Monday, January 31, 2011

Cookie Monsters

Made some cookies with the girls bake cookies filled with sugar, butter, and some oats and peanut butter for a veneer of healthiness. But I saw what went in there. I'm not fooled.

Dang, they're good.

Mae: "Mom, can I try one?"

Me: "No, not until I get a picture of you guys with the cookies."

Abigail: "Mom, can't I please try just one?"

Me: "No, just make a face like you WANT to try one."

Abigail: "Mom, this is taking too long!"

Abigail: "Mo-om!"

And then I put down the camera(phone), and we all had one.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Prize

While visiting Mark's brother John & family over in Morgan Hill, Mark took the girls for a walk in the neighborhood. I LOVE this area, right next to Lake Anderson, teeming with not-so-wild wildlife--deer, turkey, etc. Upon returning from the walk, Mark and the girls proudly presented their find:

The little blob they're pointing to is "the find". A chunk of vomit. Owl vomit.

OK, maybe it doesn't technically qualify as is called an owl pellet, which contains the remnants of the owl's dinner that he expels from his mouth.

To me, that is vomit. Which means that I don't want to pick it up and bring it home.

Or play with it and pick it apart. But Mark does.

There were all kinds of little bones in there, so we tried to speculate what bone went where, and what the animal was. I reminded the girls that this is what paleantologists do (they come up with that once in a while when asked what they want to do when they grow up).

I went online and did a little research:

How to Dissect Owl Pellets |

Pay close attention to Step #1:
Don latex gloves, and a dust mask. Ideally, you should have obtained your pellets from a reputable dealer, who will ensure that these pellets can't transmit rodent-borne hantavirus.

I'm pretty sure neither Mark nor my tender babies had gloves or mask. I think Abigail is safe because she really wanted nothing to do with it. Mae...less safe...pretty sure she touched it, but I'm sure she washed her hands. She probably even used soap. For at least a few seconds before drying said hands on someone's face cloth.

While the contents of the "pellet" were actually kind of interesting, my summary of the experience is this:

No bones about it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tough Choices

My heart breaking.


Jan. 25, 2011

Dear Sierra & Auberry Elementary Families,

As a parent member of the SES School Site Council, I was asked to represent K-3 parents on the SUSD Budget Advisory Committee. This group was formed to take an in-depth look at the district’s funding crisis and make recommendations. I wanted to update you on where we are today.

The district is at a point where major changes must be made. Funding has decreased due to declining enrollment, and the state is currently only meeting 80% of its funding obligation per student. The governor has proposed a budget for next year which depends on voters approving the extension of current taxes. If this doesn’t pass, we can expect state funding to decrease at least another 5%. This is the scenario for which we must plan—a cut of $2M next school year. Unfortunately, it is likely that these trends (including decreasing enrollment) will take several years to reverse. With the failure of the proposed bond measure last fall, the district must make major cuts to resources and personnel going into the 2011/12 school year.

The committee is looking at several scenarios and studying the impacts. The most likely scenarios are:

- AES, SES, FMS, and SHS all remain open

o Class sizes increase to 27-28 at SES & 23-31 at AES with grade combos, no music or PE teacher, health services cut

o FMS class sizes at 26-33, health service cut

o SHS loses AP classes, drama, some ag/FFA & ROP, all small sports, & more

- SES closes, all K-3 move to AES, FMS remains 4-8, SHS remains 9-12

o Same as above except K-3 class sizes increase slightly (avg. 28 per class) w/o combo classes

o AES can accommodate with less expense on infrastructure repair

o SES goes into maintenance-only status, with power & limited water, no heating/cooling

- AES and SES close, FMS becomes K-6, SHS becomes 7-12

o K-3 classes average 21 students

o SHS programs remain intact

o SES & AES go into maintenance-only status described above

o Requires fencing & playground modifications at FMS

- AES and SES close, FMS becomes K-8, SHS remains 9-12

o Requires costly retrofitting of classrooms with portables or larger class sizes at FMS

Each of these scenarios saves $1.6-$1.7 million, so additional steps will likely be necessary. In addition to deeper personnel cuts, the board is considering a 4-day school week, retirement incentives, and selling or leasing the district office and various campuses, among other things. I will tell you that the majority of the committee is leaning toward the third scenario, which preserves programs and class sizes over “footprint” for these next few years.

The next several weeks are critical in the decision process. This Thursday, Jan 27th, is a board meeting at 7 p.m. in the FMS multi-purpose room. It is the public forum for the community to bring their questions or make comments regarding the scenarios directly to the board. We will hold another budget committee meeting on Feb 1st, which is an open meeting. Feb 10th will be the board meeting where the budget committee presents their recommendations and the board intends to make a decision about which direction to take.

This process has generated, and will continue to generate, many questions and concerns. I am happy to give you as much detail as you would like, and would like to help bring forward any questions or ideas you have. Please contact me via e-mail at, by phone at 855-7372, or send a note through Val in the SES front office. This has been a tough process, and we are all stakeholders in different ways: parents, home owners, business owners, employees, and alumni. I can honestly tell you there is a common theme among all the discussions: we need to do what is best for the education of the children in our community.


Connie Schlaefer

SES School Site Council member

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Out on the back 40

Big news out on the back 40 is that Flash, our favorite heifer, had her first baby!

No name yet, but the BEST news's a little heifer too! That's good, because that means my folks will keep her, instead of sending her down the hill to auction.

While we were out on the back 40, we stopped at the rope swing:

The girls twisted it many, many, MANY times. Mae was riding. Abigail didn't want to because last time she did (not with me), she said she got scared and cried.

But did alarm bells go off in my head? No! EVEN THOUGH Abigail is not usually a crier.

So finally the big release occurs. And that thing starts spinning. Mae was leaning back, looking up at the sky.

And it wasn't long before she started to cry. And scream. Not regular screaming. Scary screaming.

So I look at that steel cable whizzing around, and in the second before I stuck my hand in to stop it, I thought I might lose my fingers. And then I grabbed the cable.

It did hurt, but it didn't even break the skin. I stopped the swing, and rescued my poor child who felt like her head was going to explode.

So, while it LOOKS like fun to twist the swing a hundred times...BEWARE!

Lesson learned.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


During Christmas break, the girls attended a birthday party that included a visit to the outdoor ice skating rink. This is a seasonal set-up in Old Town Clovis, and it was our first-ever time on ice skates for the girls. Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the rink, only to find NO ICE. I didn't know the surface would be SIMULATED ice (a.k.a. plastic). Not to worry, the attendant assured players skate on this all the time.

Oh. Now I feel better. Here's my money.

In their typical style, the girls had two very different approaches to skating. Mae was very cautious, and took her time around the rink. Abigail was convinced she could do all the moves, and she gave it a go. Time after time. She personally wiped up the entire rink with her pants. I couldn't even get a non-blurry picture of her!

Here's Mae:

Here are the three of us. Yes, I did go out there.

And here is my FIRST EVER video on my blog, so you get the full effect. This is after about an hour or so on skates.

Pretty impressive, eh?

And yeah, they made some simulated snow (a.k.a. soap suds) just to complete the experience.

Not sure what the girls will think if they ever encounter REAL ice!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Up to the Snow

Last Sunday, we had the perfect day to go up and play in the snow. The cloud layer was hanging from 2-4,000 feet, so our house was cold and foggy, but within a 30 minute drive, we were above the clouds and into a beautiful day. Of course, many other people had the same idea, so we had to drive another 20 minutes to a snow park that had some parking left.

This was our second excursion into CA snow country, and I'm proud to say we were much better equipped this time. Of course, we have lived in snow country before, so Mark and I were well outfitted, but we had cobbled together something for the girls on our first venture, just to play for an hour or so. We should have known better--galoshes just don't cut it in the snow, even if you have nice thick socks. They become nice, thick, wet socks in no time!

Even with those burbles, we were all excited to try our new sleds. Two of my sister's kids joined our troop as we headed up.

Abigail was the adventurer, climbing fearlessly...

And sledding endlessly.

Scotty, of course, was another fearless adventurer:

He and Mark are little blobs atop this large snow-capped boulder.

Mae's approach to the snow, on the other hand, was more low-key. After a few sledding runs, she was off to build a snowman.

Her favorite past time was making snow angels:

And of course, eating the snow.

The afternoon light on the snow was so beautiful.

Here is the whole crowd (minus moi):

And the Schlaefer four:

Thank goodness we're not football fans...we might have been sitting on the couch instead!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Time Hole

Yesterday marked a huge achievement. I finally finished the video for the school's winter program, held Dec 16th. You may well note that date was quite some time ago. All I can say is...I didn't just start this project this week. This as been a big black time hole, sucking away hours and hours of my life these past few weeks.

"Sure", I said, "I'll make the video." Heck, it was something I'd been wanting to learn how to do, literally for years!

And of course it was a lot harder than it HAD to be, since my computers are not top speed and couldn't take the first set of non-returnable software I bought (always read that fine print on the side of the box and know what it means!). And my camcorder records on a mini-DVD, which is old school and encoded in its own little way that has to be cracked open by some third-party software that took me sooooo long to find.

BUT I have triumphed over these hurdles, and produced a dang, good video! Well, it has some flaws, but it's mostly goodish. And it is on sale for $3. Yep, that's what they said at the program, so I'm stuck with it. Heck, I only have to sell 40 of them to make back the money I spent on software!

You may place your orders now!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goodbye 2010

We celebrated the last day of 2010 by attending a birthday party at John's Incredible Pizza. This is a California chain that takes Chuck E. Cheese to the next level. Oh boy.

Here are some pictures that, while not good photos, do capture the frenetic energy of the place.

There were rides and games. While many of the games were too sophisticated for 6-year-olds, my girls are HUGE fans of air hockey. And if we're talking about bang for the buck, it beats the heck out of many of the "games" like that toy-grabbing claw, that take a kids' tickets for a 10-second venture. The funny thing is...I think the game goes until someone gets five points. That takes my girls a good long time!

And lastly, there was the prize booth. Here are the big winners now!

When we arrived back home, the girls were understandably beat. We had plans to watch the ball drop in Times Square via the computer, at a reasonable 9 p.m. Pacific time. Mae went down in flames before 9, but Abigail hung in there. We watched and cheered and bid farewell to 2010. There was a bit of bittersweetness, as Abigail actually shed a few tears, saying that she really liked this year. I'm sure fatigue made her more emotional, but also she has become much more sensitive to saying goodbye. She asked if 2010 wasn't going to come around again, like the days of the week, and the months of the year. Isn't that an interesting observation?

Goodbye, 2010. I loved you too.