Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Battlin' birthday.

A few months ago, when Katie told me about her Battle of the Books competition, I knew I couldn't miss it. I requested my personal leave way in advance so I could attend this event. I couldn't get off work for the school spelling bee; I have yet to attend a character kid assembly. I didn't dare miss this one, though. Besides, today's my birthday, so taking a personal day was my present to myself.

For months Katie and her team members have been reading, studying and practicing for this event, and today, they matched wits with teams from each of the elementary schools in our district. A gym full of kids answered questions as a team, questions like, "In which book does a character claim that certain creatures can live without a head?" After 20 seconds, the librarian/judge raised a card to indicate if the team at her table got the point or not.

It was interesting to see the different kids respond to their results. On some of the easier questions that just about every team knew, the answer's revelation resulted in a chorus of "YESSSSSSSSSS!" across the room. Katie was especially fun to watch. Even between questions she would dance and move while standing at her school's table. Pretty fun!

Our team didn't place in the top three, but rumor has it that they may have placed as high as fourth. Regardless, Katie and her teammates worked hard, learned a lot and had a fun day at the competition.

Where's Katie? Can you find her?

OK, OK. How 'bout in this picture?

Our team!

Later that night we celebrated at No Frills Grill.

Of course, we had to play trivia. Guess who won?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Brave new world.

Tonight I walked into Ryan's new school for the first time. Middle school. Oh. My.

We were there for the band instrument fair, and Ryan and all the other fifth graders were trying out different horns that they might end up playing. Kids could pick three instruments to try, so they drifted from station to station for a quick lesson and a test run with each instrument.

As was the case with Ryan, many of the kids were too cool to outwardly acknowledge their parents' presence, and only a few dared to hold a mom's hand here or there. The boys especially, with their Zack and Cody haircuts, played it cool and kept their distance. I couldn't help but remember Ryan's first Meet the Teacher night when he wouldn't leave our sides.

Just being there, seeing where Ryan will be spending his days come August, made me flash back to my own time in middle school. I can still picture the old cafeteria and smell that eau de mop bucket that only school cafeterias have. I can feel the cool of the concrete ledges in the breezeways, the ledges where we'd hang out before first period. The sixth grade science teacher with the impossible tests, the Texas history teacher with super-long hair that she kept in a tidy bun, the art teacher who could barely hide her disdain for my pitiful attempts at drawing: I can see them so clearly. And I can see our little band hall and our band director, the guy who missed several weeks of school after he was hit by a shopping cart(!).

As Ryan tried out the clarinet, trombone and trumpet, I remembered when I first tried to play my flute. I have so many good band memories, from the flute-trumpet duets my best friend and I composed at sleepovers to the unforgettable bus rides to high school football games. Marching in parades, getting nauseously nervous at region tryouts, performing at the Aloha Bowl... Band provided many of my highlights of middle school and high school. As a band geek, I hope that band is his thing, too--but if not, I pray that he'll find some other way to connect to his school and make his own memories.

And the winner is... the trumpet!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"Look, Mom! It's movie snow!"

For once, I did NOT want a snow day. Today was supposed to be Group Picture Day for the yearbook. Months ago I had booked the school auditorium and a photographer so we could get group pictures of most campus organizations today. I woke up earlier than usual to get to school, thinking I was prepared but wanting to be sure. The schedule was made, my helper students were excused, my sub plans were ready, I was ready. But before I could even get to the shower, Brett said, "I think I heard sleet."

Oh, no. Not today.

I looked out the front door, checked the news, got the word, and yes, I grumbled about the terrible timing. But then I got to wake up Ryan and Katie, raise their blinds and watch both of them react to the snow. Wheeeee!!!!!!!!!

A little bit later, Katie saw the huge flakes falling and compared the flurry to what she's seen in movies. I was SO thankful to be home!

Time to take a deep breath, slow down, grab a book and enjoy.

Of course, the kitties enjoyed getting to come inside for a bit, too. KitKat outstayed her welcome when she helped herself to Ryan's breakfast!


Monday, January 15, 2007

Just one more.

Our crazy KitKat scared the life out of me when she pounced onto our computer desk as I was in the middle of a sentence. Her goal: To stalk her prey, the wild creature making the rounds on our clock.
Alas, the second hand escaped unharmed.

Cozy Monday.

Everybody accomplished something at our house on this Monday.

The kitties shared some good sister time.

Katie dressed for our lunch date at Brett's Diner (complete with menu).

I accomplished a few chores I'd put off way too long.

Brett got lots of work done in spite of plenty of distractions.

Ryan, after spending his "inside time" on his Lego Star Wars game, declared himself a Jedi Master.

Now THAT'S what I call a great Monday!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Icy Sunday.

After church we stocked up on "winter food" (Fritos, chili, cocoa mix) and headed home to get cozy. The roads were fine; in fact, we were delighted to see how the ice could transform our "ordinary" surroundings.

Ryan and Katie ventured out to go icicle hunting. Armed with light sabers, they attacked the vicious beasts. It was hilarious to see them swing those sabers around!
We had just eaten the best Frito pie ever when Nana called with a plan: She just happened to have this German chocolate birthday cake, and no small group members to help them eat it (since their meeting was called off). Would we like to come over to celebrate Papa's birthday a little early? His birthday's not until later this week, but the cake couldn't go to waste. Voila! Impromptu family gathering!

Nana and Papa's backyard was an icy wonder:
And inside, Brett's family gathered to honor his dad:

At home later that evening, Brett built our first fire of the winter and we watched Cars.
Getting to spend plenty of time together was delightful, and it was wonderful to go to bed knowing we didn't have to worry about driving to school the next day.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Onward and Upward.

We're in our second week of the Upward Basketball season, and already we've seen some exciting games! Both the Lady Tarheels and the Knicks won Saturday, and both of our star players had excellent games.

Baby, it's cold outside.

After Katie's basketball game this afternoon, we hurried from the van to the house. We knew the kitties would be cold, but we didn't know we'd find them huddled on our front porch with a guest:Princess is our neighbor's cat, and apparently, three was not a crowd. It was cozy!

Scary Monsters.

During breaks between his day job and working on his book, Brett has been cranking out magazine articles and reviews. This week we received this in the mail: On page 43 is Brett's article, "My Scary Week with Uncle Forry," his account of meeting Forrest J Ackerman at his home in Hollywood and again at the San Diego Comic-Con. Forry is the former editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, an influential horror magazine. We toured his memento-filled home while we were in L.A., and Brett met up with him again at the big convention later that week. Several photos from our trip illustrate his article, including this one with Forry, Brett and the kids:

The magazine's on sale at Barnes and Noble and Border's, so if you find yourself in one of those bookstores, you might want to take a peek.

Also at some B&N stores is Comics Buyer's Guide, the world's longest running publication about comics. Brett has been part of that magazine's "Review Crew" for five years now, and every month his reviews appear in print.

We love to see his byline, but this is all just a prelude to his book, which is VERY close to completion. His manuscript will be in the mail in a few short weeks, and we're all so excited!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

What goes up...

Taking down Christmas decorations always makes me sad, but seeing KitKat's reaction to all our stuff gave me reason to smile!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My own Groundhog Day.

You remember that Bill Murray movie when he keeps reliving the same day over and over? If I had to pick one day to relive, Jan. 4, 2006, would be in the running.

I woke up in Los Angeles that morning to a gorgeous day.
The night before had been a nightmare, thanks to United Airlines' total computer crash that led to long lines, handwritten boarding passes, and no assigned or guaranteed seats on the plane. It took a while to get a taxi, and then the taxi driver almost got us lost on the way to my hosts' home. But that was Jan. 3. On Jan. 4, I could walk in my friends' backyard and see this:
For brunch we walked down Beverly Boulevard, and I got my first glimpse of the Hollywood sign along the way. The weather was perfect, so we ate outside and enjoyed the fantastic company.
After brunch it was time to load up for the drive to the train station downtown. Just in case anyone doubted our allegiances, we had horns on the Jeep! We got lots of cheers and jeers at each stoplight.

Once downtown, we boarded the train for Pasadena. Upon our arrival, we waited in a line many blocks long to board the shuttle buses that would take us the rest of the way. The second we stepped off our bus, we were smack-dab in the middle of a sea of people.

After wading through the masses, I finally got my first view of our goal: the Rose Bowl!

We made our way to our seats, and there was no doubt that this was the BIG TIME:

The game, of course, was crazy. Vince was out of this world. The final score still makes me smile:And the celebration was unforgettable, too!

Afterwards we chose to walk instead of wait in line for the shuttle back to the Metro station. It was a long trek through Pasadena, but nobody seemed to mind! Once back at our home base, we watched the SportsCenter highlights over and over again. It really happened. The Longhorns had won the national championship. THE LONGHORNS HAD WON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!

What an amazing day!