Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oral Interpretation Festival

"A friend is like a flower,
a rose to be exact,
Or maybe like a brand new gate
that never comes unlatched.
A friend is like an owl,
both beautiful and wise.
Or perhaps a friend is like a ghost,
whose spirit never dies.
A friend is like a heart that goes
strong until the end.
Where would we be in this world
if we didn't have a friend? "
~  Emma Guest ~
Miriam participated in the Annual Oral Interpretation Festival of El Dorado County. She recited the poem "A Friend" by Emma Guest. It was not a competition. They were evaluated against their own potential as determined by the judges. Miriam was rated "Superior" which was the highest rating any participant can achieve. This is not a declaration that the possibility for improvement is nonexistent, however, for a fourth grader I think she did very well! For someone who enjoys speaking in public, I think this is a good training for her. So much can be learned from watching other students perform. Mrs. McFarlin, Brooks Elementary School coach, did a great job.

The event took place at the Pioneer Elementary School which is technically located over the mountains and the hills of El Dorado. It seemed so far away, probably because we worried that we might miss Miriam's performance. However, because there were hundreds of students attending, it took them longer to organize everyone allowing us to arrive there with dignity. :)

The three of us were fortunate that Tim arrived the day before.  It was good for Miriam to have both parents there.  Tim appreciated having been able to be there for Miriam even if the odds were slim after they have missed one flight on their way back from Paris.   For me, it was great that I did not have to drive that narrow and twisty road going there or else I would have arrived there when all is over. 

Tim and I brought some Peeps for Miriam and we all appreciated the free ice cream at the end!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Father and Son in Paris

Tim and Brahms went on their Father-Son trip to Paris, France on March 16-23, 2010.  Here are a few of the many pictures that they took.  They reported that they walked a lot and ate a lot of sandwiches, croissants, crepes and desserts which have names that are hard to say. 

This is my favorite picture of Brahms.  It says "Paris"!

They visited Versailles.  The pictures of the gardens make me want to go there someday.

Arc de Triomphe
Tim in Versailles

Tim back to back with Notre Dame gargoyle.

Notre Dame

Taking their own picture while on the Eiffel Tower.

They seemed to have enjoyed their trip a lot...but they both wished that we all went as a family.   They said that traveling without us (girls) was not the same.  They were very happy to be back home.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sparkies Leader

This is the Sparkies Director.  He does not always look like this, believe it or not.  I will recount what happened.

Our local AWANA club plans to support another similar club in India.  To do this a penny-drive was launched.  The team who collected the most money at the end of the drive was given a special reward - the privilege to throw pies at our Awana Commander, Andy Haug, and Sparkies director, Tim Lewis.  Hence, the picture.   It was unfortunate that what was supposed to be pies were in fact pseudo-pies (whipped cream).  Otherwise, Tim would have secretly enjoyed the experience.

This whole exercise provided entertainment for the kids for a few minutes.  Both Tim and Andy were fine after washing their faces.  I hope that next year the club will come up with a different and less messy reward for the winners!

Anyway, Tim is in France with Brahms right now, so there will be a guest teacher during AWANA council time - me.   They better not throw pies at me becaue I will be prepared to throw them bread.  :)

My AWANA Girls

This is the first year that I've worked as a Sparky group leader to a group of four girls. They may be young but the girls in my group are very sharp kids.  Most of them are very familiar with their bible stories and are regular church-goers.  They fight for their turn to tell their stories about themselves and their families (all of which are good) to me.  They are so innocent, curious...and I enjoy them a lot.

Mikaela, (my leader-in-training) is a tremendous help for me.  She's very good to the little girls.  She also enjoys being the coach to the Green team during game time.   She makes my life easier. :)

Joelle Headrick

Mandy Immer

Natallie Weiland

Guest : Jordyn

Olivia Jeffrey

Mikaela Bagdanov (My Assistant)

Friday, March 19, 2010

NHS Induction

Shannon made it into the National Honors Society.  Hooray!!! She is one of the ninety four students who qualified in Oak Ridge this year.  This is something that she can use to decorate her resume someday. 

The induction ceremony was very solemn.  It involved an inspirational speech, explanation of the four pillars of the society (scholarship, service, character and citizenship), and even refreshments in the end. 

I am very proud of Shannon.  She reminds me of my younger days. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Girls' Time Together

On Tuesday at six o'clock in the morning, Miriam got up to say goodbye to her brother and daddy too.  Shannon walked unusually alone to the bus stop.  Then without Tim working in the house, there was no reason to stay home after the two girls left for school.  When Tim and Brahms called home to let us know they made it to SFO, nobody was home.  Good thing my cell phone was fully recharged...they caught me at Target shopping for plants (including tomato seedlings, succulents and a pot of cyclamen) , Peeps (one of my favorite candies), etc. They called again when they got to PHL...still nobody was home.  We were then at In-N-Out eating dinner.  At that point the boys knew that we were determined to have fun while they are gone.

It is less interesting to cook for three people, with one person eating only a little bit, than for five people whose appreciation for food comes like an essential ritual of life.   As a result, I have not done any serious cooking since they left except for delicious "Friendship Bread" that I had to cook last Tuesday.  The good things is that there are a lot of places to eat between Folsom and El Dorado Hills.  Tonight we had dinner at Strings Cafe.  Tim and I used to eat there a lot for lunch - that they recognize us.  But then, there are a lot of other restaurant to try now.  How am I supposed to feel when the owner says "We have not seen you in a long time," and they look at my daughters...not my husband.  Hmmm... Shannon discerningly recommended that I will have to go back there with my husband. 

Whenever Tim travels my immediate reaction is to go out shopping for comfort foods (those that I used to eat in the Philippines).  This time I've deliberately avoided it.  However, I have to continually fight this tendency.  Maybe tomorrow I'll give in...I need some fish with the head and skin still on and some cooked green leaves.  Surely, this will ease my loneliness. :)

So far it has been easy keeping the girls entertained.  A quick trip to the bookstore today made them really happy. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prairie Falcon

Bernadette's Wedding Quilt

Recently we've been blessed by the hospitality of several of our friends.  Last Sunday we were invited by the Cranmers to their place on Prairie Falcon.  Bernadette experimented on a Rachel Ray Macaroni and Cheese with chicken and broccoli.  Our mac n cheese connoisseur, Miriam, proclaimed that it was great.  Shannon gave two thumbs up on the bread while Brahms felt privileged to have been offered Mountain Dew- my deprived son. :)

They showed us a movie regarding their king-size wedding quilt.  The quilt looks very traditional and expected but the manner it was installed on their 20-foot high wall was anything but predictable.   They appropriately named the movie, "The Quilt and Chandelier Adventure."  If you are a facebook friend of Bernadette, view it and be part of the nerve-wrecking adventure. 

Indeed our visit at Falcon Court was full of fun and excitement.  We watched their pet snake eat a baby mouse.  Shannon and Miriam played with it for a while which made me cringe inside.  

We like Dan and Bernadette, they are a nice and friendly couple.  It was good to watch and understand them better.  I'm pretty sure they too learned so much about the way we operate as a family. 

The Parthenon

The Parthenon

One of the places we saw last year was the Parthenon.  Instead of going to Greece to appreciate the ruins of the ancient Athenian building, we went to the "Athens of the South" - Nashville, Tennessee.   Saskia, my sister-in-law, and her family were very gracious to bring us there.

Two days ago we celebrated with our kids, for the good academic performance they had this semester (trimester in the case of Miriam).  The three of them were in the "A" honor roll.   I'm proud of them for the responsibility and independent-study habits that they have carried on.  As a tradition, they can choose the restaurant where we can all enjoy.  They chose Mimi's and to see the movie "Percy Jackson and Olympians: The Lightning Thief."  (I must admit that this is one of the few movies we've seen where I did not fall asleep.)

Standing at he Parthenon with the cousins.

So what is the connection between all these and the Parthenon?  Well it so happened that in the movie one of the pearls that Percy was supposed to find was in the crown of Athena (the statue) which is in the Parthenon.  This was a surprise for us.  The experience was interesting.  As if we actually went into the building for the second time.  

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why Shannon Got A Checking Account

"You are lucky because if I was your mom I would be taking pictures of everything you are doing right now."  (Bank Representative to Shannon - March 11, 2010) 

Another "first" happened yesterday when we opened a checking account for Shannon.  Although she's not old enough to do it alone, a joint account with me will suffice for the moment.   So why would parents of a sixteen-year-old do this?  This is a part of the life training that we want to give our kids.  Before she goes away (not too far away, I hope) to college that she should have learned the basics of handling her finances.  Before she asks to leave home that she should understand the relationships between resources and obligations.  She will learn that the concept of subtraction has a practical application in real life.  Accurately calculating the difference between two numbers will no longer just mean earning a point in a test.  It will soon be like reading a magic ball that reveals her purchasing ability. 

I grew up in a culture where the age "eighteen" has no special meaning.  It's hard for me to think that, two years from now, Shannon would handle life as an independent person.  God help us train her now... then help her to be strong and wise when her time to open her wings come.

After thinking about this, I just came to a realization that we probably opened her checking account for our own peace of mind.  :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Connected Once More

Twenty years ago I moved away from the Philippines first to go to school in England and then to be married here in the US.  While I maintained communication with my immediate relatives, I have been delinquent in making sure that the same happened with the rest of my acquaintances.  The trips that I took back home were short.  My itinerary did not allow time for meeting my former co-workers, church mates, classmates and relatives who lived away from my mother's place.  Slowly, I began to forget names.  We all grew older, some faster than others.  Faces changed, some more than others.  Not only did I forget names, I also did not recognize the faces anymore.   People moved, erasing the last clue for my memory.   My list of relatives and friends from that side of the world shrunk considerably. 

Now, with Facebook, I am beginning to reconnect with them.  Only now do I realize that some of us who were all in one little town at one time are now scattered all over the world.  I would never have known that my former secretary, Mercy, lives not too far from where I live.  My cousin Ronnie, who was a high school student when I last saw him, now lives in Orange County along with his wife and two children. Who would have known that Senia, my mother's cousin, now lives in Jerusalem, Israel?  Yolanda my former classmate in high school now lives in Canada where she owns a plant nursery and a restaurant.  We were so young but now we are not.  There many more stories of long distance-links being restored. 

 Facebook provided a convenient way to establish a renewed relationship with these folks.  I agree with James Rivington in suggesting that Facebook's success is rooted on vanity.   However, I believe that my reason for applauding the consequences of this networking-craze is beyond mere vain.   The connections that are established serve as conduits of influence.  Both the good and the bad all flow through that same channel.  One has to make a wise choice therefore on the things that we contribute to that system as well as the things that we take in.  A powerful screening system is apropos.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Old French Creek

This picture is taken from the house of Zandor and Janis Barat.  Guess what it is...:)

Janis and Zandor had us over for dinner last Saturday at their place on Old French Creek Road.  The dinner was great and it was fun getting to know them more.   We have watched them when they were still a dating couple and then we were doubly honored to be invited to their engagement and wedding parties.  They are such a sweet couple - so in love with each other!   Zandor made a very good Russian-style tea - it was custom-made using some herbs and fruits from his garden.  I enjoyed it a lot!
Janis owns her own business called Resume Professionals.   Zandor, I believe, is a wood worker specializing in fine cabinetry.  They maintain an organic vegetable garden which makes me feel jealous.  If you go to their house in the summer expect to bring home tomatoes, peppers, etc.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sunny Weekend

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. ~ C. S. Lewis

We're blessed with a good winter this year; so far rain and sunshine are coming alternately at an almost regular interval.  Sunny weekend afternoons like the one we had today, often invites the family to be get out into the garden just like lady bugs crawl out from hibernation in search of fun in the sun.   Miriam and I move around in the yard to have fun and enjoy the sun.  She's playing, looking for bugs or building something out of sticks while I pull weeds and move plants around.  There's pleasure in being able to interact with the garden and see a tangible outcome in the end.  The rest of the family seem to fall into a different category; they are the ones who like to emulate the a photosynthesizing plant - just sit in one place and absorb as much warmth as they can processing as much information as their bones warm up.

That's my family - varied we may be but all in one place and enjoying what's given to us.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saturated Exercise

Tim has a long term goal for walking everyday but his immediate goal is to get coffee from Starbucks or Peet's depending on the day.  He buys a mocha, soy latte, or espresso con panna.  If that is all that is required for him to do his needed daily exercise and for us to walk together every morning, then bring in more coffee. 

.Our walk is so regular that people who see us get used to us and we get used to seeing them as well.  We see the school bus to Sacramento at the same place.  We'd see the bus going to Oakridge after the second stop light and we know that the students in the bus are also observing us because one of the students in the bus is Ross, Shannon's classmate.  He tells her that he uses our location as indicators of time.  Depending on where we are when he sees us, he'd know whether the bus is on time or not.  He also knows that I always walk on Tim's right side.

This morning the weather was calm with no hint of rain.  With the clouds being high, it was supposed to be a good day for walking. The wind was strong moving the clouds to where they ought to.   "To Starbucks!" he said.  The walk there was pleasant, we talked and said inside-jokes about stuff that that goes into my coffee and about a cat that followed my neighbor home which eventually became their cat.  We even had the time to make fun with the students in the school bus; I walked on the other side. 

Well, the walk was not all merry as we've started.  After Tim got his cup of soy latte, the rain started to fall on us.  Initially we could make it look like fun.  But then it poured and our search for a shady tree began.  I must say that during this time of the year, there are not a lot of trees that could give us a temporary shelter.  Bare branches just don't do the trick.  Then we saw a redwood tree and stood underneath it; Tim finished his coffee but the rain is now even stronger.  The hope for a dry-walk is all gone.  We were confronted with two choices:  find someone to give us a ride home or press on.  We chose the latter.  Still talking a lot, but this time we were walking twice the speed that we normally take.  In no time we made it home totally saturated.

The second shower and second cup of coffee were good. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Content is the Same

Obviously, I've been trying change the layout of this blog... and I must admit that it is not fun. This is like living I suppose.   Sometimes we give so much attention into modifying our physical appearance.   We think that it will improve our value and happiness.  The process is undoubtedly energy-consuming and definitely frustrating.  Then we realize that "content" matters more than the "fonts and colors" of our lives.   After trying so hard we find out that our value remains the same.  That's what happened here, don't you think?