Saturday, June 16, 2007

We Shall Overcome
Maybe we've dreamed too big. No.
Maybe I didn't start working soon enough. Not true.
Perhaps there are days when, simply by coincidence, a lot of things can go wrong. True. Sad, but true. At midnight when Geoff and I were trying to rectify the cake, and after a whole lot of other trouble-shooting, I was tempted to say we were doomed. I am not taking that path. Today's birthday celebration will reflect some of our ambitious efforts, all of our happiness, and will be full of merry making.

School is out! Reminds me of an English class I took as a 5th grader in Guatemala (I was there a month.) The teacher, a woman not opposed to rapping knuckles with the end of a yardstick, was teaching us the seasons in English.

"First is weenter," she pronounced with authority. "Theen it is eh-spring, theen, fall and autumn. Now repeat."

Everyone repeated.

I repeated, but then tentatively I raised my hand, glancing with one eye at her old wooden yardstick standing against her cold metal desk. I asked, "What about summer?"

"Summer ees an American holiday."

And what a holiday it is! Summer solstice is almost a week away, but anyone's summer can begin when school is out, when Coppertone is flowing and grills are glowing, when traffic is beach bound. We cheered aloud when our tires rolled out of the school's parking lot.

But before summer began for our American family, we spent one last day at school, where we celebrated Father's Day with hot dogs and sports. Technically, and literally, I was not supposed to be there. "No moms allowed" read the invitation. Bah! I lurked and I snuck a hot dog and I took lots of pictures. It was nice to end the school year with laughter and last hugs from friends.

How many times have I heard from worn out children, "I hate school." "How many days 'til summer?" "Why can't we just stay home today?" "I don't want to go to school." They didn't utter these phrases every day, but often enough, so I knew they would be thrilled for this golden opportunity to revel in their freedom and recharge their batteries.

Not 1/4 mile from the school Max said, "I don't want school to be over."

Twenty minutes later, he insisted we enroll in computer camp and figure out when he can take math tutoring, and he asked why we had to leave school.

Home, barely recovered from the full day and facing the challenges of preparing for today's party, Max sat with paper and pen and began formulating worksheets for his "School Club." He devised worksheets for Roman numerals, and grammar, and diagramming sentences. While I cooked enchiladas and made salsa he administered math quizzes and tested my knowledge of the parts of language. This is going to be a very long American holiday.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Our Students of The Year

A lot of certificates and awards were passed out at school yesterday. Now I would like to add a few of my own.

This goes to Maria for lasting an entire year of being taken to school, sometimes twice a day, having naps disrupted and having to routinely overcome shyness in a big public arena. Maria should receive a diploma in consideration of time spent at countless school events and volunteering by her mother's side at fundraisers, festivals and carnivals, in the classrooms before, during and after school. She attended field trips, and yesterday she spent 5 hours at school observing closing ceremonies. She was a very good girl.

This goes to an unsung hero at his brothers' school: William. He volunteered more hours than most students. He came to every event and hauled, carried, lifted, hoisted, stepped-up, and offered his help every time. He is my right-hand man, deftly and gently helping me with Maria, and reminding me what needs to be done, then helping get things done. He did all of this willingly, happily and with his usual quiet and modest demeanor.

Max has gone above and beyond our best hopes and expectations, and made the very most of his school year, both in citizenship and scholarship. This is Max's first year in a school and he had a lot to figure out and incorporate in to his life. Under any circumstances his grades, behavior and success would be Gold Star; when I think of the added obstacles he has overcome to achieve his goals, and those of the school's, I am overwhelmed with tremendous pride for this exceptional child.

Alex is noble. He possesses a superior mind, character, ideals and morals. Alex pushed himself to excel in school, in all aspects and without fail he met the highest standards set by his school. He never wavered. His consistent academic drive and self-discipline were an example to us all. The middle school program has not been ideal, a point acknowledged by the school's director at the end of year ceremony, and yet Alex has excelled by his own efforts and strength of character. He deserves our deepest respect and congratulations.

For drama and art class the middle school students presented reports, dance, and art at the end of year ceremony. The theme was "Heroes" and Alex chose to draw technological innovations inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. His partners, Mitchell and Jacob, gave a speech about da Vinci while slides of Alex's drawings were shown on a monitor. He drew both the original concepts and today's modern versions of da Vinci's concepts.

Da Vinci's helicopter.

A modern Canadian helicopter.

A tank design.

A modern tank.

Da Vinci's robot concept.

Blog Success and Elation
I can almost bear having insomnia when I successfully manage to accomplish something... especially something completely out of my comfort zone, like making template changes in Chickenblog. I reversed engineered HTML in my template and figured out how to add a badge to my sidebar. Let's say there were a Hallmark card for: "Congratulations! You Are Learning How to Use HTML and Gain Creative Control of Your Own Blog!" This would be the time to send me that card. I feel very emotional right now.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last Day of School Eve

I'm not sure what tomorrow's school day will be all about. They've taken their tests and turned in their books. The science lab walls are bare. Today are closing ceremonies and special performances, eighth grade graduation... what's left?

There is a Sports Day event for Father's Day tomorrow. I'm going too, so I can lurk and take pictures of Geoff with his children. Even though I am more than ready to be done with this school year, to have our summer and family time together, it will be bittersweet leaving and saying goodbye to our new friends and the familiar sights. It's, almost, hard to believe an entire year has come and gone.

Yesterday Alex asked if he could have dark pants, a tie and belt. In So Cal we rarely find or make excuses to wear long pants, never mind ties. We haven't been to any weddings since James and Deanne's, 3 years ago, so our formal wear options are limited. Alex can wear William's coat, and Geoff's shoes are nearly the right size. We were at Target and found the finishing touches, so Alex could get spiffed up for his nearly last day of school. He looks proud, handsome too.

Max is proud... he's grown, and while we were shopping he asked if we couldn't get him some new shoes? I looked at his size 8 battle weary, scruffed and ragged shoes from last Fall. Yes, new shoes. He talked about his new shoes all morning. He showed everyone the shoe bottoms and discussed their superior traction and tread. He loves his new men's size 9 shoes.

Not to be out done... look at me...
Maria outfitted me with this custom designed bunny hat and veil.
I feel pretty. Oh so pretty. I feel pretty and witty and gay.
And I pity
Any girl who isn't me today!

If this song gets stuck in your head, I apologize.
Testing, testing, testing
Something may be wrong with our server (again.) We can't get our URL up or even contact the server. Wah! I'm too busy to make a real post today anyway, but I hope this isn't going to be a prolonged glitch in our service. I confess: I am 100% utterly tied to my Chickenblog and email and Google, and Wikipedia, and your blogs! Tech slave! I am.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


We have been planning, designing, constructing, sewing, painting and cooking and we have been amusing ourselves with Monty Python references and allusions. In other words, we have been cramming a lot in, and we still have our regular duties and school to attend to. Could this be why I am feeling a wee bit frazzled? I am looking forward to the one week between the end of school and my week at Camp Taqueria, when I can catch my breath and not have to race to meet any more deadlines or rush out the door to fulfill an obligation. Who am I kidding? I'm sure I'll be almost as busy, preparing and packing for 9 days of road trip, camping and learning the inside deal on running a taqueria. The extra effort this week is for the medieval birthday party. The castle piñ... hold on... let's keep some of this a surprise. Let's just say we're ready to have fun.

Some sweet people left Alex birthday wishes. Thank you. On his actual birthday we worked as a family on the awesome party surprise... it got so late we were working by lantern light, which seemed fitting for a medieval project. There was some cake left and we ate it, after singing to Alex. If I didn't express clearly enough what a cool kid he is... at school when everyone had their cake slice and the crowds dispersed, Alex asked if we could share the rest of the cake with the construction crew that's working on the campus. They gratefully accepted half of the cake and we took home the last 6 slices for our family.

Tomorrow school is full of closing programs and ceremonies and recognition time... and then Friday there is a Father's Day activity at lunch time. And then... and then it's over? I think so. This is probably a good time to update my To Do list, because I have a swarm of *don't forget* messages buzzing around my head. Don't forget to bring Max's music book to keyboard. Don't forget to buy DVD holders and pass out the slide shows to teachers. Don't forget to ask for Betty's email, so you can send her those cute pictures of her daughter. Don't forget to mail the bills. Clean the car, figure out how to be at both Max's end of year ceremony and Alex's recognition ceremony, which are both at 1 p.m. Make more food for Saturday. What am I forgetting?

I'm forgetting a lot, like sending Father's day cards and finishing our passport applications, watching the Lego video Tarie sent me. Sigh. This is the good stuff, our full lives. It's hectic and all, but we're healthy and we care about one another, so I'll keep trying to get organized and be more timely, and efficient. Messes come and go, deadlines are met or at least we do our best, and so I will not be distressed about whatever it is that I am forgetting or have left out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Happy Birthday Alex

We are still excited about our one afternoon on Lake New Melones; our first time tubing! What a blast.

I don't have a scanner, which I could use to upload dozens of baby pictures of my Alex. Cute. Oh my God, he was the cutest baby. He smiled all the time, like a curly topped cherub. His cheerful demeanor filled my heart... nothing's changed. This child, my son Alex, is good. He is kind and intelligent, he acts thoughtfully, in accordance with his convictions and beliefs. He has internalized values and morals that even some adults struggle to achieve. He is inventive and dedicated to learning. I am not straining to think of nice things to say about him. I am trying to not sound disingenuous, like I am overly proud. My children are my blessings, my dreams coming true and I hold them dear. They fill my days, my heart and my soul with reasons to rejoice and give thanks.

Alex, happy birthday. You are destined for greatness, the kind that fills your life with deep satisfaction, surrounds you with lasting friendships, caring family and comfort. Thank you mi'jo. Thank you for everything you do and are. We love you.

We Have Company!

Calamity Kim has been singing praises about Chickenblog, and sending her friends this way. It's like the doorbell ringing, when you thought you were going to spend the day alone in the laundry room.

Oh, my goodness!

I wasn't expecting company.

Is there anything in my teeth?

Is the house decent... oh bother, we know the answer to that.

Please come in and don't mind the state of things. We are busy living and playing, and being amused by all that comes in a home with 2 cats, 4 children, some goldfish and a rabbit.

I was just at school, where William and I brought pizza and cake to the middle school class and teachers, in honor of Alex's 13th birthday! Sometimes I assign myself moments of craziness, but the results are well worth it. All year long I swell with pride when I look on my children, and for their birthdays it's a joy and honor to treat them to an extra abundance of affection and indulgences. William and Maria helped me, Costco too, and I think it was a big hit. Somehow it became a policy that everyone had to sing for their cake slice and we had some very endearing and some very silly renditions of "happy birthday." Mr. P. was the last to join us and he sang his Beatles' version accompanied by his own guitar playing! It was awesome.

And I am off again. Back to school. I made a DVD slide show of the entire school year (whew!) and I am due at the premiere in 30 minutes. Actually I am just sharing it with the middle school class. I hope they like it.

I do feel as though I am leaving with visitors sitting around my kitchen table... so rude. Please excuse me. I'll be right back, we can talk then, and in the meantime, thank you Kim for thinking so highly and kindly of Chickenblog. Have a look around.

Don't mind Chango. He wants the milk from Maria's cereal bowl. Naughty kitty.

Monday, June 11, 2007


So, this morning's post was necessary, so I could purge my grief and frustration. All things housing are touchy, and make me sad. Now I have had my say, and I want to look past it... looking on that headline only reignites my indignation. So, I will think on the birds and the Bible verse I like about how the birds are taken care of; Matthew 6:26... a cure for anxiety.

How many hummingbird feeders are hanging from this tree? There are many and some are reflections in the window. They are way up in the branches and hanging over a back street behind a museum. Someone must go to a great deal of work to keep them clean and full. Isn't that thoughtful?

Inside another museum Maria found a special corner made just for her and young children like her. She played with abandon. No rough spots or quiet zones to slow her down. She was free to explore and discover. She made music and tested air power. She pushed carts and collected blocks. Late Sunday afternoon was an ideal time for experiencing an almost private visit.

We each should have a chance to explore, and discover, and then share and express what we see and believe. We cannot always find a way to do this, or even the letters we need to spell out our thoughts and feelings... hopefully we can improvise.

Deadbeats and Bottom Feeders

Or... Pardon Me, While I Rant

This was MSNBC's idea of a worthy headline last night. Apparently racial slurs, sexist comments, and harsh remarks about Muslim extremists are a big *No, no.* Fine. But what makes it perfectly OKay to debase and ridicule renters?

Do you know what a deadbeat is? A flake? Someone who blows-off responsibilities? A shirker? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong again. We are deadbeats, because we pay our credit bills every month. It's the term thrown around in credit and banking circles for anyone trying to do their level best to keep their finances in order.

Prudence, thrift, savings and work have become dirty words in our society. Look around. How many casinos are within a two hour drive of your home? How many television shows are based on throwing yourself at the public to be ridiculed, in hopes of winning big money. How many times have I uttered the phrase, "When I win the lotto...____?" Hey, I still want to win the lottery. I don't play, but I want to win. But winning and games of chance are not a game plan for life, they are not the road to success and happiness. More and more I hear anecdotes that imply, or simply state, that work is for chumps. Work is for suckers who couldn't find the easy way. Quick real estate money. Quick stock money. Inheritance. Or how about credit? That's easy money, right? Home equity loans. Apply for a store credit card and save 10% today. The message is: If you aren't feeling the instant gratification, you're working too hard.

I'm not a financial expert or money wizard, but I can plainly see inflation is on the rise. The government may not agree, but then again fuel and food are not part of the calculation when they are determining whether we are in inflationary times. Are your grocery bills smaller than last year's? Mine aren't. I know fuel prices aren't stable either. But remember, there is no inflation, so long as we can get into Wal-Mart and by $4 flip flops from China.

As for those "Bottom Feeders," those are people who have chosen to save and wait, renting their homes, until the housing market eases up. I cringe and feel like the lowest caste of our "classless society" when I think of all the crappy connotations in 'bottom feeder.' Lowlifes, bums, bottom wrung, losers, shiftless, ignorant, leaches... did I leave any out? MSNBC wants the world to know that renting is for bottom feeders and that we are just wasting our time by not joining the ranks of sub-prime borrowers and families up to their eyeballs in credit card and mortgage debt. They've consulted their experts: “In general, it is very difficult to time the market,” said Raphael Bostic, associate director of the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate, so they must be right, right? Not.

When did news become so shallow and incredible? MSNBC, check your sources please. Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate is the baby of the real estate industry. This center of *economic wisdom and vision* is funded by realtors. So, MSNBC is consulting the very industry that profits from its own propaganda and misinformation. Gee, let's ask Phillip Morris if smoking is OKay, and use their answer as expert evidence in a news article castigating non-smokers and praising the pack-a-day crowd. How about we let Burger Guy write a health column in school newspapers; they can be the experts on diet and nutrition.

You can't believe everything that's printed... I used to hope that some news agencies were at least somewhat credible, but this article, and too many like it, is hype and tripe, made to look like front page news, when it actually belongs on the editorial page or in some realtor's ad, next to his glamor shot.