Thursday, October 29, 2009

Parading down Main Street

One of the things I love about our school is that it is in a small town. We still celebrate all the major holidays, and Halloween is no exception.

Tomorrow is a teacher work day (thank heavens, we all need a break!), so today was the day.

After a full day of fun in class, the entire school (250 kids, grades K-8) lined up with their classes to participate in the annual Halloween parade through downtown Sunol.

A fire truck led the pack, with two motorcycle cops bringing up the rear. Seriously? For a school parade? It doesn't get any better than that!

Jack and Grant dressed up as Mario and Luigi from Super Mario Brothers.

Jack held Grant's hand for the first stretch.

Olivia was a "Skull & Crossbones Fairy". She didn't want me to walk anywhere near her, so I tried to be sneaky.

Then she spotted me. . . and tried to make a getaway.

Then, she hogged the frame of a friend's camera . . . go figure.

I love that our kids attend a school that still celebrates the fun stuff. Costumes, parties, games, it all adds to the fun. Academics are important, don't get me wrong. But having a little fun along the way doesn't hurt!

In the nick of time...

Halloween is nearly upon us, and October nearly escaped without warning. This past Sunday afternoon, in between church and Olivia's play rehearsal, we made a mad dash to the pumpkin patch for our annual pumpkin purchase.

Of course, we had to take advantage of all the cheesy photo opps:

I can't believe how much the kids have grown . . . It seems like yesterday that I was propping up Grant next to the sign as a 3-month old little baby. Where did the time go?

The task of picking out the perfect pumpkins wasn't easy. Most of the good pumpkins were picked over, so we settled for a couple that had at least one good side.

Olivia graciously offered to pull the wagon, which wasn't a light or easy task!

I can tell that interest in this tradition is waning. There wasn't the urge to spend hours running up and down the pyramid made from bales of hay. They weren't dashing through the corn maze, laughing and racing to see who could make it out the fastest.

Instead, they all held hands and enjoyed a warm October day. No rush, no agenda, and after we picked out the pumpkins, they were ready to go. Mission accomplished.

**A funny side note: When I saw Jack's shorts, I thought they looked a little more fitted than his usual attire. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were Grant's shorts! Jack didn't seem to mind, and I find it humorous that my 3 year old and my 6 year old have the same size waist!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Once in a Lifetime

When Steve was in kindergarten, he invited his teacher over for dinner. When his mom came to pick him up from school, the teacher mentioned the invitation, and how much she was looking forward to it. Joyce was a little surprised, but hid it well and immediately set about planning the evening.

As Jack heard this story shortly after school started this year, he looked at us and asked "Can I invite Ms. Cusenza for dinner?"

"Of course!" was our immediate reply.

And so, he did, and she enthusiastically accepted. This past Saturday was the chosen date. She is young, and not married, but we let her know that her "significant other" was welcome as well, should he choose to join her.

Saturday was spent cleaning the house and yard. There were no complaints from Jack—he worked hard most of the day and kept asking how long until she would arrive. Jack had been dropping hints and asking her questions this whole last month, trying to determine her favorite foods. Mexican food (fish and chicken tacos, spanish rice, and a mexican ceasar salad were on the menu) was for dinner, and apple pie for dessert.

About an hour before her designated arrival time, the phone rang. Ms. Cusenza was on the other line, and indicated that her boyfriend had been in a bicycle accident, and just arrived home from the hospital with a broken collarbone and bruises all over. "I don't think he'll be joining me" she said.

Shocked, I replied "Do you want to reschedule?" Given the circumstances, it would have been completely understandable if she did!

"Oh no" she said, "I know how much Jack has been looking forward to this, and I have too. I'll just come alone."

We spent a delightful evening, with the kids on (mostly) their best behavior. We did have a few humorous moments, largely due to Grant. As he sat down with his plate, he started singing "Beans, beans the magical fruit...the more you eat, the more you toot..." over and over again.

During dinner, Jack had a little toot, and immediately turned bright red and said "Excuse me". Grant piped up and said "It's the beans..." and then started singing his tune all over again.

Jack and Olivia each performed a mini-piano recital, with each song being met with enthusiastic clapping. A house tour was given, they played catch outside, there were fights over who was sitting where, they all wanted to sit by the guest of the evening!

Tomorrow is her birthday, so we sang "Happy Birthday"
and let her blow out the candle on the pie.

She is one of those teachers that most kids never experience. A true once-in-a-lifetime influence. Jack adores her, and more importantly, has grown to love school this year. When it's time to come home, I'm met with "I wish I could stay at school" almost every day. He loves learning, pushes himself to do his very best, and adores this woman with whom he spends his week days.

It was a joy to spend the evening with her socially, and it was clear that she is just as much at ease with adults as she is with the children. Her maturity and wisdom far surpass her young years, and she is a gift to those she teaches. At the end of the night, she gave each of us a hug and thanked us profusely for inviting her into our home and family for the evening. There is little doubt in my mind that she will be in Jack's heart and mind forever. And I couldn't be happier!

Monday, October 19, 2009

From Dream to Reality

I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, in every aspect of my life. I over-volunteer, over-commit, and just over-do. It's a fact. It's who I am, and I don't expect to change any time soon.

Back in September, I volunteered to assist with the decorating committee for the school Walk-A-Thon, the biggest fundraiser of the year. When I met with the event chairperson, I was the only person who had signed up to assist with decorating. She told me the theme of the event—"Homecoming - Show your School Spirit", and mentioned that she would love to have a balloon arch as the main entrance to the walkers' path. My response? "Sure, that sounds great!" After all, how hard could it be?

So over the past 6 weeks, I Googled, Yahoo'd, and asked Jeeves all I could about balloon arches. I printed out dozens of instruction sheets on how to build it. I asked Steve (the resident engineer in our house) for his ideas on how to make sure the arch would stand. I had dreams, nightmares, and visions of how it would look.

Saturday morning, I woke up early (5:45) to shower and get out to school by 6:30 (in the dark) to start building the monstrosity. I had been battling strep throat, so popped some Extra-Strength Excedrin in addition to my antibiotics to get me through the day, and headed out the door. I had 3 amazing helpers, who followed my lead, and did exactly as I told them, and 300 balloons and 3 hours later, we stood back and admired our creation. It was almost perfect, better than I had expected it to turn out. I was thrilled!

(The wind was blowing lightly, so it looks uneven, but in reality, it was perfect!)

It lasted precisely 5 minutes before the kids started popping balloons on the bottom columns. I wanted to beat them. But I held back. I had known it wouldn't last forever.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Miles, and Milestones

For anyone who knows us well, you know that Steve has a passion for all things motorized. Cars, motorcycles, remote control name it, he loves it.

In the 13+ years that we have been together, we have owned a total of 11 cars, 3 Harleys, 4 dirtbikes, and a couple of ATVs. If you take into consideration that we have had his current truck and my minivan for 5 years, that shows what the first few years of our marriage were like.

Shortly after Jack was born, we were content (or at least, I was!) with our Expedition and a VW Passat. One afternoon, while I was home sick with the flu, Steve and Olivia went out for a few hours to give me a much needed break. As I was resting, dozing, and trying to recover, the phone rang. It was Steve.

"Hi honey" he said.

"Hi" was my groggy reply.

"Um, could you come open the garage door?" he asked.

"What? What happened to the garage door opener?" I replied.

"Well, I want to see if this will fit..."

By "this", he meant a new full-size conversion van. Yep, you read that right. He had traded in my Expedition for a mack-daddy van, complete with the drop down tv, captain's chairs, and bench in the back that converted to a queen size bed with the press of a button. I didn't have the strength to fight him on it...what with having the flu and we became the proud owner of something that wouldn't even fit in a standard parking space. I drove it for 6 months, then put my foot down and insisted that I needed something that I wouldn't have to climb on board to buckle my baby. Thus, my minivan was born.

For the past 5 1/2 years, I have driven what I swore I never would, and have loved every minute of it! I love the automatic sliding doors, the automatic rear lift, the roomy cargo space, I love it all! I don't care that it screams "MOMMY ON BOARD", or that it's not the stylish uber-hip mommy-mobile I once dreamed of owning. This baby gets up and goes, gets 20+ mpg, and has never let me down.

This past week, we hit a that hasn't been achieved with any other vehicle until now—we hit 100,000 miles!

I had hoped to get a photo as it rolled over, but we were on the freeway, and it just didn't seem safe to pull out the camera and start snapping.

We've had fancy, luxury cars . . . and enjoyed them. But with three kids who pee, throw up, spill juice, drop french fries, leave crumbs, and wipe their messy fingers on whatever fabric is closest, I am happy to drive my minivan. If I have my way, I'll drive it at least another 100,000 miles. Its stained floor mats are evidence of the life that we are living and the stage of life that we're currently in. And the miles that are clicking away on that odometer are evidence of the memories being made along the way.