Saturday, July 8, 2017

Life got in the way

I took a three-year, unintentional break. Life got busy and Samantha hit 4th grade. And so here were are in 2017--Alyssa is heading into 4th grade and Samantha 7th.

In the last three years, Al has transitioned to a job he loves, working for a local elementary school. McGraw-Hill sold CTB in 2015. I spent the first year struggling with the unknown. I was one of the few "long-term" layoffs, which meant the new company could lay me off at any time or could decide to hire me. I spent the first six months turning my depression and anxiety into work. I learned how to be patient at I updated our crappy builder-grade kitchen from this into this.

Original cabinets and counter

Painted cabinets, new quartz, tile backsplash

In the last three years, Samantha has learned to play the flute. She's a natural with just about any instrument. In fact, she spent the last week playing about 10 hours of flute for fun. We had to tell her to give her mouth a break.  She stopped dancing last year, but played basketball with her 6th grade class. She also joined the inaugural robotics team at SHPS as the only girl. She loved it.
Harlequin dolls (Alyssa on right)

Alyssa is still dancing and has advanced two ballet levels in the last three years. She's got her eye on a pair of pointe shoes. She danced the Nutcracker in 2016 and had a prized role as a harlequin doll. Recently she's taken up the violin. 

I am now content with my new role with DRC, the company who bought CTB. I am working with a few folks that I've known for over 8 years, which makes things a bit easier. In August I'll be marking my 18th year in educational assessment. Yikes, I'm old!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer of her life

While it hasn't been my ideal summer: it went too fast and I didn't get to spend all that time with the girls, they've had a wonderful 10 weeks.

It started with their ballet recital. Samantha and Al starred as Annie and Daddy Warbucks! The next week followed with theatre camp--Alyssa's first time. Then we and a quieter week with swim lessons followed by a week of stay-cation activities. The girls then asked for two weeks at vacation bible school, which they loved! And we've wrapped it up with three weeks of Summer ballet intensive where both girls found out that they've moved up to the next level. Oh the squeals of delight!

In the middle there my brother, Kevin, and his girlfriend, Tara, took Samantha camping in Big Sur. I can recall less than 12 hours after Samantha was born, Kevin was holding her for the first time and he said "I can't wait to take her camping and to teach her how to surf." Now that she's 9 he figured that she was mature enough to spend a few days away from mom and dad and head 2 hours away.

I missed her, but not for one second did I worry--she was in good hands. So they drove down to Andrew Molera to camp, played in a nearby river, hiked, and, best of all, she got to paddle out on Sand Dollar beach on a long board with Kevin and ride the waves. She stood for a few and fell more often than not.

When she came home she was full of stories while Kevin and Tara looked a little beat. Heck, it's hard keeping up with a 9 year old's energy and appetite!

Kevin brought along a GoPro camera to film Samantha's firsts. He wasn't able to catch her standing on a board because he didn't have the camera mounted, but this was enough . . .

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall. I was elated that she got to experience these things.

Here is a short video of Samantha's firsts in Big Sur:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mommy guilt

It's been a busy summer for the kids. They've been to a week of theatre camp, a week of swim lessons, a week out with our stay-cation, two weeks of vacation bible school, and the last three weeks are filled with ballet classes.

At work, I opted for the newly-proposed "summer schedule," which means I work 8.5 hours 4x week and only 3.5 hours on Friday. My hope was that we'd go camping every other weekend leaving early on Friday and that I'd get to spend more dedicated time with the girls.

It hasn't happened.

I've found that the 8.5 hours a day with the accompanied work stress leave me exhausted by the end of the day. On Friday afternoons I've taken to napping for a few hours--not at all what I had planned.

This summer has flown by and, while I'm looking forward to the routine of school, I can't help but feel like I've missed out.

Lately Alyssa has been asking me why I work. Did I choose to work? Didn't I want to spend time with her and her sister?

It all makes my heart ache because it's so much more complicated than she knows; until her own kids come along she won't understand.

So here it goes:


I never thought I'd be the kind of mommy that could stay home. I felt that I would go crazy and be really unhappy if I had stayed home with you and your sister. I know myself well enough to know that depression would have lurked around the house. And, truthfully, I really like my job and the people I work with, and I would feel like I missed out. 

As you and your sister get older I feel like I've missed out on so much of your short lives. You are  both growing so fast and I don't want to miss a single second. I would love to stay home now and volunteer at your school every day and have play dates whenever you wanted. I would love to be friends with your school friends' mommies and do fun things with a gaggle of girls on the weekends.

But I made that choice to work and now it's more than a choice, it's a commitment to the both of you: it's the roof over your head, it's the Catholic school you love so much, it's the hours of ballet that you'd miss. 

My heart is torn every day with what I want and my commitment to you. 

I hope that someday you'll understand my choices and that I did the best I could. 

I love you so much!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Stay-cation Day 4: San Francisco

We decided to take a break from driving on Wednesday and stuck around home. I had an unplanned doctor's appointment in San Jose so the kids and Al rented a movie and hung around the house.

We figured we needed our endurance for Thursday--our walking legs for San Francisco.

We headed up early so that we'd hit the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park when it opened. Traffic was a bear and we were a bit later than expected, which worked out well because my brother and his girlfriend met us there. They live in SF and both work in the bar-tending/dining industry so their work schedules keep them up very late or early, whichever your perspective.

We took our time around the gardens. The gardens were a bit smaller than I remember, but perfect for the girls.

After we made it through the entire gardens Tara wanted to take us to the top of the DeYoung Museum. It doesn't cost to ride the elevator to the top of Hamon Tower. From there it is a 360 degree
view of the city. It was mostly clear and a breathtaking sight.

We then picnicked on the lawn at the Music Concourse. It was surprisingly warm and still.

After lunch we drove to one end of the park, near the carousel in Koret Children's Quarter, to play soccer. We spent two hours kicking around the ball with the kids. Our friend Chelsea even rode down to the park after work to join us for a little ball. I think we wore out Tara and the kids. Fantastic day!

Tara, Alyssa, Samantha, and Chelsea

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stay-cation: Day 2 Santa Cruz

We extend our coastal theme in Day 2 with a trip to Santa Cruz.

We headed to Wilder Ranch. They have amazing bike trails, but we decided to use our legs. We have two new bike riders and didn't feel they were ready for trail riding just yet.

Wilder Ranch is an old dairy farm that used to supply the Santa Cruz mission, among others. They still have horses and chickens on the ranch.

The old buildings and barns are really cool, but a bit unnerving when the swallows start flapping around your head!

We spent about an hour walking around the grounds. I'd like to go back on the weekend when they do reenactments of full dairy farm production.

We then headed down to Natural Bridges State Park. This has been our favorite beach in Santa Cruz. It has the beach, of course, trails to the Monarch butterfly gardens, and amazing tide pools. It was a bit cooler than we expected so the girls decided that they'd play in the waves up to their knees.

An hour running in the surf is all that was needed to wear them out. We did try the tide pools but the waves were crashing a bit more forceful than we were comfortable with. The low tide didn't coincide with our visit.

Afterwards we set off down Mission Street and thought we'd carry on the California Mission tour to the Santa Cruz Mission. This must be the smallest mission. It was a bit disappointing after being in the Carmel Mission the day prior, but the gardens were very peaceful.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Stay-cation: Day 1 Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea

Samantha on the fireman's pole
We did it, we did our first stay-cation and survived. The kids loved it and we loved it. We got to sleep in our own beds, made a picnic lunch every day. We even spoiled the kids with Capri Suns and chips and they were content, which is the most important thing.

Day 1 started with a trip to Monterey and Carmel. We actually didn't know what we might do, but as both Al and I lived there in our college years, we knew that nothing was lacking as far as natural entertainment.

Alyssa on the rock wall
We started with a picnic at Dennis the Menace park. The girls love this place and I loved it as a child too. It's got just about everything from an amazing roller slide (which is a killer on adult tailbones) to a large rock climbing wall.

Sometimes I find myself missing Monterey, but then I remember the fog. And truthfully, we live only 50 minutes away, and now get warmer weather and fog only in the morning.

After the kids were hot, sweaty, and sandy, we drove down into Carmel-by-the-sea and headed to the Carmel Mission.

In fourth grade, the Catholic school students in our area study the California missions. So this coming school year Samantha will have a report about a mission along with a replica of said mission. We thought we'd get a head start.

We could not have asked for a more stunning day. If we were millionaires we'd have bought a house there on the spot. It was about 68 degrees and clear! Not to mention that the mission gardens were overflowing with color (The dahlias were as big as my head!), and then there were the most wonderful smells.

I must admit that I had a hard time controlling my emotions when I walked through the doorway of the old adobe. The history, the culture, the church, all of it caught me off guard. I haven't been there since I was in fourth grade.

Alyssa wanted to go into the church and sit in the pews. She was hoping we were there to hear Mass. She was very disappointed when she found out we were there just to explore.

Samantha and I were dreaming about sitting in the old "sala", which was full of 200-year-old books.

All in all, a fantastic day, beautiful and peaceful.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The girls are out of school . . . I should be saying "Yipee", but as a working mother I find it challenging. They've been too sedentary thus far and I don't like it. Although I have to admit: my oldest has bronchitis and it's been super windy (25 mph) for days. That doesn't lend itself to much outdoor activity.

At dinner on Sunday night I laid down the rules:
  • Mom is working and when there is a sign on her door that says "Quiet", we leave her alone.
  • The girls will help Dad (who is between jobs) to clean the house throughout the week.
  • The girls will read everyday. (Workbooks will come a bit later--I wanted to give them a week to enjoy).
  • The girls will have a morning routine with no TV past 9 am and a maximum of 1 hour of technology time.
  • Grooming and bed making are a requirement.
(I think I also need to incorporate an outdoor activity or exercise, other than ballet, once a day.)

We have the next five weeks scheduled with Theatre Camp, swim lessons, (two weeks!) of bible camp, and a stay-cation in there too. 

I'm looking forward to the camps because the girls will be occupied all day and exhausted when they come home. They begged for the two-weeks at bible camp--how could I argue with that. I'm looking forward to the stay-cation. I'm thinking a visit or two to San Francisco to play at Golden Gate Park and to walk the Japanese Tea Garden and some time in the waves in Santa Cruz. I am going to try to keep it a secret from the kids so they'll be surprised each day. 

Now that gets me excited! I need a job with a summer vacation, but I do love my job, so I guess this will do. Shoot, I've got a sweet summer schedule that has afternoons off on Friday, can't beat that!