Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Mommy

Last week was my Mommy's birthday. Is it possible that the older I get, the younger she gets? She is one of those amazing people with seemingly boundless energy. She loves to travel, and is always tackling some new project. And judging from the fact that her mother is still going strong, I'd say she'll continue to inspire us all for many years to come.

Usually we venture out to some "out of the norm" spot for her birthday. She likes the high country, so we'll take a picnic basket and go. But this year we switched it up and headed downtown to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. My dad and sister Karen were also there but had already headed out the door before I thought to take a pic.

When I saw this picture, several things registered in my brain:

1) Clearly I didn't get the memo on the floral theme
2) Just LOOK at how tall and lanky those girls are...where did my babies go???!!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fresno's Storyland and Playland

Last week, we made a somewhat impromptu trip to Fresno's Storyland and Playland. A friend's sister had tickets through Groupon, and we got to use the last two of the bunch. I had never been to this little park, so this was a real adventure. The girls put on their adventure wear (the Disneyland tutu dresses). We hit Storyland first. Storyland is a little wooded park with fairy tale figures and recorded stories.

Yes, I directed this spontaneous joyous display. Doesn't it just ooze with spontaneous joy?

Yes, I thought so, too. But Abigail did manage to ham it up with Mother Goose...

Here is the Groupon group, plus one infant. Thank goodness there were three moms and two grandmas to shepherd them!

Playland was a little amusement park, complete with a mini roller coaster:

There was a twinge of sadness as I watched my little fluffs of pink and green happily disappear on the big-kid ride.

Here they are, taking command of their own pink helicopter:

It does make me happy that they still enjoy a little spin on the merry-go-round, although ever since I told them the outside horse goes the fastest, they both want that one.

We ended our adventures with a little less sandwich and an escort of hungry geese!

I'm so glad we made it to this park. The girls are almost too old to enjoy it fully, but thankfully I think we made it under the wire.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Go Fish

For their seventh birthday, my girls asked for fishing poles. They picked out their favorites, and my folks obligingly purchased them.

Abigail got a pink Barbie pole.

And Mae got "The Ugly Stick".

Just think about that. Did she choose it because of its contrary name, or in spite of it?

I think it was the vast array of accessories that caught her eye. Even if they weren't pink.

So for the past month, the girls have been anxious to get down to the lake to try things out. Last week, we finally made it down.

The Barbie pole came with a casting plug, so Abigail had fun practicing her casting.

When it came time to put on actual hooks, I got a little squeamish. I wanted the least committing hooks possible. I don't actually want to keep and EAT the bluegill they catch on the dock!

Fortunately (for me), they didn't have much luck. Except for this catfish, which Scotty caught just with the net.

It was tending its cache of eggs, so perhaps it wasn't very sporting, but pretty irresistible for a kid, I'd say! We let it go.

Hey, I might even get a license this year. It's looking kind of fun!

Monday, June 20, 2011


Another end-of-year event is the 8th grade "promotion". Can't call it "graduation" because people might get confused:
"What, you're graduating? I thought you were only in 8th grade!"
This major celebration is kind of a hold-over from years gone by when the elementary schools were K-8 and there was no middle school. We're returning to that again, in a way, moving to a K-6 and 7-12.

This event was a big deal for us because my neice Megan was in the 8th grade class. And it was extra special because she had a speaking part, as the ASB president. And it was extra, extra special because she won two awards: The Leadership award (a $500 scholarship) and the citizenship award.

Congrats Megan! Just over her shoulder, you can see my neice Casey, who broke her leg in softball. Actually, it was broken for her by a girl stealing home, and Casey was the catcher. Ouch.

So now my sister, Gail, has two girls in high school. Look out, world (and Gail!)

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Killdeer

Have you ever heard of a killdeer? It is a pretty little bird that looks a lot like a sandpiper, but it lives up here in the foothills instead of (or maybe in addition to) the beach. Here is a beautiful picture of one posted by hart_curt on flikr. I love the big, reddish eyes:

The killdeer has some interesting habits, and we had the good fortune to observe a pair as they set up house. We knew their nest was in a section along our driveway, because they'd show up swooping and diving around us as we'd drive along it. The protective display got even more interesting as time went on. If we lingered at all in the area, one or the other would land and chatter, dragging a wing, pretending it was hurt. Just like Darzee's wife in "Rikki Tikki Tavi"!

So the kids went off in search of the nest, and when they found it I was amazed. It's a wonder I didn't drive on it or step on it...right next to the road! And the cattle are out there all the time too!

But you can clearly see why they chose that location. Boy, don't those eggs just blend in?

After about a month of this display, one day the eggs were gone, and the birds were too. My exhaustive five minutes of research tells me killdeer chicks hatch with eyes open, and as soon as they are dry, they are ready to run. However, there were no egg shell bits, no sign at all of the eggs, just a little bare spot on the ground.

Were the eggs just swallowed whole by a gopher snake, or do the parents somehow clean up the pieces? I will simply choose to believe the latter.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Sprinkler Job

Last month, Mark and I participated in the first major project of the VIPS (Volunteers in Public Service). This is a grassroots group whose goal is to support the schools in everything from physical labor to tutoring. This first project was to install the sprinkler system in the new kindergarten play area, part of the process of converting Foothill Middle School to a K-6. The school purchased the materials and did the design and trenching, and our group cleared the trenches, laid the line, and refilled the trenches. Oh, my aching back! But we did get the job done.

About a dozen people showed up throughout the day to pitch in. I wish I had gotten pictures of people working, but I was too busy...working! I do have pictures of the sprinklers on at the end of the day, and the girls testing them out.

As you can see, it is quite a large area...and this is only one half of it!

They approve!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Last Day

Thursday, after the class parties, and ice cream, and cookies, and cupcakes, and clean-up, it was finally time--time to walk off the campus of our beautiful little school for the last time.

This last year, I've shed many a tear over the closing of Sierra Elementary, this beautiful little mountain school that has been such a wonderful experience for my children. Although my sisters went to school here, I did I've really only had a connection here for two years while my children attended. I can only imagine how those who have a much longer history here must feel. Many of the other parents attended this school. Quite a few of the teachers and staff (like my sister, Gail) have long histories here too. In the midst of it all, I am thankful that many of those same people were involved in making these difficult decisions. Three of the seven board members actually attended here as well. While I've been involved in the budget assessment, my head understands and recommended closure, but my heart is in a different place on this one.

I put up the flags for the last time that morning. We walked by them waving proudly on the way out. They include the flag proclaiming Sierra as a California Distinguished School.

Someone snuck a poster up with a little prayer--it speaks for us all.

Amen, Sierra. Amen.

Water Play Day

One of the highly anticipated end-of-school-year events is "Water Play Day". Our Booster Club sets up a bunch of activities out on the fields, and each grade gets to visit and go just a little bit crazy. This year was different for several reasons. First, the weather was very iffy...forecast for the mid-70s. Second, it was the last Water Play Day for Sierra Elementary, before it closes its doors, so there was a desire to make it extra special, and a bit of heaviness in our hearts. But just look how it turned out...

We set up a giant slip-and-slide on the hill:

A wonderful vendor, Bounce House Bonanza, gave us three inflatables for an incredible deal:

The kids enjoyed super soakers, shaving cream, and bubbles:

And adjourned for a tasty fruit icee:

I'd have to was a grand "grand finale".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Giving birth

My daughters are fairly prolific writers and artists. One of my favorite exercises they do at school is to write several descriptive sentences, and add an illustration. Here is one of Abigail's products, about seeing a cat giving birth. You should be able to click on it and get a larger version...if you dare.

Here is the translation, if you have trouble:

"We saw our cat Buttercup giving birth to a kitten. She was giving birth under a bush. It was her first time having kittens. She was not comfortable at first. But she found a perfect position."

This was an interesting event. I had never heard a cat cry while giving birth, but this one did. These were her first kittens, and I guess she didn't know what was going on. In fact, we found a dead one, and thought she lost the entire litter until about 4 weeks later. There were three fat, healthy kittens safely hidden away! Want one?

Anyway, aren't these stories and illustrations wonderful stuff? I'm afraid I save every story. They'll have to wallow through them all in 50 years or so.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Science Day

Last Friday we went on a field trip to Shaver Lake, hosted by Southern California Edison. They have a large hydro-electric facility, and own a lot of the surrounding land. And maybe their PR efforts are successful, because now I believe they are pretty good custodians of that land. The kids really enjoyed the variety of "stations"...all very hands-on. Check it out!

They had firemen, who obligingly made some fire, then put it out.

We learned about meadows:

A weather-monitoring station (there's Abigail in the maroon top):

I love to see the interest as the kids reach out and touch these items!

A highlight for ME was getting to go down into the tunnel to view the actual plant:

The tunnel was a mile long, taking us 1,000 feet underground. This cavern houses the actual plant. The water is gravity-fed through the turbine during peak demand hours, then the turbine runs in reverse and water is pumped back up to higher elevation at night. Is that not SO COOL?!

And back out into the forest, we learned about trees.

Look at this huge round! 150 rings

What a wonderful day!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Morgan Hill Fun, Part II

While we were in Morgan Hill, we were fortunate enough to attend the Mushroom Mardi Gras!

What, you haven't heard of the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras?

Much, much, much more of a family event than the actual Mardi Gras in New Orleans. In fact, the "Mardi Gras" part was maybe just the beer and wine, and some beads. The "Mushroom" part was this giant, inflatable mushroom!

And an educational booth on the wonders of the mushroom...a locally grown product of the area. Hey, lots of vitamin D!

Other than that, Mushroom Mardi Gras was your regular festival, with craft vendors, music, and people walking around on stilts. There was a tiny petting zoo

Frozen lemonade:

and fruit smoothies:

All in all, a very fun time!