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.

Sunday Offerings – Three Simple Joys

It’s a Sunday in Summer and, I confess, I didn’t make it to church today.  But, I did spend some time thinking about the following simple things that bring me joy and make me grateful.

!. Dodge Ball

Yesterday, Nico came home from a week at Boy Scout camp. He was covered in grime, and filled with stories of his camp adventures. He told me what he did each day, but when he told me about his last day at camp, his ever-deepening voice was filled with pride.

He told me that on the last day of camp, the camp staff challenged the scouts to an epic game of dodge ball. The game started out with about 30 boys playing against an equal number of staffers. Little by little, as the camper or staffer was hit by the ball, or failed to catch the ball, the player was eliminated. The game got down to Nico, the lone camper, against 3 of the kitchen staff. Nico threw the ball at one of the staffers. The ball hit the staffer’s legs and bounced off, hitting the second staffer, and both in one throw. With the game down to Nico and the last staffer, Nico threw the ball at the staffer. The staffer bent down to catch the ball, caught it, and then dropped it! The other campers who had been eliminated but were still watching the game let out a loud cheer for Nico.

The scouts won! Nico proudly told me how he was carried back to camp on the shoulders of his fellow scouts. What a great moment for him. Nico, the last man standing, triumphs in dodge ball!

2. Magical Cups

I have been helping my mom go through some of my grandmother’s things since my grandmother’s passing. It has been difficult and discouraging because she had so much stuff. We can’t just toss it out because some of it has value, even if it is just sentimental value. I took a few plant cuttings from my grandmother’s garden in the hope that maybe, in her death, my grandmother’s green thumb will have magically passed onto me. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes…

I also took these:

These are metal cups. They are the two remaining from a set which is long gone. When I was a child my grandmother would serve me milk in these cups. The milk always tasted so good when I drank it from these cups. Even though my stomach can no longer tolerate milk I wanted the cups, so my mom let me have them. Yesterday Diego, who rarely drinks milk, asked for a glass to go with his PB and J. Juan served him milk in the cup. Later, Diego asked for more milk from the cup. He said he had never tasted milk like that before. He told me the cup was “magical.”

I may not have my grandmother’s green thumb, but I have her magical cups.

3. Greener Pastures

About two weeks ago, Juan declared war on the grass. He looked at the patchy, yellow, poor-excuse-for-a-lawn we had in the backyard and said, “You and me lawn. I am going to win.” He went out and bought grass seed, lawn topper and set our sprinklers to automatic. Friday, we came home from a couple of nights out of town and we saw this:

Juan Wins!

Grass. Growing. And it is green!

Yeah. Maybe my grandmother’s green thumb went to Juan instead of me?

What about you? What simple things bring you joy? What simple things make you grateful?

Sunday Offerrings – A Day at the Races

Today we went to at a Cub Scout event, the Soap Box Derby. The Derby is an annual event where the boys race homemade cars. The boys steer the cars with their feet as it goes along the slightly downhill, winding course. In case things get a little scary on those hairpin turns, the boys use a hand brake to slow themselves down. The runs are timed and the boys compete against each other.

Diego’s Cub Scout pack is a really nice group of families and boys. I like the cub scouting program because I think it helps to remind boys about what it means to be a kid. The kind of kid who plays outdoors in the water on hot summer days, goes camping, and takes hikes though the woods. Sometimes my boys become so hooked into the video games and television they forget about going outside and playing around. Today, they were reminded of that.

And I was too.

My "pit crew" readies me for a race.

But Diego did much better than I did.

Here’s my attempt:

Obviously, Diego did a lot better than I did!

3rd Place Finish!!

If You Give a Girl a Groupon*

Groupon by WOVOX Team

If you give a girl a Groupon to buy plants at a nursery, she’s going to want to plant them.

She’ll start to till the soil and realize she needs to weed the flower bed.

She’ll weed the flower bed and realize her plants need plant food.

She’ll go to get the plant food and see that the recycling hasn’t been done.

She’ll get her sons to sort out all the cans and glass in separate trash cans and put them in the car to take to the recycling center.

When they come back from the recycling center, she’ll realize the car smells like old beer bottles. So, she’ll bribe ask her daughter to wash the car.

When the trash cans are emptied, she’ll smell that they are filled with stinky liquid and debris. So, she’ll get her son to wash them off.

When the trash cans are moved from their spots, she’ll see that the side yard needs to be swept and washed.

So, she’ll use the broom to clean it, and when it’s almost done, she’ll step back to admire her work. That’s when she’ll realize the rain gutters too, are full of debris.

So, she’ll ask her husband for some help and he’ll bring a ladder there. When he begins to clear the clutter, he’ll realize the tree needs to be trimmed.

Her husband will trim the trees and clear the gutters,  and uncover an ant colony. So, he’ll have the spray with ant spray. After her husband fumigates the gutters, she’ll have to hose off the windows and walls.

When the hose is unwound, she’ll take it to the flower beds.  That’s when she will discover she didn’t finish planting her new plants. Which she bought with a Groupon. Which started this crazy chain of events in the first place.


* Inspired by the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. by Laura Numeroff

50/50 Friday Weeks 4 and 5

It’s been a very busy and emotional two weeks, so I haven’t done much blogging or made much progress on my list of 50 Things to Do Before my 5oth Birthday. I did manage to knock off a couple of little things, and one big thing, though. Here are some of the little things:

Number 21 on my list–Visit to a local landmark/attraction once a month. This month I went to Dodger Stadium, for a game between the crosstown rivals, the LA Dodgers and Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim. I still don’t understand how a team could be have LA and Anaheim in one title, since they are entirely separate counties, but from what I understand, that’s what the Angels are calling themselves these days. Anyway, the cross-town rivalry doesn’t just exist in Southern California, it also exists is our house. Juan grew up in the OC and I grew up in LA and environs. So we went to the game looking like this.

And of course, like father like son.


Even though I have been to Dodger Stadium several times, this was a special trip for me because I have never been on the actual ball field. After the game, the Dodgers had a fireworks display that would rival all the fireworks going on between the McCourts in thier divorce litigation. Fans got to watch the fireworks from the field, something I was very happy to do.

#21 for the month of June? Check.

The next thing I am making progress on my list, is number 24, review my financial retirement plan. Juan and I have had three meetings with a financial planner in the last two months. Now, before you jump to any false conclusions that I actually have any finances to plan, I should tell you that our lack of financial planning, has caused me a great deal of anxiety. Juan and I have 4 kids between us. Kids are expensive. We have (I hope) four college educations to plan for, not to mention our own retirement. Getting re-married later in life, also caused us to get a late start on the planning. Prior to meeting with this financial planner, Juan and I have been saving whatever we could, hoping and praying that it would be enough to fund some kind of higher education for our kids, with enough leftover for us to be able to eat something besides cat food in our retirement years. And while our meetings did not dispel all of our financial anxiety, they did give us some direction to how to achieve some our goals. I am breathing a little easier now, and I am sure our kids will be happy  relieved okay knowing that they will be able to go to a college. Even though it may not that fancy, schmanzy, private East coast university, we should not have to go knocking at their doors, ready to move in with them when we retire. Now, whether or not the kids will come knocking on our door when they finish college, that’s another issue.

Number 24? Check.

The third thing I did these past two weeks was number 35, Camp on the Beach.  Well,  I call it “beach camping,” even if it was more car camping and the beach was across the Pacific Coast Highway from our tent site, but I think it qualifies. Actually, I really do like camping, but I have never camped near or on the beach, so it is something I have always wanted to do.  When my sister-in-law invited us to tag along with her and her family over 4th of July weekend I was thrilled. It was a last minute decision, but when you go camping with other people who already have the site, and most of the camp gear, a last minute camping decision is easy. We just had to pack a tent and some sleeping bags. It also helped that we were “camping” only an hour away in Orange County at a very beautiful beach, which happened to be down the street from a shopping center, and a take-out pizza place.  Oh, and the fact that the camp site was brand new with showers and flush toilets didn’t hurt either.  Now that is what I call “roughing it.”

Camping with experienced campers makes "roughing it" that much easier.

View of beach from our tent site.

Beautiful Crystal Cove.

Number 35? Check.

The last big thing on my list….

Molly. We got a new dog. I wrote about it here. I thought she was great until I discovered that she completely scratched the back of my leather loveseat. I threatened to send her back , but the kids love her. When we first brought her home, she was a bit timid, but now, she has warmed up to us and has made herself at home.

We had a little bit of trouble trying to reach a consensus on her name. Some contenders were: Jackie, Churro (Diego’s idea), Baby Monkey, Cow (Both Olivia’s ideas). We finally agreed on Molly. Or as I sometimes call her, Miss Molly. But,  Diego likes to call her “Cute-Cute,” because she is.

That’s it for now. 5 down, 45 to go.

My son, the ….?

This is what Diego recently said he wants to be when he grows up:

1)  Scientist – I am so proud!

2) Spy –  No doubt, influenced by his recent multiple viewings of The Spy Next Door, Spy Kids and Spy Kids II. Thank you Netflix.

3) Assassin – Okay,  I think it’s time to cut him off from Halo and the X-box.

4) Judge –  Perhaps it has something to do with his dad and I being lawyers, because I am not even sure he knows what a judge does.

5)  Cop –  Doesn’t every boy  say this sometime in their life?

6) Vice President – Really? I don’t even know what to think about this.

A Hairy Situation

It’s summer and around here that means it time for summer haircuts, for the boys. When Nico was younger, and before he had an opinion about his appearance, he would  get a buzz cut for the summer. This was a good solution since he has a head of hair that becomes a soggy mop after swimming, and a wool coat during our long, hot days.  Now that Nico is older,  he still gets a shorter cut but he does not like the shaved look, so he no longer gets a buzz cut.

However, since Diego is only 6 years-old, I figured that I could still have some say about his hair. Boy, I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. Maybe it’s the influence of his older siblings, or maybe it’s the Justin Bieber and Big Time Rush look, but Diego has definite ideas about his hair. He did not want a buzz cut. No way. I didn’t realize how much his hair meant to him, until this weekend.

Juan had to run some errands and decided to take Diego with him so they could stop and get a haircut.  First, they went to the pet store. The pet store had its usual weekend dog and cat adoption fair. And as usual, Juan sent me a text which read “Can we get her?” and attached a photo of one of the dogs.   Our dog,  Mischief , died last November, and our family has been missing a dog in our lives.  But right now? Life is really busy, we may travel on a vacation.  I texted Juan back. “Cute dog, but not now.”

Moving along, Juan’s next stop was Supercuts. Juan told the hairstylist that Diego needed a summer haircut. The hairstylist talked with Juan and another hairstylist and they agreed they would use the buzzers at a level 3, but somebody forgot to tell Diego. I am sure if they had,  he would have told them he didn’t want his hair short.  By the time the hairstylist began buzzing the top of Diego’s hair, it was too late. Diego was mortified. Juan thought it looked cute and smiled at him. This was absolutely the wrong reacation because Diego understood Juan’s smile to mean he was laughing at him. Then,  the meltdown started. Big, fat tears rolling down his face. Sobs so thick he choked on them. The hairstylist tried soothing him. Juan tried to calm him.  When he realized it was past the point of no return, he carried Diego out of there and drove home.  On the way, Juan called me in a panic. He warned me to tell the kids at home not to say a thing when they got home. I went outside and met them in the driveway. Diego’s eyes were swollen, and he was hiccupping from his sobs.  He refused to get out of the car, even though it was 90 degrees outside. I promised him he could go through the back door and bypass his sisters inside. We got him in the shower and he continued to cry,  curled up in a ball on the shower floor. I could not reason with him. Finally, I told him he had three choices:

1) Stay in the bathroom until his hair grew out.

2) Act like his haircut was not big deal and then  others would not think it was a big deal.

3) Wear a hat.

He considered number 1 but decided since he could not play x-Box in the bathroom, locking himself inside was not a viable option. He completely dismissed number 2.  He decided that number 3 was the best option, but only if he could wear his army hat.

Of course, I agreed and brought him the hat.  (He has not taken that hat off yet, even in church.)  Juan had also told Diego that he would take him back to the pet store and look again at the dog he had seen earlier. Juan promised to buy Diego ice cream too. (I know, it’s a lot. Don’t judge me.)  So, between the hat, and the promise of ice cream, we finally stopped the haircut meltdown. Oh, and  that return trip to the pet store? Well, let’s just say that even though I knew we’d eventually get another dog, I thought we should wait a little while longer. But, how could I have said “Not now” to this face:

And this face.

Meet Molly.