Albany Bulb

Giant statues haunt the beach

Giant statues haunt the beach

Justin and I rediscovered the Albany Bulb in September and then I took my Dad there a couple of weeks later when he visited, figuring he’d be enchanted with it. The only other time we’d gone was when the twins were just barely walking, and the whole place was deserted and spooky except for a bunch of dogs running around and whispers in the bushes. It seemed difficult at that time for a pleasant afternoon walk, and we were not able to move quickly if the dogs decided to become aggressive.

Soren in the midst of concrete and rebar

Soren in the midst of concrete and rebar

Leaping over the rubble

Leaping over the rubble

This bit of land is a former dump site, with slabs of concrete and rebar in haphazard piles, debris from construction and freeway projects scattered among fabulously creative works of art and graffiti, and found objects and plants galore. We saw a cherry tomato plant with ripe tomatoes winding its way among batteries and beads and broken motherboards and bisected baby doll heads. Blackberry bushes lined one of the paths.

Claire crouching with the pampas grass

Claire crouching with the pampas grass

The children loved fighting mock fights with the pampas grass “fluffers” as they called them.

Ronin wrote in his story of the week,

Once we got to the main trail, the trail sides were covered with fluffers. Wait, do you know what those are? Okay, I will tell you. They are a reed with fluffable parts.

Overlooking the shore

Overlooking the shore

There is a great article on the Albany Bulb here, in Bay Nature magazine, and although it’s from 2002 it gives a great idea of the history of the site and the feel of the place. I am not sure why it was so different when we went the first time, but it seems like time and politics change things, or maybe we were just there on a bad day before. Reading a bit more in other areas, it does seem like there had been a protective (and occasionally aggressive) homeless population on the Bulb that is now mostly gone. Fires, dead bodies, knives, dogs, turf wars could all make the visitor sometimes feel unwelcome.

Steps on the back of the Bulb

Steps on the back of the Bulb

We brought walkie-talkies the second time

We brought walkie-talkies the second time. They were very useful, mostly for summoning my dad.

The past couple of times I’ve been, it seemed a little otherworldly but not unwelcoming. In the two weeks between our visits, a new gigantic piece of art appeared. Some of the charm of the place is the constant surprise, of always discovering something new.

This giant colorful piece showed up as if by magic

This giant colorful piece showed up as if by magic – each section turns independently

Each time we went, we explored a different part of the Bulb, and we saw amazing and interesting things around every turn. In an area of tall grass that seemed completely undisturbed, without even a path, I found a mosaic made out of reflectors. On the low road back to the parking lot, a tree was painted with aqua and glitter and smiley faces on the areas where branches had been removed. As the kids climbed up a little goat path to a larger trail, a face looked on from a rock.

Reflector mosaic

Reflector mosaic

Tree with glitter

Tree with glitter

Rock face

There’s someone looking at you

When I went with Dad, I hoped to find the statues. I’d read a bit more about the Albany Bulb by that time, and I had an idea where they might be. We crossed over areas that didn’t have trails, and I found out later that there was a wide track that led straight where we wanted to go. Somewhere around “Burnout Beach” I realized Claire had found a marker and was trying to add her own graffiti to the island.

Burnout Beach

Burnout Beach

Claire mimicking one of the apparitions

Claire mimicking one of the apparitions

As we got closer I realized how fantastic and creepy and incredible these works of art really were. I had only seen one of them from off in the distance, so I didn’t know that there were many, and didn’t know they were huge or elaborate.

Shoreline guardian

Shoreline guardian

A couple on a bench

A couple on a bench

Ronin and Claire in front, for scale

Ronin and Claire in front, for scale

Another guy

Another guy, hanging out on a rock

From Ronin’s story:

The best part was the statues. They were made of rusty metal and wood. One of them was climbable!

A mythical beast with antlers

A mythical beast with antlers, Claire on its back

Claire enjoyed scrambling up the creature. As we got there, a young woman climbed down from it and warned me not to let the kids climb up on it because it was a lot more difficult and dangerous than it might appear. I made sure that Claire heard the warning, and reminded her that she needed to figure out how to get down as she was going up. She had no problem.

Stone circle

Labyrinth on the bulb

As we climbed up the back side of the bulb, we found a stone labyrinth with some hidden treasures at the center, possibly a geocaching site or maybe the same kinds of treasures that were scattered everywhere else. Soren found a lighter and my dad showed him how to use it with unerring precision, to his utmost joy. He flicked that lighter (aren’t they all childproof now?) over and over, casting its little flame around the dry grass and dancing around. I finally suggested to my dad that it might be a good idea to remove the lighter, since the drought has made everything into a tinderbox, and one little spark could cause the entire area to go up in flames.

From Ronin’s notes:

On our way back we saw a maze with great stuff in the middle. There was something strange. We saw two people walking on rocks in the water! We were sad we had to leave!

We loved the Albany Bulb

We loved the Albany Bulb

I am pretty sure that we are going to make this a regular rotation in our excursions from now on. Even if the larger art projects don’t change, we definitely haven’t seen everything yet, and there are numerous small touches that can be easily missed.

Phantom

Phantom, fluffy and magnificent

Phantom, magnificent and full of fluff

You will understand later why I have not mentioned Phantom yet. Phantom died the second week of September. He was strong earlier this summer, but I was starting to get a little concerned about him by the time we left for our Canada vacation. I told our cat sitter that we would be completely unable to be reached and that they would need to contact neighbors if something happened. It wasn’t anything specific, but he seemed a little thinner and he wasn’t grooming as well.

When he started fading, it went fast. He became very thin, he started losing his balance, he stopped eating, his eyes sank in, and he became completely unafraid of Justin and the kids. This was a huge change for him. Since he was very little, he was always our ‘fraidy cat. He spent a lot of time curled up inside the perch in our cat tree, and when he ventured out, a loud sneeze would scare him back into it.

I set him in a box with a soft blanket and a little bowl of water and some soft food after a couple of days when he could no longer walk easily or jump up to get his food or water. I was asked about taking him to the vet to see if he could have any kind of treatment or tests, but he was nearly 20 years old and death seemed imminent. He seemed comfortable and unafraid at home, and it seemed like it would be the worst torture in the world to put him through that.

Rest in Peace, Phantom

Rest in Peace, Phantom

I spent a bunch of nights crying and petting him. He purred on my lap and rubbed his face against me. It may have been harder on me than it was on him. I felt sad that he’d lived a lot of his life as a very anxious cat, always afraid of loud noises and footsteps and sudden movements. Ronin remarked that as he was dying he seemed to be reverting back to a kitten again, getting friendlier and smaller. Soren spent a lot of time in the last day or two sitting next to Phantom’s box and gently petting him and whispering to him and glancing up at me to make sure that he was gentle enough.

Claire came over and hugged me after I found Phantom’s body, and helped me wrap him up and drew the picture for me that you see above. She asked if she could come with me, and together we took his light little body to the center downtown where they would cremate him. I have talked to the children about how people (and animals) live on in the memories we have, in photographs and art, in emotions, in the traces they leave behind, in genes, in deeds, in stories that are told about them. To me, where we place the body does not matter as much.

Phantom, two weeks before his death

Phantom, two weeks before his death

So, one last story. I picked Phantom out from a litter of kittens at an animal shelter in Wyoming, a few years before I moved out here. I played with all of the kittens and I chose him because he climbed up on my shoulder and started licking my ear. I named him Phantom for the black mask across half his face, and not because he was shy and elusive. He was very friendly for a while, but he had a bad experience on a road trip and although he wasn’t bitten, he became twice shy. Fare thee well, Phantom, and may all your future road trips be quiet and peaceful.

Halloween, October 2014

Claire in front of a Day of the Dead mural

Songs and Sorrows – Claire reflecting on losses at the Days of the Dead exhibits at the Oakland Museum

Our children all say that Halloween is their favorite holiday, at least until another favorite holiday comes along. They spent a lot of time thinking about what they wanted to wear and how they wanted to look on Halloween, and we got their costumes well ahead of time.

This is the first year we did not go to a pumpkin patch. We kept being busy on weekends, and also the twins club didn’t have a pumpkin patch event. I had gotten a bunch of mini pumpkins and some stickers and metallic spray paint and had all kinds of fancy ideas that never came to fruition.

Claire in her vampire princess wig

Claire in her vampire princess wig

I ended up buying several normal-sized pumpkins at the supermarket a couple of days before Halloween and was amazed at how inexpensive they were compared to pumpkin patch pumpkins. We marked out faces on the pumpkins and I cut out the eyes and mouths and eye patches and the kids put their hands inside and marveled at the gooey mess of pumpkin flesh and seeds.

Soren and I made several ghostly terrariums out of mason jars

Soren and I made several ghostly terrariums out of mason jars

Ronin wrote this Halloween-themed poem:

On a darkening night it will give you the fright.

But there’s something lurking -

It’s a zombie or a cat or a bat, a witch on a broom, a mad scientist or a scary werewolf.

Ah ah, it’s a Jack-o-lantern!

Ronin as George Washington

Ronin as George Washington

Ronin wanted to be George Washington, and his costume was fantastic. Everyone complimented him. Claire and Soren are starting to notice that the more interesting and uncommon costumes tend to get more appreciative comments. I talked Claire out of a Frozen-themed costume this year when she mentioned it in passing. I said I would have a hard time finding her in the dark because every other little girl would be wearing an Anna or an Elsa costume and I might take someone else home by mistake. She did want to be Betsy Ross to Ronin’s George Washington, but we couldn’t find a good costume in her size. She ended up being a vampire princess, and was relieved that I had steered her away from an Elsa costume when she realized I’d been right about how popular it was.

Ronin, Claire, and Soren outside the first Halloween party

Ronin, Claire, and Soren outside the first Halloween party

Soren wanted to be Batman and nothing else. I was just concerned about how difficult his costume was to get on and off in a hurry if he needed to use the restroom, but fortunately we didn’t have any trouble. We had two separate daytime Halloween events the weekend before the holiday. Both schools put on a party and a haunted house. Soren’s school does an annual breakfast and not-so-haunted house, suitable for the preschool crowd, and the elementary school did a much scarier haunted house with an alien theme. They’d been building up to it for weeks and had men in black walking around making the whole thing much more realistic. There was a dead alien with meal-worms crawling out of its cavities. I volunteered at one of the booths and didn’t get a chance to go through the haunted house, but I heard all about it afterward and during the night when Soren had nightmares and came yelling into our bed again. He believed the alien was real.

Playing with the pumpkins

Playing with the pumpkins at our house

We invited Maiya and Janet and her family to go trick-or-treating with us again. I wasn’t sure if they’d want to or be able to, since Maiya has a brand new baby brother and they’d recently moved to a neighborhood that seemed walkable, but they were happy to join us along with Janet’s parents. Baby Nolan was in a carrier. It is really nice to have this Halloween tradition with our friends, and it made me feel very grateful to live here, where we can build such lovely memories and lasting friendships. I received a lot of value from my upbringing, moving so often, but it’s very interesting to stay in one place and see how different growing up ‘the usual way’ is, when my kids remember which houses they want to visit on Halloween and they remember the things their friends did in kindergarten.

I did the same thing as I did the year before, and the kids asked me to do it. I let them eat a bunch of candy the first few days, and then the Switch Witch came and brought them toys and took all of the candy (over to our neighbor Gilbert’s house). Claire asked for a Lego set. Ronin asked for a real artist’s set. Soren asked for a bouncy ball. They all got what they wanted. It worked out well.

As a final note, my foot is finally starting to recover from the plantar fasciitis after several years of not being able to walk without pain. I remember last year on Halloween, it was pretty much agonizing for me to walk around the neighborhood during trick-or-treating. A month ago I would have felt the same way. I am so happy that I am on the path to feeling better, and I am trying to get more walking in whenever I can.

Finally, rain

The brave Titanic set sail

The brave Titanic set sail

After a long drought, we got a week or two of scattered rain and a few days of fairly heavy rain. I took the boys out today to the Morcom Rose Garden to see if the waterfall was working again and to build little rafts. The water was running. We made a bunch of rafts. Some of them got waterlogged after a while, but most of them were seaworthy. Ronin wanted to name all of them, and I kept telling him that some of the names were not very complimentary for a vessel. Titanic, for example, was not very auspicious.

Soren and Ronin with their first rafts

Soren and Ronin with their first rafts

They floated down the falls and then in the pool

They floated the rafts down the falls and then in the pool

Today started out very rainy, but by the time we got to the park our fleece and long sleeves were too hot. It was sunny and warm and most of the pavement was dry.

Ronin taking the Water Strider over the falls

Ronin taking the Water Strider over the falls

We were surprised by a wild turkey in the rosebushes later on in the afternoon. I heard from another visitor that this turkey comes back every year, sometimes as part of a pair and sometimes alone. We also saw an Anna’s  hummingbird flitting about some velvet sage. There were so many squirrels around that I found out later I’d taken a picture of a squirrel darting over the rocks in front of Ronin and Soren.

Wild turkey in the roses

Wild turkey in the roses

Soren, Ronin, and squirrel

Soren, Ronin, and squirrel tail

We finished up the day with a little walk around the rose garden while the rafts dried in the sun and then a scooter ride. Soren was shouting and crying a lot because he has a cold and isn’t feeling well. I have a cold because Soren has come into our bedroom needing cuddles and then incidentally coughed in my face every night for the past few nights, so I didn’t appreciate the yelling so much. All in all, though, it was a pretty pleasant day and I was very happy to get out into the beautiful garden and see my boys cooperating on a project most of the time.

Almost idyllic

It was almost idyllic

Canada, way back in August

Canada, where everyone waits in line politely

Canada, where everyone waits in line politely

A long time ago, before my computer died, back when I went on a vacation that involved something like 8 planes and 2 boat rides and a rental car and several hotels and a couple of taxis, we went to my grandmother’s island in Eastern Canada. This was a part of our very complicated vacation and I had looked into getting a sea plane or even some kind of a multi-leg charter flight, but those were way out of our price range. Still, we could see why it was often easier for people to take vacations to Europe or Asia from this part of the US than to go back and visit this idyllic spot in Canada, despite its reputation for a summertime paradise. Many of our planes were late, and Dinah and Manuel were stuck overnight in Toronto because of thunderstorms.

Claire at water's edge

Claire at water’s edge

We arrived so late in Sudbury that the rental van they’d promised us was not available. Everything was closed. Then we had to wait another hour for a taxi to come to the airport and another while to get into town. We got to sleep in our hotel close to 4 AM and had to check out in time to deal with renting the minivan and purchasing life jackets and sleeping bags for the kids, obtaining fishing licenses and buying food and beverages for the time that we’d be there, and race to the water taxi before they closed.  We only had one suitcase apiece for everyone and had to carry car seats for the kids, formal wear for the wedding, more sturdy clothes for the island, and things to entertain them during the multiple flights and airport delays. We didn’t have room to bring everything we’d need. As it was, it was a lesson in physics to pack everyone in the car plus the luggage plus the groceries and supplies.

Ronin and Claire throwing sticks into the water.

Ronin and Claire throwing sticks into the water.

I don’t think it necessarily helps to be worried about the schedule and the timing, but we did make it to the water taxi on time and we got to the island without missing an extra day. I know everyone would have been disappointed if we’d spent another night in a hotel.

The island, in MacGregor Bay, is just beautiful

The island is beautiful and peaceful

Grandma Smith was already there in the main cabin, and David and Pam and Steve were in the boathouse, where we had stayed last time. A nice dinner of lasagna was in the works and we set about trying to find space for all of the food and drinks we’d brought. Dinah and Manuel unpacked in the guest cabin, Mom in the bedroom in the main cabin, and we lined up our suitcases as much out of the way in the living room because we would sleep all together on the front porch after dinner was done.

Grandma Smith reading to her great-grandchildren on the front porch

Grandma Smith reading to her great-grandchildren on the front porch

It was very nice sleeping on the porch. We fell asleep looking at the stars and listening to the loons call across the lake, and every time I woke up during the night I could see the stars in the dark sky and the silhouettes of the trees. Soren woke up quite a lot while we were there. Everyone came onto the island fairly sleep-deprived from our late flights and it was hard getting the kids to sleep much because the sun went down so late and because we were sleeping in the main area where people would be up at night or early in the morning. Soren had a few bad dreams every night and eventually I learned to just move him next to me and Justin so he wouldn’t thrash around too much, and one night he had screaming night terrors, enough to wake Grandma Smith up a couple of times. It occurred to me he hadn’t had those in a while, so he’s mostly grown out of them, but I’d read that they do tend to happen in new surroundings or when kids are low on sleep.

Three kids playing Sorry!

Three kids playing Sorry!

We heard that the earlier months of summer had been rainy and cool, but we were fortunate with the weather. It was pleasant and sunny every day while we were there, except for one day that had a bit of a rainstorm. Even that was a refreshing change for us, since we haven’t seen a good rainstorm in a long time. We stayed inside and played games and did puzzles. There was always a puzzle going on the table on the back porch, and sometimes a bit of jockeying for the best position. Every once in a while we’d send a kid down under the table to look for any pieces that might have fallen, because it got frustrating to search for a specific piece and never find the one that fit, and it was such a great feeling to find one after a long search.

My grandma and my mom doing a puzzle

My grandma and my mom doing a puzzle

Ronin and Claire reading together on the porch

Ronin and Claire reading together on the porch

Time on the island passed quickly. There were canoe trips, fishing expeditions, walks on the little trails. Blueberries were abundant. I was conflicted about letting the kids out of my sight too much. They didn’t know how to swim yet, although they were learning as quickly as possible. I had put them in private, individual lessons with a wonderful teacher at the beginning of the summer and they were doing better than they ever had, but Soren really couldn’t do much with coordinating arms and legs at that point and he had no fear (or judgment). In fact, later on in the summer he ran to the deep end of a pool and jumped off a diving board without being able to swim and without someone there to catch him. Claire and Ronin had a little more caution but they tended to overestimate their abilities and also thought it would be easy to rescue a flailing sibling. It was tough. I really wanted to let them go and play as much as they wanted to, and I knew kids had been doing it on the island for a long time without grownups around, but I also knew that Soren could fall or jump into the water easily, even thinking to himself that he really wasn’t going to, and my kids tend to leap before they look more than most.

The blueberries were wonderful

The blueberries were wonderful

We ended up being watchful with them most of the time. We let them go out behind the cabin without us, but then once or twice Soren disappeared and went down to the water’s edge or went off down a trail without telling us. It is hard to skirt the line of letting them have enough freedom to learn from their mistakes and feel adventurous without being so lenient that it’s completely unsafe. I have parents gasp at parks and playgrounds at what I let them do on their own, and other people tsk at me for being too cautious.

Dinah and her husband on a canoe ride

Dinah and Manuel on a canoe ride

We had one or two kids go out on the fishing boat with a parent and a grandparent, and my sister and brother-in-law took a child out on a canoe from time to time. Claire and Ronin turned out to be more wiggly in the fishing boat than Soren, who was enthralled with fishing. He paid rapt attention to everything my uncles told him. I had never seen him sit so perfectly still and quiet when he needed to.

Steve instructing Soren on the art and science of fishing

Steve instructing Soren on the art and science of fishing

Unfortunately, the one thing Soren didn’t take in was that fishing doesn’t always result in a fish. On our trips, my sister was the only person who caught a fish, and she is the person who is least likely to eat a fish or bait a hook or touch a fish. We came back to the dock and Soren started crying and saying he couldn’t get out of the boat because he hadn’t caught a fish so the trip couldn’t be over. He was eventually appeased by the promise of fishing off the dock, which he did a lot. He also learned to cast and was a natural. Still, he never did catch a fish.

Fishing off the dock

Ronin fishing off the dock

Ronin enjoyed fishing off the dock, too, but wasn’t as dedicated to it as Soren. He would start trying to see what the pole tip would look like if it was under the water swishing around, or go to a really shallow section with no fish so he could see everything. He liked the process more than the idea of actually catching fish.

Ronin spent  a lot of time fishing, too

Ronin fishing and playing on the front dock

Ronin was the only one of our kids who went all the way in the water when Justin and I went swimming. The water felt great after a hot day of paddling all around the Bay.

Ronin drying off after a swim

Ronin drying off after a swim at the swimming hole

On one of the boat rides with the uncles, we landed at a nearby island and David found a pipe, probably from a kitchen sink, that someone had dumped there at some point. He blew through it and tried to convince the kids it was some kind of musical instrument. They loved it. We called it the Lip Sync.

Soren trying to make sweet music through the Lip Sync

Soren trying to make sweet music through the Lip Sync

Later on, I found the Lip Sync on our island near the back dock, and David said he’d brought it back just in case they needed it some time. Ronin was happy to play with it again.

Yellow Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Yellow Woolly Bear Caterpillar

We spent a lot of time outside, walking around the island or playing on the rocks, collecting blueberries or throwing large rocks into the water for big splashes. We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife, and saw minks, a bald eagle, and dragonflies galore.

The boys watching a rock hit the water

The boys watching a rock hit the water

Justin liking the lichen

Justin liking the lichen

Racing over the rocks

Racing over the rocks

Near the swimming hole

Near the swimming hole

The day before we left, Justin and I were able to leave our kids for a while and took the kayaks out for a private tour. We ducked into inlets, studied plants and rocks, paddled alongside blueberry bushes and foraged for snacks. With our quiet boats, we could glide quietly among lily pads and see fish under the water or birds near the shore without alarming them. We paddled furiously when we were out on the open water, so we were able to cover a lot of ground (water?) in the few hours that we were gone.

Soren readying for his kayak ride

Soren readying for his kayak ride

After we got back, Justin decided that kayaking was so much fun and such good exercise that he wanted to share the experience with the kids. He decided to take each one out, one at a time, towing them behind his kayak. He took Ronin out for a long time, and the other kids and I hung out for so long around the dock waiting for them to come back that we realized this was not just a little excursion. The uncles took pity on our boredom and taught Claire and Soren how to operate the beer can crusher they’d invented, and that occupied them for quite a while and cleaned up a lot of the cans around the boat house.

Ronin off on his two-hour cruise

Ronin off on his two-hour cruise

Justin took each one out, one after the other. By the end of the day I think he’d paddled for about 10 hours all together. When we returned to California, Justin tried a couple of boating and kayaking expeditions with the kids, but it wasn’t the same. The two-person kayaks are unwieldy and difficult to paddle if the other person is just resting , and Claire complained that the water was dripping on her.  Another time we all went out together on Lake Chabot on a busy holiday weekend. I took a paddle boat with Mom and Claire and Soren and it was so hot and there was a strong head wind and I realized at one point that my assistant was actively paddling against me.

A family dinner on the porch

A family dinner on the porch

Dinah and Manuel left one day earlier than we did. The last family dinner was a bit smaller. We tried to cram as much stuff as possible into our final day on the island, and we packed up and waited on the front dock for the water taxi the next morning. We were going to go all the way back home in one full day. We didn’t want to go.

Claire and Justin, enjoying the boat taxi back to the marina

Claire and Justin, enjoying the water taxi back to the marina

We made it back home after midnight, which ended up being over 18 hours of traveling in one day thanks to the time zone changes. Soren actually fell asleep for a little while during one of our flights. We were assigned seats during another flight that had all of our kids sitting in different areas of the plane next to complete strangers. While I was trying to deal with it, the staff asked me if they could just leave it like that. As long as they could sit next to people who would purchase their meals and help them reach their books and get to the bathroom, I thought it was worth considering. I ended up having all of the kids next to me.

Soren actually slept on one of our flights!

Soren actually slept on one of our flights!

I started writing this entry more than 40 days ago. I managed to write a little bit at a time, and then a little bit more, and then I would have to go do something. I would forget what I was planning on saying and what I already wrote, and sometimes repeated myself and had to delete things. I am sorry it’s taken so long to post. I’m going to try to do more frequent and shorter entries in the future now that I have a working computer and my vacation entry out of the way.

How the Earthquake made me stop blogging

Ronin decided to ready up on earthquakes, but it didn't keep him awake at night.

Ronin decided to read up on earthquakes, but it didn’t keep him up at night.

On Sunday, August 24th, I was awake in the middle of the night for some reason. I had woken up a while before and couldn’t get back to sleep, probably just thinking about things I needed to do or some problem I needed to solve. I felt a little rumble, like a big truck was going by on the road behind the house. Then it wasn’t just a low rumble, but more like a thud, and I thought that one of the cats must have jumped off something really high for me to feel that.

The whole house started shaking back and forth by then, and I realized it was actually an earthquake instead of any one of the normal little things that cause me to feel movement in the house (we can feel the kids running in the front of the house when we are in the back of the house). By then, Justin started waking up and I told him it was an earthquake. Just when I started thinking it might get worse and it was getting a little scary, it stopped. Justin went back to sleep. The kids didn’t wake up.

I was awake for a few more hours, checking the USGS earthquake data and entering my data in the “Did you feel it?” site. I was surprised to find out it was as strong as it was–a 6.0 centered not far from us, in American Canyon. It didn’t cause as much damage as it could have, although a lot of buildings crumbled and a lot of wine bottles broke.

Still, the reason I bring this up is because the day after the quake, our power went out for a while and my computer crashed spectacularly. I don’t know if it’s related, but it’s associated in my mind. After the power came back on, my computer wouldn’t restart. Justin eventually got it working, but the files had to be restored completely from back up, and apparently it hadn’t been backed up since May. I lost all of my pictures since May, except fortunately I hadn’t deleted my Canada pictures off my memory cards yet.

Justin told me that he had switched the computer from automatic to manual back up in May, so I should have started doing a manual back up on a regular basis, but he had not informed me about my back up responsibilities or that he had done this.

However, after that the computer didn’t behave quite right, and it started crashing more and more often, until it failed completely again, around the same time my phone crashed and also needed replacing. I told Justin I needed a computer ASAP, because I do a lot of my volunteer work, household management and bills, and other things online. Justin paid $50 for overnight shipping to build a new computer so he could put it together it on a weekend when he wasn’t working on his real job, except it was more complicated than it promised to be. We’ve had computer innards strewn on every surface for more than two weekends now, but finally we have our computer working. I have a lot of catching up to do.

First Day of Second Grade!

First Day of 2014-2015 School Year

First Day of 2014-2015 School Year

Today was the first day of school for Claire and Ronin, who are entering second grade. We found out this past week that they have the same teacher as last year, and we are all so happy. We all LOVED that teacher. We were thrilled to find out that he was moving up to second grade, but we didn’t dare hope that they would both be in his class.

Soren is in his last year of preschool. He moved up into the Dolphin Room, and is relishing his new role. He is helping out the younger kids and is being more responsible and even more charming.

Soren wrote that he wants to be an animal doctor. Claire wrote that she wants to be a gymnastics teacher. Ronin wants to be an engineer and a businessman.

Okay, can we go already?

Okay, can we go already?

They were more prepared for school than I was. I had packed all of their backpacks and set out Soren’s show-and-tell item, but we forgot all of that in our hurry to get out the door. When we got to school we realized the backpacks were still at home, so we turned around and went back for them. Soren was able to pick out a new show-and-tell item from my box of toys in the car. We were all still on time and Mom and I went out for brunch after drop-off.