Christmas on Balboa Island

Sunset at Balboa Island.
Sunset at Balboa Island.
One of many gorgeous homes decorated for Christmas.
One of many gorgeous homes decorated for Christmas.
Christmas on Balboa Island

Disappearing time

I’m fairly technologically savvy.  I use an iPhone calendar to keep meetings straight and Cozi to send myself the occasional reminder.  But the truth is that without the paper calendar book that permanently sits on my desk, I would be lost.

With a busy husband, two working sons, a high schooler and a pre-teen daughter who never met an activity she didn’t want to join, scrawled notations fill every square of every week.  I rely on the calender to know when to drive the boys to work, when my daughter needs to be at soccer, when I have to work unusual hours and everything else.  And there is a lot of “everything else.”

With only ten days left in the year, I have discovered something troubling.

My calender only goes to December 22.  I can’t understand this.  Isn’t not like I even bought this calendar on sale or anything.

I have a new calendar that starts on January 1, 2014.  I’m inexplicably excited about having a brand new, clean and shiny calendar.

The only problem is getting from here to there.

Fortunately, Problem Solver is my name and, um, Solving Problems is my game.

If you’ll excuse me now, I need to print out a piece of paper showing December 23 to December 31 so I don’t get lost along the way.

Disappearing time

I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas

When I ask my kids what they miss about living in Washington State, the youngest two say “Snow.”

Snow.  Really?  Snow?

Snow rarely fell in Washington State (unless you were in the mountains), unlike it had in Michigan when we lived there for four years.  In Michigan, the snow began in October one year and we never saw the grass again until March.

That is one long winter, especially without the Internet and twin toddler boys in a house on ten acres.

But in Seattle, snow would fall maybe once a year, possibly twice.  It would stick around for a week, usually less.  Just enough for a snow day or two, dozens of car accidents, hysterical news stories on every local network, and a few muddy snowmen pockmarked with leaves.  Then it would turn to slush, the slush would melt, then refreeze into ice, and then it would rain again, much to relief of native Pacific Northwesterners everywhere.

But it clearly made an impression on the kids.

Rain fell today in San Diego.  The house was shadowy from the clouds, darker than normal.  I wanted to curl up with a quilt and a book (but instead, I worked all day).

When it rains here, I instinctively brace myself for weeks of wet feet and gloomy skies.

But tomorrow it will be sunny again.

This happy girl might be dreaming of a White Christmas, but she’ll have to be content with remembering wacky snowman she created from inches of fallen snow.


I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas

Good Night Moon

Tonight while driving home, I glimpsed a golden sphere in the distance and thought for a moment that I was looking at a water tower lit completely by Christmas lights.  When I realized I was seeing a giant golden moon, I wanted to find a place to pull over so I could (badly) capture the sight with my iPhone camera, but of course, I was trapped in a line of cars and the next thing I knew, clouds blotted out that moon.

I have become totally enamored by the sun and the moon.  I want to spend every sunset and moonrise on a beach or mountaintop so I can watch them slip up and then down the horizon.  I spent so much of my life in the Pacific Northwest where a ceiling of clouds hides the drama of the sun and moon.  I’m making up for lost time.


So, today I finally wrapped some gifts and made a list (and checked it twice). Only a couple more days of school and we can all take a giant sigh of relief. I can’t wait to have a break from driving kids here, there and everywhere.

I asked my 15-year old what his ideal Christmas Day would look like and his complete answer was this: Coconut Cream Pie.

So, I guess I’ll be making Christmas pie . . . and thus begins a brand new tradition. (I made Coconut Cream Pie for the first time ever for Thanksgiving.)

What does your ideal Christmas Day look like?

Good Night Moon

In which I do not get 100% or a gold star

Every two weeks, my 11-year old and I meet with her supervisory teacher.  Grace attends a public charter school and does most of her coursework at home, like a homeschooler, except that she is accountable for her attendance and progress to the public school.  She’s been doing this for three years now.  And before that, her older brothers were enrolled in a similar school.

All told, I’ve had at least one kid doing “school at home” for ten years.

I can’t even begin to express how tired I am of supervising kids as they do school work.  But even worse–much, much, much worse–are the meetings with the teacher.

The teacher is nice enough and maybe under other circumstances we’d be friends, but how I dread those meetings with her!  First of all, we have to get all Grace’s work sorted and documented and hole-punched.  Inevitably, I realize that I hadn’t really checked up on her most recent literature lessons and she’s been working independently and I have no idea what she’s really done.  And then I find that she’s missing a lesson here or there, or maybe not a whole lesson, but just a worksheet.  This always comes as a complete shock to me and somewhat of a mystery to my daughter.

This all happens in the hours before we’re to go to the meeting, so I turn into a frantic robot, trying to hurry her along, trying to will her to work faster and more efficiently and without any mistakes.

I say extremely pointless things like, “Why didn’t you do that?” and “Where is that paper?” and “Did you write down those vocabulary words?” and “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

Inevitably, my 11-year old pouts.  She can’t help it, really, because I’ve become a lunatic and question her imperfection.  No one is perfect.  I know this.  I demonstrate this as I try to gather the material for meeting day.

I just hate it.

I hate it all.

So today we focused on History because the last time we met with the teacher, she told us we needed to do better in History.  So today we ran through each lesson, filled out every worksheet completely, corrected errors, discussed Sam Adams and George Washington and Thomas Paine.  We were totally 100% ready.  For History.

The teacher, however, focused on Literature.

That’s how it always goes.  She finds our weaknesses, the subject we glossed over, the frayed spots in the fabric of our schooling experience.  Grace sits with a terrified look on her face, unable to describe the reason Rip Van Winkle was written.

The good thing is that we have one more week of school and then two glorious weeks off.

The bad thing is that we have another five months of school at home.

The good thing is that my daughter is learning a lot.

The bad thing is that I am LOSING MY MIND.

My husband says I will miss this, that I will lament the passing of this time but I think he’s wrong.  I haven’t really been alone in my own house for twenty years.  I have the opposite of empty nest syndrome and I think it will be the antidote to whatever comes next when all these kids have flown the coop.

But what do I know?  (Certainly not what the supervisory teacher is asking.)

In which I do not get 100% or a gold star

Friday, Friday

I found myself free of responsibilities for three hours today so I went to a movie.  As you  may or may not know, I like to see the movies nominated for Academy Awards before that awards show.  And this is the time of year when many of those movies are released.

So today I saw Dallas Buyer’s Club because “they” are saying Matthew McConaughey will be nominated for a Best Actor award for his work in that movie.  (He was nominated for a Golden Globe.)  I had high hopes for the movie but found it unpleasant, mainly because I couldn’t warm to McConaughey’s character at all.  I found him very unlikeable.  The movie is getting great reviews, though.  I wouldn’t recommend it, but that’s just me.

The theater was mostly empty for the 11:05 AM show.  I had picked out a seat in the center and shortly before the movie started an older gentleman came in and sat just one seat away from me, violating all the personal space rules that have ever been created and observed by humankind since the beginning of time.  Weird.

After the movie, I had forty-five minutes before my son needed to be picked up from work so I very optimistically decided to stop by Costco.  Shockingly, I was able to park, shop, pay and load my purchases into my trunk in thirty minutes.  It was a Christmas miracle!  Some days I stand in line for just about that long.

I literally spent the rest of my afternoon driving around.  I picked up one son, delivered him home and then left to pick up my other son and his friend.  I drove the friend to pick up some clothes at her house, then had just enough time to pick up my third son for work.  I then drove back to school to drop off my son and his friend for a drama showcase.  I returned home just in time to work.  I realized at that point that I had been in the car for two hours.

At least it wasn’t raining!  Or snowing!  And this weekend we are supposed to be back in the seventies where we belong–and I’m not talking decades but temperatures.  (Thank God, because the seventies were not a good look for many of us.)


Friday, Friday