Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Old-Fashioned Neighborhood Fun

We live in a fairly diverse American suburb in the SF Bay Area: track homes of varying beige and gray hues, professionally landscaped front yards (thank you builders!), a mix of some families, some foreigners that don't speak English, some empty nesters, some singles. What is conspicuously absent (typically) are kids out front playing. It seems this generation of youngsters in our area get shuttled from day-camp to Karate/Ballet/Baseball/Soccer practice and then back home. Up goes the garage door, in go the people, and down goes the garage door. People are exhausted. Families are tired. Parents are stretched. I get it.

I think people entertain and spend time in their back yards, not the front. We don't really know our neighbors aside from the occasional wave when taking out the garbage or getting the newspaper. But, we're slowly breaking down those walls.

There are two families with kids three houses down (in two separate houses -- we must make that distinction here in California). A family with 3 Elem girls and another family with 2 Elem boys and 1 MS girl. We broke out the Slip 'n Slide last week -- out front, as it's the only grass with a slope -- and amazingly enough, the neighborhood kids all came out of the woodwork and low and behold, our kids made new friends.

I am one of those Moms that doesn't really let her kids out front to play unsupervised (granted, the kids are almost 6 and 4...so you can't really blame me). But, we're entering into the time when they CAN and SHOULD play out front with other kids and be ok. I advise them of the requisite rules: Be polite to strangers, but NEVER walk anywhere with them, NEVER get into a car with them, NEVER touch their cute little puppy, NEVER take candy or toys, etc and if they feel something isn't right run (not walk) home. Today, I reiterated those rules, kept the garage door open and propped open the kitchen/garage entry door. I heard them playing and laughing, and it was perfect. Just the right amount of boundary-letting and just the right amount of time. Really, I should have been photographed and included in the SF Chronicle: "WAHM Defies Culture by Allowing Her Children to Play Out Front."

Actually, now that I think about it, it was a perfect day -- my kids weren't fighting with each other, they played really well with the other neighbor girls. They rode bikes, painted the driveway with water and a paintbrush, chalked the sidewalk, played with the dogs, played Princess & the Knight dress up, and had PB&J cut-outs & chips. Their mom came over and she and I made a formal introduction, we exchanged phone numbers and husband's names, and we commented how great it was to actually meet another neighbor!

Golly, it felt so refreshing, like an old-fashioned neighborhood feel that is missing in our culture. Perhpas she and I should break out the Shawn Cassidy records and drink Tab while we relish being neighborly.

The last month has really been stressful for me and its taking its toll on my health (story for another day). Today was a much needed break from the daily struggle we've had of late with our kids' behavior. Who knew that a simple, "Go out and play" would yield such positive results?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

All Quiet on the Home Front

Reality TV shows are all the rage. They place people, who by their very willingness to go on the shows are exhibitionists and attention seekers. They are placed in fictitious settings and forced to 'survive' by undergoing a series of competitions or tests - and they are heralded as heroes for being willing to eat worms, endure difficult living situations, and for risking the 'dangers' associated with the various shows. Humbug! These people are not heroes, they are play actors who know that after a set period of time, they will be returning to their old way of life.

The men and women who have faced war and the horrific conditions that it can impose upon a civilian population are the real heroes. These men and women were placed in situations beyond their choosing and forced to endure privations of every ilk. Worse, they had no way of knowing when the conflict would end, and when, if ever, life would return to normal. In All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War, Richard Van Emden and Steve Humphries have compiled a fascinating collection of first person narratives from men and women who endured the horrors of life on 'the home front' in England during World War I. The modern day 'reality heroes' can never hope to compare to these real life heroes who lived through the first world war!

All Quiet on the Home Front presents readers with an intimate glimpse of what life was really like on the home front. Most histories of this period deal with the military and political aspects of the war, few however, deal with the social changes that the war wrought and how life changed for those who waited for the soldiers to return. Often the long awaited soldiers did not return. Others came home shell-shocked, or blinded from mustard gas attacks, or simply ill from diseases caught on the battle field. The impact of these deaths, and the returning injured, quickly denuded the population of the notion that this would be a glorious, and quickly won war. War is hell on earth, and this fact was quickly driven home to both those that fought on the battlefields, and those that waited at home. The civilian population in Britain faced food rationing, bombings carried out by Zeppelins, the mass induction of women into the work force, and the decline of the servant class as household servants entered the military or took on war work.

In constructing this book, the authors had the difficult task of finding survivors of the Great War, which ended in 1918, who still had vivid memories of their experiences. In the end, the authors interviewed about 100 people, from all walks of life, for this book. These interviews are intertwined with diary and letter excerpts, as well as historical facts gleaned from official records, newspaper accounts, and previously documented interviews to paint a mesmerizing account of what life was like on the home front throughout the prelude to war, and through the entire course of the war itself.

Many of the events surrounding the Great War are well known. The principal participants, the major battles, the use of chemical weapons, and the effect of influenza on the course of the war. Many of the 'smaller' aspects of the war are, however, overshadowed by the main conflict. The stories contained in All Quiet on the Home Front help to highlight some of these important issues. For example, the fact that in 1917 food shortages in Britain resulted in massive malnutrition of children and numerous deaths from starvation. As in World War II, German Zeppelins and aircraft rained down terror on a vulnerable, civilian population. Worse, many German immigrants in Britain, as well as those with German sounding names were beaten and killed, and 'German' shops were boycotted and sometimes destroyed. Also, often overlooked, is the use of children as laborers in munitions factories and other dangerous locations.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Homefront is a first-person shooter video game developed by the now defunct Kaos Studios and published by THQ, in which players play as members of a resistance movement fighting against a near-future Korean military occupation of the United States. The story was written by John Milius. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on March 15, 2011 in North America, March 17, 2011 in Australia, March 18, 2011 in Europe, and April 14, 2011 in Japan.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Air Condition Me

Frederer and I had these lofty goals of not using our air conditioner this summer -- you know, so we could tighten the belt and save some money. But there's a fine line between melting and paying an extra $50 a month to run the AC.

It's been SO hot here the last few days -- I think I heard it hit 102 here today. And that's HOT. Even mid-90s are tough for me, so I think we'll be using the AC this summer. Normally, we keep the house at a very pleasant 70 but I think -- you know -- in the effort to conserve and all -- we'll set it at 72. :-)

Adam and Eve.... wait, I mean Adam and Steve

I wish we could fire State Supreme Court justices.

Unless you live under a rock (or at least don't have internet access!) you by now have heard that the California State Supreme Court has overturned the voter-approved law that state a marriage is between one man and one woman. Evidently, the voters don't have a say anymore, even when the legislature considers our desires, brings them to the floor, debates them, approves them, puts them out to the voters and then the voters affirm it...nope, these 7 people have decided that they know better.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for freedom. What you do in the confines of your own home is your business. I do believe that people who (albeit, in my opinion, are misguided) are homosexual and in a committed relationship should be allowed the same luxuries of married couples (ie, shared property, health insurance benefits, beneficiary benefits, health care decisions, etc), but it's not the same as a MARRIAGE. A marriage contract between a man and a woman was originally designed for procreation and the building of a family. That was the historical intent. But debating the definition of marriage is not the purpose of this post.

I would have thought that the domestic partner initiative would have appeased everyone, but NO, it's "not the same" they cry, and so starts the lawsuits. But here's what really gets me...

The judges overturned a decision that was the will of the people.

In fact, it went to the voters TWICE and both times it was voted upon that marriage should be between a man and a woman. MARRIAGE has a definition, and similarly, a DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP should be between whomever and whomever.

The gays cry, "But there's not the same rights!" BUNK!

A wife automatically has rights to pull the plug on her husband should he be a vegetable.
A domestic partner has those same rights -- with a Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Directive.

A husband automatically has rights to the wife's property should she die.
A domestic partner has those same rights -- with a Will and Trust.

A wife automatically retains custody of children of the marriage, by birth or adoption, should the husband die.
A domestic partner has those same rights -- with a Will.

A husband, at the wife's election, can be included on the wife's corporate health insurance plan.
A domestic partner -- in the State of CA -- can ALSO be on a corporate health insurance plan by filing their Certification of Domestic Partnership with the employer.

And the tax benefits?
Well, if you're a DINK (dual income no kids) you're screwed if you're married because you have no deductions, so in that case, it's better to be single filing anyway!

This isn't about rights. It's about being socially accepted and these justices are trying to legislate morality. The article today reads:
California already offers same-sex couples who register as domestic partners the same legal rights and responsibilities as married spouses, including the right to divorce and to sue for child support.

But, "Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," Chief Justice Ron George wrote for the court's majority, which also included Justices Joyce Kennard, Kathryn Werdegar and Carlos Moreno.

Just out of curiosity why on EARTH does the above bolded phrase need to be put into LAW?
It's not like Domestic Partnerships are denying anyone rights. But, it's just not the SAME as a marriage.

From the dawn of time, marriage has always been between a man and a woman -- and for the longest time marriage wasn't even a political or governmental issue: it was a religious one! God created His economy that way -- it's for the good of the man, the good of the woman, the good of the children.

Nobody is saying that a homosexual couple can't love each other. Sure -- by all means -- find someone with whom you want to share your life and go for it. But, it's NOT THE SAME as a marriage. Perhaps, now that I think about it, I think I would prefer to have the word "marriage" be reclassified to ONLY be a religious term and "partnership" be a political and governmental one. Both are classified the same for benefits purposes, but there's an inherent difference.

I think what saddens me most is that the court didn't listen to the wishes of the voters. It's the same as if the court issued a ruling that said, "Nope, the legal age of drinking in California will now be....ummm, 12!" Uhhh, excuse me? Justices? Uhhh don't you guys work for US, the voters? Didn't we, the voters, vote into law the drinking age will be 21?

We are a country of laws, people! That's what makes this a great place to live! We establish and abide by our laws. I don't have to agree with all the laws, and I'm free to break them if I wish, but there are established rules nonetheless. And if you don't like the laws, you go back to the voters to get it changed. You don't just willy-nilly overturn the law when the voters have said their peace just because justices don't agree with them.

The Court, instead of expanding the Domestic Partnership laws to include those things that homosexuals were decrying as "unfair," just threw us all into one big category.

And, sakes alive, you should see the celebration in the City today. Celebrate all you want...but just like Affirmative Action attempted to correct and rebalance inequities (but didn't), gay marriage won't change the core beliefs of the vast majority of this country -- and the vast majority of the California voting population.

It's a sad day in CA today....at least for me. Thank goodness there's a plan in place to contest this decision.
A coalition of religious and social conservative groups is attempting to put a measure on the November ballot that would enshrine laws banning gay marriage in the state constitution.

The Secretary of State is expected to rule by the end of June whether the sponsors gathered enough signatures to qualify the marriage amendment, similar to ones enacted in 26 other states.

If voters pass the measure in November, it would trump the court's decision.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Mom...I'm Bored!

Remember Saturday morning cartoons, where the Wile E. Coyote would look at the Roadrunner who would mysteriously morph into a chicken leg or perhaps a pot of stew over firey coals? We had that very SAME phenomenon here at our home!

I recently did our summer activities planning and mysteriously enough, both of my children have visually morphed into a dollar sign which is going up in a blaze of glory!!! :-) Goodness gracious! I've heard that "kids are expensive" but man alive, they are EXPENSIVE!

The economy is hitting us hard and we're feelin' the pain of gas prices (anyone else suffering out there?) I drive an SUV and I did a quick calculation, which in hindsight I probably should NOT have done (ignorance really is bliss), and it costs me $16 per day just to drive the kids to/from school. Hence, we've decided to NOT enroll Ruby or Gorby for this year's school summer camp. I would say that I'll probably save at least $100 a week in gas just by NOT driving the 26 mile round trip to/from school. Gorby is still considered a preschooler so he's priced at a whopping $750 a month, and Ruby's fees would be about $600 per month. Oh yeah, not to mention the soft costs of not being with my kids away at camp each day... I wouldn't even SEE them. I really miss my kiddos when they're at school and want 'em home this summer.

I think I'm going to be extra efficient and work M-Th and take Fridays off. We've hired a college-aged babysitter to come to the house from 9-2pm to do crafts with them, play in the backyard, go on field trips, the park, the amusement park, the library, swimming lessons and summer rec classes. I have high hopes and am confident things will be sufficiently balanced.

Tomorrow is the first day of summer registration at our local parks and recreation district. Have you noticed how competitive summer camp and activity registration is? Goodness gracious! People are mapping out the catalog, getting all their contingencies planned and are armed with the exact date and time the online registration opens. It's almost as if folks are camping out waiting for Rush tickets!

That's not everyone?
That's just me?

By now I've scoured the activities guide to make my list (I can hear my Mom chuckling now) of which sessions to enroll the kids.

T-Ball, Soccer, Ballet for Ruby, one-week soccer camp for each of the kids and swimming lessons 3 days/week should keep the kids sufficiently exhausted busy and active all summer long and Frederer's and my checking account fully drained.
I'm armed with our season passes to the local amusement park and am looking forward to the summer reading program at the library. We've identified the free days at the movie theater, SF Zoo, Exploratorium, and Bay Area Discovery Museum.

We're also taking our August summer trip to Colorado to see my family. This annual trek is quite fun and it's great to see family and friends.

Bored kids are the worst. Correction: a bored GORBULAS is the worst. If the