Wednesday, August 29, 2012

back to school 2012

Sunday,  August 19,  the kids said good-bye to Rob. He was heading back to Pakistan.  Monday morning we started in to back-to-school. I took Grant and William to the orientation day at their new preschool.  I was grateful that they both loved their new classrooms and playground, and couldn't wait to return on Wednesday.

 Monday evening I took the four big girls to back-to-school night at the elementary school.  This is a new dynamic having only girls at one school. Maybe I will spend less time in the principals office now, but who's to say?

  Caitlin was in love with her new teacher's reading nook, and very excited to go to school all day with the rest of the girls. If you ask me, half-day kindergarten is a big pain for parents, and a disappointment for the average kindergartner who just feels bored and restless when he or she gets home.  Caitlin's kindergarten teacher, a veteran in the school system, mentioned to me that was impossible to teach everything she needed the kids to learn in a half day.  I wish Utah would join other districts in the nation in implementing full day kindergarten.
  Tuesday morning only the freshman had school at the high school. Ben was the first to leave the house. I dropped him off for his first day of high school.

 Kyle took off, soon after, for his first day of junior high.  I think he is happy about having a school all to himself. Kyle has been such a good big brother all summer. I have been grateful for his support. He is going to be taking choir and musical theater. I love that he enjoys singing.

Then the girls were off looking beautiful in their new school clothes.  It is a good thing the boys don't care about new clothing.  Just getting a few new outfits for these girls was overwhelming. I was grateful that Grandma Martha came over the week before with big bags of new school clothes for the girls. They were grateful too.

 2012 was the fastest summer ever.  In May I prayed to know what I should focus on and for once I felt a clear answer, just day to day life with the kids, just focus on that and getting the house in order.  So when they all where on the bus and I went back home with my three little still at home kids I thought what next?  I imagine that all parents feel that way at the start of a new school year. I think it is ingrained in our psyches to feel, as soon as we see the school buses start to appear all around town that we should also be advancing to a new level.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

olivia's birthday

 This was Saturday morning: Olivia's birthday breakfast of Eggo waffles topped with chocolate syrup, strawberries and whipped cream, as per request.

I was grateful that Rob was here for Olivia's birthday.  This was his present to her. She asked him for a rib stick. She is a natural, and since last Saturday I have been amazed at what she will dare to do. Last night I found her skating down the hill by granddad's house with absolutely no fear, only a gleam of pure excitement in her eyes. My gleam was terror, so I sent her in to get her helmet and shoes.

  She is a happy fish in water when she is moving...swimming, dancing, playing basketball. She is a hard worker and loves a task.  It has been a blessing to us that she has discovered a love, and talent for baking, and she is so willing to share it.  Whenever I need cookies for my Sunday school kids she is always eager to make them and they always love what she bakes.  She is like me, usually eager to get out of the house. It doesn't matter where I am going, she is willing to accompany me, and I am grateful for her companionship.
Olivia wanted to make her own cake.  Her wonderful friend Tracy helped her.  We will really miss Tracy when she moves away from the neighborhood next month. She and her family have been one of our many blessings here.

We met Olivia's friends at Classic Skating. I rented the karaoke room.

Olivia in the cash box.

In the evening we went swimming and ordered one of Olivia's favorites for dinner, Panda Express. I love you Olivia.

Friday, August 24, 2012

salem pond

Friday August 17, the kids were invited  by their music teacher, Jessica Knight, to participate in a bluegrass concert with other students at Salem Pond.  Kyle wasn't feeling well or he would have joined them on his banjo.  Mary's violin was being repaired, so she had to miss out as well, but the five of them have made some good progress this summer. Bethany just started guitar in June because she wanted to participate in Jessica's bluegrass camp. After two weeks she was eager to perform a short solo at the closing concert. I admired and envied her courage!

I count Jessica as one of the many blessings of our time in Provo.  She is just what we hoped for: versatile, folksy, fun, inspiring.  I love that bluegrass allows students of all ages and abilities to play together and sound great.

Salem Pond seems like a fun place to come back for fishing.  It is stocked with rainbow trout.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

santa barbara august 2012

    Friday afternoon we met Amy at her office in Oxnard.  We have been friends since junior high and it always feels like no time has passed when I see her.  My dad went on his way to spend the weekend swimming at his favorite pool on UCSB campus and meeting with writers.  Amy and I went our way. I was so ready to enjoy the ocean again.  

I haven't spent any time really by the beach in Ventura, so it was fun to walk at the harbor there. Amy took me to one of her favorite parks where there is a beautiful view of the ocean and then we ate at a delicious Thai restaurant called White Sands in downtown Ventura. I don't think I have had Pad Thai since Beijing.

I think I am a boring guest. When I visit Amy I always want to do the same things, visit my old favorite places in Santa Barbara. As we drove in to town Amy suggested the Farmer's Market, which I had never been to in Santa Barbara. 

We walked down State Street to Cabrillo Boulevard.  I wanted to pay respects to Sonny's Pizza, which I have mentioned before, was the best pizza in the world, but is no longer there because another restaurant, which was also sadly not in operation, took it's place.  But there is the little spot where it used to be.

Sonny's was right under the ivy. I worked there for two summers in high school. When work was slow  I would stand in the door way and watch the ocean.  That job was like a dream.
View form Stern's Wharf.The candy shop on Stern's Wharf where Sister Haws, our beloved early morning seminary teacher, would go to buy us candy on our birthdays. I bought the candied grapefruit slices that I used to request. They tasted just like my sixteenth birthday. That was just one of the many ways that Sister Haws made us feel loved.  Amy bought some chocolate, which was nice enough to share.

We decided not to eat on the Wharf and instead we walked back up State Street to the India House eight dollar lunch buffet.
The food is not the absolute best in the world but the atmosphere makes up for it.  I love any restaurant that makes me feel like I have taken a little vacation to another time or place. 

I want to buy one of those elephant pieces next time.

After lunch I couldn't resist investigating The Little Rainbow Foot Spa that I noticed as we passed State and Haley.  I am always drawn to any reflexology spa where the practitioners only speak Chinese. I treated Amy and myself to a forty-five minute session of traditional Chinese foot massage. It was incredibly relaxing and  almost as wonderful as my most favorite place, Le Spa at the clubhouse in River Gardens in Beijing. Brought back happy memories...made new ones, my favorite combination.
Next we decided to drive up around the mission and up to Alameda Padre Sierra the narrow and scenic road that winds along "the Riviera" on the East side of Santa Barbara. Amy showed me a park that I had never been to before. 

Franceschi park is about 15 acres of plant and animal life, appropriately named after an Italian horticulturalist Francesco Franceschi.  There are gorgeous views, intriguing old statues and this fascinating old home that was given to the city of Santa Barbara in 1931.

 In the evening we drove to Hendry's Beach...though never the same without my dog Cody,  it is always beautiful in any season and at anytime of day.

 The place I imagine when I am trying to think of nothing at all.

We drove passed our Junior High on our way back to Ventura.
 All the park exploring and beach walking,  were not just for meditation. We also needed to work up an appetite for dinner at another favorite place,  Padaro Beach Grill in Carpenteria. That salad was so amazing it needed a close up.

 Sunday morning I met up with Granddad again. We said good bye to Amy and the beautiful California ocean air, and palm trees, and jasmine, and we drove home to Utah. 

 Sunday evening about nine o'clock we pulled back in to Granddad's driveway, and I walked around the corner to where Rob was staying with the kids.  It was a wonderful weekend, and I think the best part was running through the sprinklers to my home, past the kids' favorite apple tree,  passing familiar toys and shoes in the yard, anticipating William's "Mamma!", wondering how Sophie had changed in 72 hours, and returning to everyone's hugs and hellos. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

comfortable exile

 The kids anticipate their Dad's visit as the highlight of the summer. Because he works in Pakistan, his visits are particularly cherished.  He arrives with scarved dolls, jeweled purses, and woolen hats for the boys, that still smell of coal, the smell I remember from the villages in China. The kids run out to him as his car pulls in next to our van, and it seems like he is not in the door before the stories begin, and the pictures come out, and everyone is gathered around listening to adventures abroad.

I anticipate the visit as well. He comes to stay with the ten.  I clean and organize and try to imagine temporarily relinquishing my home, and my obsessions... returning cushions to sofas, shoes to closets, sweeping the front porch, keeping the washer churning and the dryer spinning, and tracking down those guilty of leaving the peanut butter open for the flies. I have a fantasy, because this is the boring type of thing that I dream of, that everything will be in order, I will leave with nothing undone, and somehow, because of my excellent and diligent preparation, I will be worthy, like Cinderella, of starting some new chapter, some new two week adventure of my own. I view the time as if something really different will happen, but usually find myself immediately longing to return to my own home, hugs from my children, needs, arguments, laughter, laundry, shoes, diapers, routine. Meanwhile I dread the next transition...their saying good bye to Dad again, until the future visit, but anticipate that almost exuberant moment,when like a child who's just realized she can peddle on her own and takes off riding, we realize we will be okay too.

That said, here I am at Grandad and Judith's just  down the street, what I call comfortable exile, close enough to catch an occasional glimpse of little William, swaggering around the yard like the big man on campus with the neighborhood girls.  Monday, Week one, I sat down in Granddad's and Judith's kitchen and started to plan some kind of travel. Grandad suggested we drive to California together, and so it was decided.

Thursday morning we left.  I love my Dad's respect for tradition.

  Here was our breakfast at one of his favorite stops along the way, The Garden of Eatin' in Fillmore, Utah. Not sure I would recommend it based on the price, or the cuisine, but the definitely would it for the sayin'- you-did.

I was grateful for a day of driving with Dad. Talking, eating, indoctrinating, political of course--liberal Mormon rhetoric. I told him I thought he should go on CNN. In the evening we arrived at the home of my
 step-sister Jennifer, near Irvine.  It was great to her and her family. We went out to dinner together at The Soup Plantation. And in the morning, before we said goodbye, another breakfast adventure, The Snooty Fox.

Our plan was to drive through Long Beach on our way north where I would meet my good friend Amy in Ventura.  My dad grew up in Long Beach and we visited his mother there, in his boyhood home, many times when I was a child. I had a desire, lately, to return there to pay respects to memories, retrace, solidify, acknowledge.

 We parked in front of Nana's home and talked about how much it had changed. I jumped up and down to get a look over the fence at the most amazing lemon tree of my memories. It had grown so tall. We walked to Heartwell Park, that was almost as I remembered it. The rocket ship had been replaced with new fashioned play equipment, as I had expected.

St. Luke's where Granddad sang in the boys' choir.

 Next downtown Long Beach; homage to Acres of  Books and a few places special to Granddad. I think we made Nana happy. Then we were headed North.