vest wearing Ryan Evans, played by Lucas Grabeel, steals every scene he's in. He's totally my favorite, as embarrassing as it may be to even have a favorite from the HSM movies when you are a woman in your 30's.
My amazing husband knows Lucas is my favorite, and he indulged me by managing to score some great seats for the preview of the musical The Fantasticks, starring Lucas Grabeel, playing at the Freud Playhouse at UCLA through May 17th (tickets available here). The show was directed by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame, and also starred Eric McCormack from TV's Will and Grace. And it was truly fantastic! But the best part was after the show when I mustered way more courage than I felt and walked up to Lucas and had a little chat with him. Of course, with my nearly transparent pale skin prone to blushing, I immediately turned a deep shade of purple for this lovely conversation! And then my wonderful husband snapped our photo and off I floated to the car, feeling as starstruck as my teenage friends who saw the photo on Facebook and declared me to be the luckiest girl in the world.

And I am. In more ways than one!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Free Comic Book Day

When Michael and I married and moved in together, he brought with him dozens of crates filled with his substantial comic book collection. It's art, it's literature, he said, when I raised my brow at the sheer amount of books he'd amassed in high school. At one point in our early years, Mike took a big chunk of those comic books and sold them to a comic book store. He came home with a giant wad of cash. This really surprised me! He saved several crates of his favorites to share with our future children.
Last year, Michael started reading to the boys from his collection, starting with old X-Men comics, which they loved, and then followed it up with some Spiderman. Nathan loved it so much he started making his own comics.
Today Michael took the boys to a special yearly event called Free Comic Book Day. Participating comic book stores give away copies of books to everyone who comes into their store. Mike mapped out four stores in our area and took the boys to all of them, taking advantage of the different titles offered at each one. At the first store, The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, the boys got some original sketches done by a comic book artist.
Nathan told him about his own art and the way he draws characters and then makes them into three dimensional figures that transform into something else. They chatted back and forth about ideas of what he could do with these figures, like creating a line of toys. Here are the drawings the boys got (Optimus Prime and R2-D2).

There were people in costume at most of the comic book stores. Michael and I went out to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine last night, and there were people in costume there, too. Gotta love L.A.! Here's Wolverine and Iron Man along with Benjamin and Nathan.

A couple of the stores had some pretty long lines. Here you see some Mormon missionaries who may or may not have been trying to convert Batman and Robin, but they did get some free comic books after waiting for an hour!

Ben was a little unsure of Batman and Robin, and opted not to jump into this photo. I can't really blame him!


And here I thought I'd toss this in. It's Nathan, age 4 1/2, wearing his Robin costume in Hong Kong. Oh, and a Mrs. Incredible Band-aid to cover the stitches on his forehead.

All in all, it was a great day for all three of the boys! Nathan rated it "Best Day Ever", and Benjamin was too busy reading his Disney Cars comic book to tell me what he thought!