January 4, 2009

When I uploaded a whole bunch of pictures on October 10 I thought I had posted news, but apparently it's been since August! Yikes! So I have a lot of catching up to do. Here goes...

In the category of interesting but relatively routine, Haley started 3rd grade and Katelyn started 6th. Haley has Ms. Bell, the same teacher Katelyn had in 4th grade, so we're familiar with her and think she's great. Katelyn is now in middle school and has had quite a time adjusting to the independence and greater responsibility, in addition to multiple teachers and classes each day. It's been bumpy, but we're hopeful for the second half of the school year. She's been enjoying other independence that came with the transition, that she gets to take the bus home on her own several days a week, and now carries a cell phone.

Katelyn also had a big experience in October, spending a week in Washington D.C. with the World Leadership Forum, part of the People to People Ambassador program. She was recommended by her 5th grade teachers, and went with others her age. See below for more details, and click here to see pictures.

The most recent big news for me is that I had surgery on my shoulder on December 22. It could have been a lot worse, but my shoulder tendon was relatively intact, so they just had to shave off a bit of bone (ouch) and clean things up a little. It's been almost 2 weeks and I can do a lot of things, although I still have a fair amount of pain. Val and the girls have been great in terms of doing things for me and helping me out.

Not as recently, but much more severe, was Val's bout with Acute Hemorrhagic Conjunctivitis. This is a particularly rare and nasty disease where her eyes were literally hemorrhaging, with small blood vessels breaking and bleeding, and the surface of her eyes blistering. She came down with it at the end of September and missed an entire month of work. She was very contagious, so was on virtual quarantine for over 3 weeks. And now, 3 months later, she can see well enough to drive and work, but she's still on steroid eye drops and has blurred vision and discomfort in her eyes. Apparently these side effects can last up to a year or longer. Needless to say, it's been very tough.

The side effect of her not being at work is that it became apparent that her boss wasn't able to do his job without her, and has therefore been asked to leave. She has had a very difficult time working with him, so we are hopeful that her work life will improve significantly.

A piece of big news is that during the relatively brief window of opportunity, Val and I got married, on August 29th. You can see pictures here. We had a small ceremony at the county offices, mostly so that we could have it webcast, a service they do for free when you pay to use their chapel. So you can see the video they gave us also. Afterwards we went out to Max's for an early dinner, and the next day we had an open house for people to stop by and celebrate with us.

While we were thrilled with many of the results from the November election, the passage of Prop 8 was a big blow, and made it hard to really celebrate. I'm glad to see mobilization from the lesbian & gay community around this. It's appalling that the majority can legislate discrimination, and I hope the state (and country) comes around to see the error of this. We'll find out in the spring if our marriage remains valid, and if others in our community can enjoy full citizenship. I think one of the hardest things about the whole Prop 8 fiasco was having to explain to the kids what bigotry is. Tough lesson for them.

Haley celebrated her 8th birthday (9/25) at a party on the 19th at Pump It Up in Belmont, with many of her friends. We all got to try out the blow-up slides, obstacle courses, etc. Pictures here. On the actual day of her birthday we went to a Giants game, as Katelyn was participating in the Millbrae Music program playing the national anthem at the game. Pictures here.

Katelyn celebrated her 12th birthday (12/6) with a party at home. Everyone played a lot, and we had a special visit by the East Bay Vivarium. They brought many beasts, including a tarantula, a scorpion, turles, frogs, a monitor, snakes, lizards, and more. It was Katelyn's dream birthday party! Pictures here.

Prior to this Katelyn had finally gotten the lizard she wanted. We told her it had to be a vegetarian because we were not going to make weekly trips for the sole purpose of bringing bugs into the house - yuck! So she did a lot of research online and came up with a Mali Uromastyx as a pet. Assyria arrived on Saturday, October 4th, brought by Peter McCarthy, of Central Valley Reptiles in Fresno. Assyria has her own album online.

The kids had a great time at Halloween. Haley decided early on to be a slice of American cheese, then changed her mind and decided to be a wedge of Swiss cheese. (Not sure where the cheese theme came from...) Katelyn wanted to be something to go with that. We decided that a cheese slicer would be a bit too weird, so she went as a bunch of grapes. Both costumes were a challenge as they had to be able to be put on and taken off by the kids themselves, and Katelyn had to be able to attend class in hers, so we had to make sure she could sit on a chair and do school work. As usual we trick-or-treated at Kathie's. It was nice to have Halloween on a weekend day for a change. You can see all pictures here.

Katelyn had a second away-from-home trip, a 5-day Outdoor Education field trip offered to the 6th graders, through her school, November 17-21.

Katelyn has started the more intense work for her Bat Mitzvah, which will be held on January 16th, 2010. On November 2nd, I joined Katelyn for “family education” for the current bat/bar mitzvah class. The project was for the family to work together to prepare and present on each child's Torah portion. Because Katelyn has been so busy we didn't really have a chance to do anything in advance other than read the portion. But the day before, Katelyn, Val and I reviewed it together and put together a presentation, which Katelyn presented in class. Val and I worked on the actual production of the slide show, but the content was Katelyn's, and she got up in front of everyone and shared it. As I'm sure was intended, the process of doing this exercise was just as important as the result. I won't speak for Val or Katelyn, but personally I feel a lot more connected with Katelyn and her Torah portion as a result of this exercise. It was also great to hear the presentations of the other kids about their Torah portions, and see how their parents participated (some did skits, for instance). You can view the presentation here.

We had 20 people over for Thanksgiving dinner, with everyone bringing something and everyone helping. Of course we completely forgot to take pictures. Duh.

The holidays were a mix of fun and rest. I was resting a lot because of my surgery. Val wasn't resting as much as she prepared a lovely Christmas meal, and took care of me. The girls spent 2 days at Grandma Adrien's, several days at Kathie's, several days here, and are ending the holiday with 4 days at Aunt Susan's yearly family gathering, this time in Morro Bay. You can see a few pictures of our tree and the family here.

Other activites we did during this time:

Amazing that it's 2009, and hoping it will be a good year for our family, and yours!


Katelyn's Washington DC Trip Saga

Katelyn was scheduled to leave on Monday, October 13th. She missed her flight because the “additional services” line where we had to go to check in because of being an unaccompanied minor (that nobody told us about beforehand) took an hour and a half of waiting and another 15 minutes of processing. Given that we got to the airport an hour and 45 minutes early, which normally is plenty of time, we didn't make the flight. So she went back to Kathie's, I went to work, and we went back to the airport a few hours later to catch a later flight. That all worked out fine and she was met at the other end and transported to the hotel without incident. She missed the first dinner and registration. Sigh.

The following morning her camera stopped working. I've overnighted her another camera which she should be getting today. Meanwhile she has no pictures. I told her to ask one of the other kids to take some pictures for her and to get their email address and phone number so we could get them later. Sign #2.

Shortly after the camera incident Kathie got a call stating that Katelyn had gotten separated from the group at Arlington and got lost for 2 ½ hours, but was now being reunited with them after having approached a park ranger and asked for help. Sign #3.

Later on the in the day she tried to use the Visa gift card I gave her for spending money, and it didn't work, although that seemed to resolve itself later. Sigh #4. 

The good news is that she had a great time, and one of my biggest worries, about her vegan diet, seemed to have worked out with the soy milk and nut supplements I sent.

There were 40 kids in the group, about equal boys and girls, and all 6th graders. She is in a room with 2 other girls, one of whom she described as “a little weird”.