Friday, December 18, 2009

Kid-Powered Decor

I'm glad to be participating in Jen's Holiday Homes Tour again this year!

My home looks pretty much exactly the same as last year, with a few small adjustments. To really get a feel for my home's holiday decor, click on the link and take a look!

So this year, instead of showing my whole house again, I am going to take you on a "Kid-Powered Decor" tour.

Each year, my kids (ages 9, almost 7, and just-turned-5) do more and more of the decorating themselves.

Let's start here: these are the decorations that have been their domain for several years. I got the Little People Nativity and the little tree when I had toddlers in the house, so that they could play with Christmas decorations while staying away from my breakable ornaments and nativity scene. The kids still look forward to putting these out each year.

Next, the kids put up their school arts and crafts from years past. This display grows each year!

Then they found the window clings and arranged those in the front windows. Mommy was busy with who-knows-what and meanwhile, Christmas decorating was taking place!

Out of the box came a whole bunch of Christmas-themed stuffed animals. They were arranged in groups on the living room speakers.

New this year are these penguin towels for the kids' bathroom. There are some penguin fans in our family!

This one is not due to my kids... but it's still kid-powered! The kids next door collected mistletoe when they were up north at Thanksgiving, and packaged it up to sell! Isn't it adorable?!

Last but definitely not least, ta da! This year's Christmas tree! I'm really happy with it. It's much better than the dud we got last year! Nice shape, nice size, very fresh. It looks lovely!

The kids did most of the tree trimming themselves! They still tend to put ornaments in clumps, so I follow them around to rearrange things just a tad.

This is probably their favorite family tradition. It's so much fun to see them pulling ornaments out of the box and saying, "Oh! I love this one!"

I do that, too!

I have had this one for a long time. It's my beloved alma mater! The hubby got it for me not long after we graduated.

This one commemorates the opening of the big aquarium in our area. I bought the ornament for myself when I took my students there for a field trip. Just a few short years later, I was an employee at the aquarium! That made the ornament even more special!

This one was made by a friend of ours who is a professional artist. Isn't he talented?

Big girl and I picked this one out when she was four. What a fun age: possibly the first time they actually remember Christmas from the year before. Selecting this one was a special moment for both of us. She makes sure this is one of the first ones she puts on the tree each year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Right out front!

I love this car. I have seen it around our town for a couple of years now, and it gives me such a chuckle!

The minivan with the flames! This car's owner must have some sense of humor. I love the irony, but wouldn't have the guts to drive this car.

And now! Now! It's been parking on my street! In fact, I took this picture from my front yard - it was right in front of my house! The family's teenage son is now driving it to school.

Classic. The 16-year-old boy who would dare to drive the minivan with flames... That's gotta be one self-assured young man!


So, am I back? Was I gone? It definitely seems that I have been on a blogging hiatus. It wasn't deliberate; I just couldn't bring myself to write anything. I kept telling myself, "just write anything, get back in the habit," but then months somehow went by...

I have some big news to share. I am going to start working on January 4. I am doing a long-term sub position at my old job (7th grade science teacher). The current teacher is going on maternity leave from Jan. 4 - Mar. 25, and the school called me to see if I would come back and teach for her.
It's not ideal timing for my son, who will have to go to preschool 5-days-a-week instead of 3. He'll also need to stay there later in the day. He's not happy about it.
It's a good opportunity for me, though! I've been out of the classroom for 9 years, and this is a great way for me to dust off my skills for a few months, to test out the waters again, before I really "go back to work." And we can really use the money!

Friday, September 18, 2009

That last post was a total accident... but it's so nice, I think I'll just leave it!

summer memory

aaaaah, summer...

Picnic in "Park Grandma"

Friday, September 11, 2009

and how are you?

Today marks the end of our second week back at school. Well, not for The Boy, since his preschool starts this coming Monday.



I've been trying to stay in my "summer" frame of mind, and have been reasonably successful. "Don't let it get to you this year," I have been telling myself. "You feel much happier in the summer. Stay happy and just let the school-year frustrations roll off your back."


Eight days of school, and I've got to get this off my chest:

Fourth graders should not be bringing home every book and notebook in their desks every night. This teacher is insane. Hello? Got a clue? Requiring each child to purchase $150 in school supplies (including a 2-inch AND a 3-inch 3-ring binder) takes balls, I'll give you that. AND THEN, on top of that, sending the 3-inch binder home every night, saying "it's too big for your backpacks, so put your books in your backpack and carry your binder" takes - well, it takes a complete detachment from reality. Because, what has now happened, ON TOP OF ALL THE SCHOOL SUPPLIES, is that parents have been going out and spending MORE MONEY on rolling backpacks for these kids. And that just does not sit well with me.

As a teacher, I happen to think that teachers should plan out their class so that the kids use their textbooks at school and their workbooks (or worksheets) at home for further practice (also known as homework). Sure, maybe in grade 7 or so they'll start needing to bring textbooks back and forth. Yes, I expect teachers to think about what they are requiring of nine-year-old kids. It seems to me that if you stop and think about a classroom full of nine-year-olds carrying full backpacks AS WELL AS a THREE-INCH binder, anyone in their right mind would say, "that's just wrong."

An example of one night's homework this week:
- Using the Literature textbook, answer four questions in the workbook about the story we read during class today (took Big Girl 3 minutes)
- Do these 6 problems from the math textbook (5 minutes, if that)
- Do these 6 problems from the math workbook (5 minutes, if that)
- Start studying for the test on Chapter One in the Religion book (and be sure to bring this book back and forth between home and school every day this week)

FIVE BOOKS (plus that god damn binder filled with spiral notebooks - can't do 6 math problems on a loose piece of binder paper and then file it in the binder later, can we?) for 15 (maybe 20) minutes of homework???? Are you kidding me???

Summer frame of mind, where did you go?

Friday, September 4, 2009

living under the smoke

This Friday night sure feels different than the last Friday night. Last week, the fire was closer, there were visible flames and the smell of smoke in our house, and friends were leaving their homes (some were mandatory evacuation, some voluntary) to sleep where they could breathe. Today, the air quality has improved to moderate, the fire and smoke have moved east of here, and friends are home safe.

Last Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the smell of smoke was unbelievably strong. The huge pyrocumulus cloud over the mountain was towering above us, with its base of gray-brown-orange and its top of fluffy bright white. It was mesmerizing. It was eerie and ominous. It was strangely beautiful.

The smell of smoke was so overpowering that I woke up Sunday morning nauseous and headache-y. The temperature outside was over 100 degrees, so we had the central air running all day. That filtered the air so that we could tolerate it. We could not stand to be outside. The AQMD listed the air quality as "hazardous."

A photo I snapped from The Boy's room of a medium-sized pyrocumulus cloud on Monday

Tuesday was a little different. The smell of smoke was not as strong as it had been. I could not see a pyrocumulus cloud, just grey cloud cover. Except it was not cloud cover, it was the smoke formation on top of us, so that I couldn't see it looking up into it. It stayed that way all of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Finally on Friday (this morning), we woke up to blue sky over our house! And we could see the smoke cloud again, over to the east a bit.

A photo I took on Friday - again I missed it when it was big

On Wednesday morning I heard on NPR that the fire crews had done some work in the hills in our old neighborhood! The Boy and I took a drive up there to see what was going on, since we couldn't see the mountains from our new house through the smoke cover. The fire crews had bulldozed a fire line straight up the mountain from the our old neighborhood. It was 20-30 feet wide, and very striking. (Of course the photo is very hazy from the smoke!)

The fire was still on the north side of the ridge, and evacuations had not been ordered for the area, so our old neighborhood looked fine. We drove a bit farther east to do some errands, observing the smoke plume along the way.

I stole the following images off of the internet (taken with good cameras!):

The view of the mountain last weekend. Taken by Laurie.

A picture taken from south of downtown Los Angeles. Normally, the San Gabriel Mountains would be the backdrop of this photo! (I think I found this picture in the photo gallery.)

Monday, August 31, 2009

the end of summer

School starts tomorrow.


During the school year, there's never enough time. The school day is tiring, and then kids need to do homework, practice violin, and go to soccer practice/girl scouts/dance class. Kids want to play with siblings and friends, have a little down time to read , or just daydream, but ... where did the time go? Bath and bed, hurry hurry hurry!

ugh, it's exhausting.

Since all that starts tomorrow, I should reflect on the summer that we've had.

What a summer! Some weeks were spent in camps or classes (arts, crafts, dance, girl scouts), and some were spent making our own adventures. We had lots of friends over, and threw a big party. We spent a month at Grandma and Granddad's house in Oregon. We played with our cousins and went to visit old friends we had not seen in years. We visited beaches, waterfalls, science museums, art museums, train museums, carousels, bowling alleys, miniature golf courses, libraries, aquariums, farms, funky doughnut shops, fancy ice cream shops, water parks, and birthday parties. We went to lots of free outdoor concerts, and I performed in one myself.


so much freedom.

No wonder I'm so sad it's over.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I'd better go finish packing

Today I saw the following license plate:


The license plate frame said, "One is not enough; Three is too many."

Is it just me, or is that really strange? How strongly do you have to feel about this to put it on your license frame AND pay for a personalized plate? And WHY would anyone feel that strongly about it? I'm baffled.

And, while I'm at it, is there some other context for these statements besides family size?


Tomorrow morning, we leave for Portland. I always take the kids there for at least a month in the summer. This year, summer seems shorter than normal, but we're still doing 30 Days At Grandma's House! I can't wait to spend lots of time with my three nephews and two nieces, not to mention my wonderful brothers- and sisters-in-law!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer's start

Our first week of summer has come to a close!

Middle Girl did a little half-day-camp this week with the first grade teacher (the kids truly believe that she is magic).

Big Girl wrote all of her thank-you notes for her birthday yesterday, and today sorted through the huge piles of 3rd-grade work that she brought home. (The end of the school year is rough in this way - the mountains of stuff that comes home!) It took her two hours, but she did it! Now that she has ticked these two tasks off of the To-Do List, she can really relax into summer. She needs to work on her math skills regularly, and keep up the violin practice (recital coming up!), but in general she's in summer mode and I am so glad for that.

As for The Boy, I can't believe his first year of preschool is over! It's been a great year for him. His teachers were fantastic, and he had a lot of fun with his friends. He got over his shyness pretty quickly and really enjoyed himself. Now that everyone is home all day, I have stopped making him lie down for "rest time." That's the big news for him right now! Quietly, and without fanfare, Mommy has phased out nap. (He hadn't been sleeping during nap for several months. Believe me, I would still be giving him nap if he were.)

We had a nice weekend getaway to kick off our summer, traveling to my MIL's house and taking Big Girl to see "Wicked" as her big birthday event. She had a great time in the big, fancy theater, and she LOVED the show!

Looking ahead, I plan to spend the summer trying to say "yes." Once, during a Parent Ed discussion, the teacher pointed out the seemingly simple concept that parents don't always have to say "no" to their kids' questions. She challenged us to see if we can say "yes." Every time I try to think this way, it seems to turn out well.

"Mommy, can we go swimming?"

"Mommy, can we make a snow globe?"

"Mommy, can we play Go Fish?"

I'm going to try my best to alter my plans if necessary, and spend the summer saying "yes!"

Monday, June 8, 2009

A full day ... full of awesome!

On Saturday I was on the road at about 8:40 am, headed north on my little solo adventure! I was going to enjoy some scenery, meet a blogger, and earn a little money! A diverse plan!

An hour or so into my drive, I saw this:

Cinderella's carriage, including the white horse! Right there on the freeway! Click on it to get a better look at it - really quite something.
No doubt it was headed to someone's wedding. Not the same wedding I would be working at, though!

I had some companionship in the car with me.

Meet my little friend, Mr. Garmin. (The Hubby's newest gadget.) He talked to me during the drive, telling me where to turn, which freeways to take, where to get gas... we didn't always agree, but that makes for more interesting conversation, right?

Here, Mr. Garmin is showing me that I should take Highway 101 to Highway 101. Very helpful, thank you, Mr. Garmin.

Now looky here! Mr. Garmin and I are in the middle of nowhere!
(I apologize for the blurriness. I was driving, yo. On the open road.)

Mr. Garmin tells me that we are right next to the ocean.

Look! He's right!

Thank goodness for Mr. Garmin; how else would I know to look out the window and find a headland so I can snap a pretty photo? :-D
(yes, while driving. The Hubby was not so happy about that...)

Also out the window of my moving vehicle...
I saw a lot of charred hillsides, after the recent fires in this area:

Then I saw the hillsides adjacent to the burn areas: this is how everything looked before:


(I actually pulled off the road for that one.)

When I got to the town where the wedding would be held, a friend was there to meet me! I got to spend a couple of hours with Heidi from smalltown mom, and we had a lovely time! She showed me around, while we talked and talked. We peeked in shops, and found some fun socks (my recent interest in novelty socks is a sure sign that I am turning into my mother). Heidi even treated me to a delicious lunch!

We had to have a bloggers' meet-up shoe photo! (I forgot about the shoe photo! I chose my shoes that day based on comfort, not cuteness... but check out Heidi's sassy leopards!)

It was so wonderful meeting Heidi... I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know her better! (Heidi, we should have taken a picture of our sock purchases! Well, I'll put pictures of mine here; you can put a picture of yours on your blog, too!)

Hopefully Heidi and I will get together again sometime!

Well, I had to get to work. It was the reason for this trip, after all...

Wedding time!

The wedding was in one of the historic California Missions.

They were having a Catholic Mass for their wedding, and I was cantoring. This means I was singing LOTS of music. I was very happy with how I sounded, and believe me, this is rare. I am so picky and hard on myself, but I was feeling good about this one! I got really nice responses, too, and the Father of the Bride even tipped me an extra fifty bucks! (Note to self: bumping into the Father of the Bride after the wedding can be a good idea!) Clearly, this was one of those days: an absolute *GEM* of a day!

When I got home, the kids were SO EXCITED about their new socks! (I had no doubt they would be.)

I got two for myself, and two for The Boy, since his socks seem to be disappearing.

Everyone HAD to put them on IMMEDIATELY!

Penguins for Big Girl, horses for Middle Girl, trains and clownfish for The Boy, and Chuck Taylors and sushi (!!) for me!

I just love these kitschy-cute sushi socks!

I'll write more about the Chuck Taylor socks later ... I've got an idea for a future post!

Here are a bunch more photos from the day, for your viewing pleasure!

Friday, June 5, 2009

a wee road trip

I'm excited about tomorrow! That fact that I'm excited about something is news in itself.

I've had plenty of things to get excited about in the last six weeks, it's not that... it's that I haven't been excited about anything. I've been feeling rather hollow.

Yes, I know what this sounds like. This is stuff I should be writing about, it would probably do me good to acknowledge it, talk about it...

But I'm not going to.

So, what have you been up to? Actually, I know what you've been up to - I've been reading your blog. Just haven't been able to muster up the energy to type out a comment. I'd like to tell you that your blog has made me smile on more than one occasion and thank you very much for that!

Me? Well...

Big Girl turned 9 years old on Monday! She had a couple of special playdates last weekend to mark the occasion, but no "party" per se. Instead, she asked to go see "Wicked." It's not playing here anymore, so we'll be making a "Wicked" pilgrimage next weekend!

Middle Girl graduated from Kindergarten on Wednesday! She's wistful about it.

The Boy is cute as ever, but getting more and more argumentative these days. Ah, well...

The girls performed in the school talent show. We made up a tap dance, and I made them some colorful, sparkly costumes. They were adorable!

My band usually performs at our town's 4th of July Picnic/Fireworks event, but they have cancelled the gig. Budget, it appears. We are pretty bummed about it. Trying to make the best of it, The Hubby and I have decided to have a party at our house, since the fireworks go off right overhead! I'm thinking pool party / barbeque / potluck / lots of socializing / fireworks show! I am looking forward to it.


I have been hired to sing at a wedding a few hours away, so I'll be getting up bright and early and driving up to ... to ... the small town! Wahoooooo I get to meet small town mom tomorrow!


Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring Break

Last week my girls were on Spring Break. The main item on the agenda was "open-ended hanging-out time," which is SOOOO good for my kids. They do really well when we don't have to be anywhere!

I did take them to the zoo one day, and the oldest went to a birthday sleepover. My father-in-law came to visit late afternoon Friday - noon Saturday.

Thursday was the one "big" thing we did for Spring Break - The Hubby took the day off and we drove down to Legoland!

They have various American "cities" built out of Legos: New Orleans, Las Vegas, Manhattan, Southern California, etc. In Washington, D.C., they have replicated President Obama's* Inauguration! It's fantastic. I took pictures:

Look at Aretha!

When we got home, I did some googling and found out that they actually built it shortly before the Inauguration. I found a picture of what it first looked like:

It's very interesting to me that they went back and redid it to reflect what everyone actually wore! Here's the updated version, also from google:

*I just love saying "President Obama!"