Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Catching up

I haven't had time to sit down and update my blog so I have some catching up to do.

I know that Valentine's day is done and over but I had to share and idea that worked good for their party and I'll probably use again. Ashley's teacher wanted healthy snacks so I brought in fruit kabobs. A couple of kids didn’t want them but overall they were a big hit because they were novel and because there wasn’t a lot of fruit on them they ate all of it. All of them were gone by the time the party was over even though there was still a lot of other fruit left over. Jacob said "It tastes better on a stick" I'll have to remember that:)

I took the idea and went a little farther that weekend and made fruit bouquets to bring to 2 of Jeff’s hometeaching families. I recycled pots that were given to me for other things. If I would've had more pots I could've give more out.

On Friday the kids had a day off of school. I brought them to Disneyland that day because it was the last day our cheapy passes would let the kids go during a day off of school. It was a lot of fun until it started to rain on us. Then it wasn’t as fun. We were thinking about having Jeff join us but the kids were done at 5:00 so we told him not to bother. Then we got caught in 2 ½ hours of traffic coming home (remind me never to miss the carpool lane on a Friday). The good thing was I got the special assistance pass for Jacob and we were able to get through all the rides the kids wanted to on the Disneyland side, including Jacob's first time riding Indiana Jones! I've lost count how many times we've measured him and tried to go on that ride and they reject him and send him away by the time he gets to the front. This time I had them measure him twice up front before we all went in. By the time he got on the ride he had been stopped and measure 6 times and then let through. My goodness I guess they are serious about this ride.

Monday the kids had a day off school but because of the rain and the fact that 1/2 the family was getting over a cold we were limited on options. We ended up going to the movies with cousins and hanging out at home. It was actually nice not running all over that day.

So on Tuesday I had to catch up on all the things that didn't get done when the kids were off of school. I had every inch of counter space covered with home-made pizzas for our freezer meal swap later in the week, I had loads and loads of laundry, housecleaning and more.

On Thursday I got to go with Jacob's class to their field trip to Riley's farm.

Here is Jacob with his "musket" learning how to load and fire it.

While he was there Jacob got to learn the proper way to greet a lady, write with and ink quill, grind wheat into flour, he learned about the stamp act and some of the other things that drove the colonists to war with England.

In the end they got to all stage a mock battle with the Brittish regulars against the colonist with the colonists winning their independence (of course).

Jacob was lucky that he got to be a colonist because all the Brittish had to fall and play dead on the feild and it was pretty wet and muddy at the time. The snow was fun for the kids and not fun. They liked it but they weren't allowed to play in it, with it or even stamp on it. It was only good for making our feet cold. We couldn't complain though because the rest of the weather was beautiful.

Here's a picture of Jacob's whole class...

I'm not really sure I got anything for the $12.00 I had to pay (no ride, no food, no participation) but Jacob said he was glad I was there. I think my purpose was to carry his lunch and jacket around and hand him money for souvineers. It was nice to watch what they were able to experience though. I think that they did a good job of bringing history alive for them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Our trip to San Francisco

My quick trip to San Francisco with Jeff was just what we needed right now in our crazy lives. It was a perfect way to re-connect and briefly focus on each other instead of everyone else.

Day 1 - Thursday I got the house ready to go, cooked dinner for Jenise to feed the kids that night and packed up our stuff and was out the door at 11:00am. At the airport we decided to carry on our luggage because we didn't want to pay the $15.00 per bag fee. This resulted in our luggage being strip searched for "liquid" contraband that was supposed to be displayed in see through baggies. Be warned that toothpaste is considered a liquid.

Instead of hanging out relaxing in our hotel that afternoon we spent almost 5 hours in an airport terminal waiting for our 1 hour flight because of weather delays. I read my book, Jeff tried to return some calls and organize some thoughts for his speech the next day and we hung out with the other passengers watching the rain roll in.

Here is the view from our hotel that we got to enjoy for about 1/2 hour before we were picked up for dinner at the district manager's house.

Dinner was mixing with a houseful of impeccably dressed strangers, trying to look like you fit in. (I was doubting my clothing choice a couple of times) Jeff and I had conversations with a variety of nice people and even had a little bit of an education in the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese. (This office was very diverse with agents representing 41 countries of origin).

After about 45 minutes of chatting in the house we realized that there was a full dinner offered outside. (We were starved by this point). Dinner was another cultural experience. I piled my plate without recognizing anything but the fact that it was Indian food. One lady kept extolling the virtues of the lamb ka-bobs gesturing to them. Jeff and I went to take her advice and serve ourselves off of a ka-bob but it was taken away from us as we were sliding it off the skewer. The man who took it away ended up being the cook who was saving us from walking away with the raw meat that we were piling on our plate. He had to bring us over to where the cooked ka-bobs were...so much for trying to be inconspicuous.

After dinner we went back to the hotel to let Jeff prepare for the next day.

Day 2 - Friday Jeff and I ate breakfast and got to hear Gerard Rocci speak at the kickoff meeting. Gerard is like the 3rd guy in command in the New York Life home office.

We first met Gerard in New York while Jeff was serving on the Agent's Advisory Committee, and instantly connected with him and his sweet wife. After hearing him speak we went back to the room where I could serve as audience for Jeff as he practiced.

Jeff's speech went great! I know he's always nervous but he always does well pulling it off. I don't normally get to hear him speak so it was nice for me to see him in action.

After he was done and we could breathe a sigh of relief we decided to venture out of the hotel and take the free shuttle to the little downtown area.

We got of at the first drop off point in the city to look for some lunch. Unfortunately we picked the more dead area not knowing what was around there.

There was a lot of mom and pop dying businesses that we briefly looked at. We ate lunch at a cheap but odd-tasting Chinese restaurant. At this point Jeff was miserable due to a migraine that was getting worse by the minute. Our local pharmacy is out of his migraine medicine so he couldn't pick any up before our trip. We lucked out to find a Wallgreens (the one normal store there) that he could transfer his perscription to and get him medicine.

Done with our mini-downtown excursion we took the next shuttle back to our hotel to be pleasantly surprised with a thank you gift basket sent by KB (the district manager).

We ate some of the stuff and then got ready for our black-tie dinner. Here is Jeff and I going to our black tie dinner. I had to wear the black dress by default since Nordstroms didn't take the electronic tag off the blue one and I didn't have time to go back to remove it.

We were treated like honored guests that night and got to sit at the head table with the big boys. (I could get used to this) People constantly were telling Jeff what a great job he did and how much they appreciated his talk. They brought their wives and friends over to meet us and get pictures. Even the top agents in the office were very nice and down to earth and wanted their picture taken.

I left Jeff at about 11:00 to go back to relax in the room. He was having fun playing pretend blackjack but since I wasn't participating (no desire) I was stuck talking to the various people about their own family challenges. People who wanted to arrange for us to come meet their autistic son, or speak at their school. I got offers to come back up and stay at someones home so their children could have a chance to meet Jeff even though she warned me that her child would say rude things about him. (I think the last lady was a little tipsy.) I had some empathy for Jeff's daily life and honestly I was glad to escape and get some peace and quiet.

Day 3 - With all of our obligations taken care of we had a few hours to ourselves. We decided to eat breakfast and check out of our room early so we could take the shuttle to the airport and then the BART into downtown to avoid a $50.00 one way taxi fee. We bit the bullet and paid to have our bags checked at the airport and started on our way to downtown on the BART.

When we got off in downtown we were at the end of the trolley line that could take us to fisherman's warf. It was fascinating to watch how they turn the trolley around to start it back on it's way to the pier.

They did it old school style with someone manually pushing it on the turnstile until it was in position and then pushing it back onto the tracks. On the way down to the pier we stood in the back and were amazed as the operator wrestles with a brake by hand to slow the trolley as it's descending down the hills. Here's the hardworking Trolley operator we got to know on the way down.

Once we made it to Fisherman's wharf we had 2 hours to enjoy as much as we could before we had to head back. It was just enough time to pick up a couple of T-shirts, eat lunch and walk in a few shops and of course take some pictures.

As we were walking along we had to check out the live crabs...crazy.

Later on when deciding what we wanted for lunch Jeff ended up eating steamed crab. Yum. Even though I was a little squeamish eating it after just seeing them alive I have to admit it wasn't bad.

For my lunch I couldn't pass up a clam chowder bread bowl. We got Taylor hooked on them when we took the kids to San Francisco a couple of summers ago so we went by the sourdough bakery and bought a loaf to share with the kids. We had clam chowder in a big bread bowl family style for Sunday lunch the next day:0)

After lunch and a couple hurried T-shirt purchases we headed back on the trolley, back on the BART and to the airport to wait for our flight home, (with no delays). When we got to Riverside we couldn't find our bags anywhere. We watched the lone snowboard going around and around in circles uncollected while we looked for an agent. After about 40 minutes we found a lone person who could help us. Our bags were locked in the office because they had sent them on an earlier flight. (We checked them early when we went into the city). We got home to find inspection notices again in both of them. I wonder what they thought of the cheese, crackers and fruit from the gift basket that was throughout our suitcases:)

We got home to find the home standing, the kids happy and Jenise and Sean and the kids all playing Rock Back together upstairs. Thanks Jenise

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sunday Skating 2nd edition

I have pictures to post of our trip to San Fransisco but I probably won't get to it today. Ashley is home sick with a croupy cough so I'm bringing her in to the doctors today and she wants me to "sit next to her" because she doesn't feel good.

So here is the kids 2nd edition of Sunday skating. I have to warn you it comes with a parental advisory. Just be advised that probably 1/2 of the video will be annoying to parents. They start off by demonstrating all their gag gifts from Christmas including a fart noise maker and fake buggers. Jeff was not ammused but I thought it captures elementary school humor pretty realistically. So don't say I didn't warn you...


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Monday was one of those days that you think "What did I do last week?" then I thought about it and remembered it "Oh, yeah. I'm glad that week is over."

Some of the highlights...an unpleasant doctor's appointment, dentist appointments for all the kids and myself that left me with a headache(I had a very thorough hygenist), lots of time getting ready for and stressing about the visiting teaching conference this last Sunday, playdates, house in a whirlwind, helping at the school multiple times, a long but good visiting teaching appointment and lots of cleaning and re-cleaning the house (which is part of every week).

I did get to visit with my cousin David and his family this weekend. Emily is inbetween chemo treatments and was wanting to get out of the house and have some fun family time. They came down for a whirlwind San Diego visit and have got to see about everything that there is to see in San Diego. We met them in Temecula after they were done visiting the Wild Animal Park. Our visit was quick but I was so glad we got to see them and the kids loved hanging out with their 2nd cousins(?).

So last week is gone and I'm jumping into this week. I got good news from the doctors, the VT conference is over and I'm ready to move on. This Thursday Jeff and I are flying out to San Fransisco for a quick trip to have him speak for a New York Life kickoff. Normally he goes on his own but I thought I'd go with him this time. We're having Jenise and Sean come and hang out with the kids while we're gone. I woke up yesterday realizing everything I have to do to get ready to go, have the house ready, stocked with food and so on.

One of the things on my list to do was to hunt down a modest cocktail dress for Friday night, (quite a feat). Jeff has black tie events about twice a year at least and I've worn the same floor length, too formal, sparkly dress for enough years in a row that it's time to get something else. After searching and searching I ended up at Nordstrom's for my last ditch effort. Nordstroms is one of those places that I secretly wish I could shop at and dread to shop at the same time.

I didn't realize that Nordstroms comes with your own fitting room assistant/sales person to help you/get you to buy stuff. I just wanted to slink in the fitting room inconspicously and try on a dress and she descended on me. She was very nice and annoying at the same time. I told her I was looking for a cocktail dress with sleeves but she brought me a slew of dresses with 1/2 of them without sleeves. Even when I asked her a second time I don't think she really understood. She brought me things with sleeves but they were see through all down the back and chest. Another one had sleeves, but it was off the shoulder. There was a few plunging necklines and some over the top dress with blue palm frond looking things on it. Not the look I was going for. She even threw in a red dress that wasn’t formal at all that she thought would look good on me. It didn’t look good even though she tried to insist that it did. Nice try. Every time she brought me more dresses I had to open the door to receive them from her. I had to keep trying to throw a dress on to receive them and of course she would have to comment on how wonderful it looked. I thought to myself more than once “Is she kidding, I don’t even have the thing zipped up yet” or “can’t she see my undergarments obviously hanging out of this dress” She was nice but I’m pretty cynical when I think that someone is telling me something to make a sale.

Jeff tried calling me while I was in the fitting room and I would talk to him but she was outside the door with more dresses and she thought I was talking to her "OK Jeff I'll call you back." Well I expected to pay a lot but I ended up paying pretty much what I wanted to on 2 dresses (one of which she brought to me) so all in all it wasn't too bad.

"My assistant" then encouraged me to go over to the shoe section next. Since one of the dresses was navy I thought I should probably go look for shoes that matched. After I saw the $238.00 price tag for basic pumps I left. I ended up scoring at JC Penny’s where I got a pair of matching shoes for $11.00 on clearance. Now that's my kind of shopping.

So last night the kids were in a "mom look at what I can do" mood. I had them coming at me from all sides so I thought I'd make a video of it...my talented children.