Summer Strategizing Wrap-up

Now that summer is unofficially over, I thought I’d write about the results of my Summer Strategizing.  At the beginning of the summer, I wrote this post about how I was planning on filling up my kids’ summer days with summer school, chores and summer activities.  You know that saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry?” I think my summer was a bit like that.

I did have some success in engineering the kids’ summer school programs. Olivia completed the SAT prep course and Drivers Education. Nico and Erica both completed their High School entrance exam course, and Eric even did an Algebra review course and a painting class. Diego, well, he had the most fun, taking a science and geography class. All in all, I think it’s safe to say we spent about a small fortune keeping our kids in school this summer. Did they learn anything? I hope so. I do know that the girls learned how to navigate public transportation pretty well, so if Olivia can’t pass her driving test, at least she’ll know how to ride the bus.

One of the other plans I had for my kids this summer was to work on some chores. I intended for them to start dinner while I was at work. Yeah. That didn’t go so well. I still found myself rushing home from work, faced with four hungry kids who apparently didn’t know how to cook anything but a Lean Pocket in the microwave.  There was one day, when Olivia had an urge to bake and when I got home from work I saw this:

Lemon bars and an apple pie. Both were delicious, and since she had even washed all the dishes, I guess I can  overlook the fact that no one really cooked dinner while I was at work. Oh well.

Another task I set up for the kids was to complete their summer homework.  Each of the kids had summer reading to do and Nico and Erica both had to write essays  on their books.  Watching Nico sit at the computer to compose a paragraph is like watching paint dry. On the other hand, getting Erica to read her assigned books is like pulling teeth. I don’t know if she finished reading Pride and Predjudice and the Watsons Go to Watsonville, but she is so crafty, that one, she should be able to write her essay even if she didn’t finish the books.

Now that Labor Day has come and gone and summer is unofficially over, I can say that while I certainly did manage to fill my kids days with activities, I did not really enjoy the season. There were some fun days, but with my grandmother’s passing, and the hectic pace at work and home, I feel like I just got through it.  Barely.  I think part of it had to do with the fact that this summer we did not not really getaway.  Not that we really go anywhere glamorous, but at minimum our family goes camping. Sad to say, we didn’t even do that. I think it makes a difference to get away and break up the routine.  I hope we can manage some type of getaway next summer.

A vacation would be great in the Fall but unfortunately, my life has become all about studying. In August, I received news that my job was offering promotions in Spring 2012. Unfortunately, in order for me to be eligible for a promotion at my government agency job, I have to take a test and rank high enough to be placed on a promotability list. The test will be given in October and will cover materials in these notebooks:

I have to say that studying law and policies as a 48 year-old with a family of four kids, while working full-time, is a lot more challenging then studying law and policies and having a social life as a 28 year-old law student.  So, I hope you will hang in there with me if I am not able to post regularly for the next six weeks. After October, I hope to back to my regularly scheduled life.  Until then, I better check on dinner. No,  the kids aren’t cooking (still), and after dinner I have to hit the books.

Happy end of Summer. Welcome Fall.

Top Reasons Why August and I Are Not Friends

It’s the final week of August and the end of a long summer in our house. I enjoy summer for many reasons, also because the days are a nice change of pace from the hectic schedule of the school year.  But this summer was different, and I find myself looking forward to a new season, even if it means another busy school year.  However, before  I can get started on the new school year, I have to get through August, and August is the month I hate most in summer.  August is the month when I scramble to find camps for the kids to fill in my big gap in day care; August is the month when summer temperatures heat up and relegate my already restless kids indoors; and August is the month when my temper and my kids’ tempers are as short as the days are long. Here’s a few other reasons why August is not my favorite month:

1) School Supply Shopping.

Beginning in August the kids start bugging to go shopping for school supplies. I try to put off this chore as long as possible, but not so long that the stores run out of supplies.  Usually in August, the kids’ schools send a list of school supplies they will need. It is usually very specific with things like, “College Ruled Spiral Notebook with Three Subjects and Pocket Dividers,” or 3 packages of 150 quantity 4×6 White Notecards, Unlined. Can you tell why I hate shopping for these supplies? Sometimes I feel like I am on a scavenger hunt, and when I am done running between at least 2 stores, hunting for everything on their list in triplicate, I have the pleasure of spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $250.00!

2) Summer Homework Torture

Nico, Erica and Olivia all go to schools which assign summer reading and math packets.  The reading assignment also includes an essay which must be turned in the first few days of school. For Olivia, she gets tested on her summer reading.  I know the kids should read throughout the summer anyway, but something about this assigned reading makes what I consider a pleasure, a pure hardship for them, and me.  In August I become a complete nag about their unfinished reading, essay writing, and math homework.  Sometime after the dismissal bell in June and the beginning of August, my kids’ brains turn to mush and they cannot write a complete paragraph without constantly  interrupting their work with bathroom breaks, trips to the refrigerator, or watching “5 minutes” of television. It is pure torture, watching them “write” the essays. It’s usually not until the final day before school that I can light a fire under their *&!$ and they can get their summer homework done.

3) The Birthday Season

In August I begin preparing for the birthday season. Beginning on August 1, we celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. This is the kick-off event for the month of birthday celebrations which culminates in my father-in-law’s September birthday.  In the coming weeks I will have to plan no less than three of my kids’ birthday parties. I like to get the party planning  done before school starts so I don’t have that to contend with sending out invitations as I cover text books, shop for last-minute school supplies and fill out a seemingly unending stream of enrollment forms, medical clearances and notices of emergency contact information.

4) Summer Let Down

After I am done buying school supplies, nagging my kids about summer homework, and planning birthday parties, I can stop and reflect on the past couple of months. This is when I realize that summer has whizzed by and I feel like I haven’t really enjoyed it. Truth be told, even if I could spend my days enjoying all that summer offers, I would probably still be let down when August ends, because as an adult, summer just isn’t summer like I remember it. Summers used to be carefree, and fun, with nothing to do spend my days waking late, swimming in my parents’ pool, reading books that I chose, watching All My Children, and  hanging out with my friends. Sigh. How can I help but feel let down when August comes and, if I am lucky, I made it to the beach a few times, and maybe had a few barbecues.  The other day Diego reminded me of all that I am missing from the fun of summer.  Juan and I were headed out the door for work, and I suggested to our nanny that she take the kids to the local city pool or maybe a matinée to beat the heat. Diego asked, “Do you have to work everyday? Can’t you have summer vacation too?” August reminds me that I haven’t stopped enough in the business of the season to enjoy the fun of  summer.

So, now that I am wrapping up my summer, and the kids will all be back in school this week, I have planned one last hurrah. This Labor Day Weekend I’ll be hosting a barbecue, and I’ll be combining it with another birthday party.

Work Life/Work Wife

My husband Juan and I work in the same building, at the same office, but in different departments. Still, I am not his “work wife.” That title belongs to someone else.

She is a dear friend to him, and subsequently has become a good friend to me. So I guess that makes us sister-wives. Today we are saying good-bye to her with one of our favorite things to do together…lunch. Well, to be more precise one of her favorite lunches, Mexican food. We had lunch with fellow work friends, at Manuel’s Tepeyac , one of her new favorite places in Los Angeles.

Juan and S have known each other longer than Juan and I have known each other. S and Juan’s careers in the office have followed the same path. But now she is leaving with her husband and three kids to follow a job opportunity clear across the country. I will miss her. Juan will miss her. It has been nice knowing that my husband has had such a good friendship with her all these years. She encouraged him when he was in low points in his life and cheered with him during the high points. Their home lives have even intersected at certain points. Here are S and I, pregnant at the same time, though definitely not by the same man.

 So on this day before Thanksgiving, before I  brine my turkey, bake the pecan pie and arrange the flowers, I want to say good-bye to my husband’s work wife, my “sister-wife” and our friend. Thank you for your friendship.

Walking in LA

Fall has decided to make a reappearance in the land of eternal sunshine. This past weekend, after several weeks of sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s we finally had some rain. After the rain left, the temperatures cooled, the air was brisk , the skies were washed blue, and to the north, the lingering rain clouds hung over the San Gabriel mountains. It was a picture postcard kind of day. The kind of day which makes you want to walk in downtown LA,  something Juan and I did during our lunch hour.  Besides it gave Juan the perfect opportunity to take some photos with his NEW iPHONE 4!

Here’s a look at our lunchtime route:

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Joe and Toni

Lunch Time Stories

I made another attempt at doing some more research for my “Historias” page yesterday. I went to see my grandmother and mother during my lunch break. It was a welcome respite from the gang, drug and sex abuse cases I deal with during my job in the criminal justice system.  The cases which are stories that all too often do not have happy endings.

When I arrived for lunch my mother was already there. She comes at least once a week to visit my grandmother who refuses to leave the house she has lived in for longer than I can remember.  My grandmother, of course was there too. She was a little disoriented, but at nearly 97 years-old, she’s entitled. She asked my mom three times, if the food my mom brought over was for her.  My grandmother finally stopped fussing in the kitchen, and settled down to eat her “hot cakes and sausage” while my mom and I enjoyed our Caldo de Pollo. My grandmother began to recount some of the stories from her youth with clarity and animation. My grandmother’s stories transported me to another time, when catching flu in the year 1918 was fatal, and when the death of a spouse meant homelessness and poverty for a widow with three young children under 10. I deal with tragedy and ugliness everyday in my job, but when I view it through the lens of a young 5 year-old girl who happens to be my grandmother recounting her history, it is vivid, it is real.  I listen to her story and realize that the woman she is today, the mother who has given birth to 6 children, 2 of whom did not live past one month, and another who died at 42; the grandmother who has helped to raise 9  grandchildren, but has also buried one of them; the woman whose life has given her memory filled with happiness and sadness; this woman who now has difficulty remembering how the food she is eating was put on her plate, I can’t help but think that her’s is a story with a happy ending.