Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Busy Evening

This is a busy week in the school realm.

Yesterday, for example:

Nate's school had their annual Science Fair.

Kelly's school had their annual Spring Concert, where she was performing, and two of the choirs that i have been accompanying this year were singing.  I was slated to accompany one of the choirs, while a paid accompanist had been contracted earlier in the year to play as well.

And then Skip.  His school scheduled their Math Awards Ceremony for last night, too.

Three kids.
Two parents.
Someone's gonna get left out.

Well, first of all, it was pretty much a no-brainer that a kid that didn't WANT to do something that was OPTIONAL was going to get his way.  Therefore, the science fair got kicked to the curb pretty early on.  Too bad, too.  Nate wanted to make fireworks... it could have been a good day of chemistry... and missing eyebrows!

But then I realized that I really wanted to see Skip (potentially) get a math award, so I started talking with the choir director.  He said it was no problem.  The group that I was going to play for?  He'd just schedule that first thing, and I could play, then jet off to the high school.  I'd probably only  miss out on the freshmen awards, and maybe the 'A+ student certificates".

Then, on Monday, when I went in to rehearse one last time with the group, the kids were all whining about "What time do we need to arrive?" and he said "Oh right.  We had to re-arrange the schedule.  You don't need to be here until 730, because you're not performing until after the intermission."


That put my playing right smack in the middle of where Skip might be receiving "Top Sophomore" award (assuming he'd kept his act together, and actually earned it.)

So I had a brief conference with the (very capable) paid accompanist, and showed her the music that I'd basically re-written for the one song that I was working on with the kids, and she said that she'd heard me play it, and could probably struggle through, and that I should have a good time watching my son get honored.

Suddenly, I was down to ONE commitment for last night.

Wonder of wonders.

I decided I needed a better low-light lens, so I went off to borrowlenses to rent a f/1.8 lens.  I was hoping for the 85mm, and was pleased that it was still in stock (they're getting slammed with Memorial Day rentals).   But when I went in to pick up my order (I'd ordered online, and arranged to pick up in store), they couldn't find the lens.  Waah!  THey offered me a 50mm (sorry, I already have one), and a 35mm f/1.4 (a hot lens, for sure, but I'd be in the back of a theater, and that would give me shots where the kids on stage looked like ants).  I was just getting ready to say "I guess I should've rented earlier.  I'll just use what I've got", when the guy said "Oh, wait a second... how about an upgrade?" and put this GIANT behemoth of a lens on the counter in front of me.

It was an amazing upgrade.  200mm f/2.0 VRII lens.  The thing weighs six and a half pounds!  And when I said "Oh, I can't afford to upgrade" (knowing that it's a $6000 lens), he said "We can work that out.  Same price as the 85mm" (a $500 lens)

So I headed out on Tuesday to test drive the lens before the awards ceremony.
Went out to the wetlands at sunset.

I think I'm in love!

Anyways.  Last night.

First, it was the Math Awards.

What I didn't realize is that the 200mm lens made it possible to see nose hairs on the guys on stage, but I couldn't get long shots of kids walking across the stage.  So I went to the far back corner of the theater.  And then I was told that i couldn't use a tripod or monopod because of fire regulations.  Argh.  So my biceps got a good workout.

First, he got the Math Honor Certificate (for all students earning better than 95% in a math class, and who also participate in other math activities - Skip's in the Math Club)

Then he got one of the Math Competitions Medals.

Then he went back on stage for the Top Sophomore award.

I realized that they'd been really racing the kids through on stage, and I looked at my watch.  I could still make Kelly's concert!

(oh, for the chance to have a do-over, and take a brush to her hair before she went on stage!)

I even got to see my choir perform, and the director asked me from the stage if I'd like to just put down my camera and come on up to accompany them.

Um, no?  I'll just sit here and take photos.

Like when Kelly played the piccolo when she wasn't supposed to...

Monday, May 23, 2011


Last weekend, I took Kelly over to the coast for an early morning ride.

We got there a bit late, thanks to a bit of my dilly-dallying, and also getting stuck behind a truck that was doing a brisk walking pace over the hill. 12 miles at a walking pace will put anyone behind schedule, let me tell you. And as we got to the ranch, we were just in time to see a giant group of folks riding out of the place. Whoopsie. Looks like there aren't any horses left. What a bummer.

But I sent Kelly jumping out of the van as soon as we stopped, and told her to go see if there was any chance of a ride. If she wanted it that bad, she could beg. And beg she did. Turns out there were three other people who came while the big group was getting saddled up, and Jorge told them he'd take a second "early bird ride" out, in a few minutes, so Kelly was able to get in with them. And there were a few horses hiding in the back, just waiting.

Kelly got to take a turn on KC. She hadn't ridden him for a long time. I think it might have been Labour Day the last time she was on him. He's a lovely horse, though, and treated her really well.

Kelly led the way on the trail, with the guide bringing up the rear.

Things got a bit hinky on the beach when a parachute-ultralight aircraft buzzed them, but they were able to keep their horses calmed, and in line until the noisy distraction passed.

On the way back, the guide suggested that Kelly could hang back a bit, and then catch up to the group, to give KC a little bit more exercise. No galloping, but a little bit more exciting than just the walking pace that the rest of the group was willing to take.

Every ride is different. Every ride is fun in its own way, and Kelly thought this was one of the best ones.

I'm glad she's getting my money's worth out of these rides.

When they got back to the ranch, and she'd helped water the horses and loosen the saddles, it was time for some carrot snacks (of course)

Even the ponies and the mule are not left out of the orange windfall.

And Wrangler? He just gets hugs and kisses.

And she always saves him the last dance.

"Mom? Before we go home, can we do something? Tilly threw a shoe as we were crossing the last road, and I want to see if I can go back and get it and keep it as a souvenir."

Of course. If it's still there. But honey, that's a pretty busy driveway, the road to the State Beach, and it's had a lot of traffic of folks heading to the shore. Don't get your hopes up...

What do you know!

Well, while we're here at Venice Beach, why don't we go down to the water, and take some photos?

Oh look! What are those guys doing?

I asked the yellow-hatted guy (wearing sandals on the outside his waders). He was very willing to teach Kelly all about Surf Smelt. Apparently, it was the running of the smelt, and you could come out and toss your nets in to catch them. They spawn in the surf at high tide, I guess. We watched, fascinated, for nearly an hour, while these two guys (and a number of others) filled their buckets with smelt.

I have no idea what they did with them, if they just went home and feasted, or if these two were some sort of commercial operation. While the older guy wearing the sandals seemed to be just doing it for fun, the guy wearing the blue-tooth earbud really seemed to be a professional. His nets were often quite full, and his bucket had a company name on it. I wonder if he supplies some of the local fish markets. And he seemed very determined, and not dissuaded by the big waves crashing up the front of him.


As the nets were dragged up the bank, sometimes fish would escape. Usually the fishermen would toss them back into the surf as they came back down to the waterline. Kelly finally got brave enough to step in and help with the 'tossing back' activity.

Of course, it's an acquired skill... to do it without screaming, and dropping the somewhat slimy fish back onto the sand.

And then when you get really brave...

You bring them back up the beach, and drop them in the bucket.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Catch up. Remy-7

Wednesday was Remy's last day in California.

Earlier in the visit, I'd asked him to tell me some things he would like to see, and he said that he would really like to see Alcatraz. Even after I said that a ticket was $26 (about 17 Euro), he still thought that was a great idea.

So I'd gone online the previous week, and was ONLY able to get us tickets for the Wednesday noon sailing. It was already super booked up.

Of course, I was a nervous wreck, driving up into the City, hoping that some sort of natural homing instinct (which I do not possess at all) might kick in, and I'd be able to find not only the Pier that the Alcatraz Tours left from, but also a parking space. In my brain, the Alcatraz Tours left from a spot west of Pier 39, so I was totally not believing my GPS when it sent me to some place much closer to AT&T park. But I'm glad that I listened to it, because sure enough, the Pier that we needed to be at was NOT where i thought it was. Also, fortunate was the fact that I just stumbled onto some all-day parking just in the nick of time. Even if the signs didn't instill a great deal of confidence...

We arrived with an hour to spare, so we went on a little walking tour.

Hello, Coit Tower. We will not be climbing the zillion and three stairs up to your lofty heights today.

Hello smelly sea lions at Pier 39

Hello excited French boy who is going to be going to Alcatraz. See? The Golden Gate Bridge really does exist!

Even though the weather was threatening, and the skies did open as we scampered onto the boat for the trip to the island, we were still treated to some lovely views of the city.

(Hello again, Trans America Building.)

Alcatraz really was something else. I'd never been there, and I think the kids even enjoyed themselves.

Even though it probably would be frowned upon by the chaperones, I told Remy that he should take the Audio Tour in French. No sense wasting the cost of admission. Let him actually get a ton of good information out of the event.

The audio tour was really top notch.

I told Remy he should send this next photo home to his family to show them where he stayed, and what good hosts we were.

(in truth, Nate's room isn't much bigger, and is almost the same color, but I like to think I decorated it a bit better.)

It's just such an ominous place, inside. I can't imagine spending ANY length of time in here.

Look! It's Al Capone!

The weather was always JUST on the verge of raining. Or it was sprinkling. It kind of cut our little outdoor tour short..

I tihnk those big spiky tree-things behind Kelly's head are agave blooms.

I don't know how many times I have seen my mother looking the EXACT same way as Kelly does in this shot. I guess it's in the genes...

Hello 'wildlife'

I loved this sign!

And soon it was time to leave. And just in the nick of time. The skies just opened as we were getting back onto the boat.

Goodbye, Alcatraz. Remy actually was looking sad. I tihnk he could really tell that the end of his visit was approaching.

So to perk him up? We took him to experience the SECRET MENU at In-N-Out burgers.

Yes, that would be the infamous "FOUR BY FOUR" that is not found on the public menu. I never took a photo of the Animal Fries (A basket of fries, topped with chopped fried onions, caramelized (yum!), melted cheese, and Thousand Island dressing. Oh! The calorie load!

And we got home just in the nick of time to head off to the Farewell Potluck Supper.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Catch up. Remy-6

Tuesday, we got up bright and early, and then lazed around a bit before heading south towards Santa Clara, and a little place called Sky High.

We had Cole and Carrie with us, too, and the six kids had a great time bouncing around on the trampolines.

But I tihnk the boys had the most fun playing in the dodge-ball court.

Then we ditched the girls, and I took the boys home.

Cole hadn't tried the tightrope yet, so we had to get that on film.

Then we thought we'd take another shot at seeing if the Golden Gate Bridge was fog shrouded.

Well... better than last time, but still not a full bridge.

We may have done a little bit of very loud singing on the rocks... It's fun to stay at the...