Thursday, September 30, 2010

Homework Buddies

After school time at our house is a steady stream of Kelly's friends, coming over to do homework, or to be 'babysat' by me (not really babysitting, but their mothers like that I'm home when they're not, and I like that Kelly is pretty much forced to do homework and practice her flute when certain friends come over, because "I promised so-and-so's mother that she'd get her homework done before the two of you played")

Anyways, today was no exception. Thursdays are Addie days. Addie went to a different elementary school, and I know her mother through the Moms in Touch group that we both go to. Now the girls are at the same school, and Addie's church is far away and doesn't have a mid-week youth group, so Kelly has invited her to join ours. Addie's mom is a doctor, so to not have to arrange to pick Addie up one day a week is a bonus for her, too.

Anyways, the girls have the same teacher for Social Studies, but have it in different blocks. Fortunately, the teacher gives the exact same homework to all her periods. So the girls are sitting down at the big table, heads together, while I am in another room. There is probably more chatting and giggling than is warranted in a truly diligent homework session, but I know that they will get the work done, so I don't quell the noise.

Suddenly, out of the middle of the conversation, one of the girls' voices floats above the hubbub....

"Well, of COURSE you can talk during her class. It's called *SOCIAL* studies, after all."

I nearly died laughing.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

How's That for Service?

I went to the doctor on Monday.

Not because there was any pressing need, except that my TB test certification was about to run out, and the only way my doctor's office gives a TB test is with a full physical, just in case you, as a patient, were thinking you could just slide in and fly under the radar, and never actually get a check-up.

So I cut things really close, as my TB certification expired on Wednesday.

Anyways. Had to meet a new doctor, because when I phoned to make my appointment, the earliest that my 'regular' doctor could get me in was in January. Um, yeah, that's not going to work. But this new doctor was lovely. And I've officially switched over to her. The office has gone all digital and electronic, so she was updating my file on the computer, and got to get first-hand my history, rather than juts reading it out of a file. And I brought up the fact that my mom has cancer, and my dad is recovering from rhabdomyolysis. As far as histories go, mine's pretty uninteresting. No meds, no concerns, no life traumas. We just had a nice chat, and then she suggested I have blood work done for a baseline as we go forward. I got an updated tetanus booster that was bundled with the new pertussis vaccine, as we're going through a pertussis outbreak here in the schools, and I'm working with kids on a nearly daily basis. But ouch! The next day did my arm ever ache. I'd forgotten the joys of booster shots.

I couldn't do the blood work on Monday, because it's an 8 hour fasting sort of thing, so I came back on Wednesday morning. I was expecting to wait for an hour or so, seeing as it was just a walk-in sort of situation in the lab, but i got called back almost immediately, and the blood draw was speedy and painless. Then I popped up to the doctor's office and had the TB test read. You'll all be thrilled to know that I was negative. Woot. yeah. Pretty uneventful.

And then I went home and thought "I wonder how long it will be before I get my results" You'd think in an ideal world you'd get them back within the month. A ton of blood panels, a pap, the whole nine yards.

I got a letter in the mail YESTERDAY.

All my blood work, all my test results. And a personal note from the doctor expanding on a few things we'd talked about in the check up.

I was impressed.

Too bad I probably don't have to go back to see her for 3 years now.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just call me Robin Hood

On Saturday, Toni called to see what Kelly and I were up to.

Well, I had just finished giving Jewel a bath...

Here he is, air-drying.

...and we were just getting ready for a sewing lesson...

(she made a duvet cover for her room)

But after that, we were free!

Toni suggested that we join them at the archery range, and that's what we did.

It had been a super hot day (which I hadn't noticed, because I'd been inside - and downstairs - all day, and our downstairs is notoriously chilly), probably getting up into the 90s, but up under the thick canopy at the archery range, it was really very pleasant. There weren't many bugs, either, and that was a bonus.

(Kelly's getting better and better on the camera)

I must say that I was a little bewildered by all the technology that has infiltrated the old sport.

Back in the day (you know, when I had to walk to school... in the snow... uphill... both ways), you wouldn't have all these fancy-pants sighting guides, and arm braces and eye-pieces on the cord, and quick-release arrow-holders. You probably would have had to make your own arrows out of twigs, too.

Oh well. After shooting six or so arrows, I stepped aside, so the girls could have their fun.

This is at the little shooting range, where you've got a bunch of targets set up at various ranges, and you can get a bit of practice in before going on the 'shooting course', which is sort of like 15 holes of golf with a deadly weapon. It's a lovely trek through the forest, and we were lucky in that there was pretty much nobody else around.

I think this is at "hole" #2, or #3.

I was pretty pleased with this next shot. If you look closely, you can see that the arrow has been released, and the red of the fletchings is shooting off, making a blur as it leaves the bow.

But I suppose it's true that if you take hundreds of photos, you're likely to get a good one every now and then.

It was just so very peaceful in the forest.

Daffy didn't stand a chance...

And then I came home, and had a little bit of fun using Picnik in the picasa photo editing software.

I love how "70s" this next effect looks. I've got some shots that would fit right in to that era, I think.

And then I kind of got carried away...

Saint Eddie of Equinia

Friday, September 10, 2010

Alphabet Goodness

So every year at Badger Elementary, there is a fundraiser fru-fru dinner with a silent auction. And the bane of the existence of many of us is a thing called "The Classroom Art Project". Every class is responsible for putting some 'student art' into the silent auction. And, traditionally, it has been a single item. So... you have to THINK of something that can be done as a class. You have to EXECUTE the design with the children. You have to COMPLETE the project with the children. And usually you have to FUND the project.

These things are really made of Fail.

In the past, a class mom has put hours and hours and hours into something (I'm thinking particularly of a class quilt that a friend of mine got snookered into 'finishing' for the class), and then if it's not professional quality, the chances of it actually SELLING at auction for anything even approaching the cost of materials and Class Mom Time soon approach 'nil'.

Last year in Nate's class, the Russian Mob Boss was in charge of the project, put together a class recipe book (every child was responsible for bringing in a 'family recipe'), and somehow managed to rack up some exorbitant bill on color photocopying and laminating at Kinko's, which she absorbed... for the good of the cause. I think it eventually went at auction for $35 or $40 which didn't even come close to covering the costs. You add in the frustration of having to hound parents that kept 'forgetting' to bring in recipes, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

This year, there is a push to get the art projects done early, seeing as the fundraiser dinner has been moved from the late spring to the early fall. I foresee more Made Of Fail moments, although every year there are a few class moms who just seem to have inherited all the "Cool Art Projects" genes, and put the rest of us to shame.

At one point, there was an idea that maybe the kids could do something a bit more educational than just putting their hand prints into cement stepping stones for the garden, and someone mentioned that many years earlier, the kids had done a Body Alphabet in one of the classes, and the ensuing 'one of a kind' poster made from the kids doing their alpha-gymnastics went for something like $800.

Of course, this was during the Dot Com Boom, so all sorts of things were being purchased at fundraisers for inflated prices.

But it got me thinking.

What if we had the kids make alphabets, and then you could 'order' your child's name in a collage?

Like, say, this...

What do you think something like that would go for?

Yeah, the kids and I were a little busy after supper tonight. I thought "How Hard Could It Be?", and within 15 minutes was ready to completely tear my hair out.

It certainly helped me work out a whole bunch of kinks, that's for sure. There are all SORTS of ways that this can go wrong. But I think I'll offer this as a potential art project if Nate's teacher can't come up with anything. Or maybe I'll offer it to Nate's former teacher. she's always game to let me try stuff in her classroom.

If only every letter looked like this:

I need help with a lot of letters, although there were a few that worked out very well. And of course, my drop sheet was about half as big as it needed to be, what with them wriggling around on the smooth floor. And I couldn't get my flash to go off to save my hide. Better look into how one forces a flash, because a bit of fill would've made these better.

Oh well, it maybe be all for nothing, and just something that the kids look back on and say "that was a fun way to spend an evening".

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A weekend of horses. Part 2.

Of course, you know that after a day of riding in the cold fog, we'd wake up on Sunday morning to brilliant sunshine, and not a cloud in the sky.

Oh well, live and learn.

But as the day went by, I kept thinking "Oh, if only we'd gone on a sunny day... wouldn't that be a better fun time?" and by the end of the day, I'd convinced myself that there probably won't be many more (if any) sunny Saturdays between now and the end of the year. We had a dinner party Sunday night, and while we were sitting around afterwards, digesting, I suggested to Toni that maybe if the weather looked as good on Monday as it had that day, that we take the girls out for the Early Bird Special. At first, she was a little hesitant. She really likes her sleep-in chances. But I was persuasive, and you should've seen how excited the girls looked when we suggested that we 'say goodbye to summer' with a beach ride the next morning. I took Toni and Carrie home (it was a game night, too, and things finally finished up at the various game tables at QUARTER TO FOUR) so they could get an early night, and then packed it in myself.

Once again, I awoke to Kelly standing over me with her entire riding kit put together. Except this time, she was holding my phone, and said "Toni just texted that she's on her way". Whoops. A little bit of over-sleep. But I was able to gather my crap together, and be ready to go before she arrived.

I drove over, and we got to the ranch by 8am, or a few minutes later. Whoops. Who knew that other people would have the same idea as us? The place was packed. We were standing in line, and the folks in front of us said "Oh, did you come over from the other ranch, too? They ran out of horses and sent us here."


Sure enough, as the folks in front of us got to the front of the line, the ranch foreman said "Sorry, but we've run out of horses. I can give you the early bird price, but you'll have to go out on the second ride of the day."

Well, they were good with that, and so were we, and so were the folks behind us. So we all signed up, and then agreed to return to the ranch by 10:15, so we'd be ready to go by 10:45, once the horses had returned and had a bit of a rest.

The folks behind us in line had 2 daughters, aged 9 and 10. Perfect little friends for Kelly, who swept them along with her joy of horses, as we all went out to the pasture (after asking, of course) to give carrot treats to the horses that have the day off. They also had an exchange student who had just arrived from Taiwan. He'd never been to California, and had never been on a horse, but he was a great sport, and had a very good grasp of English. Our girls did the 'hard sell' for Horse Camp, and it looks like they'll be joining us there next summer. The dad was really happy with how his girls were becoming comfortable around the place, and he complimented us on our girls, and, as he said "I teach middle school, so I know Middle School Girls, and your girls are both gems". Yay!

After playing in the pasture for a bit, they headed off to show their Taiwanese student a bit more of the coast, and we went to Starbucks so we could use a clean bathroom.

We decided to go back and park at the ranch, and then go for a bit of a hike for some exercise before the ride. There was still a lot of time to kill.

"Oh, let's visit the ponies first!" Kelly and Carrie asked, as they filled their pockets with broken carrot bits and went to the pony pen.

Just as the girls finished up giving all their carrots away, the ranch foreman showed up with a rope. It was time for the ponies to earn their keep, and he was going to have to rope them to catch them. They were scampering around, trying not to get caught. They're all lazy as stink. Teenagers, if you will. If they can make someone ELSE do the work, they'll avoid it at all costs. Kelly said "Oh, Jorge, if I'd known you wanted the ponies, I could have brought them to you. I was just walking them around."

He laughed, and said "Ok, help me catch them and bring them to the pony ring." So Kelly and Carrie ran back to the van to get their lead ropes, while Jorge showed off his cool roping skillz.

And before you know it, all the ponies were heading off to the ring.

The girls got a lesson in knot tying...

And then they were responsible for getting the saddles on the ponies while Jorge dealt with the customers.

Better test out the saddle, Kelly...

Yup. Sturdy Godzilla is ready for a little rider.

Oh look! The horses are back from the first ride. Kelly and Carrie gladly go to work taking bridles out, and watering the horses and putting them back on the line, or in the back pen for a snack break.

The girls are asked which horse they would like to ride. Carrie makes her choice of one of the horses that has just come back from the ride. Kelly hesitates... her favourite horse is Eddie, but he is in the pasture.

Jorge looks at her. "Do you REALLY want to ride Eddie?"

Her face brightens...

"Hold on..." he says, as he takes off his hat and fills it with grain. "I'll be right back"

Fifteen minutes later...

Kelly is leading the line as they leave the ranch. See those white-white arms on that child? Yeah. we put on sunscreen while it was still cold, so her face and neck are well protected. Her arms? Well, she was still wearing a jacket when it was Sunscreen Time. They're gonna be a bit sore at bedtime.

But she's not thinking about that.

She's thinking about Eddie.

And when they got back to the ranch, their camp instructor was there, getting ready to give her own horse a bath. Kelly and Carrie immediately volunteered to help. What a treat!

It was a longer morning than we had originally planned. But the girls got to make so many great memories.

And now it feels like fall.

A weekend of horses. Part 1.

First, a complete non-sequitir.

I just opened up a pack of seaweed snacks for the kids to put in their lunches. The package is labeled in Japanese (no surprise there), and underneath, there is English and French.

English: No MSG added.

French: Aucun MESSAGES ajoutes. (No added messages) Hmm. Guess there are no hidden agendas there...

Reminds me of the time I bought something in Quebec that claimed to be "fabrique au Dinde" (dinde being the French word for Turkey - the kind you eat, not the country)

Anyways, I was just realizing that I'm so focused on my stinkin' travelogue, I'm ignoring what's actually going on in my life.

So... a little bit of Modern History.

Last week, Kelly started asking when she might get to go back to the ranch and ride again. Actually, to be more accurate, she's been hounding me to check on a lottery ticket that I bought on a whim when we were in Palm Desert, because I told her that if we EVER won a lottery, we could do a 'private lease' through the ranch, where, for $500/month (so you KNOW it's not going to happen unless the Lottery Fairies come visiting) you can reserve any horse at the ranch for your personal use whenever you want.

So, partly to silence her, and partly to reward her for making such a smooth transition to Middle School, and partly as a bonus for her being so helpful around the house lately (she got Every Last Responsibility Urge that might have been distributed to our children. Skip? Not so much. Nate? Still too early to tell.), I said "Well, it looks like it's going to be good weather on Labor Day Weekend, so why don't we check the weather on Saturday morning, and see if it's worth going over to the coast."

Because you don't want to be heading over the hill to the coast if it's at all foggy at our house, because you'll be riding through 45 degree Fahrenheit fog at 8am there, if it's anything other than brightly sunny here. But the weather had been looking up towards the end of last week, and I had a bit of hope that we might have a good weekend.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 7 (ouch! Too early!) to see Kelly standing over me, fully dressed in her riding clothes, holding her helmet and lead rope, and asking what time we'd have to leave in order to get the early bird special. Oh, and by the way, mom. I already ate breakfast, just in case we need to leave now, so you wouldn't feel rushed....


I looked outside.

I couldn't see the back of our yard.

Yes, the fog was that thick.

Kelly looked heartbroken when I said "I think it's too foggy to go out there today"

"But mom! What if it's only foggy here?"

And because I'm covered in a thick coat of Sucker Paint, I got up, pulled on some clothes, rifled through Ken's wallet for some cash to pay the guide, and was out the door by 7:45.

Was it clear out at the coast?

Oh, no. But the temperatures weren't in the 40s, which was a miracle. I'll take 53 over 45 any day of the week.

I guess with it being a holiday weekend, there were a lot of folks who had the idea that it would be fun to go riding on Saturday morning. There was quite a crowd gathered, and many of the horses were already gone. When Kelly and I got to the front of the line, I asked if we were too late, and the fellow recognized us, and said "oh! Hi! No. But I don't know what we've got left for horses. Can you ride anyone?"

Music to Kelly's ears! She'd get to ride a horse that maybe she hadn't ridden before.

By this time the first (very large) group was leaving the ranch for the coast, and a smaller group was getting ready to mount up. The ranch foreman asked Kelly if she minded riding a new horse. Hah! You have to ask?

Hello KC. You were a horse that she wasn't allowed to ride at camp...

And look how spunky you are!

Kelly says "Whoa, maybe this isn't my best idea ever..."

But KC settled down almost instantly, once she started walking him around the saddle-up area, and by the time they left the ranch, they were fast friends.

In fact, Kelly got a little more than she bargained for. Turns out they were a little short on guides, so the guide on Kelly's ride asked if she'd mind being a "Guide In Training", and help out.

She was in HEAVEN!

It was her job to bring up the rear, and wait with any horse that pulled aside to pee or poop or eat the grass at the side of the path, and make her special kissy-sounds to get him to re-join the group.

Then I ran to the beach, so I could see them there. I was testing out a new lens, borrowed from A Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8. It's about 30% the cost of the Nikkor equivalent, so if I was going to buy one (which I would have to save up for for quite some time), I wouldn't have to save up quite so long. Alas, I wasn't all that thrilled with the performance. The lens seized up on a number of occasions, and I missed several fun shots when I had to shift to manual focus and back to auto-focus, just to get the lens to talk to the camera body. Oh well. At least there weren't porpoises to photograph.

But there were pelicans!

And for a while, I could see a dark shape under the water just beyond where the waves were breaking. No fin ever broke the surface, and of course, the lens crapped out for about 5 minutes at that point, but I can't help but think that i might have seen a great white shark. It was about twice as big as the porpoises that I'd seen on that beach in the past.

But look! Here come the riders.

At this point, Kelly's group has caught up with the large group in front of them, so they all came down to the beach in one clump, but then Juan separated Kelly's group, so they'd have a bit less chaos.

Kelly waits for the groups to sort themselves out...

(My mom saw this photo and said it was a shame that she didn't have a cowboy hat on, because it looks like something out of the Wild West. Yes, my daughter the outlaw... heh)

There was a photographer from the other ranch on the beach, and I tried to stay out of his way while he took photos of all the other riders from both ranches as they trotted up and down the beach. I mostly stayed out of the way, but I bet I show up in a few shots. Like this one:

And he didn't just photograph for the other ranch, he photographed our riders as well. And poor Kelly, you know how much she HATES to have her photo taken...

"Oh! Are you looking at me? I'm just so NOT used to having my photograph taken..." *grin*

Heading back to the ranch, she took her 'junior guide' job seriously. Apparently, stirrups are for n00bs.

Back at the ranch, after she'd helped take the bridles off the horses, and watered them all, she asked if she could go out to the pasture and visit with Eddie, her most favourite of the faves. Of course, they said, so off we ran.

Hello, Eddie

She would stay there forever, if we let her.

It's just a shame that it was so foggy, because the coast is glorious when the sun is out.

Oh, and she made a new friend.

One of the ranch mares introduced her foal to Kelly on Saturday. She's really skittish about too many people touching her baby, but she let Kelly come right up (the carrots might have helped as a bribe).

The mom was always right there, keeping a watchful eye on things, and snuffling at Kelly's hand, wondering if there were more carrots in it for her. her little baby is so cute. He's entering the awkward kid stage, and is kind of shaggy. Kelly offered him a little chip of carrot, and he sort of flopped it around in his mouth before ptooy-ing it out onto the ground. He'll learn, but for now, it must be mostly about mom's milk and a bowl of oats and molasses every once in a while.

We stood at the edge of the corral for a while talking, once the carrots ran out, and the mom and baby walked away. And then, while Kelly was chatting about how great this morning had been, Little Guy came back...

Hey, pretty lady... I like how your hair smells.