Sunday, June 28, 2009

Home Delivery

Specifically at my sister-in-law Holly's request, I added a little widget on the left side of the blog where you can now subscribe to Boy Wonder via email. This is helpful if you don't normally view this via a reader (or if you don't even know what that means) and if you keep losing the link to the blog (Grandma Chase). Happy reading!

Backyard Camping

Michael pitched his new Father's Day tent in the back yard, teaching the boys how to do it as he went. They lounged around in it all day, and then carefully took it down and packed it away. Next weekend, they will pitch it again in the backyard and actually spend the night! Not me though. I'll be inside the house, finding something to do... perhaps catching up on some blogging for instance...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Father-Son Outing

Michael took Nathan to the sea cliffs on the Palos Verdes Peninsula for some father-son alone time, while I rearranged all the living room furniture in his absence.
Nathan climbed all over the rocks, making Mike take photos of all the trash that had been left behind (for a future environmental art project perhaps?). Nathan came back dirty, wet, and bleeding, which easily means this outing rated a 10 out of 10 on the Excellent Boy Adventure Scale.
Remnants of a mattress, left to rot at the seashore.
Nathan lounging in a rusty patio chair, clutching a plastic hanger and a feather, the Goodyear Blimp traveling the sky above the shoreline in the distance.
Not just a rusty patio chair... an entire recliner!
Something that was possibly useful in another life...

Yes, he's up to date on the tetanus shots...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A vision of the future...

In seven and a half years, my oldest child will be on the road. Oh my. Hopefully he isn't a "Goofy" driver! Ben is posing for the camera, looking all sweet and innocent, but he's the one who recently told me that he would like to be a dare-devil when he grows up. I believe him!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

13 Lucky Years

On June 22, 1996, Michael and I became husband and wife at the Los Angeles Police Academy in Downtown L.A.
Smack in the middle of the busy city, across from Dodger Stadium (and right next to a shooting range, insert your own joke here) is a gorgeous rock garden with a waterfall surrounded by evergreens behind the Academy Clubhouse. It's a tranquil place which honored my Father who retired from the LAPD when I was a young girl. I remember playing in the rock garden when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade late one night after a Dodger game. When I saw it again after being newly engaged, I knew it was the perfect place for our wedding.

This is my favorite photo from that magical day, right after we turned around and the chaplain (whose head you can see behind mine) introduced us for the first time as "Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Heather Chase." Michael is beaming and I am crying and there is so much love and hope and dreams of our future wrapped up in this quick and candid shot.

My bouquet is in honor of my name, with Heather blossoms for my first name, Queen Anne's Lace for my middle name of Ann, and lots of Roses for my last name (which I still have, I simply added a hyphen and Chase onto the end of it).

I designed my dress after a French gown from the 1700's. (The book I used as a reference is one of the ones I never returned to the library which has accrued 15 years worth of late fees they won't forgive!). My amazing Mom sewed the dress, much to every one's amazement, even her own! My whole life she told me she would make my dress if I gave her twelve months to do it, and I gave her a bonus six months by having an 18-month engagement! She said she never really thought I'd ask her to do it! I didn't make it easy on her because there was no off-the-shelf pattern she could use that fit my design. The end result was beyond my expectations, and I still love it today (which not all brides can claim thirteen years after the fact).

My veil is the same one my Mom wore for her wedding, which she had made for her on a trip to Austria in the 1960's. I had a very specific idea for my headpiece and searched in vain high and low up and down the state of California to find what I wanted (this was before the Internet put the world at your fingers) so I finally made it myself. A few years later, tiara-style headpieces became the trend and you could find them everywhere! I looked like a princess, but even more importantly, I felt like royalty, right out of a fairytale.

This year we celebrated our 13th anniversary for the second time. My poor math skills are legendary, but you would think I could at least count! At some point around our 11th anniversary, we got it in our heads (and Mike's mom got it on her calendar) that our next anniversary was our 13th. I think it had to do with the fact that by our 11th year of marriage we had moved 13 times... somehow we had "13" on the brain. So last year, we made a bunch of jokes about how our marriage was now a "teenager." And then this year, a few days before what we thought was our 14th anniversary, Michael looked at his trusty Palm PDA and realized that if this year is an odd year, and the year we got married was an even year, there is no way we could be celebrating 14 years of wedded bliss.

He called me over and broke the news to me gently... I was devastated! I felt like I'd lost an entire year of my life! Not to mention I was now a total liar! Our marriage was a sham! It was like running a marathon and being told after you'd already finished mile 13 that you hadn't really run it at all and they were moving the finish line another mile away! Fourteen years sounds so much more respectable than thirteen years! For at least an hour, I lamented over our "lost" year of marriage. Michael, reminding me of why I fell in love with him in the first place, stayed calm and reassuring, holding my hand while I rapidly cycled through the seven stages of grief over this horrible gaffe (it should come as no surprise as to where Nathan gets his high strung personality!). After I calmed down, we decided to stick with our original plans of going out for dinner at The Grove LA, where we saw three paparazzi but no celebrities. Other than ourselves of course... because we were seeing stars (and hearts and fireworks) as we gazed into one another's eyes throughout dinner. Ah! Young love! Happy Anniversary to my Dearest! We are doubly lucky to celebrate thirteen years twice!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to Michael, who makes it look so easy to be a great Dad! How blessed we are that you belong to us!

Michael on the day he became a Daddy, holding brand new baby Nathan and already looking like a pro!
Father's Day, 2003, right before Michael became a Daddy to two boys! I love this photo! I emailed it out to everyone with the subject "Michael and his two boys" and everyone thought Ben had been delivered early! No, we just had a creative photographer for this Father's Day Portrait!

Michael, holding Benjamin two days before Ben's heart surgery.

For his big Father's Day gift, the boys got Michael a new tent and air mattress, which we cleverly "wrapped" by putting it in one of the boys play tents from Ikea. Yes, there are two tents in the photo below, I returned the smaller one since I didn't know which size he'd prefer... I'm not a camper myself! This is for Daddy and his boys!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Last Day of School

Oh the long awaited last day of school is finally here! What will we find? Children, bounding out of bed, ready to greet the day?

No! They were total slug-a-beds (oh I love Shakespeare, he had such a way with words!) and refused to get moving. This photo was taken about 30 minutes before they were supposed to be at school! They refused to get up! They dragged their feet down the sidewalk, miserable...
Here is Nathan, a final photo with his very patient teacher, Ms. Nagaoka. She will be teaching 4th grade next year.
Here are both boys with Mrs. Kajikawa, who they both had for Kindergarten. It was announced today that she is retiring after 24 years of teaching, 15 years at this school. She made Nathan bend over for the photo because he is nearly as tall as she is!

We walked home, and again they were just miserable, dragging their feet and moping. Not at all how you would expect a kid to be on the last day of school when summer vacation has arrived! I had to take a photo similar to one on the first day of school, only there were no smiles to be found. Yes, I made them wear the same shirts they wore in September (thanks again Mom!).
Hmmm, what to do when your children are NOT giddy with excitement and joy when school has finally ended for the year? Oh! I know! Let's go to Disneyland!

Much, much better all around!

Three cheers for Summer Vacation!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

'Twas the night before

the last day of school, and both boys were invited to play at a friend's house until 8:00 p.m.

Faced with such a giant block of time without children (perhaps the last time until September), I made the most of it, roaming the aisles of my favorite bookstore, picking up lovely stationery to write thank you letters to their teachers, and meeting up with my husband for dinner at Lucille's, which we only do about once a year because it's just so darn expensive.

At dinner, I was casually chatting with Michael about my plans for the half-day of school tomorrow (to see which teacher needs more help before the hounds are released for the summer at 11:30 a.m.) and completely out of nowhere I burst into loud, long, heart wrenching tears. Tears do not go with tri-tip BBQ dinners! But the more I tried to stop crying, the more relentless the sobs became.

This has been a long year. A difficult, challenging year. It felt a lot like we were on a very steep slide lined with sand paper. The potential for fun and frivolity was there, but there was always a bit of chaffing. We've come such a long way since September when the boys marched off with shiny new back-packs and lunch pails and shoes and hair cuts, brimming with optimism and confidence.

We had huge plans for this school year. Major plans, exciting plans. The kind of plans that kept us up at night, giddy and dizzy at the dazzling path stretching out in front of us. And then with a loud and stunning, whoosh, everything changed. Plans? Ha! Absolutely nothing went as we'd prepared or hoped.

We did not move to Macau, China, despite being packed up and ready to go, new home in place, boys enrolled in their new school with uniforms purchased. Even worse than simply not moving, Michael lost his job and the entire project was shelved. Financial plans for our future had to be completely scrapped. Heck, even simple financial security had to be scrapped! Those were the biggies. There were a dozen smaller things that happened that brought bitter disappointment and major life changes we are still adjusting to. Friendships we believed were deep and lasting abruptly ended, leaving gaping, open wounds. Long-held dreams died. Goals had to be radically shifted. The pain of loss made its shadowy way into our life, reminding us that what is here today might be gone tomorrow. We pulled together tight, close, unbreakable and weathered through as a little family unit. We made a point of only investing ourselves in the top priority of providing a stable foundation for these beautiful boys of ours, while still trying to push them toward independence. It wasn't all bad, but it was all exceedingly difficult.

Sitting there in Lucille's, wiping tears away with a cloth napkin was the acknowledgement that we now end this part of our life, never to get it back. For better or for worse, this school year with all its headaches and challenges, small victories and major setbacks is now over. A fresh start awaits us as a long summer vacation presents itself, full of possibility. Fall will arrive and we'll start again with new teachers, new backpacks, new haircuts and shoes. We'll march down the sidewalk in September, full of optimism and confidence once again, with hope springing up and wisdom born of experience dripping down. And, knowing me, there is no doubt I'll be crying that day, too. It happens.

Now excuse me, I need to alert the tooth fairy to the fact she must make a stop at our house tonight, as a certain almost-six-year-old pulled out wiggly tooth number four all on his own. Hey now, look at me, I'm not even crying!
...sniff-sniff...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Random Moment, 2006

While searching for photos of the boys with flags, I came across this.

What strange kind of game could they have been playing back in 2006 in a friend's backyard that would have required swimsuits, rubber bouncy balls, and Groucho Glasses?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flag Day

In honor of June 14, 1777 when the Second Continental Congress declared this day to be Flag Day in the United States of America, I bring you these photos from 2006 of Nathan and Benjamin and some red, white, and blue.
Those curls! Of the things in life that make me happy, those silky blond baby curls of Benjamin held a firm spot in the top three, while they lasted. And now they are all gone, vanished like those chubby toddler ankles and elbows.
Also, please note that this is one of only two photos I have of Nathan missing his two front teeth. I had grand plans of having a portrait done to mark the occasion, but a mere seven days passed between the loss of his front baby teeth and the remarkably quick replacement of his permanent teeth. Why must he always be in such a hurry to grow up?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Latrodectus hesperus

Today I watered our entire property, front yard, back yard, side yards, and all the planters. My final stop was the Magnolia tree along side our kitchen. And I found a little (big?) friend. Can you see her? Hanging out toward the top of the photo?

I called the boys out to take a look at her, close up. Definitely a girl, she is far larger than the boy Black Widow Spiders that hang out around here.
I expected the boys to scream or be grossed out, which is their typical reaction toward spiders (maybe they've seen how their mom reacts and are trying to replicate her behavior?) but they were actually very calm and almost respectful when confronted with an actual poisonous spider. Black Widows are very common around here, but this was the largest one I've seen, and the first one the boys have seen (because generally I make Daddy get rid of them before the boys see them).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day at The Museum

We took the boys to see Ben Stiller's Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. We all really enjoyed it, mainly because we got to spend ninety minutes laughing our heads off. Museums aren't generally known for their humor, but this movie makes dinosaur bones quite entertaining!
Shortly after, Nathan's class went on a field trip to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. I didn't volunteer to chaperone because all of Nathan's field trips have had more than enough parents to help, plus it fell on my normal day to volunteer in Ben's classroom. Oh the juggling act required when you have more than one child in school! But a few days before the field trip, Nathan's teacher emailed to ask if I'd be up for joining them as she'd only had one volunteer sign up! I read the email to Michael and pondered aloud which choice I should make, and he said he would love to take the day off work and chaperone so that I could still work with Ben's class. It's true, my husband is awesome!
Mr. Chase, Second Grade Chaperone Extraordinaire!
I remember all these life-sized dioramas from my own childhood field trips. I was in awe of their muted beauty, which still shows so many decades later. It looks like Michael took photos of paintings instead of these huge three-dimensional exhibits!

What are they up to, those boys? Trouble, I'm sure!
At the end of the day, one of my Mommy-friends from a different 2nd grade class who also went on the trip rang me up and told me that she was so impressed to see a dad there with the kids. And she just had to mention how she overheard Nathan telling Michael that he was the best dad ever. I would have to agree!

Friday, June 12, 2009

What Michael Does For a Living

It's a tough job. Nose to the grindstone. Not even time to take a lunch break. Might need to put in some extra hours. This is what he tells me anyway. And then I load all his pictures and videos off his camera's SD card, and this is what I find.

Uh-huh. As I suspected. His job is waaaaay more fun than mine!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Benjamin's Park Day

Even though there are six grades at the elementary school, somehow the 2nd grade Park Day and the Kindergarten Park Day ended up right next to each other. So, I pretty much spent the entire week with children, trying to remain peppy and perky despite feeling completely exhausted. Here is Ben's class, with the substitute teacher who will finish the school year out with his class. Ben's original teacher needed to have surgery and won't be coming back before school gets out. She's young and full of energy (but what you don't see is the Starbucks drink she's hiding behind her back)!
How low can you go? It was hilarious trying to teach five and six year olds how to play limbo. They ended up making their own game up as we went along!

Kindergartners and Froot Loops go together like sugar and sweet. Toss in a string and you've got a necklace that doubles as a sticky snack! Yum! (Yuck!)

Donuts on a string that you have to eat without using your hands? Not a challenge for this kid who has gone to greater lengths for a sweet snack!

Whew! So glad these two days are over! So glad I've got a full year to rest up before the next Park Day!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nathan's Park Day

Each school year every grade gets to play hooky from class and spend the day at the park adjoining the school. This is always my very least favorite day of the year (barely organized chaos), but it is always the kids' favorite! The parents organize games and races and some fun with water balloons and then feed the kids what they love most: Pizza!

Here is Nathan's class. This was the "nice" picture. You don't want to see the "crazy" one! Just trust me on that one...

Action shot! What kid doesn't love to hop through a field in a sack?

A boy in his natural habitat, talking with another of his species... I love to watch Nathan from afar as he goes about his day. He's no longer my "little boy," each day he becomes more and more his own person, totally separate from me. It's amazing to stand back and take note as it happens. And it happens so fast!

In case it's been a long time since college and you've forgotten what twenty pizzas look like, I bring you this reminder. Better grab an antacid now...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Daddy Date at Disneyland

Mike snuck the kids out to Disneyland for a special boy's night out, leaving me at home curled up with a good book in our quiet house. Happiness all around!
The main difference between a day at Disneyland with Dad, and one with Mom? Dad allows (encourages!) the kids to get wet!
Hands held high in the air, the only way to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!
Isn't Space Mountain most fun when you get to ride in the front? Fearless space explorers Nathan and Ben sure think so!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Father's Day Paintings

I previously posted photos of the portraits that the boys painted of me, Nathan two years ago in Kindergarten and Ben this year. Thankfully Ben also painted a portrait of Michael and now we have a matched set from both boys to hang across from one another in the hallway. I wonder if Ben chose the blue shirt and the red background because he has walked past Nathan's portrait with the blue shirt and the red background every day for two years? He sure does love to do what ever his big brother does!
Here is Nathan's portrait from Kindergarten (sorry about the reflection, it's behind glass in a frame):
Here is Benjamin's, who was very careful to capture Michael's curly hair:

I find it shocking that they chose black for Michael's hair. It's really a very dark ashy color, and even though it is dark, I always think of Mike as the blond he was as a baby and as when we first met! It's crazy what aging does... or in my case, what a little box of hair color can do!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Father's Day Program

Despite Father's Day not falling until the week after Summer Vacation has already started, Ben's Kindergarten class put on a special event for the Dads. They met the fathers at the door, took them to their seats, served them cola and Crackerjacks, and then treated them to a few songs, complete with hand movements and choreography. After the final song, Let's Go Fly a Kite from Disney's Mary Poppins, the children took the dads outside to fly kites they had made themselves. It was a bit of a blustery day, and several of the kites were lost, including Ben's special creation. Daddy, Ben said with great sorrow, my kite is now in Texas. Poor little guy!