Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are We Broke Yet?

August is always an expensive month, but this year is especially bad. I feel like I'm just flinging money in all directions!

In order for our children to attend the excellent public schools here, we have to pay for all sorts of things that state funding no longer covers. The parents' club at each school and the local educational foundation each request a large donation per child to cover what they provide (music, art, languages, textbooks, other optional things like that). Then there's all the other stuff. For M, I was surprised by the cost of the yearbook ($105), resigned to paying for new PE clothes ($30) and an optional school sweatshirt ($40), and utterly appalled by the $75 charge for his required ID card. Oh, and we had to prepay for his school photo, sight unseen. (He came home from registration today, and informed me that, of course, his photo was hideous.)

B's yearbook was cheaper, and her ID is free, but the requested donation at the middle school is nearly twice what the high school requests. We prepaid her lunches for a semester, and we also prepaid her ballet school tuition for the next year (we get a discount if we do that).

On top of the expected school expenses, we had a couple surprises this month. First, our oven door refused to open when DH tried to bake cookies. After calling several highly recommended appliance repairman, we were informed that we had to go through the manufacturer's designated service people. We got an appointment last Friday, and found that we need a new door latch kit, which has to be special-ordered from the manufacturer. Next, our minivan's oil change turned into oil change + two new tires + new front axle. Finally, the tree in our backyard (which has been in need of a trim for a while) suddenly started dropping large branches not only in our yard, but also in our neighbors', so we made an emergency appointment with a tree trimmer.

For any appliances/cars/kids who may be listening, we're out of money, so please stop asking for more!

Monday, August 8, 2011

High School Registration

Can you believe M is entering high school? I'm still not entirely convinced yet, but today I had to go down to the high school and prove that we're residents of the district. I brought with me my driver's license, homeowner's insurance policy, and paycheck stub, to cover the three groups of documentation required. (Utility bills are no longer acceptable forms of ID). I also brought along his immunization records, just in case, even though I'd already submitted them in the spring. Good thing I did--the mom in line ahead of me was turned away because she hadn't brought her child's immunization records, and they did ask me to resubmit them in order to proceed. (Which then leads me to question why I had to submit them in the spring, if they want them again now?)

Overall, I can't complain. First of all, we arrived just in time--a rather long line formed behind us. Second, I have a friend who is having a much harder time with this (in a neighboring school district). Her nephew has arrived from overseas in order to attend school in the US for a year. My friend is very organized, and had all the required pieces of paper in hand last spring, but her school district wouldn't allow her to register the kid until he arrived. He arrived last week, so they went down to the school to register him. They accepted the paperwork, but informed her they couldn't register him until they made a home visit to ensure that he was really living with her. And they're booked the rest of this week. And they're closed next week. And school starts the week after, but he can't start if he's not registered...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright

Did you know that we live just around the corner from a Frank Lloyd Wright house? We didn't either, until a couple of years ago. The original owners passed away recently, and the house is going on the market soon. This weekend they offered tours, so we made our donation and signed up:

The house was surprisingly small inside, with only two bedrooms. The details were beautiful:

Wright must not have been a very tall man:

Another feature of the property is the extensive gardens, designed by Henry Matsutani. Unfortunately, they were not included in the regular tour, and we didn't really want to pay $125 each for the "special" tour plus reception. Here's a glimpse of the grounds:

It'll be interesting to see how much the place sells for (listing price will be 4.995 million). Too bad it won't raise the value of the neighboring homes :-)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth!

B and I watched the parade downtown this morning: the usual array of politicians waving from cars, and floats by everyone imaginable, including the high school Latin Club's chariot:

We celebrated my sister's birthday a few days early with a steak dinner (not too badly charred by me) and vanilla cake with whipped cream, blueberries, and strawberries. I just got home from watching the fireworks with M & B. (Someone please remind me next year to park further away--it's faster than trying to drive when trying to get home!)

Busy week coming up: the kids are leaving for a cruise with their grandparents next weekend, and DH and I taking advantage of their absence and going to London for a week. Before all that, we're hosting a piano recital (M's last lesson is tomorrow) and a going-away party for one of DH's postdocs on Friday, which is when DH's family arrives for the cruise.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sit Back and Relax (For Now)

It's 6:00 pm. In the last two hours, I:
Walked about half a mile to a BART station in the city.
Had a relaxing half-hour train ride.
Found my car, drove to the swim club to pick up B (the back way, because traffic was jammed on the main road). She wasn't ready to leave.
Drove back to the BART station to pick up DH, who was about twenty minutes behind me (he came from the airport).
Dropped DH off at home, going the back way again. Grabbed B's dance bag and a snack for myself.
Picked up B at the swim club and drove her to ballet class. Discovered she didn't have any pants, so called DH to meet us after class with pants and a sweater.
M is at Six Flags with his class. When he gets home, he and DH will meet us at the ballet school so we can all go out to a late dinner.
I am catching up on email, Facebook, and paying a few bills before going in to observe B's class. (1.5 hours is too long to sit on that hard bench!)

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Three Shows and a Late Night

Was woken up yesterday morning at 8:30 by B, calling to let me know she'd left her costume at home (yes, the one I told her to put in her bag last night). So, DH got home from dropping her off and had to turn around and go right back to the ballet school.

She danced in (and we watched) the pre-ballet show at 11:00 (she's one of the teaching assistants), then we had burgers for lunch and took her back to the ballet school for the 2:00 show.

Voci concert tonight from 8:00-10:00, then a bunch of us went out for some well-deserved food and drink. I finally arrived at home at 12:40 am--it's been a long time since I've stayed out that late!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Not Quite Prepared

M assured me over dinner that he didn't need help packing for his Boy Scout trip tomorrow, and that he would be the one to suffer if he forgot anything. I had to butt in, though: after he "packed," I looked at the pile on the living floor and saw:
  • frisbee
  • boomerang
  • sleeping pad
  • tent
That was it! I suggested to him that he might want to consider a sleeping bag and a change of clothing...

Monday, May 9, 2011


The only job that doesn't come with sick days...

Which explains why, on a day when I felt badly enough in the morning to stay home from my paid job (stupid sinus infection!), I'm doing dishes and laundry, driving carpool, organizing the backstage crew for B's ballet school, and filling out a million forms for M's Boy Scout trip this weekend.

Thank goodness for DH, the best hubby in the world, who made french toast and drove the morning carpool while I slept in. (This despite the fact I'm sure I kept him up late last night with my coughing.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

For the first time in a couple of years, DH was home on Mother's Day. This meant that in addition to the lovely kid-cooked breakfast (this year was a scramble with eggs, sausage, ham, mushrooms, and onions), someone else did the dishes! And I got some lovely flowers :-)

This was the last day on the calendar for a while with nothing scheduled, so I spent several hours playing Lego Indiana Jones with B, then we had Chinese takeout for dinner.

Onward to performance week! Two dress rehearsals this week (actually four, but they all overlap, so I can only attend two), then three concerts this weekend.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


What ever happened to Saturdays being a day off? (I guess that changes when you have kids.) Today I spent three hours driving three girls to and from the CMEA choir festival (and listening to the performance), then spent 2.5 hours observing ballet rehearsal (making a chart so that the stage managers know which kids are supposed to be where).

Fortunately, the evening was much more relaxing. DH had a delicious dinner waiting when I got home, and I spent over an hour playing Lego Indiana Jones with B.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding

It's been a long time since I last stayed up all night :-) I couldn't convince anyone else in my family to join me in watching the royal wedding tonight, so here I am watching TV, with both and Facebook open on my computer. I have a cup of hot tea and a space heater (we turn the heat down at night to save energy), and I had my son show me how to operate the TV before he went to bed.

I remember being at camp when Charles and Diana were married, and I was very disappointed to miss the wedding. (Of course, even if I had been at home, I'm not so sure my mom would have approved of me staying up all night to watch it!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ease On Down the Road

Current mental soundtrack: "Brand New Day" from The Wiz

Two dress rehearsals and six shows this week: M was at every single one of them, while B and I only worked half of them (plus attending one show each). I was on backstage duty: opening and closing the back and wing curtains, helping move set pieces, and being part of the balloon-wrestling team. (One show there were six people trying to get that balloon to glide off the stage--it kept getting stuck on everything possible! By the last show, we managed it with only three people.)

M at the light board (poor kid saw the show EIGHT times this week!)
B was cast as part of the Yellow Brick Road, and also as a Winkie. Lots of dancing, a little bit of singing, and a lot of fun! We were not permitted to take photos during the shows, but here are some before and after show photos:

L (crow) and B (Yellow Brick Road)

L (Addaperle), B (brick), and M

L (Addaperle), L (crow), and B (brick)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Venetian Birthday

B's birthday-party theme this year was "Birthday in Venice." She had seven friends at her party (two more were out of town and couldn't make it). 

The cake

Vanilla with lemon filling and buttercream underneath rolled fondant

The Carnival masks:

We spray-painted paper-mache masks gold and glossy white, then set the girls loose with feathers, sequins, glitter, paint, and glue guns

The gondola races:
The birthday girl
The two teams (each girl had to put on a gondolier hat, striped shirt, black pants, red sash, and enormous black shoes, then race to the other end of the room and back while carrying a cardboard "gondola."

Another successful party, although I'm sure we're going to be finding feathers and glitter in random places for weeks.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Birthday + Birthday Weekend for B

B and a couple of her friends are having a busy weekend: L's birthday party was this evening, and B's party will be tomorrow afternoon. The guest lists are not identical, but four of the girls are attending both parties (two others were invited to both but out of town for the weekend). So far today, I've baked three loaves of banana bread, made lemon filling, baked a cake (from a mix), made buttercream frosting, filled and iced the cake, and decorated it with fondant. (Photos tomorrow). I also cut two gondolas out of cardboard, and I'm now trying to get up enough energy to do what I think is my fourth load of hand-wash dishes (the dishwasher has also been run twice, and needs emptying again).

Oh, and in between stages of cake decorating, I rescued our dog (DH took Coda on a hike which turned out to be much longer than anticipated, and our poor couch-potato dog needed a ride back to the starting point), cleaned the bathrooms, did some laundry, and went out for dinner with DH.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Parties & People & Other Stuff

Busy, busy week.

Several houseguests (F has been here for two weeks, and B is arriving tonight).

Last Friday we had a lab party at our house--I'm not sure what the head count was, as B and I arrived late from ballet class, but we're thinking 35-ish.

Saturday was the Voci retreat, held at the scenic Marin Headlands. While I was off singing, B and M had their usual Saturday activities, B went to a birthday party at 2:00, and DH & M went to another party at 5:00. I arrived home around 6:30, heated up some leftovers for F and myself, then took off at 7:00 to pick up B and take her to see the musical at the local high school (The Wizard of Oz)

Sunday was calm: laundry, groceries, catching up on stuff, actually reading the Sunday paper before midnight.

Today we spent a lot of time at the bank. Our kids have both had their own accounts for 5-6 years, so they can save up their allowances and birthday/Christmas gifts. After years of no fees, BofA suddenly started charging them each $12/month, which is a little ridiculous when you consider how much they get as an allowance! After much time at the bank, we were able to get their money transferred to new student accounts, which should be sufficient for their needs.

While I was at S&P rehearsal tonight, I got a long string of e-mails. B's best friend L has a birthday tomorrow, and no one remembered until tonight to organize a "shanghai"! Fortunately, another friend's mom was more on the ball than me, so we now have morning plans. I called B during my break to work out what time she wanted to get up tomorrow morning (since she would already be asleep by the time I got home tonight). Normally, DH does the early morning runs, but since he's off picking up someone at the airport right now, we agreed I would do the morning wake-up call. (Neither of us knew it would be an extra-early call when we made this agreement!)

Off to bed now, in hopes of getting some sleep between now and 6:20 am...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

En Garde!

Today M competed in his first fencing tournament. Yes, I know he's been taking classes for the last seven years, but until this year he wasn't interested in competing. Over the last couple of years, he's been participating at the in-house tournaments at his fencing school, and enjoying them, so he decided to try out a "real" competition.

DH and I both got up bright and early in order to get to San Francisco by 7:45 am (naturally, M's division was the first of the day, at 8:30). The tournament went pretty well. M achieved his goal of not finishing last: in his pool he lost three bouts and won two, then lost in the direct elimination. The silver lining to losing in the first round is that you get to go home early, instead of having to spend even more time sitting on a folding chair. Like any event of this type, there's a lot of time spent sitting around and waiting, punctuated by brief bursts of competition.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Only At ACDA

I spent four days last week attending the American Choral Directors Association National Convention in Chicago. Lots of good music, too much to do in a short time, so I'm just posting a couple of random thoughts instead of a properly written post :-)
  • Only at ACDA does the Chicago Symphony Chorus get applause just for walking onto the stage. The applause continued until all 150 or so singers were in their seats, which made for very tired arms. At the end of the program, the chorus and chorusmaster got as much, if not more applause than the soloists.
  • For some reason, Sweelinck was the most popular composer this year--it seemed like every concert program (with four to five groups performing) had at least one of his pieces.
  • Choral directors are a tough audience to perform for, but extremely well behaved. No one clapped until the conductor dropped his/her arms, coughing was kept to a minimum, and no one tried to enter or leave the hall in the middle of a piece.
  • You have to love a worship service where they print the hymns in the program, indicating which verses are sung in unison and which in harmony, and the entire "congregation" sings in perfect four-part harmony where indicated. Also, there was a note during "O Come All Ye Faithful" indicating that all sopranos were welcome to sing the Willcocks descant (NOT printed in the program), and many of them did!
  • The conference ended on Saturday night, with Daylight Savings Time starting the following morning. Everyone was extremely concerned that no one miss their flights on Sunday morning: they started announcing it at the concert programs on Thursday, the hotel sent someone around to reprogram all of the alarm clocks, and the hotel also slipped a letter under the door giving instructions for an extra wakeup call. (For the record, my iPhone made the change without any trouble, and woke me up at the correct time the next morning.)
  • It's funny how your standards change at an event like this. Obviously, some choirs were better than others, but it's hard to remember that even the less-good ones are phenomenal groups that I would be happy to hear anywhere else.
That's all for today!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Electrical Mysteries

We purchased our Honda Odyssey in 2003, and it's been an extremely reliable car. It has had a few electrical quirks, which I understand are fairly common. About five years ago, the clock on the dashboard stopped lighting up. The clock kept time, but I couldn't read it at night. When we asked the dealership about it, we decided it wasn't worth the time and effort to removed the dashboard and investigage.

About a year ago, the clock suddenly lit up again! At the same time, the right-hand climate control knob (the one that controls the rear heat/AC) stopped lighting up, so we joked that there wasn't enough electricity to turn everything on at the same time.

On Wednesday night, as I was driving to Voci rehearsal, the car started to warm up, then about 1.5 miles from my house, the heater fan simply stopped. I tried turning everything off and back on, without any success. I turned the whole thing off, parked it for three hours while I was at rehearsal: still no fan. Now, since I live in California, I can get by without heat or AC most of the year, but I discovered the following night that the defroster was considerably more important: I spent a cold & rainy night driving with my window open so the windshield wouldn't keep fogging up.

Today we got the fan fixed (there's some power transmitter that often goes out). Lo and behold, everything on the dashboard now lights up properly!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tra La La

S&P concerts this weekend went well! I was a little nervous coming into this set: I have not done much solo work in the past, preferring to hide in a quartet when I did sing. I ended up singing in three of the seven small groups that performed this set (probably because I was the only loooooow alto that auditioned, and Renaissance music was written for male altos), with some very exposed lines. I'm happy to report that the performances went well, and several fellow singers complimented me on my solos. Even better, a total stranger came up to me afterwards and told me how much she liked my voice! (Which one of you fans of SuperAlto paid her?)

I think I'll have to try out for a few more solos in the future. The hardest part is finding ones that suit my range, since most "alto" solos have too many high notes for me to sing comfortably.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Very Weird Day

First, there was the weather. After we dropped the kids off to school, we headed to work. Within a mile of our house, we encountered bright sunshine, blue skies, pouring rain, and a hailstorm, all within a few minutes.

Next, Poppy managed to break through the back fence and let herself out again. She was picked up twice by kind strangers. The first put her back in our yard and left a message on our home phone. (Since there was a huge hole in the back fence, she very naturally went right back out.) The second kind stranger held onto her until he was able to reach us by cell phone, then brought her home.

Last (but certainly not least!), after I picked the kids up from school, I sat down at the dining table to have a quick snack before going out to repair the back fence. A fire engine drove past, lights and siren going. I wondered what was going on, and went back to my snack. A second fire engine went by, which made me curious enough to get up. By the time I got my shoes on, I found a police car at the end of our driveway, a horrible burning rubber smell outside, and flashing lights everywhere. Just past our house is a little cul-de-sac, and the house at the end had smoke pouring out of the garage. I counted FOUR fire engines (three big and one small), a fire-department SUV, and five police vehicles.

The fire appears to have been confined to the garage, and it looks like it started in an antique car. (DH came home and saw them towing it away.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Girls' Night Out

B is a little annoyed that M is "stealing her dad" for the weekend (after a nearly two-week trip, she saw him for about an hour last night), so after sending the boys off on their Boy Scout ski trip, she and I had a fun evening together. I picked her up from musical rehearsal at 5:45, drove her friend home, and headed out to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner. After dinner, we wandered through the Gap (didn't find any clothes she liked), Barnes and Noble (she bought three books and a new sketchbook), and Crate and Barrel (that stop was for me--picked up a new gravy boat). Last stop of the night was Loard's Ice Cream, our local ice cream place.

She already has tomorrow night's restaurant picked out :-)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Back in the Swing

After a relaxing January, February is off to a rather hectic start. DH has been gone for nearly two weeks (one of the longer trips he's taken). Tomorrow, the kids will be home for exactly an hour after school, and they each have a thirty-minute piano lesson during that time, with the other thirty minutes spent getting ready for fencing/ballet. (They usually have lessons on Tuesday, but their teacher had a conflict this week.) About the time we take off to pick up T for fencing, DH should be landing at SFO. The plan is to take B to ballet, drop M & T off at the fencing school, have DH take the BART to the station nearest the fencing school, pick him up there, and drive him home so that he can attend the Boy Scout parent meeting at 7:30 while I pick up B from ballet.

A good chunk of today was spent trying to organize the weekend. M signed up for the Boy Scout ski trip, but I didn't have it on my calendar. When I realized that it was this weekend, and that the scouts who don't ski well (M has never skiied before) need to have an adult with them, I convinced DH that he should go on the trip. The poor guy will be home for less than twenty-four hours! Once we sorted out who was going, I rented skis for them online, and will be making a trip tomorrow to pick up the gear we don't have (ski gloves for one of them, ski pants for M). Oh, and I have a choir retreat all day on Saturday, so B is going to have to miss her pre-ballet class assisting this week, as I don't have time to drive her home during the middle of my retreat. (For some reason she wasn't very excited by the idea of spending the entire day sitting in a church listening to us rehearse...)

Tomorrow is also Chinese New Year, but we're putting off our celebration until Sunday evening. Kung Hsi Fa Tsai!

Monday, January 17, 2011

January is the Cruelest Month

I remember reading somewhere that January is the month with the highest death rate. In the last week or two, I've found out about two members of my choir losing a mother-in-law and a father respectively, and two online friends I've known for 14+ years losing a mother and mother-in-law. Plus, an online friend that I've known since 1995 passed away last week (this wasn't a great surprise, as we knew she had metastatic cancer and only a few months left, but it was still unpleasant news).

It's a good thing I'm not superstitious, because if I was, I'd be out buying good-luck charms and whatever else is out there. I suspect that this statistical blip is related to the fact that I'm now old enough for my friends and I to have elderly parents. Still, that's quite enough for one month.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Surprising Ancestry

This is Poppy, the mutt we adopted about two years ago. What kind of dog do YOU think she is?

Our guess was a Doberman/German shepherd mix. The vet thought she might have some Lab in her, and someone else mentioned Rottweiler (mostly because of the coloring).

We got a doggie DNA testing kit for Christmas this year, and the results came back today. We were quite surprised, and I'll bet you will be, too.

[drumroll] And the results are:
  • 20–36% Siberian Husky
  • 10–19% Boxer
  • 10–19% German Shepherd
  • 10–19% Lhasa Apso
  • <10% Chihuahua
  • <10% Chow Chow


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Slightly Smaller Black Hole

M found his PE clothes today. In French class. Still no sign of B's T-shirt, so I ordered her a new one.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Do We Have a Black Hole?

Both B and M brought their PE clothes home to be laundered at the beginning of break, two weeks ago. (Or so they say!) We arrived home from our vacation on Saturday night, and I promptly started work on the mountains of laundry that had accumulated. B's sweatshirt and shorts were in the hamper, but no T-shirt, and M's PE clothes were nowhere to be found. He remembers bringing them into the house, in a plastic bag, and I have a vague memory of seeing him bring a plastic bag in (although my memory is not always reliable for stuff like this). Nonetheless, we searched everywhere we could think of yesterday, and no PE clothes were to be found.

Both kids were sent off to school this morning with something to wear for PE (so they don't lose points), and instructions to check the lost and found plus every classroom they went to after PE. (PE clothes are emblazoned with their last names, since everyone at the school has an identical set.)  Once they've looked at school, I guess it's time to order new clothes. And search for the black hole that has taken up residence at our house.