The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Boys and Girls

Interesting happenings today.

My son is an interesting kid. He is passionate about singing and dancing and performing. Today, I convinced him that he should just go ahead and audition for Seussical next week. He has been hesitant about wanting to do it because he is nervous about the audition. I think he will be okay once he gets there if he is doing something he knows really, really, really well, so I made the decision for him - he needs to sing "Do Re Mi" from Sound of Music, because that is the show he is currently working on, and that is the song he knows best. Besides, he is only auditioning for a Who, so he just needs to show them what a cute little singer and dancer he is.

So, how did I convince him?  This morning he watched an episode of Veggie Tales about a kid who doesn't want to use his gift. Eventually, the kid uses his gift and all kinds of good comes of it. I reminded Vinny about this show and told him, "You have a gift. You are a gifted singer and dancer. You need to use your gift."  Tonight, when discussing it with Marc, he added, "and director! I'm going to be a gifted director when I grow up."  He very well might be. He is such a sweet, unique kid... even if he is kind of making me crazy lately.

He is a very emotional kid. He is sensitive and he cries a lot. Particularly lately. Sigh. I am not this type of person.

Our family is not big on traditional gender roles. It is not like I am a super feminist or anything, we are just... different. Out of the two of us, Marc is the sensitive one. I think it is usually the other way around, but not in our relationship. Marc is also probably the more nurturing one. I don't wake up if the kids awake in the middle of the night. It is not that I wouldn't; it is just that I sleep really hard. When I was pregnant, I told my mom I was afraid of this, and she assured me it would change when I had kids... but it didn't. Thank goodness for Marc. He is really good with kids. There are some ways in which I am traditional. I cook.  But I sure as heck don't clean. I'm not good at it, and I don't like it. This summer, we would not have had clean laundry half the time if it wasn't for Marc.

Anyhow... back to traditional gender roles. Tiana is a pretty traditional little girl. Vinny was not really a traditional little boy. Sure, he liked cars, but never as much as most boys. He loved Disney princess movies and collected Disney characters. In fact, his Disney action figures are still probably his favorite collection. Vinny is not really into Transformers or other things that his friends are into. He is a bit of an odd duck. Tiana is pretty typical. She is not even two, but she is obsessed with babies and doll stuff. Today, I bought her a doll stroller with a doll. I bought it for the stroller, but I didn't realize it came with such a cool doll. Dolls sure have come a long way. This one cries, drinks, sleeps. She makes sucking noises and blinks when she eats. If you feed her enough milk, then she falls asleep and snores.  Its kind of a trip.

Vinny was crazy jealous. He spent the evening crying and emotional that he didn't have such a cool doll. At dinner, my sister made some comment about the fact that dolls are girls toys. My mom and I were quick to come back with a "So what?"  My mom pointed out that boys today grow up to be very involved dads, and there is nothing wrong with him wanting to play with dolls. He now wants one for his birthday, and my mom said she would try to get him one. I think my dad was a little concerned, but I reminded him that he did his share of tights wearing in high school and college, and I think he moved on.

But I know it bothers people. So what if he loves toys that are traditionally female?  He is an amazing person, and there is nothing wrong with his preferences. Perhaps there is just something wrong with a world that is so judgmental.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Back to Work

So, today I went back to work. For those of you new to reading my blog or new to my life, let me explain why I am back at work in July. My school has two semesters, which are close to traditional semesters:  August-December and February-June.  I get two breaks each year: summer and winter. So... while most teachers are still enjoying their long summer breaks, I am back at work, which is somewhat hard; however, while most teachers are returning to work just days after New Years each year, I am just settling in to my winter break at that time. I love my January off, so I try to remind myself of that when I am walking into school during the last week of July.

Today was meetings meetings meetings. I didn't even touch my classroom. A lot of progress was made on important topics, and I feel that my school is really geared up for this upcoming school year, so this is all good, but I feel so unprepared for next week. I don't have students until Wednesday, but I can already tell that the staff development schedule for the next two days is just very full, and there is just not going to be much time. I have so much to get ready to conduct my Masters research this semester, to teach my English classes, and to co-direct a musical. Yikes. Thank God I don't have classes for graduate school for several more weeks.

I just am having difficulty shifting into school gear. I was mostly "on" while I was on campus today, but I know I will only be really ready if I get some work done at home over the next few days, but I just don't feel like it. I feel like sitting in my backyard reading a book. I feel like going out to dinner with friends (okay, I'm gonna do that anyway). I even feel like continuing my "spring cleaning," but I just don't feel like lesson planning. Yikes.

Vinny has been difficult lately. He's just lacking structure. I am hoping that my return to work helps. It will probably help that he is going to vacation bible school all day next week. This will provide structure for his day, and he really like structured activities. As much as I know my mom is looking forward to summer days with him, I am thinking about putting him in theatre camp the week after that, just because it is relatively cheap and the structure might be good for him. Well, we'll see how next week goes and then decide.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


So, we had a wonderful family trip to Disneyland this week. We really made great decisions that resorted in a great trip overall. We chose to stay at the Howard Johnson on Harbor. This was actually a PERFECT place to stay. It was priced like a hotel, but was very much like a resort. There was a great water play area for the kids, with a hot tub in the kids play area. I am very much a fan of being able to watch my kids while jacuzzing.

We spent the first day just playing at the hotel. We were able to check in early and we ordered lunch from the Mimi's next door. Later than evening, we spent some time at Downtown Disney and had dinner at Rainforest Cafe.  We made it back to the hotel in time to put the kids down to bed and watch the fireworks on our balcony while eating dessert. Perfect, perfect day.

We hit the parks early and made a very long day of it. We initially thought we would try to do the Cars land rides because we got there so early, but that was just madness. We were able to make it to the Tow Mater ride in the evening. Once I realized that it is a spinning ride, I quickly made the decision to just watch, so Marc took the kids on. It was probably Tiana's favorite ride of the whole day. Watching her on it was making me nervous at first (it really whips around!), but when I saw her face, it was just so cute. She was smiling this open mouth smile and giggling and squealing. So, so cute.

It is funny, when we arrived at the park in the morning, Vinny wanted to know how long we would stay, and I told him we would stay until bed time. He loved this idea... until around 4:00, when he asked if we could go back to the hotel and play in the water again. Marc and I jumped at the suggestion. In fact, we even decided to save some money on dinner and order a pizza to eat in the room. The way Tiana has been lately, any time we can avoid a sit down dinner with her, we do.

After dinner, we went back to the park and made an evening of shows. We saw World of Color, during which Tiana crashed. What a cool show. My one criticism was the whole, "This is a standing show" thing. I would rather they squish less people in and let people sit, more like Fantasmic. If I am going to get a fastpass for a show in the morning and get there an hour before, I think I should get to sit down. I mean it is kind of a long show. Little kids are particularly tired by 9:00 after a long day at Disneyland. After the show, we boldly made a mad dash back to Disneyland to attempt to see Fantasmic. Vinny saw it for the first time with Grandma earlier this year, and he wanted to see it again, so we did our best.  We actually ended up with great seats.

Of my favorite new experiences at Disneyland this year was Big Thunder Ranch. Its an all you can eat bbq with entertainment. It was very cute and a good place for small kids. Its a table service restaurant (they serve you food, not buffet style, which is good because buffets kind of gross me out), but it is outside and very relaxed, so they totally didn't care that Tiana just wanted to run around the table.

My favorite improvement was the cell phone charging lockers. Yea!  In this new world of smart phones that do so much for being at the park (being able to take photos and share them, use MouseWait app, do business in line, etc.), it stinks that using them often means a dead phone by the end of the day; however, we were totally happy to give them up for 45 minutes to be able to have full batteries to take photos for the rest of the day. Totally worth $2.

We decided to do Goofy's Kitchen this morning as one last bit of fun before heading back to the real world. This was not a good decision. First of all, it used to be cheaper for breakfast than dinner. That is not longer the case. It is not just as expensive, which is silly, because breakfast is just not as big of a meal. We barely ate anything. $100 for the three of us. Also, Tiana is still a little young for this; she loved the characters, but she did not understand that they were not all there just for her and that she had to stay seated. Plus, the last time we went 3 years ago, they stopped every 20-30 minutes or so and did a "Dance Party" with Goofy in the buffet area. That was Vinny's favorite part back then, and that didn't happen this time, even though we were there for like an hour. I guess it is a dinner thing?  If so, they should definitely charge less for breakfast.

This morning was also just a bad morning. Vinny was completely melting down this morning over stupid things involving packing his suitcase back up, which is ridiculous, because it could not have been a more orderly affair. Very simple things can get very complicated with an OCD kid.  These anxiety attacks are giving ME anxiety. They are turning me into a crazy person. He just grates on my nerves lately. Plus, Tiana was REALLY cranky. She was up all night teething, and when I changed her in the morning, I realized she had a bad diaper rash too (which, by lunch, resulted in me heading to the doctor, which actually resulted in antibiotics. Poor thing).  This is probably partially my fault for lazily deciding to use disposables at Disneyland. I rarely, rarely, rarely use disposables on her. While cloth can be slightly inconvenient, it is usually not too bad. I store dirties in a plastic bag and bring them home. Not that big a deal. I even toted a giant bag of dirty diapers home from Arizona. But, when I thought about dragging dirty diapers home from Disneyland, and about how much room a day's worth of dirty diapers would take up in a backpack or in the stroller, I went ahead and bought some organic disposables. These usually are fine for her, but not this week I guess. It got bad. She's in so much pain and was so cranky today.

Overall, it was a very successful trip. The HoJo was fantastic. I want to plan a trip there every year. They even have a suite with bunk beds for the kids and a separate king size bedroom. I would like to book this on our next trip.   :-)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Joie de Vivre

I have been keeping quite wonderfully busy this summer! I've been staycationing and vacationing.  The past few weeks have just been incredible.  Last Saturday, my friend Tanya and I visited Duff Goldman's (Ace of Cakes) new place, Cake Mix. It is basically the cake version of a pottery studio. You go and pick what you want to decorate (cupcakes, 6" cake, 9" cake) and then they supply all of the icings, gel colors, tools, goodies, etc., as well as professionals to help you.  From what I can tell from reviews online, Duff does his best to be there as often as possible. I imagine it will not be like that forever, but it is his new baby right now, and it seemed that he really loves being there. He WAS there when we were, and he helped Tanya and I learn new techniques and helped me come up with ideas for a design. I rarely (okay, never) make cakes for myself. When it comes to ideas for other people, no problem. I've made tons of neat cakes for my kids and my parents and other family members, but this was different. I was making a cake just because. I could do whatever I wanted. So, what did I do?  I made it quite purple. :-)  Duff taught me how to smooth buttercream, and that was one of the coolest experience of my life, and I am not normally a star-struck type, but he's just so cool. He's the type of person anyone would want to be friends with.

On Monday, Marc took the day off so we could spent time together before we left on separate trips. We took the kids to a place in LA I've been wanting to check out called Giggles & Hugs. It's a children's restaurant and playground. Very cool. The play area is very clean and very safe (no places where little ones can fall from high up or anything), and they have paid attendants to keep an eye out. The food is healthy and mostly natural and/or organic, and it is REAL food. You know when you go to kids places and all you can get is like pizza and burgers and chicken strips? Not the case here. Real restaurant menu. For example, as an appetizer, Marc got stuffed mushrooms and I got bruschetta. Yeah. Very cool.  Can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, Marc left for a youth gathering in New Orleans, while I took off with the kids for a week with family in Arizona. We spent some time with my sister in law before heading off to visit my cousin Tracy and her kids. With my sister in law, we went to see some of her close friends who have kids around Vinny's age, and Vinny had a wonderful time hanging out and swimming with them. Much more swimming ensued at Tracy's house, as well as many other fun excursions. We took the big kids to see Alice in Wonderland at a local community dinner theatre. The food was mediocre, but the show was fantastic. Totally professional quality. I think people seriously underestimate what community theatre brings to the table. Most community theatres nowadays put on really solid shows.

We also went to a jump place with a bunch of giant inflatables and to a little aquarium (which was overpriced for what it was, but the kids had a really good time) and to Rainforest Cafe. For Vinny, the highlight of the trip was definitely Alice in Wonderland, but for Tiana, it was definitely Rainforest Cafe. She was amazed pretty much every second that we were there. I don't know if I have ever seen her quite so excited.

On Saturday, I helped my cousins host a big pool party. We planned all week for it, and it was quite the success! We made alcohol infused cupcakes (that I have to say I was quite proud of), along with huge batches of beer margs and jungle juice, and a great buffet of Mexican food. The party was less than an hour away when Tracy ran outside saying, "Haboob!"  A haboob is basically a giant dust storm. Think mini-hurricane, minus the rain, plus a bunch of dust.  All week, Tracy had been saying she was just worried about the weather. I laughed it off. July in Phoenix is just miserably hot. A party at night with a pool was sure to go off without a hitch, but it is monsoon season there. Fortunately, we got all the outside furniture and stuff inside before the haboob came, and it came and went quickly and managed not to really cause any damage. The pool wasn't even that dirty. The cool thing about the haboob was that you could totally see it coming. It was a brown cloud on the horizon that just got bigger and bigger as it got closer and closer. Way cool to watch. Quite the experience. Plus, it ended with a beautiful rainbow.

It was an awesome party. I have a lot of family in Arizona, and most of them came to the party, and I have gotten to know my cousins' friends and their other family members pretty well over the years, so it was really awesome getting to hang out with everyone all night. Even though it rained a bit, it was more of a refreshing drizzle (water falling from the sky can really only be refreshing when it is 100 degrees) than anything else, and we went swimming anyway. I didn't climb out of the pool until about 2am. What a night!

The ride home was long. It took us about an hour and a half longer than the trip there, but it felt like more. We visited the world's worst Jack in the Box (seriously, we were in line at the drive thru for about 20 minutes, and there were stray pieces of hamburger meat in my chicken fajita pita), and Vinny waited until we got back on the freeway to tell me he had to go to the bathroom. The second time, he waited until after I had stopped for gas and gotten back on the freeway to tell me that he had to go to the bathroom again. Add a stop for coffee when I felt like I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, and that makes for FIVE stops. Changing a cloth diaper in a gas station restroom without a changing table is no easy feat.  With all of this, the trip actually only took us about 7 hours, but it felt like much longer. Vinny whined that he wanted to be home all ready from Fontana until he finally fell asleep in Pasadena, around which time, Tiana threw her pacifier and her blanky and cried "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" until she finally fell asleep... one mile from our house. Yikes.

But you know what? There were some moments of beauty on the trip. Tiana was in a happy giggly mood most of the time, and Vinny enjoyed having my undivided attention to talk for 6 hours.  There was no traffic at all, and the desert at sunset is a beautiful place. While we were driving, we listened to this CD of songs from old, old Disney shows and movies. Many of them Vinny and I had never even heard before. There is this one song from a movie I haven't even heard of (In Search of Castaways), that I think is my new theme song to life. It is called "Enjoy it."

I leave you with a piece of it.

If there’s a complication, enjoy it! 
You’ve got imagination, employ it! 
This world’s a cornucopia,
Why it could be, Utopia? 
Voila, that’s right, enjoy it! 
Why cry about bad weather? Enjoy it!
 Each moment is a treasure, enjoy it! 
We are travelers on life’s highway, enjoy the trip 
Each lovely twist and byway, each bump and dip 
If there’s a complication, enjoy it! 
You’ve got imagination, employ it! 
And you’ll see roses in the snow, 
Joie de vivre will make them grow,
Voila, that’s life, enjoy it!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Enjoying Summer

I love living in California. I am very much having the stay-cation month.

So, Monday, I took the Chinese girls and their student partners to Paradise Cove. I hadn't been there in a long, long time, and I had forgotten how nice it was. I didn't have the greatest meal experience the last time I was there, so I was sort of soured on it, but everything was wonderful on Monday, and I left thinking, "I need to come here more often."  I was supposed to go with some of my girlfriends on Saturday, but that didn't pan out, and I was bummed, so today, when Marc got off early, and it was 100 degrees and muggy at home (humid heat sucks - I'll take an Arizona 100 any day, but this Florida style weather...yuck), I said, "Let's have dinner at Paradise Cove."  Yea!  We packed up quickly and set out.

It was like the perfect day. It was like 75 degrees in Malibu. One could almost call it chilly. By nightfall, it would have been. We got the most perfect parking spot, right next to the sand.  It was so late in the day that it wasn't crowded at all. Vinny was so happy to be there. He is such a fish, just like his daddy. Once Vinny got in the water, we almost couldn't drag him out. At one point, he is swimming in it, up to his chest, and I'm hanging out in ankle deep water and he says, "Mommy, why don't you come all the way in with me like you did in Maui? This beach is like Maui!"  I looked at him and said, "Maui was different sweetie, Maui was warm."  Pacific Ocean water is just not warm. Not even on hot days. I think this shocks people who travel here, but I grew up with it, so I was more shocked to learn that there are places where you don't have to freeze to swim.  Anyhow, so Vinny looks up at me, and says, "This water IS warm!" Just goes to show how long he had been in there. (Or how hot it has been at home lately).  When it was time to leave, I had to call him like six times before he finally gave in and came back to us.  (continued below)

Right before the seagull incident. Note said chicken strip. 
Tiana was a bit cranky once we got there, but she got in such a better mood when our food was ready. She had a huge appetite (beach does that to me too). She was on her second chicken strip, when she decided that she didn't want eating to stop her from playing, so she was sitting in the sand and digging with one hand and eating with the other. Then, she stood up all happy and giggling, and these crazy seagulls attacked her for the stupid piece of chicken in her hand. I am not exaggerating... they seriously attacked her. We jumped up and ran to her and of course they ran away, but not before they hurt her hand, the poor thing. She was bleeding in three places, one spot on her palm and two different fingers. One of her fingers was so deep, I couldn't get it to stop bleeding. We actually had to go to the lifeguard for bandaids... and it took two of them! (Bandaids... not lifeguards).

Damn aggressive seagulls. It's because the tourists feed them. Not to be that person (because I welcome tourists, really, I do - I love sharing the beauty of our state)... but I can pick the tourists out from the locals on pretty much any California beach. The tourists are the idiots who leave their open Doritos sitting on their beach blanket. Or much worse - they hand feed the stupid seagulls, then look shocked when they are suddenly mobbed by the entire flock. Paradise cove is a very, very nice beach, which thus attracts a lot of tourists, and we witnessed several of them feeding the seagulls today. Thus, the seagulls at this beach have become these aggressive beasts who have lost their ability to eat naturally and rely on humans for food, and do so in a hunting-style.

Vinny is such a protective brother. He starts chasing them down and yelling at them that he is going to cut their beaks off and other such atrocities. I kind of wanted to laugh. He is so funny.

The lifeguard who repaired T's finger
Anyhow, back to Tiana. So, while the lifeguard is cleaning her bleeding finger and bandaging her up (in a purple bandaid, I might add - the perks of a private beach, I suppose), Tiana is muttering under her breath, "Bad birdie. Bad, bad birdie."  She eventually recovered and went back to eating her french fries (from the safety of Marc's lap this time), but she kept looking at the birds and saying, "Bad birdies." Then, when we were on the way home, I hear, "Bad birdie," and look back and she is just gazing at her finger. I look back at her and she says, "It hurts. Bad birdie." At that point, all I could do is agree, "Yes, bad, bad birdies."  She has continued to lament the "bad birdies" each time she looks at her bandaid, and I imagine it will probably continue until it heals. I guess this was a rather traumatic incident for her.

In spite of the bird incident, it was a beautiful day. We loved eating dinner on this beautiful beach and taking advantage of a late afternoon beach day. I think we are going to try to take advantage of the summer and try to do this (well, probably not Paradise, since it is so expensive) on another Friday in August, like after I get off work. It stays light out so late, there really is no reason one can't hit the beach at 4:30 and stay for several hours. We could always pick up food on the way too.

I love summer so much. Summer is the reason I keep my chin up the rest of the year. Some people, like my grandma, are "Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" type people who need some sort of change to be happy. My grandma basically stays happy in a situation until it isn't "new" any more, and then she wants a change and gets cranky. She gets like, "If I could only live (insert new location), then I'd be happy."   I sort of understand how she feels because I spend much of the year telling myself, "It will be summer again, and then I will be happy," which effectively actually makes me happy just thinking of it. I am always in one of two mental states: thinking about summer or enjoying summer. I plan my summer plans months way in advance, and I look forward to them every day of the Spring. Now it is summer, and I am living those plans, and loving every second of it.
The sun setting over an old Western movie town on the way home. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chinese Exchange Students

This week, I have had the opportunity to teach a summer drama workshop with 16 Chinese exchange students and 19 of my students, as well as to host two of the girls at my house. This experience has been out of this world. It has been so fun to interact with them all, and I have learned so much. Even more than that, I have watched them learn so much. On the first day, the Chinese students looked like they'd rather do anything than speak English. Complete sentences? Forget it! But by the end of the day today, well... it was impressive. Many full sentences. Attempts at humor. Successful attempts, I might add.

I have learned so much about people and culture and about teaching second language learners.  The students I teach are also second language learners, but they hide when they don't know what something means; however, these students accept that this is foreign and don't feel they have anything to be ashamed of, so they do not hide when they do not understand, and it is very helpful. I have really learned a lot.

It is so interesting how things like insults do not translate at all. Apparently, the number 2 can be an insult in Chinese, and so can the number 250.  ????  Random.

I made the mistake of choosing the story "The Ugly Duckling" as one of the mini plays we are doing, but apparently the word that duckling translates to in Chinese is a dirty word, so I had to promise one student I will not call him duckling, but just "birdie."

Another student was shocked that the "s-h" word is not the everyday word for excrement. She asked us, suprised,"Well, what do you call it?"  She had never heard any other word for it, and when we said we usually call it "poop," she asked us to spell it and practiced saying it several times. It was quite the moment.

Some things are quite universal, like the fact that all children like to play house... and guess what?  Teenagers really like to play like children again. I had them playing house (we called it "family") today, and it was the one thing that they couldn't seem to get enough of. Eventually, I asked them to move their "playing" on stage to be "plays," and follow the rules of stage movement for an audience, and the results were phenomenal. Adorably cute plays. One Chinese boy was a very humorous father and had us all hysterical with his perfect comic timing. Two quiet little Chinese girls became hyper children trying to convince their widowed mother that it was time to start dating again. I think this was the turning point of the entire day today. From the moment when I asked them to play family, I saw them transform into a family.

There are international romances bursting up all over. They are all just jokes (I think), but the Chinese boys are really enjoying flirting with my female students. When one student was supposed to insult the "ugly duckling," he says to her, "You are so ugly! I mean, you are very beautiful, but you are ugly duckling." So funny.

There have been such beautiful spontaneous moments too. I invited the partners (my students) of the two Chinese students I am hosting to join us for meals to help them really bond. Tonight after dinner, I heard them spontaneously teaching each other the parts of the body, and I was cracking up inside when I heard one of my students say, "Do you have a song to help remember this? Like 'head, shoulders, knees, and toes'?"

Vinny has been so excited to have them here, and they have loved playing with Vinny too. They adored little Tiana, and she loved the Chinese goodies they stuffed her with. They make quite the sweet addition to my family, and I am not quite ready to send them off, but they are excited to see Disneyland on Thursday, and I am excited for them to see it. When I was in China, there were times that everything felt so foreign and far away, but on days like today, I think the Sherman Brothers got it right... it's a small world after all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Just us girls

Tuesday night, when I was sitting here by myself with Tiana sleeping quietly while I watched a movie by myself, I probably never would have thought that today I would be thinking that this time without the boys has been nice, but you know what... it has.

Tiana was very attached to me her first year, probably because I nursed and she was very fond of nursing and wanted to nurse like constantly. After I weaned her, she became very much a daddy's girl. Recently, she has grown very attached to my mom, since she is T's nanny now.  But, this week, we spent a lot of time together just us girls, both at camp and here at home. I really loved the time alone with her. She was more cuddly than she usually is, and she talked so much and had so much to say. I forgot what it was like to spend so much time with just one kid. I mean, Vinny was four-years-old before I had Tiana, so I had a lot of time with just him and was very, very happy with just him. I did not crave a second child, although I was happy to have her.

Anyhow, we had a wonderful time. On the fourth of july, she cuddled up in my lap and watched the fireworks show and I was able to focus on just her enjoying the show. It was really kind of cool.  Vinny's friend Sean got to sort of play big brother to her that day, since Vinny wasn't around, and I think he might have enjoyed it a little too. Today, she and I went to the beach with my mom, and Tiana got 100% of the attention and totally loved it. It was also a perfect day at the beach. Not too hot. Not at all cold. Just tiny breezes, no bad gusts of wind. Loved it.

Nonetheless, I was thrilled to get my boys back this evening. Vinny came back talking all about camp and singing all of the camp songs and everything. He seems like such a big boy to me, it is almost kind of weird. Like, I don't have a little baby kindergartener any more... I have a big elementary school kid who is actually pretty good at archery and can make it to the top of the rock wall. This is odd to me, but exciting at the same time. I loved, loved, loved my years at summer camp growing up. They were very much part of making me who I am. I really miss those times, but it is exciting to me to see that Vinny will get to grow up going to a really awesome camp. The staff there were great - all very kind and loving - and I could tell they all cared very much about the kids, which means a lot.

Just a few weeks left of summer, and they are pretty packed. If anyone is hoping to get in any hangout time before it is back to the rat race for me, let me know soon so we can schedule something!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Enjoying Our Summer

My summer is almost half over. It feels strange, because it feels in some ways like it has just begun.

This summer has been odd. I normally like my time alone with the kids a lot, but for some reason, this year, I am feeling really odd about being alone. I just feel the desire to be with people and doing stuff all the time. I really don't know why. Accepting all theories.

On Sunday, we all headed up to El Camino Pines with Marc for summer camp. It is a small Lutheran camp, and some of our church kids were going for the week, so Marc was going to be supportive and involved and volunteer. We were basically along for the ride. Vinny was really excited about the idea of going to summer camp, but he is too young to be an actual camper, so it was sort of neat for him that he got to somewhat experience parts of camp.

I was a little worried about how Tiana would do. Camp is not exactly toddler friendly. For the most part, it was fine. She loved, loved, loved being in the mountains.   If you think about it, a toddler's world has so many boundaries. Backyards have fences, houses have off-limits rooms and shelves, etc. Just being in nature seemed very freeing to her.

She loved to just run on the paths and walk around looking at stuff. Tiana is good for me. She slows me down a lot, just by nature of who she is. I am very much a busy-body. People who don't know me very well often see the life I lead as very stressful because my schedule is so packed so much of the time, but those who know me well know that my life is busy by choice. There are only select times of the year (basically production time and the end of each semester, particularly when they overlap) when my life actually gets too busy for my liking. For the most part, I like to be doing something all the time. Vinny is sort of the same way. When one activity is ending, he wants to know what is next, and he doesn't want to have too much time when nothing is really going on. Tiana, however, is the type of kid who literally takes time to stop and smell the flowers. (I think I have my mom to thank for that one. My mom taught her that flowers smell pretty and Tiana always wants to stop and smell flowers and talk about how "pretty" they are).

Anyway, so back to camp. The first evening, we went on a little walk, and we basically just followed Tiana. She loved it. Nature sort of made her giddy. I don't think she had ever seen a pinecone before. She picked one up and examined it like it was the coolest thing she'd ever seen, and she carried it around for most of the walk. Monday afternoon, she spent about an hour gathering rocks and bringing them to me. On Tuesday morning, she and I spent about an hour in the morning just watching birds. This is not an activity I would think I would enjoy. Too slow. But you know what... it turns out I really enjoy it. I actually found it fun to attempt to take pictures of them too. This was really a challenge given that Tiana wanted to basically chase them from tree to tree. There were mostly what I think were a type of blue jay (stellar jay?) and what I am certain were woodpeckers (ladder-backed, I believe). Looks like I may have found a new hobby.

Eating meals camp style with Tiana was a bit of a challenge. Its not that the food was a problem -  she's not that picky and there were good options for her -  but she just doesn't sit still for very long, and eating in that type of setting is not quick. At home, we pretty much let her get up from the table as soon as she is done, even if we aren't done, but that didn't really work at camp, which meant a lot of fits at meals. Sleeping was also a bit of an issue, but that is to be expected for any toddler away from home. The other thing is that there just wasn't a ton for her to do. Other that walking around (which we enjoyed a lot), there wasn't much, so by Tuesday she was pretty bored and so was I, so we left. Marc and Vinny stayed.  Vinny was having a really good time. I was a little hesitant to leave him, since he was kind of whiny and clingy at first, but he seemed to be acting more mature and gaining more independence as time went on, so I left him. Later in the summer, they have a week of arts and music camp, and next year, Vinny will be old enough to go. Sending him away from home without us for a week is a frightening concept, but he just might be ready next year. We'll see. 

Meanwhile, I am home, doing lots of cuddling with Tiana, as well as preparing for the Chinese exchange students we have staying with us next week and for the three-day drama workshop I will be teaching while they are here. Exciting! Shortly after they leave, Vinny and Tiana and I will be headed to Arizona for a week with our cousins. This is the highlight of my break time each year. I used to try to head out every January and July, but with Vinny in school this year, we didn't make it out in January, so it has been a year since our last trip. Fortunately, we are very close to our family, and we have seen them for lots of weekend trips throughout the year, but we all really cherish this time when we can just chill and let our kids play and plan fun outings together. This year, we are taking them to see a musical, which Vinny is really, really excited about. I'm just excited about slow mornings sipping coffee on the patio and lazy evenings floating in the pool and chatting with Tracy. Although we don't see each other that often, she really is like one of my best friends and I miss her a lot!