Monday, December 22, 2008

The happiest place on earth not in my minivan in the insanely crowded Costco parking lot (I shall spare you the details of my crazy Costco shopping trip this morning).

Since our Disneyland annual passes expire this month, Air Boss and I took the kids to see the "land of black rodents" (our newly revealed code name for Disneyland - rendered useless by 'Shroom ) one last time.

We saw a bit of the fake snow they create with bubbles (I know you East Coasters, mid-Westerners, Northwesterners, and everyone else not in SoCal, Texas and Florida do not find the concept of fake snow amusing at all) and lots of Christmas decorations.

We had waited close to 11 months out of the 12 months we had the annual pass to ride "It's a Small World" boat ride again (shortly after getting our passes, they closed the kids' favorite ride to make major repairs). We noticed that the new boats were smaller and they would frequently skip rows in the boat if the Disney employees felt that certain boat occupants appeared to exceed the "average adult weight."

For the first time, we even saw the fireworks that start at 9:25 PM. Okay, so we didn't wait among the throngs of humanity for this magical spectacular moment. I figured that since the trams and parking lot structure get totally jammed up after the fireworks, we should watch the fireworks from the comfort and warmth of our Black Hawk (which conveniently was parked on the upper level with no obscured view of the sky).

We were home just after 10 PM - about the same time others were queuing up for the tram to take them to the parking garage.

Well, bye bye Mickey Rat and friends. It will be awhile before we see you again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Octopi bus stop

Octopus home
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Well, after I had a bunch of armless octopi floating around the house, I finally got around to crocheting the 40 arms (for five of the beady-eyed creatures).

Lolli had lots of fun building a "shelter" for them. Now with their arms in place, they no longer look like peanuts.

Now they look like aliens trying to pass themselves off as octopi.

101 Uses for Placemats

Placement Bags
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
#98. (cloth placemats) In a pinch, can be used as hot pads

#99. (waffle rubber 'mats) help loosen the stubborn lid of a pasta sauce jar

#100. (vinyl 'mats) protect tables from plants and occasional plant spills

#101. (cloth 'mats) make idiot-proof purses

I'll be the first to admit that I have no knack for sewing. If a button falls off a shirt, I learn to live with out (provided it's not revealing anatomical parts that should be concealed). Rather than hem pants, I'll cuff them even if it's a total fashion foible.

I totally did not inherit my mom's sewing inclinations. She made her own wedding dress and all her bridesmaid dresses. She made my prom dress. She's hemmed countless trousers, replaced many lost buttons, and even tailored my wedding dress.

Soo...when I found that there was a really simple way to make purses with placemats, I jumped on it. Well, as the picture proves, these placemat purses are indeed idiot-proof. I made four in one day with no pattern and no sewing skills.

I love how the coordinated napkins worked as handles and a contrast detail on the bag itself. It's the perfect size for holding a wallet, phone, keys, a small notebook and a water bottle.

Now, if only I can sew placemats into slippers for the kids...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How many people can you fit in a...?

Framed Portrait
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
This reminds me of my college days when the car to student ratio was about 1:437. And when a friend with a car (and back then, anyone who HAD a car was considered a friend) was going to the grocery store, the car had a minimum of 6 passengers . . . in a 3-door hatchback.

Well, today our old small groupies got together and we were able to jam 13 of us in one photo frame (not the 4x6 desk frame, mind you).

It was a good thing Air Boss was able to crop out the "excess" as what happened OUTSIDE the frame wasn't all that pretty.

Doesn't it look like we're having fun re-living the college years? =)

Our Family Christmas Photo...

Framed Portrait
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007

although this perhaps came out more fun and whimsical than our actual family photo. Why does Air Boss look like he's climbing out of the photo? and 'Shroom looks like he's barely IN the photo?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Like kids in a candy shop

Marking my own house
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
This weekend, the kids and us adults participated in a fun gingerbread house decorating contest. 'Shroom and Lolli worked on their own house, Air Boss was assigned to a team of two people and I was assigned to a team of three.

The kids had a ton of fun smearing gobs of icing (pink, of course, for Lolli and red for 'Shroom). Even if you didn't know what Lolli's and 'Shroom's favorite colors were, you would be able to tell which half of the house Lolli decorated and which half 'Shroom--well, er--expressed creativity.

Since my decorating team was located out of eyesight of the kids, I kept glancing over to see how the kids were doing. Luckily Air Boss and his decorating partner were right next to the kids. Every third time I saw them, they had a different piece of someting in their hand or mouth.

I had to put a stop to the sugar intake. I didn't blame them for wanting to taste the sweets but there were TONS of candy and other "construction materials" too readily available to the kids.

It was after 9 PM and 'Shroom was just about to take a bite out of a cookie.

"'Shroom, no more sweets. That's enough for today," I told him.

There were plenty of people around and definitely within earshot. That's why a whole lot of people laughed when 'Shroom responded.

"Don't worry, Mommy. I'm not going to eat it. I'm just going to hold it with my teeth," he deadpanned.

I had to laugh, too. Must be the result of all the licorice I ate.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What was I thinking?!

Three's Company
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
How hard can it be to crochet a few cute animal friends for some moms in my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group? Since "small" was a key operative word in these creatures, I figured I could bang out an animal during one half-hour sitcom.

Haha. Joke's on me.

So, six hours later (not all consecutive hours), I have the head of one medium-sized octopus, eight arms (all detatched) and the head of a smaller-sized octopus (the medium-sized took too long).

Now 'Shroom and Lolli play with the octopus heads and call them "little peanuts." The medium-sized head has been nicknamed "pink peanut" and I've found myself referring it to by that name as I'm yelling out to the kids, "Where did you hid the pink peanut? Give it back to me!"

Well, I'm still going to have a go at it. I'm going to see if I can finish seven octopuses (or is it "octopi"?) with a total of 56 arms by this Thursday's meeting.

Maybe if I make them with only seven arms, no one will really notice. So that's only 49 arms. Sounds a little bit better.

BTW, why octopus for moms? Because we've all wished we had more arms.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

...and the winner is...

Originally uploaded by radioflyer007

...well, it was hard for me to decide since it wasn't a clean-cut right or wrong. There were a couple of detailed responses (and good ones at that), and one that was simply referring to a part of the house but didn't say why and how the buckets were used. "E" Hettinger has won the IKEA coupon because she had guessed correctly the application of the buckets. Here are the details on the buckets:

The buckets (there were 35-40 buckets in all) were not used for the concrete patio at all. They were staged there since all the flooring on the first level (carpet and linoleum flooring) got ripped up.

As you can see from the photo, we had hardwood floors installed. Part of the hardwood was installed directly on the concrete slab as opposed to the wood subfloors in the raised living room. Since they could only glue the wood to the concrete (and not glue AND nail the planks as in the living room), the installers had to rely on clamps to hold the planks tight against each other and heavy weight to ensure a tight bond between plank and floor.

That's where the heavy buckets with water came into play.

Soo . . . the buckets were used as weights. And why water in trash bags? I guess so it made transporting them easier (no sloshed water on wood floors).

Great guesses!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Puzzler of the Day

Color buckets
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
During the nine days between closing escrow on our house and moving in, Air Boss had managed contractors (at one point, four different trades were represented in one morning) as well as rolled up his sleeves in countless DIY home improvement projects.

One morning, we noticed all these buckets lined with trash bags and filled with water on our back patio.

Can you guess what they were used for?

Answer will be provided tomorrow. First person to respond with the correct answer will be mailed a $25 off IKEA coupon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our New House

Behind Tent #1
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Yup - here it is . . . our new house. Well, it's not ours yet but should all go well (and that's a big assumption at this point--but I digress), we will have the keys to this house in two days. The house which currently looks like a circus tent.

This termite tenting thing is new to me, a native New Englander. Not that we don't have termites or other wood-eating pests but somehow I don't recall seeing many (if any) tents in Boston.

In the purchase of my first Californian home, I've learned a few things about these pesky critters:

1) you don't want them as your new neighbors (or even occassional visitors)

2) when they do come, they make themselves totally at home, especially when they are most uninvited

3) 40 years of doing nothing about keeping these critters at bay (as in the case with the house we're buying) will result in some extensive (not to mention expensive) wood-work repairs

4) fumigation requires all humans, animals and plants to vacate the premise and not re-enter until a minimum of a 24-hour period

5) the chemicals used are combined with tear gas so that when you do enter before the 24 hours is up, you'll be so sorry, you'll end up crying

6) all this work doesn't guarantee that the unwelcomed guests/neighbors don't return . . .

7) . . . but it does make for a cool photo of your house! (I was personally hoping for red and white vertical stripes with a flag on top - just like how I remember Barnum & Bailey's tents)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

First Day of Freeeeedom!

Wow - it felt so great to wake up this morning without having to rush through my morning shower just so I could cram in some problem sets before the kids got out of bed.

I survived the second CSET Math exam even though I felt it was a hard test. I walked out feeling totally relieved it was over but not with the sense that it was a slam-dunk "pass" (or even a simple plain old pass). I felt intimidated by all the test-takers in my testing room. The test administrators had made sure all of us who were taking the geometry & statistics exam were in the same room since specific graphing calculators were permitted. I wondered if my one calculator was enough for the exam when I saw a gentleman walk in with two.

As the proctor walked around thumb-printing us, collecting testing tickets, and clearing the memory of our calculators, there were some folks busy cramming extra formulas and studying whatever notes they had. I started panicking that I didn't have any of my study aids with me . . . and then freaked out because I couldn't remember the formula for the surface area of a right prism with a regular hexagonal base!

Anyway - no need to re-live this horror. I'm done. I came home. I watched TV. I slept in this morning - even with the extra hour with the end of Daylight Savings Time.

Ahhh . . . the freedom from studying math is so sweet! I can now feel like I have my life back . . . at least until the next exam!

Eh, why ruin the moment . . .

Friday, October 31, 2008

Is There a Doctor in the House?

A doctor's "practice"
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
For two years straight, my mom has pulled through on another Halloween costume for 'Shroom! I had ambitiously purchased a "simple" Butterick pattern from Jo-Ann fabrics so I wouldn't have to spend $15 - $25 on some cheaply made ghoulish costume (although not all store-purchased costumes are ghoulish or cheap, it's hard to find the ones that aren't AND fit 35-lb 'Shroom).

I am ashamed to say, I wimped out. I sent the pattern and the fabric to Grandma in Boston and she whipped it up and turned it around in less than a week. Yup - from mailbox to mailbox, it was less than one week! Days before Halloween, 'Shroom would excitedly tell anyone who had asked him (and even those who didn't) what he would be for halloween. "A doctor!"

He told me the other day that he wanted to a doctor who took care of kids. And gave shots. This was said the day after he received 3 shots from his pediatrician.

Once 'Shroom put on his doctor's outfit (cap, shirt, pants, and a photo I.D. around his neck), he carried himself in a more confident manner. He was more outgoing and happy and of course, he enjoyed the compliments of "oh what a cute doctor!"

Hmmm . . . I guess I should look to see if Butterick has a pattern for a "student costume" so he can wear one year round! I'll even make five -- one for each day of the week.

Thank you again Boston Grandma for coming through for 'Shroom and me!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Month in the Life of...

Originally uploaded by radioflyer007

So it's been almost a month since my last web log entry. Wow - where has the time gone? . . . [even though that was intended to be a rhetorical question, I will attempt to answer it myself . . . ]

In the past month:

* I've managed to cram--er--study for the next math exam and 5:30 AM study sessions have been slipping to study sessions at 6:00--and yes, as late as 6:30 AM (not much time before 'Shroom and Lolli wake up)

* I've managed to scare myself silly at realizing the next CSET (California Subject Exam for Teachers) Math exam is in less than 4 days and I still do not have a working grasp of statistics (or the freakin' calculator I'm supposed to use)

* Air Boss and I (along with kids) saw our 45th house in our four month house search

* we finally got an offer in on a home accepted (in this case, the fourth one is the charm)

* nearly lost the house to negotiations gone sour (and a listing agent with questionable ethics)

* gave notice to our landlord of our impending move

* I found out that 'Shroom's new elementary school has no room for him this year

* Lolli scored her first soccer goal and had her first assist

* I've realized that November is going to be a crazy busy month

Okay - back to studying . . .

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strawberry birthday cake

Another birthday in LA for 'Shroom who is now the ripe old age of six. If you look at the picture of 'Shroom blowing out the candle on his "cake," I want to assure you that I wasn't being cheap or lazy by not baking or even purchasing a store-bought cake. His "strawberry only" cake was his special request. He didn't even want ice cream or whipped cream. Just strawberries. I was more than happy to oblige.

Anyway, 'Shroom had a great day and woke up this morning ready to play with all his new toys ("Aww! I have to go to school today?!) It's tough being a kid.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Green 'Gators

Go~~ Green Gators!
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
With the new fall season (which--in SoCal--is identical to the summer season, weather-wise) underway and the kids starting up in their new classes, soccer season has also begun. Yup - I'm officially a soccer mom--not that I have aspired to be one but I have the soccer balls and cleats in the trunk of the mini-van.

'Shroom and Lolli's first game of the season was this past Saturday. 'Shroom's team, dressed in teal but close enough to green to be called the Green 'Gators, played the same time slot as Lolli's team (dressed in red, it's only appropriate that they're called the Heartbreakers).

Air Boss cheered on the 'Gators and I cheered on the Heartbreakers. Interesting games. At times, downright funny. But at the very least, interesting. Yep.

Don't know if any of you have seen a bunch of four year old girls play soccer. They're polite. Very polite. They've been raised to "share" and "take turns" and "don't take something without asking permission." Well, that's just how the Heartbreakers played their game. I was screaming from the sidelines at a bewildered Lolli to "kick the ball!" and "go get the ball!" and "kick the ball away!" and "you're going the wrong way!" I had to tell myself to calm down or else I'd be hauled away in handcuffs.

I could see 'Shroom's game across the field. My boy was happy running laps around the action (orbiting as I call it). He was no where near the ball, didn't care to be, and seemed happy enough. When the ball did come his way, he would quickly run the other direction.

Well, I think we have 11 more times to figure out how this game works. And for the kids to unlearn all the "nice" manners of sharing and taking turns.

BTW, if you're trying to figure out which one is 'Shroom in the photo above, here's a clue: he's not blonde.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

An Act of God

Shortly after I had returned from Boston, I had received a long-awaited (or was it more long-dreaded?) email from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. My unofficial CSET math score was in.

"That was nice of them to notify me after my trip to Boston," I had thought. "They spared me a ruined vacation."

The email was one of those computer generated messages with lots of impertinent words. My eyes had scanned the content for the key word and it was going to behin with either a "P" or an "F".

I had found it. Right in the middle of the message.


Yippee! I had passed! I did a dance and let out a hoot. Then the awful thought struck me: they had sent me the wrong test results and I, in fact had not passed.

"Who cares?! I'll taken an accidental pass!" I wasn't going to notify them of their mistake. If they didn't catch it, oh well. I guess I'll have to settle for slipping through the cracks. I instant messaged Air Boss who was still in Boston and he congratulated me. I did mention that the pass status may be an email error but who cared. For now, I had passed.

A few days later, I received the official results of my test in the mail. Like the email, I had no score but simply a "PASS" status. So . . . I did indeed get the right email. My name was printed right there. I couldn't believe it!

Well, I wanted to share this great news with you all - many of you were praying for me before, during and after the exam. I can truly an honestly say, I am humbled by this experience and passing this exam was not something I did through hard study. It was truly an act of God and he takes fully credit for my pass status. Although I had studied months for this test, mentally I just wasn't there. I hadn't taken a math class in almost 20 years and my thinking skills were so rusty, I had a hard time doing simple math (like my times table).

I felt like Gideon who was about to fight the Midianites. God had whittled down his army of 32,000 down to 300. The Midianites had so many soldiers that they resembled a swarm of locusts. Just their camels alone were like grains of sand on the seashore. It was like 300 against infinity (a conceptual quantity 'Shroom and Lolli use to describe how much they love us).

Yup, so even though I didn't have to face an overwhelming army, I did feel I was taking on an overwhelming task with insurmountable odds. A 15-20% passing rate - not as bad as 300 against infinty but still dismal. God wanted to make sure that if I passed, it wasn't because of my superb math skills or inexplicable talent for working numbers and equations (and for those of you who know I didn't even taken any college math, you're laughing 'cause you know this is so not true!).

Wow. I'm still amazed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back from Boston

Losing 5 inches
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
We've just returned from a great 2+ weeks in Boston. Actually, it's only me and the kids who have returned. Air Boss is still in Beantown for an extra work week.

Wow - where do I begin? It was a busy two weeks with over 2,000 miles logged on a rental car and my dad's car. Okay, so more than half of those miles are from a road trip to Toronto (to celebrate my grandmother's 97th birthday) but still, that's still a lot of driving in the small state of Massachusetts.

I got to see lots of old and dear friends, visit my old home church, spend lots of fun time with family, celebrate several birthdays, cut off 5 inches of Lolli's hair, stay up late each night watching the Olympics, and cry at the end as I said goodbye to my family. It felt like we were moving to LA all over again.

Although it's tough to come back without Air Boss (to a place that's not quite home), it's good to see the kids get back onto some sort of a schedule. They went to bed on East Coast time but woke up on West Coast time. I guess they needed the extra hours.

Well - time to get lunch for 'Shroom and Lolli (or is it dinner?).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My First Earthquake Experience

Do I feel like a dope. Yep - I'm a New Englander at heart and this earthquake thing is all so foreign to me. So I'm homeschooling the kids upstairs in their bedroom and the whole house starts shaking.

My first thought?

"Those darn construction workers are running around on the roof and shaking the whole house!" [I don't remember if any expletives followed but for the sake of this "family-friendly" blog, let's just assume not.]

Air Boss rushed into the room and he immediately had the reaction "Earthquake!" (can you tell he's had a little more "experience" living in CA than me?)

I grabbed 'Shroom and stood under the bedroom doorframe (is that still the thing to do? or am I still a dope?) and Air Boss grabbed Lolli and headed out of the house. (uh, what am I still doing under this doorframe?)

I followed Air Boss out and we saw all the window blinds in our unit and the next swaying. I'm still thinking, "Dang, that's one heavy construction worker."

Yeah - okay, just say it. I'm the biggest dope.

We survived a 5.8 quake and folks way down in San Diego even felt it. After flipping on the TV and watching the news, I FINALLY gave up the notion that it was a heavy-set construction worker running on our flat rooftop.

So, if any of my East Coast friends and family who have never experienced a quake, I am honored to share with you that it feels like a fat man running really fast on your roof.

Sorry I don't have a photo of the epi-center to post. The LA Times server is down. Wonder if it has anything to do with a large man running on their rooftop . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Birthday Camping

Happy Birthday!
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Well, the CSET is over and I'm finally able to enjoy some R&R this summer. Air Boss had decided a couple of months back that a good way to unwind after the exam would be for our family to go camping. So two days after the grueling 5-hour exam, we packed up the Blackhawk (with a teeny tiny bit of room to spare) and headed out east to Big Bear Lake.

Air Boss had been telling friends how worried he was about me and how I would freak out about getting dirty and being outdoors all the time. I don't know what he was worried about. It's not like I've never gone camping before. All in all, it was fine and the kids (this was their first foray into living in the big outdoors) did well. Not once did I even have the kids wash their hands before eating a meal. That's so uncharacteristic of me and my neat freak ways. See . . . I can cope with being dirty.

As you can see in the photo, we went camping with another family, the H's. It was a blast - all five kids got along great with little to no fighting (with the exception of some sibling squabbles). It was amazing to see how entertained the kids were with 99 Cent Store water squirt bottles. Who says kids need fancy toys with batteries? Stick them out in the forest and they'll figure out a way to amuse themselves (or at the least investigate other campsites uninvited).

So there was one packing glitch on my behalf. We managed to get all the gear in place and even the food and meals planned out. I had pulled aside warm and cold weather clothes for both kids and adults but there was something I had forgotten to pack.

You see, I had set aside a partial stack of clothes for the kids and Air Boss, being ever-so-helpful, stuffed the stack into a duffle bag. The thought that the kids didn't have a complete set of clothes never crossed my mind (out of sight, out of mind). H Family, if you're reading this, you'll know why 'Shroom and Lolli wore what they wore . . .

. . . NOT present in that partial stack of clothes were clean short-sleeved shirts. I had packed L/S shirts and hoodies for the kids but let's just say that the only S/S shirt 'Shroom and Lolli had for the entire 4-day camping trip was the shirt on their back. Yup - they wore the same shirt everyday for four days straight. If the H Family never wants to camp with us again, we'll know why (at least part of the reason why . . . )

. . . See . . . the neat freak in me CAN rough it to the point that wearing the same clothes day in and day out doesn't bother me too much. Of course the first thing I did once we got home was to start up the washing machine . . . and the shower . . .

Ahh -- home sweet home.

P.S. I celebrated my SECOND birthday in CA up in the mountains. Can't believe it's already been over a year here in the Golden State.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bye bye, Omigee

Bye bye, Omigee
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
It is with great sadness that I write about Omigee's passing. Our little blue-finned family member, our cross-country mascot from a year ago, and 'Shroom and Lolli's 2006 Christmas gift has died.

I had discovered him at the bottom of the tank "resting" in the corner by the silk plant. His fins were upright and all would have seemed normal . . . except . . . he was perfectly upside-down.

Puzzled by his new swimming manuever, I put my face close to the tank and he didn't flair his frills at me. He was still. And quite upside down.

My heart sank as I knew that there was no doubt that Omigee had passed on. Air Boss broke the news to the kids (after I had scrambled upstairs to let him know - all using hand signals so as not to alert the kids prematurely).

'Shroom and Lolli said good-bye and I gave a short prayer for Oimgee by our downstairs toilet. 'Shroom did the honors of flushing. Except he didn't quite push the lever all the way and the limp blue fish swished around a bit but didn't go down. Air Boss made a funny face and I held my breath. 'Shroom finally gave a final push on the lever and Omigee disappeared from our home.

I do feel sad - like our last connection to Boston has been wiped away. Omigee made the 3,000 trip with us in the Blackhawk. He survived our first tough year here in LA and now he's gone. I know he was just a fish but to me, especially since we left Boston a year ago, he became more than "just a fish."

Rest in peace, my blue friend.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Breaking the Silence

Things have been quiet on the blog-front for a couple main reasons:

1) been busy studying for the CSET (California Subject Examination for Teachers) Math Subtest 1 and cramming in all the algebra I learned but forgot and everything else algebra-related I never learned, and

2) been torn about what to share on the World Wide Web; lately I've picked up a pen and paper and "blogged" the old-fashioned way (the past-time formerly known as "journaling")

Despite exercising the hand through pencil-pushing problem sets and penmanship practice on blank lined paper, I've been successful in keeping our summer days busy.

Here are some highlights:
1) taking the kids to their first VBS (Vacation Bible School) experience; Lolli still gets confused and calls it "CVS"

2) watching the kids slightly improve their "swimming" skills after two weeks of swim lessons (and yes, 'Shroom and Lolli were the only kids wearing wet suits in the outdoor pool)

3) feeling driven out of our apartment as the construction noise in the unit next door is hitting a new decibel record (apparently weekends are fair game for construction work)

4) deciding to buy a car, test driving it, picking out the color and the actual car on the lot, negotiating a price and agreeing to buy it, and then backing out of it at the last minute (all within an 18 hour time span)

5) getting ready for our first camping experience (which involved getting a huge honking 2-room tent with full-sized screened in porch . . . and then returning it because it was--literally--way too big)

6) creating fun (and funny!) journal pages with the kids as we try out homeschooling this summer

7) watching the kids learn to read (okay, so it's more like watching ONE child read and watching the OTHER want absolutely nothing to do with books, words, letters or anything resembling symbols that look like they should be read)

The summer has flown by so far and I can't believe we'll soon be going back to Boston for a much-anticipated visit. In the meantime, I have some pretty ugly looking math problems to get back to . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bye Bye Frank

Bidding a farewell
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007

I'll cut to the chase so you don't have to skim to the end.

Frank has passed on. He is no longer living and Omigee has lost his tankmate of six months.

It's been over two weeks since that fateful day when Air Boss had given Frank our snail a rigorous scrubbing with the tank toothbrush (as opposed to one of our own toothbrush). I think that scrub down is what did Frank in. He was never the same after that. From my last blog entry, he was starting to perk up a bit by climbing around the rock and tank glass but he still wasn't the same old Frank. He seemed slow, lethargic, and his slug body seemed limp and shriveled a bit.

Every couple of days, I would find Frank in a very unnatural upside position (shell opening facing up). Just when I would think it would be time to take the tank chopsticks out (as opposed to our regular eating chopsticks) and pull him out for some mouth-to-radula resuscitation, he would somehow manage to flip himself right-side-up and do whatever snails usually do.

This past weekend, Frank was in that freakish upside down position again. This time, it seemed a bit different. His circular foot wasn't neatly tucked into his shell as usually is the case when he's being shy (or upside down as of late).

"Eh, better to wait around and see what he's up to," I had thought. And I made sure that the kids weren't around when I talked about Frank's pending expiration with Air Boss.

That was Saturday. Then came Sunday. Then Monday. And surprise - Tuesday followed. Still no change. Either he was dead and I was in denial or he was acting EXTREMELY shy - even by snail standards.

We had decided to wait until the next morning to extract him and dispose of him. The kids were already in bed and we wanted to give them a chance to say their farewells to Frank. That was last night.

This morning, Air Boss took pictures of Frank (sadly, our only pictures of him). Omigee came around and said his good-bye to his hard-shelled friend. 'Shroom and Lolli were eating their breakfast on the kitchen island where the tank was and were starting to say their good-byes. I had prepared a paper towel for Air Boss so he could land the snail. Air Boss had also prepared a cardboard "coffin" made out of a paper towel tube.

Air Boss was worried that as he pulled him out, Frank would move and show us he wasn't quite dead. Well, let's just say that needn't be a concern. As Air Boss skillfully picked up the upside down Frank with the chopsticks, Air Boss noticed that Frank was very limp and soft. Just as Frank was clearing the opening of the tank, the snail slipped from Air Boss' grasp and the snail fell back into the tank with a "plop!". A plume of --something-- formed a cloud in the water. Frank's decomposed slug-like body had fallen out of his shell. Most of his body fell behind the tank rock. His circular foot fell in front of the rock.

"Eww! Get that piece! Over there! There's his foot!" I squealed like a ninny. I was utterly grossed out. If we were looking for confirmation that Frank was indeed dead, well - there we had it.

"Oh sick! It stinks!" was Air Boss' brief and poignant eulogy for our dear snail. I opened the windows and lit a scented candle as Air Boss tried to scoop out the remains while holding his breath.

Meanwhile, the smell hadn't yet hit the kids and 'Shroom and Lolli were saying "Good-bye Frank. I love you" in between mouthfuls of cereal. Then the smell hit them and they were covering up their noses.

Once Frank was sealed up in his cardboard coffin, I immediately took him to the dumpster (did I mention that trash pickup is six days away?!?). When I came back, Air Boss kindly asked "Do you want me to clean the tank?"

Without even thinking (and believe me, if I had thought just a split second more, my answer would have been different), I said, "No - don't worry. I'll do it."

As soon as that was out of my mouth, I realized I had passed up a pretty good offer (the tank cleaning job had somehow ended up being my responsibility all this time).

"Wait - do you want to clean the tank?" I tried to ask politely while trying to keep the eagerness out of my voice.

"Naa - I can't. I've just remembered I have a conference call, " Air Boss said as he quickly exited the kitchen, "later this afternoon!"

So, I was stuck cleaning the mess, the stench, the body bits. I almost lost Omigee down the drain as I tried to get him in as little of the contaminated water as possible (don't blame me if he's flipping all over the place!). It was the quickest tank scrub down and I did it all breathing through my mouth!

Well, somehow our sadness over the loss of Frank was camouflaged by the ick factor of a decomposed mollusk.

Bye bye Frank. We miss you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Fresh Water World

"Mommy, how come Frank didn't eat all of Omigee's allergies?" Lolli had asked me last week while I was changing the fish tank water.

Omigee was temporarily displaced in the little plastic bowl (a.k.a. his moving container from almost a year ago) while I was scrubbing the green slimy scum off the bottom of the tank. As if the little plastic container wasn't small and cramped enough for this two inch fish, Omigee had to share it with Frank, a freshwater snail we had purchased ths past December.

"Huh? How do you know if Omigee has allergies?" I had asked somewhat distractedly as I tried to clean the tank as quickly as I could.

It wasn't until later that day that I had figured out what Lolli was asking. We had told the kids when we had purchased Frank (who, Lolli insists, is a girl) that Omigee needed someone to eat all the algae (i.e. "allergies") in the tank. The tank was getting too dirty too quickly even with the filter running. After consultation with the pet store ower, we had decided that a snail with its hard shell would be able to withstand any attacks from a larger more agressive fish.

For the months that Frank has co-habited the tank with Omigee, the yellow shelled guy seemed to be doing his part in keeping the tank fairly clean. Except for one part - which was a slimly disgusting dark green. His own shell. The poor guy (er--girl) couldn't keep his/her back clean. Air Boss joked that we needed to get another snail to eat the algae off Frank's back (I can see it, "You eat off my back and I'll eat off your back").

Quite by accident, I have since discovered that the algae build-up is relatively easy to remove (the "by chance" discovery involved a chopstick, stiring the water, brushing up against Frank's shell, and a big flake of algae floating off).

I decided to gently brush Frank's back with the fish tank toothbrush. I did what I thought was an okay job - not the cleanest but definitely cleaner than before. Frank didn't seem to mind and he was even still sticking out of his shell while I scrubbed him clean.

Air Boss didn't think I did such a great job.

Later on that day, Air Boss took the toothbrush and scrubbed like he was attacking a food-crusted pot with a steel sponge. Frank was restored to his glistening butter yellow color. But he also didn't move or come out of his shell for almost three days!

Well, now that it has been over a week since Frank's shell-shocked experience (haha - pun totally and undeniably intended), I'm afraid that the creature is slowly dying. I don't know if freshwater snails have to maintain a certain pH balance (and thus some algae is okay) or if the backscrub was too harsh. He was on the bottom of the tank upside down and totally stuck in his shell for 2-3 days. He's out now but not looking very well. In case you're wondering how I can tell if a snail is looking well or not, he's little slug-like body is a bit shriveled and curled up on the corners and his antennae are drooped (one is even bent).

As I'm praying with the kids for Frank to feel better, Air Boss is decided whether to do a "toilet flush" or "in the ground" burial. I'll have to keep you posted on Frank's whereabouts . . .

Friday, May 30, 2008

We own the biggest gas guzzler

No kidding. Our family car, nicknamed the Blackhawk, is a Toyota Sienna minivan and according to an article on is up there with the Ferraris and Lamborghinis in being the least fuel efficient*. Too bad we don't have the glamour associated with being a foreign exotic sports car. At least we have bragging rights in claiming that we're "classified with Lamborghini"!

While we were up in the San Francisco Bay Area this past weekend for a wedding, I was adamant about not paying $4.09 for a gallon of gas. Little did I know that I would end up paying $4.19 and the $4.09 I tried to backtrack to was the best deal in what seemed like a 30 mile radius.

Since we've arrived in LA ten months ago, I've seen the gasoline prices rise from $2.89/gallon to $4.15! That's an increase over over 43% in less than a year! Granted we're a one-car family and Air Boss doesn't require a car to "commute" to his "office," we're still flabbergasted by the prices. When I would gas up the car, I used to manually stop the pump once the total price hit $50 - even if I was short of a full tank. There was just some mental barrier for paying over $50 for a tank of gas. Now, if I continued that practice, I may not have enough fuel to drive back home from the gas station!

All this is to say that we're now seriously contemplating getting a second car sooner than expected. A much more fuel efficient car than the Blackhawk. Air Boss has been eyeing the 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid. Yup, we're gonna spend $35,000 (not including insurance, registration, smog fees) so we can save $2,300 a year on the gasoline difference between our gas-guzzler and a hybrid.

Yup. Makes total sense to me. = ]

Photo: Texas Tech Marketing Department

*Incidentally, for those of you who drive an Odyssey or Caravan, the Sienna has you beat by a SLIGHT margin. It's just ironic that the manufacturer that came up with the epitome hybrid (Prius) also makes the most fuel inefficient minivan.

Monday, May 26, 2008

My new favorite game

Blokus champion
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
One of Lolli's birthday presents this year was "Blokus". Incidentally, it is pronounced "BLOCK-us" and not "BLOKE-us" as I had originally thought. If my pronounciation was correct, I guess the British version of this game would have to be "DUDE-us" or something like that.

Anyway, I had picked this game thinking that if it had won over ten toy awards, it must be good. Even though I thought it would be a bit advanced for her, I figured she could grow into it.

It turns out that Lolli is a whiz at this game. She can manipulate the pieces to fit in her favor (think back to those Tetris days!) and totally block me from my moves (I guess it's not unfathomable that four year olds can strategize).

The other day, Lolli and I had introduced the game to Air Boss. The three of us played it laying down on the floor of her bedroom (as you can see from the picture, with Mimi the duck watching). Air Boss and I were so intent on dominating the board and playing offense to each other's colors that we weren't really paying attention to what Lolli was doing with her pieces. She won.

"That was just beginner's luck," I had thought to myself. I had also thought that if Air Boss and I weren't so ruthless with each other and paid a bit of attention to Lolli, we MIGHT have been able to block some of her moves.

Well, today Lolli and I introduced the game to 'Shroom. Although 'Shroom understood the basic concept of the game (be the first to place all your tile pieces on the board while preventing others from doing the same), he didn't really have strategy. She won. Hands down. And embarrassingly, I WAS paying attention to her moves. It's just that her brother was also putting down some moves that utterly blocked me!

Okay - so maybe I'm not the best player and may never learn to play chess but I don't necessarily think a four year old is an equal opponent for me.

Yeah, you're right. She's not my equal.

She's way better.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thoughts on Adoption

Our family had gone out for an early dinner yesterday and as we sat in local Taiwanese restaurant and waited for our food, we couldn't help but listen to the news on the TV in the corner of the restaurant. Although the entire news broadcast was in Chinese, I didn't need Air Boss to translate what the news was about.

There were video clips of earthquake survivors talking to news reporters. The backdrop was always the same. Piles and piles of rubble. Dirt, mess, newly homeless people sifting through the aftermath of China's worst earthquake in 30 years.

I have seen photos of sobbing mothers laying next to their deceased children. Pictures of distraught family members searching desparately for lost relatives. Wordless captures of shock and disbelief on the faces of countless Chinese. I've read accounts of how teenage boys survived for three days in the rubble.

Somehow even having seen and read those accounts, I was still blown away by the film footage and the Chinese newscast in the restaurant. Air Boss translated the reporters questions and the responses from the local survivors. One man lost everything. His wife, his two kids, his house, all his belongings. The only things he had were the clothes on his back and a cooked piece of meat that was carried in a bucket.

Survivors were trying to decide to stay or leave. With no means of transportation, any "leaving" would be on foot. The young reporter spoke a few minutes and then wished the few survivors the best on their journey of rebuilding their lives. As the camera panned to the backside of the newly widowed and childless man carrying his bucket of meat, the young female reporter broke down and started crying. It difficult for me not to cry.

I had just read that the Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman had lost his five year old daughter in a tragic accident. The fact that she was Chinese and adopted again brought my thoughts back to the topic.

Although I don't know if we'll ever adopt, or if we do, from which country our child will be, my heart totally goes out to the millions of people in Myanmar and China who are struggling to survive these monstrous natural disasters. We'll have to wait to see what God places in our hearts to love and parent other children.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Noah's Ark

Over the weekend, the family along with a couple of friends checked out the Skirball Cultural Center in LA (just north of the Getty Center).

Although we had pre-purchased timed admissions tickets to this Jewish cultural center, we weren't there to necessarily catch up on our Israeli history or learn to read Hebrew. We were there to see their permanent exhibit of "Noah's Ark."

'Shroom and Lolli (along with the adults) didn't know what to expect other than to see a big boat and lots of animals. We found it amusing to see lots of animals made from all sorts of recycled products (like kiwis made from boxing gloves, a flying crane made from what looked like a Coach purse and plastic combs, and a polar bear made from a cast iron claw foot bathtub).

In the picture to the right, you can see the elephant's trunk is made from bamboo steamers and the zebra's mane is made from a piano keyboard - how creative (not to mention resourceful)!

We had fun simulating rain, thunder, lightening and the rocking of the ark in the flood. We even had the chance to scoop up animal poop (Lolli kept asking "Is it real? Is it real? Are you sure it's not real?") as I'm sure Noah and his family had to do with so many animals on board!

At the end, we walked outside through a mist and saw two rainbows! 'Shroom and Lolli watched us adults scamper through the mist like a bunch of giggling kids running through a sprinkler. They hung back, refused to join us and probably thought we were so immature.

Somehow going to a museum where you can touch and play with everything you see brings out the kid in all of us!

[all photos taken from Air Boss' flickr:]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Okay, I've got another gripe . . .

I guess waking up early in the morning to squeeze in some study time is just making me less tolerant of things that may not be such a big deal because I have another gripe . . .

. . . the noise we've had to put up with for the past 2-3 months so far (with no end in sight). Right now, I'm not really liking our living environment thanks to the construction noise and inconveniences going on next door.

We're the second unit in an apartment complex. Think of a loaf of bread that is cut into four thick slices. The first slice faces the street and we're the second slice. The construction is going on in that "first slice" and we're not talking about just installing new carpet (although that is in the scope). Right now, the next door unit has been gutted to the wall studs (in some cases, the entire wall and studs are gone) and floor rafters. So far we've endured sledgehammers knocking down drywall, jigsaws cutting 2x4's, banging on pipes for removal, metal cutting tools on cast-iron pipes, and jack hammers for four days straight (for several hours at a time). The noises get so loud that Air Boss can't carry on a phone conversation and with him working remotely, he relies on the phone like a teen relies on text messaging. Lolli was sitting IN MY LAP as I was reading a story and she couldn't hear a word I was saying. She started wigging out when the guys next door started cutting the sewage pipe. I'm only guessing it was the sewage pipe because we couldn't use our toilets or sinks for a couple of hours (with one whole hour for advance notice).

In these 2-3 months of work, there has been no communication with us with regards to the potential disturbances or anything else remotely related to the construction. What's even worse is that the "contractor" for this job is some family member so the work is long and drawn out. I had emailed the landlady for some sort of idea of how long we have to put up with this (not in so many words). I wanted "to know how to re-adjust our expectations" in light of this construction process. No response. She didn't respond until after I got Air Boss to write a second email. I was ready to let her know that if she wasn't willing/able to communicate with us, I would have to resort to finding answers myself by going to City Hall to see what the construction schedule was (incidentally, I don't see a construction permit displayed in any windows so my guess is that City Hall doesn't have any records of this project).

I want to know what are my rights as a tenant? The landlord knows fully well that we have young kids, my husband works from home, and the noise is so loud we can't even "get away" from it (our unit is only 15 feet wide). Air Boss and I often take the kids out of the house with no where to go. We just need to get out just to get out.

At this point, I am not asking for monetary compensation for the inconveniences. I am simply asking for some sort of communication as to how long this will continue and what the working hours are (right now, anything goes). The landlady finally responded to Air Boss' email with a "Teflon" reply. It's not her project so talk to her brothers about it. In my first email, I had explicitly stated that if she is not the point person, she would need to let me know who that person is and his/her contact info. Apparently, it is up to us to track down these brothers and find out the answers ourselves. If this continues, I may think of asking for monetary compensation or simply withholding rent.

Am I simply acting like a person short on sleep or do I have some tenant's right to know what's going on?

Rules, Rules and More Rules

This past week I've been so frustrated with my Bible study group that I nearly walked out in the middle of the small group discussion time. While this is a large international organization with tons of members and volunteers involved, it seems like there are just as many rules and guidelines. Although I've enjoyed the Bible study and Lolli has learned so much in the kids' program, this past year has been quite difficult for me to swallow. Rules, rules, and more rules. Many of them stated and mentioned. But none of them written down. When I had asked if I could type up the rules (so I don't have to have my hand slapped when I "break" a rule that I hadn't even realized was a rule), the leader discouraged me from doing so.

"We don't want a list of rules to get in the wrong hands," was her explanation. "If that happens, our organization which is made unique by these rules, will no longer be unique. Other people can copy those rules and make their own study group. Also, if a non-believing person saw this list of rules, it would deter them from wanting to come and learn about the Bible."

I couldn't believe my ears. Was she for real?

"I've often heard that imitation is the best form of flattery," I had rebutted. "So what if some renegade group wants to copy the rules? I had always thought what made this group unique was the curriculum. And we know that is already copyrighted."

I also secretly thought (but with much restraint did not say) "do you honestly think that all these rules are what makes people want to join a group like this?"

But I DID say, "With regards to the list getting into the hands of a non-member and their freakin' out over the sheer volume of rules, well, at least they're getting an accurate picture of what the group is about."

I wasn't asking to change the rules nor was I asking permission to bend them. I was just asking if they could be published in a list so that we all would get the same information and have some sort of refrence tool to remember the 20 gagillion rules. I had even offered to type them up and make them available for distribution. I may has well asked to make photocopies of the copyrighted lessons for mass distribution to the public.

Well, I've said my piece. I do recognize this organization as one doing a great service in helping many learn about the Bible but I guess in my case, I may just do better in another type of environment that isn't so rule-based. It just seems so ironic that we had studied earlier this year how many of the religious leaders of Jesus' time had upheld the traditions and man-made rules much higher than God's intent for these rules. I guess the letter of the law is more important than the spirit of the law.

Quite ironic, huh?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Lolli!

Today my little girl turned four years old! Contrary to how many parents of a preschooler feel, I can't believe she is JUST turning four. Academically she's already doing some first grade work. She can reason and draw her own conclusions like a third grader. She likes to gab like a preteen. She loves heeled shoes, purses, and bling like a high school girl. Where has the "little girl years" gone?

In honor of her blog name, I made Jello lollipops for her to share with her preschool friends and decorated (with Air Boss' help) over 50 sugar cookies. Some of these cookies were made into cookie lollipops for her friends in her Bible study group.

Just the other day, I had told the kids their blog names. Lolli laughed when I told her name was Lolli.

"Do you know what Lolli is?" I had asked.

"No. What does it mean?" she asked, laughing just because it sounded funny.

"Lolli is short for 'lollipop.'"

While 'Shroom was cracking up over that, I told him his blog name.

"Your name is 'Shroom."

He must have been laughing so hard while I said his name that he didn't hear me.

"Shrimp?! Why am I called Shrimp?!" he exclaimed.

Now it was Lolli's turn to laugh.

"No - it's " 'Shroom,' " I tried to correct. Alas, the correction attempt was in vain. The kids were having too much fun giggling at their names and 'Shroom's name had morphed into Shrimp.

As I told Lolli that the birthday lollipops (both Jello and cookie) were in honor of her name, I realized that I have only a few months to figure something out . . .

. . . how to turn mushrooms into birthday treats.

(let me know if you have any suggestions!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Back at Home

Today Air Boss and the stuffed travel companions have returned safely to L.A. and the kids and I are so happy to have them home. Err . . . except for the fact that 'Shroom and Lolli never knew that George and Mimi had left the state of California.

George and Mimi, originally brought along to "fill space" in the laptop/camera bag, have truly had a fun-filled full adventure. Places to go, people to see, things to do . . . they sure lived it up. Air Boss was quite diligent in capturing their fun moments--and . . . some embarrassing moments (like getting drunk silly during a business dinner and heaving in the near-by bread basket). You'll definitely have to check out Air Boss' flickr for more photos!

In the meantime, we're all happy to be back together.

And in case you're wondering where George and Mimi are sleeping tonight (now that their doubles are sleeping with 'Shroom and Lolli), they've been stashed in the laundry basket waiting for the next wash cycle!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

George and Mimi's Excellent Adventure

This past week, Air Boss has been in Boston on a business trip. Along with his laptop, clothes for the week, webcam, gifts for family and friends, he wanted to bring his camera. His Canon 20D is usually packed in its own bag but with the limited luggage/carry-on allowed these days, he managed to shove the camera in with his laptop – minus the camera bag. No worries – the camera was well-padded with ‘Shroom’s and Lolli’s well-loved stuffed friends, George and Mimi.

Originally brought along as “packing material” for the camera, George and Mimi have become the VIP’s of Air Boss’ latest trip to the East Coast and the newest form of entertainment for ‘Shroom and Lolli as they laugh at the photos back here in LA [to date, they are still confused as to how they can sleep with George and Mimi each night and yet see photos of them in Boston; they have not caught on that Daddy has confiscated the laundry-day “doubles” as his travel buddies].

On the plane with Air Boss (no extra plane tickets required as they are “lap-animals” or rather “tray-animals”):

Visiting some familiar sights in our beloved Beantown:

The Charles River (they’re deciding whether or not the insulated lunchbox would suffice as a floatation device)

Our home church (sitting atop the A/V soundboard equipment)

Our much missed Green House (Lolli is relieved to see the house is still green)

Riding the Red Line of the MBTA (Mimi must have taken this photo)

Air Boss even took them to work with him. As evidenced by the photo below, he had recruited their assistance (along with another fellow primate) with some heavy-duty number-crunching.

They were even helping a fellow colleague out on his work, too!

They had some wise insight on a global teleconference meeting. Unfortunately for the primate and the fowl, no one heard them (Mimi doesn’t have a mouth) nor took them very seriously.

Apparently, not everyone was amused by their antics or willingness to “help.”

They’ve earned their keep and each day has been a long a tiring one. Thank goodness for Air Boss’ king-sized bed in which the three of them can snooze the night away.

We miss you Daddy! Come home soon!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Pro's and Con's of Repeating a Grade*

Well, the list of pro’s and con’s are apparently skewed "slightly" towards the con’s. Where are the pro’s for grade retention?

1. Academic achievement of kids who are retained is poorer than that of peers who are promoted

2. Achievement gains associated with retention fade within two to three years after the grade repeated

3. Kids who are identified as most behind are the ones "most likely harmed by retention"

4. Retention often is associated with increased behavior problems

5. Grade retention has a negative impact on all areas of a child's achievement (reading, math, and language) and socio-emotional adjustment (peer relationships, self-esteem, problem behaviors and attendance)

6. Students who are retained are more likely to drop out of school compared to students who were never retained. In fact, grade retention is one of the most powerful predictors of high school dropout

7. Retained students are more likely to have poorer educational and employment outcomes during late adolescence and early adulthood

8. Retention is more likely to have benign or positive impact when students are not simply held back, but receive specific remediation to address skill and/or behavioral problems and promote achievement and social skills

* Taken from the National Association of School Pyschologist’s (NASP) 2003 “Position Statements on Student Grade Retention”

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Breaking the News

writing lesson
Originally uploaded by
Today my heart broke into about a million little pieces. This afternoon I told 'Shroom that he would be staying back and repeating kindergarten.

Although Air Boss and I had known this was a possibility before school even started last year, we had hoped that he would somehow turn a new leaf during kindergarten, discover himself, and "wake up and smell the coffee" so to speak. We've waited and waited and we're still waiting. In the meantime, we've watched him struggle with his homework, continue drawing like a three-year-old, play around his classmates but never really with them, and all the while try his hardest to keep up with his school work.

It wasn't until earlier this calendar year that we sat down with 'Shroom's teacher and a couple of his special ed teachers to discuss the possibility of rentention. I had been fighting this possibility since September and was determined that I would do anything and everything to keep him on tract with the rest of his peers--at whatever cost.

Well, the costs have been quite high. On numerous ocassions, 'Shroom has cried during marathon homework sessions. What should have been easy 5-10 minute assignments were 1-2 hours of torture for both him and me (and Air Boss and Lolli who were witnesses of my fits of frustration). Somehow, despite our best efforts--and "our" meaning the entire family as we each helped out the best way we could--God has created 'Shroom to be a bit younger than his biological age.

Although we have been quite open to friends and family about 'Shroom's impending retention, Air Boss and I hadn't told 'Shroom about this little detour to first grade. I didn't know when to tell him or how to tell him.

Well, this afternoon as we were going over his reading assignment and reviewing his Dolce sight words ('Shroom all the while struggling), I had the urge to let him know. I put away the word ring, closed the reading book, and sat him down on my lap.

"'Shroom, do you know what comes after kindergarten"?

He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said without hesitation, "First grade."

I could tell that he knew something was coming up. Something important.

"Your friends will be going to first grade next year. But you won't be. You will be in kindergarten again." I never took my eyes off his and in some way, I wish I had. If I had, I wouldn't have seen the bewilderment, the bewilderment then turn into understanding, and finally with the understanding, his tears.

I had underestimated my son. I had assumed that retention for him wouldn't be a big deal and that he would take it in stride (or perhaps not even really notice). Perhaps that was my wishful thinking.

I held him and we cried and cried. I tried to explain to him why in a way that he would understand. I didn't want him to feel punished for learning too slowly and not keeping up. I wanted to encourage him that by being in kindergarten again, he would be able to keep up better and learn the things he hasn't yet been able to learn.

I listed all his friends in class and told him that they would be going to first grade. I also told him that he would be making friends with a whole new class and that he would have fun making more friends.

"Do you think I love you any less for not going to first grade next year?" I asked him.

He shook his head "no."

I hugged him and we cried some more.

I don't know if this will be the best decision for 'Shroom but I can only hope and pray that we're making the right choice. As one mom who had retained her child said, "ultimately you are changing the course of your child's life . . . . and you have no idea how it will turn out." That is true. And it is also true that if 'Shroom were to advance onto first grade with his class, I still wouldn't know how it would turn out.

I am so grateful that despite being the mom to 'Shroom and Lolli, it is God who is the Master Planner of their lives.

Anyway, graduating from high school at age 17 is way over-rated. =)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spring Break Visit

We've just wrapped up a great week with Boston Grandma and Grandpa (my parents). They were gracious in coming out to visit us - coordinating their schedule with ours so that they would time their visit during 'Shroom's spring break. Both Lolli and 'Shroom were thrilled at having Poh-Poh (Grandma) and Goong-Goong (Grandpa) stay with them for almost a whole week!

[there is nothing wrong with the pixelation of your monitor; the above elephant is constructed of LEGO bricks!]

The first couple of days together, 'Shroom would timidly ask Poh-Poh before he hugged and kissed her good-night, "Are you going to be here tomorrow?" It was as if he was afraid that Poh-Poh would disappear back to Boston while he slept at night. After the second night, he didn't ask anymore.

Since our tiny 1,000 SF apartment would be a tight squeeze for the six of us (and since it doubles as Air Boss' home office), my parents made arrangements for us to spend most of our week together in a time share unit in Orange County. Withing hours of their arrival, I packed up the kids and the parents and headed down to San Clemente (the half-way point between LA and San Diego). Poor Air Boss stayed behind and finished out the work week before driving down on the weekend to join us.

In the meantime, we had fun visiting LEGOLand, doing some outlet shopping, and seeing beach after beach (the weekend weather topped off at a scorching 98 degrees!). Here are some of our LEGOLand photos:

Lolli and Goong-Goong enjoying a ride through the LEGO safari in what Lolli calls "the cheetah car." Aparently they have the driving thing down pat as neither care to "drive."

One of the rides required an HOUR LONG wait. Goong-Goong and Poh-Poh, ever the generous, giving and self-sacrificing ones, stood in the long line and waited the hour while 'Shroom and Lolli got to play with the Duplos in the waiting area.

Like I said, Lolli has the driving thing down-pat. This girl can't wait to drive (and don a wedding dress among other "much older" things). This is a three-year-old girl going on 16!

Meanwhile 'Shroom was just happy being lion food. How can kids with the same gene pool turn out so differently?

Well, now that Goong-Goong and Poh-Poh are back home in Boston, the kids can't wait until the summer when we'll finally get our turn to visit. Poh-Poh had told the kids that we'll be coming to visit once 'Shroom is done with school.

"When will that be?" Lolli had asked.

"That will be in three months," my mom replied.

"How long is three months? Is it longer than a minute?"

Well - here's to a long three months! I know it will pass quickly but for a little girl who can't wait to see her Poh-Poh and Goong-Goong, it may as well be forever!

We miss you Poh-Poh and Goong-Goong!

A Missed Opportunity

Over a week ago, I decided to get my hair cut. I'm the type of person who gets my hair cut about once a year and each time I get it cut, it's about a year's growth. For an average person, that would be about six inches. My hair is not average. It's an outta control weed. I think I grow about 8 inches in a year.
Well, I'm sportin' a new look. A new look that is ten inches shorter! I'm bummed because I didn't know how much was going to be cut off. I'm not upset at the stylist (I think she did a great job) but I'm upset that because I had always kept my long hair up in a twist, I didn't even know how long my hair was until it was chopped off and on the floor of the salon.
The first snip was a shock as I watched the long lock of hair slide down the black cape onto the floor. "How long was that?" I had asked the stylist. Exactly ten inches. Too late. My hair was not dry (it was freshly washed for the cut) and it was not bunched in a ponytail - two requirements (besides the minimum ten inches) to donate to Locks of Love. Bummer. What a wasted opportunity.

Well, I have another year-and-a-half to grow it out another ten inches. In the meantime, I'm enjoying feeling about two pound lighter!

Monday, March 31, 2008

You know you've been in L.A. too long...

... when the following conversation takes place...

Lolli: Mommy, what are those things you put on your hands called?

Me: Huh? What things?

Lolli: You know, those things you put on your hands when you want to pick up snow.

Me: You mean "mittens"?

Lolli: Oh yeah. Mittens. That's what they're called.

At least she still remembers what the white stuff is called.