Tag Archives: Kids

Last Day of (Private) School

Yesterday was the last day of school for the kids, which I’m finding an oddly bittersweet affair.

The fact is, it wasn’t just the last day of school for the year, it was the last day of school at their current (now former) school.

It had not been our intent when we started having children to send them to private school, but there are no public pre-schools, so if you want your child in pre-school, they’re all pay-as-you-go.

Michelle was and is extraordinarily bright and when it came time to put her in pre-school, we decided to go with one of the very best private schools in the state, Rancho Solano. There’s a campus near us and while the tuition wasn’t cheap, we could afford it. We intended to put her in a highly-rated public traditional school when she went to kindergarten.

Although the curriculum runs a year ahead than a standard school, Michelle absolutely thrived there and has been essentially an A+ all the way. We simply had no desire to remove her when it came time to go to Kindergarten because both she and we loved the place.

Similarly, when it came time for James to go to pre-school, we started him there also. He’ll be going on to Kindergarten next year.

Unfortunately, the school has been raising tuition most every year and with the state budget crisis, we’ve been loosing income. Even with the tuition donations of some very nice people and scholarship assistance from the school, we simply could not afford to continue on – not if we wanted to keep making house payments.

And so, when I picked up the kids yesterday, I knew it was the end of one chapter in their lives and the beginning of a new one. I’m genuinely sorry that this had to happen and I feel like I’ve let them down. It is, after all, just their entire future I’m trying to lay the groundwork on and I’ve not succeeded in arranging the best possible situation.

It’s both funny and sad how one’s plans can be derailed by the capricious nature of external forces.

Pitch Report

They say most people consider Labor Day to be the “End of Summer”, but in fact, it’s not till September 21. Typically, though, summer has begun to let off by now. Not so this year, which I think will be remembered not-so-fondly as the “summer without end” It’s still topping 100 degrees every day (101 today) and any way you cut it, that’s still hot.

Nonetheless, we headed out to the back-of-beyond (read: Gilbert, AZ) to check out Nichols Park, which, supposedly, contains Arizona’s only grass cricket pitch. I’m not exactly sure how this flat lawn differs from the handful of other parks that are used, but that’s an argument for the academic types. This is supposedly the real deal.
Although you can’t see it in the video, there are actually crease lines on the ground, although, sensibly, no one has obviously played here since at least the spring. Cricket is not a summer sport in Arizona.

Now, I have in my possession both real and practice cricket balls and real and “beach” cricket bats. Between Michelle, James and myself, (Irene stayed in the car with the A/C running) we haven’t got enough people to really play, but I’ve been knocking that damned bat in for weeks now and I really wanted to let it loose on the ball.
First though, I had to experiment with the ball and the pitch. I had Michelle crouch down at the far end of the pitch and, using the real ball, bowled on at her. My expectation was that the ball would be completely off target, both from my lack of bowling skill and from the uneven terrain, and that it would skitter harmlessly past her and she’d go chasing it.

IMG_0210Much to my surprise, my line and length were right on target and had Michelle been a wicket, I’d have knocked middle stump right out of the ground. As it was, I was quite proud of her as, although she didn’t catch the ball, she did get both hands on it and nearly caught the ball and avoided getting hurt. (She’s had no practice catching the hard ball being through with any force.)

We switched to the practice ball and hit a few. Michelle and James both managed to hit the ball a couple times, and I got to see how lively the new bat was. Compared to a baseball bat, a cricket bat can seriously spank a ball.

Tied the cat in a bag and tossed him in the washer.

Yesterday was interesting. We were forced into accelerating our purchase of a new washer and dryer, and we went ahead and got front-loading units. They’re more economical and gentler on the clothes; however, I’ve never actually observed one in action.IMG_0224

I spent hours watching the various programmed patterns: Normal, Heavily Soiled, Delicates, Towels, etc. Each with it’s own unique way of washing the clothes.

There’s only so much fun you can have watching 6 loads of laundry, though.

Today, though, after the kids had left for school, I grabbed Michelle’s cat, put him in a pillow case, tied it shut and tossed him in the washer.

Perhaps I should clarify that, lest you think me a monster: I used the delicate cycle. I didn’t want him to get hurt.

After about 45 minutes of sloshing around, the machine stopped and there was no more movement in the washer.

I removed Sawyer (the cat) and placed his limp, soggy body on the drying rack, for an air fluffing.IMG_0225

An hour a good brushing later, Sawyer almost looked like new.

Sawyer is, of course, a stuffed toy cat, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

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San Diego – Day Two – We Lost Our Son at LegoLand

Getting out fairly early, after a breakfast of toaster waffles, we headed towards Legoland, which is 20-30 miles north of our hotel. First we had to stop at a nearby (to LegoLand) outlet mall and pick up our three-day passes to San Diego’s major attractions. While we were there I stopped, for the very first time, at Hot Dog on a Stick. Although I love corn dogs, and their name is fairly explanitory of what they sell, I was still rather surprise at their limited menu. Hot dog on a stick, cheese on a stick, hot dog on a bun, lemonade, fries… yep, that’s it. And they were turkey dogs to boot.

It was almost lunchtime and my justification for stopping for a snack was that food prices in theme parks are frequently akin to rape… and not just rape, but prison rape. My hope was to last through the day and then proceed to Shakey’s Pizza afterwards. (More on that later.)

LegoLand is… well, what can I say? It’s an amusement park, mostly just rides for smaller children (2-12) with lots of Lego statues. Their artwork is impressive – but I feel if I had access to an unlimited number of every Lego ever made, I could probably make an elephant, too.IMG_6378

I’m not very impressed by how the park is run, and I can give two examples. Although every ride has height requirement and they are posted at each ride; however, for some reason they don’t work very well. I saw no fewer than five instances where children (and their parents) were turned back at the boarding of the ride. Height requirements were enforced strictly at the last possible moment. The displays at the beginning of the line look like they ought to be clear, but at one point even we were scratching our heads over what the requirements were.

Considering how devastated the children who were turned away were, perhaps a re-think of their system is in order.

Second example: Children get easily lost in some of the play areas. There are large playgrounds where the parents and children enter, the children can play, the parents can watch, but in some places, the children can exit the playground out of sight of the parents.

In the first case, I saw a young asian girl (maybe 3 or 4) come down a ladder/slide thing that lead to the outside of the play area. Her guardian was obviously still inside, probably on the ground floor. Who would expect an exit on the second floor? The child popped out, looked around and had no clue how to get back into the play area, she headed off. At first she seemed to know where she was going. I kept watching her as she soon started to look worried, then started crying.

I got up to go help her when a woman came up to her and started holding her hand. Not her mother – just a kindly stranger noticing a child in distress. She hadn’t seen her come out of the playground, so I went to her to tell her where the child came from. They got her back to her mother – who never saw her leave the play area.

Second instance, different playground, same scenario, different child – ours. There’s a large playground with lots of ladders and climbing things and slides. The parents can come along, but not all the parts are suitable for adults. There are alternate paths up and down for the parents and kids. Michelle and James went up (to a third lever) to come down the slides and only Michelle came down.

I ran up, James wasn’t there. I ran back down, James still hadn’t come down. Then I look through the playground (we are standing at the back) and see a woman walking James towards the exit. He is crying. I shout to him, but he can’t hear me. I also can’t get to him because you have to go all the way around the playground to get there. Apparently there is another slide that leads to the opposite side of the playground.

I run around the front, pushing slow, old women with strollers out of the way and get to the front – they’re not there. I run to the guy “guarding” the entrance. I say to him, “I just saw a woman walking my son towards this exit. He may have gotten lost. Did she bring him to you?”

“No, what did he look like?”

“Small boy, four years old, brown hair.”

“Nah, I didn’t see anything. What kind of clothes was he wearing?”

“Blue shirt, pants, white hat.”

“What type of hat?”

“White, Gilligan hat.”

“Were his pants long or shorts?”

“Ummmmm, actually, I’m not sure.”

Now, mind you, he’s not the slightest bit concerned or even giving any impression that this is something he should even really give a rat’s ass about.

Just about then a woman (“the” woman) comes up behind me and says, “Was his name James?” After I confirm she says, “He went back in there. He seemed lost and I tried to help him but he wouldn’t let me take him anywhere.” She pointed in the direction he went and there he was.

Case solved, but I ask myself, “Would the LegoLand employee have actually tried to do anything?” The playground was designed in such a way as it was easy for him to go down a completely wrong direction, and then it was not easy to get from the front to the back. What if he’d tried to wander out of the area? Would the Lego Guy have stopped him? Are there even any basic controls in place to stop children from leaving the play area unattended?

The whole place seemed rather lacksidasical.

…and then we got hungry and had to eat. 2 slices of pizza, 1 salad, 1 cup of fruit, 4 breadsticks, 4 sodas…. Over $40!

Otherwise, LegoLand… ehhhhh, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not too keen on amusement parks to begin with.

So it was off to the highlight of the day: Shakey’s Pizza!

San Diego – Day One – iPhone 3GS on the road

It’s a bit of a fudge to call this “day one”. Any trip road trip to San Diego involves basically wasting all day on the 376.01 mile drive over. Even though we left at 8:30AM, we didn’t arrive at the hotel until 5:00PM.

It’s really one barren, desolate wasteland, with Yuma smack dab in the middle. It’s a lovely town, Yuma, and one that I’m sure most Arizonans would willingly cede to California, if only that darned Colorado River didn’t make such an obvious border. Personally, I wouldn’t cede Yuma to California. I’d like to trade it for the Imperial Dunes, where they shot the Dune Sea sequences of Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi.

To be fair, Yuma does have two things of interest: The last remaining Round Table Pizza in Arizona and the last remaining Village Inn Pizza in Arizona. On the way over, we stopped at Round Table for a bit of nostalgia for the taste buds.IMG_0083

We’ll be having Village Inn nostalgia pizza on the way home.

Shortly after we checked into our room at the Woodfin San Diego, which seems like a nice hotel, situated right next to a huge Qualcomm complex, the fire alarms sounded and we had to evacuate. As the fire trucks arrived, we decided to go to dinner. Michelle, who had to leave her toys behind was in tears, worrying that one of her favorite toys was going to be destroyed in the fire.

We browsed a nearby shopping area and found Luong Hai Ky, the Original Chinese Noodle Shop and had a decent batch of noodle soups. I had beef, the kids had duck and Irene tried the seafood. All agreed that it was good, but was more Vietnamese than ChineseIMG_0092

Our room has a kitchenette, so we stopped by the nearby Fresh & Easy to get some supplies for the morning and headed back to the hotel. The hotel was still standing and there was no sign of a fire, so we turned in early.

Looking back at my previous San Diego trip, I commented how incredibly helpful having my MacBook was. In that instance, we’d return to the room and could make all our plans with everything at our fingertips each night. This time, I’m on my first “real” trip with an iPhone, which should extend my information store to 24X7 and geo-aware. So how well did it do on the first day?

We lost the 3G signal just before we reached the last major housing developments on the west side of Phoenix – about 20 miles out from home, leaving me with the older, slower Edge connection. Since this was just like my original iPhone – well, it was disappointing, but I was used to it – and, I’d rather have slow internet than no internet – even if all I did was just continue to receive e-mail from work.

We never got 3G back until we arrived well into the suburbs of San Diego.

After you leave Yuma, you travel very close to the Mexican border. The new border fence is often within sight of the freeway, At one point, at a gas station that doesn’t even seem to appear on Google Maps, you’re so close that both my iPhone (on AT&T) and Chu-Wan’s phone (T-Mobile) started receiving SMS messages saying, in effect, “Welcome to Mexico”. The iPhone message included a note that said, “International Data Roaming rates are in effect at $19.97 per megabyte.” Youch! Luckily I have International Data Roaming turned off – as should everyone, unless they intentionally are planning to use it. What would have happened if we’d driven past the border just as a bit e-mail with attachment had arrived?

Inside San Diego, the iPhone Maps application gave different directions than did my Garmin GPS. We went with the GPS directions only because traffic was looking a little ugly on the Maps route – although we had to travel through the only “solid red” traffic problem in San Diego no matter which route we took.

At the room, we quickly used the iPhone to locate a nearby shopping area, and were easily able to check out restaurant reviews before we chose our dinner location. So far, that’s all good.

Now the bad: battery life. It’s appalling. When using GPS features, even plugged into the car for charging the battery is being drained at an incredible rate. Using the GPS while plugged in for over an hour and the battery only charged 2%. It was literally draining as fast as it could charge. I kept the phone on the charger for much of the drive. It was 100% charged in Yuma. 53% when we reached San Diego 3 hours later. It was charging in the room when the fire alarm sounded and was back up to 75% and was down again to 50% at bed time.

On Day Two (which is actually today) at Legoland, I’ll try to conserve a bit. Typically, at home, I get one day out of a charge and typically have 25-30% charge left. Here’s hoping 3.1 OS will improve this!

Firsts for boys

One of those inconvenient truths about parenting is that awkward time between potty training and actually being able to use a public restroom unaided.

With Michelle I was able to escape that duty fairly easily. I only had to take her to a men’s room two or three times before she could go unassisted to the women’s room.

James, for the most part, has also “gone with mommy” but considerably more often he’s wanted to go with me and I have no good excuse not to take him.

Obviously, the art of standing up to urinate is something probably best taught father to son.

This is something that James already knows how to do but today was something different. Today is the first time James had to use a urinal. The event was forced on him by a “standing room only” condition in the stalls.

No pictures of the momentous occaision. (To, no doubt, the relief of the entire world.)

Don’t tell my daughter…

It’s a good thing my kids don’t read my blog.

This will be no surprise to most parents, but my kids are not like each other… apart from the obvious anatomical differences.

James is a compulsive, obsessive child, who is frequently fixated by superheroes. Hardly a day goes by where it isn’t “Batman this, Batman that,” “Go-Onger this, Go-Onger that” or “Obi-Wan Kenobi This and Obi-Wan Kenobi that”

I supposed I’d be worried if I didn’t know that my first grade report card came back with the note, “Your child could be a very good student, if he’d just spend a little less time thinking about Batman.” I turned out OK and they didn’t have to medicate me as a child. They say acorns don’t fall far from the oak tree.

My daughter, on the other hand, is frighteningly sharp, but she’s also both bossy and a “pleaser.” At times she takes keen interest in things and it’s difficult to tell if she’s doing it because she’s genuinely interested, or she’s trying to be interested in things that I like. I’m quite certain now that she actually does have an interest in dinosaurs and paleontology.

Her interest in cricket; however, seems to come and go. Sometimes she’ll watch the matches intently, others she couldn’t care less. I’ve at least trained her that we always root for New Zealand.

Since fall is finally here and the temperatures have begun to drop below 90º, we’ve gone to the park the last couple of weeks and set up the stumps. She’s really improved in just a couple days, she gets bat on the ball most times. At 6 years old, I’m not expecting much, but she’s really improving. My mother was quite athletic and a natural at baseball, perhaps Michelle has inherited some of that.

(Actually, I mostly take the kids out so I can hit the ball as far as possible and watch them chase it.)

In any case, I wonder where she’ll be on the love cricket/ignore cricket next year come June. Hopefully she (both of them, really) will enjoy their first live sporting event.

However, considering that she’ll be in a foreign land, far from her friends, on her birthday, I’m trying to come up with something special for her. We can’t hold a party for her, but we might be able to take her somewhere… and that somewhere might be Euro Disney in France. It’s just a 2 hr 38 minute ride on a wickedly cool high speed train, departing from a recently renovated Victorian railway station, passing under a massive underwater tunnel… and then there’s Disneyland at the end.

I’m going to see if I can keep the whole idea a secret from her, and since she’s always going on about wanting to go to Disneyland, I assume she’ll be pleased with it as a surprise. Train tickets aren’t quite available to book yet, but May ticket fares are only $260 for the entire family – and for that fare, we actually get seats! Looks like entrance and ticket fees for Euro Disney will be about the same amount again, unless there are special deals, which appears often to be the case.

Life – In General

Life is a series of vignettes. Some longer than others. At times they may feel like they’ll never end, and when they do, you know they’ll never come back and you might feel a little maudlin.

And so a new vignette begins. Since 2002, just before Michelle was born, Irene has been a stay-at-home mother. We both felt that these early childhood development years are too important to entrust to day care. It hasn’t been easy, financially. I can easily understand how others may not have that option although it is often a question of lifestyle choices.

James is now three and has been attending a summer pre-school as a trial run. Starting next month, he, like Michelle, will be in school full-time. Next week, Irene goes back to work as a kindergarten teacher. It’s a good job. The hours are good, it’s near our house and near the kids’ school. Most importantly, we’ll be able to begin reversing the direction on our debt.

Still, my kids are getting bigger. Some days I think they can’t mature fast enough. Other days, I want them to stay my little kids forever.