Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seasons Change, If Only in Name

We read and see that autumn’s crisp snap has fully returned Back East. Out here, the mild conditions have returned. While the calendar tells us that fall is here, only a very few leaves have begun to turn, and the air only carries subtle hints that the season has changed. Still, the signs are there, even if currently the fall has come in name only. We had a more varied week, with back to school nights, a wedding, construction, and a birthday to celebrate.

On Tuesday while Landon was at school, Hallie took Eliza to the library for a shapes-themed story time. Eliza made a diamond-shaped kite of her own to take home.

In the evening, the parents went to back-to-school night at both kids’ schools, stopping off at Rite-Aid in between for some Thrifty ice cream. Yumm-O!

On Wednesday morning, Hallie and her friend Marie from church went to a Moms Meet Store Tour at Whole Foods Market in Oxnard where they learned about shopping for organic, wallet-friendly meals. Plus, they got a goody bag!

On Friday, Mike’s sister Emily married Michael, her fiancĂ©, at the superior court in Van Nuys. We’re proud of all the progress she has made over the last year and are happy to welcome another Mike into the family!

This trip was our first to LA since moving back to California, and as the topic of families was the theme of the day, we took advantage of being in the general area to go down to the Los Angeles Temple, where we were sealed to Eliza in 2011, stopping first at Diddy Riese in Westwood for ice cream sandwiches.

Since last we went, the temple visitors’ center has had a major face lift. The kids made a beeline for the little neighborhood exhibit that had digital coloring pages and other age-appropriate media. It’s a far cry from the days where all we had was a theater with short films like The Mailbox and Johnny Lingo (now available anytime at all on YouTube).

We left the temple just as rush hour traffic had gotten into full gear on the 405, so we decided to take the scenic route home, following Sunset Boulevard through Brentwood and the Pacific Palisades before veering down through Malibu and taking PCH along the coast. Views of the winding canyons, the upscale homes, and the blue Pacific beat tail lights by a long shot, cost us no extra time, and only added about five miles to our trip.     
(Not our pic, but you get the idea.)

On Saturday morning, Hallie took Landon shopping bright and early before Mike took the kids to meet Grandpa O. at Lowe’s in Simi, where they built fire trucks.

After visiting with the grands, they came back home, and we decorated a bit for the fall. While some leaves are turning, about the only autumn color we have is what we have hanging from the walls.

On Sunday, we celebrated Grandma M’s birthday after church with taco salads and chocolate chip cookies. The kids showed off their swinging skills and got thoroughly wound up. Fortunately, this meant they went right to sleep at the end of day.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hastening Our Work

Many of the same routines that have occupied our days since school started occupied us again this week. We had welcome visitors, both for the kids and for Hallie. Things are heating up for Mike both at work and at church.

Monday – Regular day. Landon stayed after with a small group of kids to do a reading assessment with his teacher. He is making great progress at school, as evidenced by the work his teacher is sending home. 

Tuesday – After Landon got out of school, two of the boys from our ward that go to school with him came to our house to play. We haven’t had a lot of kids to play at our house, so having company is all new and exciting to us.

Wednesday – After school Landon went to the boys’ house to play until Eliza got out of school, and Hallie was able to get a few errands run. We just found out though that this family is moving soon, and that bums us all out.

Friday – Mike had a shindig at CLU in the evening, so the kids and Hallie had pizza and movie.

Saturday – Mike taught class today, and the rest of the family took a day off. Hallie and her mom spent a bit of time together in the morning, and Liz our great neighbor spent time playing with the kids. Hallie came home to freshly vacuumed floors and dishes done. Thanks Liz! We were all happy to see Mike when he got home in the evening. The kids spent a bit of time in the evening riding bikes, scooters, and skateboards with the neighbor kids. As bed time approached the missionaries came over to do their weekly correlation with Mike.  

Sunday – Mike started the day out early, 8:00 AM, by attending a meeting conducted by Elder Garnes who is an area authority seventy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After the meeting, Mike sent a text home saying Elder Garnes asked the mission leaders to read D&C88:72-74 with our families. Hey, read it with yours! Things are getting serious about hastening the work. He then hung out at the church until his other meetings started at 11:00.

At noon Hallie and the kids headed to Thousand Oaks (known here as T.O.) to see Cru’s Primary Children's Program. Hallie gave Eliza special braids for the occasion. 

It was fun watching Cru sing and speak his part. For these moments it is nice to be closer to our California family. Hallie had to sneak out early so they could get back to our ward where our primary is getting ready for their program on October 12.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Turning Up the Heat

While we knew that we would experience different weather patterns in California than Michigan, this endless summer makes us hearken back to the crisp feel of the autumn air in Michigan (which does fall better than anywhere we’ve ever lived). Still, the days are getting shorter, the nights cool down quite nicely, and the summer sun continues to shine warm and bright. We won’t complain, not at all. Michigan friends, do send pics as the leaves change! We’ll return the favor with some February sun shots. Hallie even dressed Eliza in an outfit appropriate for church on a late summer/early autumn Sunday in SoCal: A sleeveless white dress and fall colored ribbons in her hair and a perfect tan to add to the perfection.  

Like last week, we don’t have many pictures or events from the middle of the week. Hallie realized part of the lack of pictures is due to her old new phone. April can’t come soon enough when she gets a phone that works better. Or she needs to go find a digital camera to start snapping away with. When Mike was up on campus this last week, he finished putting his office together, finally deciding to pull out some of his bigger old LEGO sets to put on display. He has drawn inspiration from how other faculty in the college here have really taken pains to personalize their workspaces.

As with last week, most of our non-routine activity took place on the weekend. Mike had classes on Friday night and Saturday, so Hallie had the kids all day after she dropped him off at work on Saturday morning. She picked up cousin Cru, and then the gang all returned to Camarillo, first for a visit to the library and then down to Constitution Park.

At the library, they participated in a pirate-themed activity. After the pirate performer sang a few songs, the kids got more involved, clapping along with their moms pushing. By the end, they even got up to shake maracas. At the conclusion of the music and dancing the group headed into the library to make pirate hats and check out a nice stack of books. Cru and Landon were both eager to check out books from the Magic Tree House series.  

At the park, they attended the Camarillo Emergency Expo, organized by Ready Ventura County.  For the kids, going to the expo meant face painting and bounce houses along with getting their kid prints. Well, Eliza got hers. The line was really long, so Hallie will take Landon after school one day soon. The police department offers the service year-round.

They all came back home and played a bit outside until Mike called for his ride home. Each of the valleys is like a bowl, and you can actually feel the temperature difference once you cross the grade from Pleasant Valley to Conejo Valley. It’s a dry heat in TO, so it’s not too bad. There’s more of a marine vibe in Camarillo, with lower temps but somewhat higher humidity.

On Sunday, we celebrated Grandpa O’s 70th birthday. Do we say he’s over the hill or aged to perfection? The kids enjoyed chasing each other around as the grown-ups chatted. A gentle breeze took some of the heat off the day, making for a more comfortable dining experience. Happy Birthday, Granddaddi-O! 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

A Not-So-Many Week

Some weeks come with lots of events and photos. Others, not so many. This was a not-so-many week. Still, we did do some things. In addition to running errands, working, and school:

We had a barbecue with our next door neighbors on Labor Day. Bruce helped Mike pull down some unsightly cables from the pergola, and now we’re considering ways to bring more afternoon shade in to cool down the back yard. The unusually warm weather is expected to extend into the coming week. 

Mike attended California Lutheran University’s opening convocation. As a church-sponsored school, CLU shares many elements in common with BYU in spite of the difference in their size, including most obviously the plain use of language that connects the university experience to its ecclesiastical roots.
The crucifer bearing the stained glass processional cross

Grandma and Grandpa O. came over to visit on Thursday. Alie and the kids had fun tearing into the toys in the playroom. Afterwards, Mike went with the missionaries to teach. One of the best parts of his flexible schedule has been how it offers him unexpected pockets of time to provide service and volunteer during the middle of the day or week.

Mike delivered some stacks of photocopies we collated for Landon’s class. Their math and language arts curriculum come from New York’s Common Core-based curriculum. The whole set of documents, including lesson plans, are available online. What a state of affairs: a California school district imports its curriculum from another state. Granted, years ago when Mike and Hallie were in school, teachers got their materials from private textbook publishers instead. All of the freely available online material makes supplementing at home what he gets at school much easier and takes a lot of the mystery out of new classroom teaching techniques. When seen all together as one body of work, there’s an elegant logic to it all. Now whether it all gets used in the classroom what with all the other things that need teaching is another question. Still, Mike would have appreciated having something like this back when he was teaching elementary school.   

On Saturday, Mike took the kids to the Home Depot for their Kids Workshop. They built Wizard of Oz-themed birdhouses. As an added part of the experience, the store provided paint for the kids to embellish their houses. Needless to say, the kids made a glorious mess and produced two very original works of manual art.

This afternoon, Maria was baptized, and we all attended the service while Mike conducted. We feel inspired to see that the members support missionary work here in the ward, and we hope for more good things to come.

Later on, Mike attended a potluck for students in his doctoral program at his department chair’s home. Students he taught over the summer came up to him to thank him for making them work so hard in his course. Yay! 

In the ultimate show of willpower, Hallie baked cookies with Eliza this morning while participating in her Fast Sunday fast. After church, we were invited over for dinner with a family in our ward. Very nice way to end the day!

Next week begins everyone’s first full week of classes, meetings, and all that.