Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Download This Video

We talked about my putting the sound of Ned's birthday video for Bri on my digital voice recorder so we could play it for Walt's mother. But then in going through some new stuff that came across Facebook this morning, I was led back to Greasemonkey, that wonderful set of Firefox scripts for doing all sorts of things.

I didn't even begin to get into the Facebook scripts. I was immediately stopped by seeing that there was a script to download YouTube videos.

I'd been using a script for a long time to download YouTube videos now and then, but that script had been disabled by YouTube, the site says. I was thrilled to see that another one existed. I downloaded that and...voila! I had Ned's Brianna video on my iPod Touch. Yippee.

Well, lemme tell ya, I started going crazy, downloading my favorite videos of mine as well as some of the videos I've been posting in "Look at These Videos." I spent the entire morning downloading videos and transferring them to the iTouch, which does such a great job of showing them. This is just great because it will allow me to share some things with my mother. I have no internet connection at her house, so I haven't been able to log into YouTube to show her, so this is a great way to do that.

Walt went off to the hospital this morning while I stayed home downloading videos. The plan was for him to pick me up so that we could go to Tom's at 1 and spend a couple of hours with Bri and her other grandma, like we did two weeks ago. Then back to the hospital to visit with Walt's mother again.

Bri was somewhat subdued. Despite all the activity yesterday, she still didn't have the best night, but she had taken a nap in the morning. The nice thing about having been here several times in the last 3 weeks is that she looks like she recognizes us when we arrive.

We visited with Bri and Grandma Geri for awhile, then went out to the front to see all the new outdoor toys. Grandpa decided to put Bri's new chair set together for her.

It turned out great and proved to be so strong that it even survived his tripping and almost falling on top of it.

Grandma Geri was very conscientious and followed Bri around with an umbrella when she was in the sun, so no sun got on that still fairly bare head.

(The precautions we know to take for kids these days always makes me wonder how in the world our own children made it to adulthood!)

Bri was getting pretty sleepy, but of course would not go to sleep in her bed, so it was time for a walk and hope that she would fall asleep in the stroller. Since we were headed to the hospital, this seemed a good time to say our goodbyes. Walt will remain here this week, since his mother's situation is still uncertain, so he will probably see Bri again before he leaves for home. I, on the other hand, will be leaving early tomorrow morning for the drive home.

Alice is in that world where she's partly in the here and now and partly somewhere else. She was upset that it took us so long to get to visit her (though Walt had left there at 1 and told her he'd be back at 4...and we got back at 3!) She is very confused about where she is and keeps asking to go back to her room. At one point she was a little testy with me when I wouldn't go into the next room and get her robe. When I reminded her she was in the hospital and that her robe was at home, she asked that we get a wheelchair and take her to her apartment.

At the same time she says that she won't leave the hospital this time and that she isn't doing well. And then she asks if Walt has made a reservation for them in the dining room. Jeri talked with her while we were there and she told Jeri that Norm was coming to see her in the morning, though Norm is not planning to come this time.

Yet, I brought the video Ned had made for Bri's birthday. She can't see it, of course, but she laughed all the way through it and asked if I had any more of Ned's jingles to show her. I was sorry the other ones I'd downloaded really rely on more on the visual and less on the vocal.

I finally left the hospital around 5 p.m., after about 2 hours. Walt stayed behind to wait for Alice Nan and will probably be back at the house around 8 p.m.

So my trip to Santa Barbara comes to a close. Since Walt is staying and thus won't need to make a trip to the hospital first, I will probably get out of town before 10 and should be home fairly early.

Tot has moved in. It will be interesting to see how it is to live with SEVEN dogs! (Shhh...don't tell the neighbors!)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Brianna is One

Technically speaking, Brianna isn't one until TUESDAY, but we celebrated in grand style on Sunday. It was a somewhat unusual, and eventful day.

We started the day at the hospital, to visit Walt's mother.

She seemed exhausted and at one point somewhat frantic, but Walt and Alice Nan say this is a huge improvement over when she arrived here. We stayed about half an hour and then went over to the beach to meet the party.

Brianna wasn't there yet, but Joe and Alice Nan were already in the Minnie Mouse spirit of the party.

Bri eventually arrived, wearing the outfit that her Uncle Lee had bought for her in China.

She's definitely a walker now. No more crawling for this independent little girl!

Mommy made sure she wore a sun hat, today adorned with her very own Minnie Mouse ears.

Her other Grandpa had brought her an Elmo doll and the two Grandpas had a good time playing with it with Brianna.

Laurel got the cake table all set up. I didn't notice the left side of this picture until I was resizing it for this entry. Be sure to look at the left edge of the picture!

The little cake at the top, in between the two cupcake tiers is the "smash cake" for later in the party. Laurel did a fantastic job on the smash cake and the cupcakes.

Tom and Joe, who have barbequing on the beach down to a real science, put together a gourmet hot dog BBQ.

While we were eating our BBQ, the hospital called Alice Nan and suggested that they should come back. She and Walt dropped everything and left for the hospital (about 20 minutes later, Alice Nan called to say their mother was OK and the Sunday nurses just weren't aware of her "spells." But she and Walt spent the rest of the afternoon at the hospital).

Eventually it was time for the "smash cake" and Brianna had her first taste of cake. After some tentative approaches, she decided that it was best to just dive into it.

She actually ate a little bit of it, and left an impressive mess behind.

Then it was time to tackle the mountain of gifts, but Bri seemed to find her shoe more interesting.

I asked Daddy to help her open the gift from us...for obvious reasons.

The outfit is waaay too big for her, but Tom says that's ok because it will take several years before the 49ers have a team worth cheering for anyway.

When it was all over, Bri helped Joe clean up.

It was a lovely party, all things considered. The cakes were a hit, Walt's mother was Ok after all, and Bri seems to have enjoyed herself.

What more can you ask for a first birthday?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Aces of Cakes

It's Birthday Party Eve and the focus of the "eve" itself was on getting ready for Brianna's Birthday Party. It had been a fairly quiet early part of the day. Alice Nan and Joe went to work, Jocelyn & David were out picnicking, Walt went to the hospital to visit his mother (who was moved from ICU to a regular room today, having dodged another bullet, thank goodness).

I decided to stay here and work on transcribing an interview I'd done last week, but I wasn't feeling real good (perhaps all that lack of sleep this week!), so I took a couple of hours off to finish the audio book I'd been listening to in the car. GREAT idea. What a good book. You can read my mini review in "Books Read in 2009."

By the time I'd finished the book Walt was home from the hospital, Tom was home after shopping for every hot dog in Santa Barbara (a lot of guests are expected on the beach tomorrow), and Laurel & Bri would be home from a bridal shower soon, so we went over to the house for dinner, bathtime and an evening of making cakes for the party tomorrow.

I was pretty dubious about my ability to transfer a photo to frosting. I'm out of practice and I knew this one was very special. But I'm pleased with how it turned out. I'll show you the picture tomorrow, but here is me adding the final touches.

This is the "big" cake. Laurel also made about 3 dozen cupcakes which are just darling (I'll show you those tomorrow too!)

There is also the "smash cake" (the one Bri gets to eat by herself) yet to be decorated, and Laurel will do that one in the morning.

Somewhere in the middle of all that was bath time, and we got to watch Bri in the tub. It's always fun to watch a baby in the bathtub...and no, they don't always try to choke her!

Then there was "calm down" time on the couch. Bri and Walt got into a lively game of "throw the stuffed dog at Grandpa and watch him bounce it back to you."

Eventually Bri was wearing out, so Laurel took her off to her room to have a bottle and then go to sleep.

Tom and Walt went out and brought home take-away Chinese food, which was delicious and we all collapsed on the couch and ate while whispering, since Bri had gone to sleep all right and the longer she stayed asleep, the better it would be!

Tomorrow we will be on the beach. There are 50 adults and 15 children expected and Tom is doing a hot dog barbeque. I'm making clam dip, of course. It's not a party without clam dip! Laurel says that she's not sure if she's planning a child's birthday party or a wedding, since she has ordered a keg of beer!

I don't think there will be a pinata this year, though.

And be SURE to watch the folowing video! It's Ned's gift to Bri and it's just priceless! I have such talented children.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I realized today what a difference having certain landmarks along a long drive makes.

The day started v-e-r-y early. I was so afraid I'd oversleep, that I set the alarm for 5:30--and then was wide awake at 4:30. It left me enough time to run a load of dishes, do a load of wash, feed the dogs, take a shower, pack the car, and be on the road by 6:30. I didn't know how much rush hour traffic I would encounter on the way to my mother's and wanted to plan ahead.

As it turns out, I encountered NO rush hour traffic, so I got to her house by about 8:15. She was at the hairdresser and her doctor appointment wasn't until 10, so I managed to fit in a half hour nap.

We got to Kaiser early and had a bit of a wait, but we met with the anesthesiologist (a very nice man who set off my gaydar, even moreso after he talked about his ex-wife and about how his father "disagrees with some of the choices I've made in my life and feels that I'm going to go to hell."), then the nurse who was in charge of explaining how the procedure was going to go, and finally a woman who, I guess, was in charge of calculating the cost--but she typed about 10 words a minute, obviously didn't know how to work the computer and screwed up so many times I was tempted to volunteer to enter all the information FOR her!

We were finished and back home by noon, I had a quick sandwich, and was on the road for Santa Barbara by 1 p.m.

Fortunately, I had an audio book with me and it made the miles fly by, but what made them pass even faster was realizing how I didn't think of it as a 300 mile trip, but a trip from point A to point B, from point B to C, and so on.

The first landmark is San Jose. It's about a 2 hour drive on whichever highway we choose (we have 3 options from Davis to San Jose) and I never really feel that I'm "underway" until I've gone past San Jose.

By the time I'd passed San Jose, I was already feeling sleepy and stopped at a McDonald's to get one of their new mocha lattes and hoped it would wake me up. It did!

I always love driving through the stretch of highway before Mission San Juan Bautista, which is lined on both sides tall eucalyptus trees, which was used in the film Vertigo. I have never driven that stretch without thinking about James Stewart and Kim Novak!

As I passed through the area south of the Mission San Juan Bautista, my eyes actually hurt because the hills were so incredibly gorgeously green. I finally had to stop and take a picture. This photo doesn't begin to do it justice!

Next come signs for Watsonville (where my friend Phil grew up) and Castroville, the Artichoke Capitol of the World. Both are off the beaten track, so I only pass by their signs.

Then there is passing through Salinas. Every single time we pass through Salinas and see the highway sign for the John Steinbeck center, I think of how I've wanted to go there for twenty years, but we are always rushing to get somewhere else whenever we pass through Salinas. If it hadn't been so late, I might have actually done it today.

The water tower at Gonzales is my next landmark. This is across the highway from The Burger Queen.

Walt's mother used to work for the Department of Agriculture and traveled all over the state. She discovered the Burger Queen on her travels and usually stopped here for lunch or dinner.

It's a pretty "nothing" kind of place, but it's not a chain and the food is cooked to order and it's pretty good, for a burger joint. We frequently stop there for lunch or dinner, if the timing is right, but I had already had lunch and it was too early for dinner, so I mushed on.

The Burger Queen

I never really feel that I've passed the point of no return until I pass through King City. I hate King City. Not for any rational reason but just because it is about the halfway point so it seems to take forever to get there whether you are traveling north or south.

Once I've gone through King City, the next landmark to look forward to is San Luis Obispo, where Tom used to live while he was attending Cal Poly. I love it when I hit SLO at dinnertime, as I did tonight. If I'm driving alone, as I was today, I always stop for a meal at The Apple Farm.

It's filled with all sorts of kitschy things, does its own baking, and the food is very good. I love stopping to eat there. Tonight I had a chopped chicken salad that was so huge I brought half of it with me and Walt had it for dinner here. It comes with the Apple Farm homemade cornbread.

Once I leave SLO, I know it's only a couple of hours to Santa Barbara. The next landmark is Pea Soup Andersons and the road to Solvang and from there it's a hop skip and a jump to here.

I listened to all but 2 hours of my book, so I've almost finished it. It and the mocha latte were a real godsend to keeping me awake all the way down here. Tomorrow Laurel and I are finishing the cakes for the birthday party on Sunday.

When we get home, we will have seven dogs: our two, the four puppies, and Tot, who is coming back for awhile (Tater has been adopted).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hey, Mr. Postman

"The post office will run out of money this year unless it gets help, Postmaster General John Potter told Congress on Wednesday as he sought permission to cut delivery to five days a week.

"We are facing losses of historic proportion. Our situation is critical," Potter told a House panel.

The agency lost $2.8 billion last year and is looking at much larger losses this year. Reducing mail delivery from six days to five days a week could save $3.5 billion annually, Potter said.

I'm always interested in post office stories because the post office has been central to my life, since my father worked for the post office for some 30 or so years. He worked the mail on the train in a car like this:

railwaymail.jpg (69974 bytes)

When they took the mail off of the trains and on to big trucks, my father moved into the main post office to work, and had a nervous breakdown because he couldn't handle the change. I'm not sure how long he worked there, but he retired as soon as he could.

I've always been a mail junkie. As a kid I had penpals in England and lived for letters from my new friends. I also wrote to Peach frequently and I'm sure other people as well because I lived for the mail delivery each day. We were the third house on the route. You could sit in the bay window of our flat and watch the mailman get off the bus at the top of the hill and then make his way down the hill to our house.

Christmas was great. We frequently had two mail deliveries a day and as it got closer to Christmas and the volume of mail increased we might have three mail deliveries for a day or two. (In contrast, Christmas was the worst time of the year for my father, who detested the whole month of December because he had to work harder and was exhausted most of the month.)

postman2.gif (4632 bytes)As I grew up, the mail delivery was still a very important part of my day. I "adopted" a girl from Korea and heard from Foster Parents Plan about her each month. I continued to write to friends who lived at a distance and though I was the bane of everyone's existence because I responded by return mail (and nobody else did), I was quick to tell people that I didn't expect them to be as compulsive about mail as I was, I just appreciated their writing to me at all.

When we had foreign students here, I stayed in touch with most of them for years (now there are only a handful that I still have information about ). There was a time when our long-term mailman got a letter addressed to "Mrs. Beverly, Davis, CA" and knew where to deliver it. He told me we got more international mail than anybody in town.

During my Lamplighter years, my friend Phil Dethlefsen was in and out of the hospital for awhile and suffering from mental problems for a long time after that. I got into the habit of writing to him once or twice a day, and eventually I started sending letters in blue envelopes, so that I would buy them by the case. When he went on vacation, he would give me the address of his hotel so I could continue to write to him. As the price of postage began to rise, I always questioned whether it was worth it.

I always made my big contribution to the post office at Christmas time. It was not unusual for us to send out 200 Christmas cards, and as the price of stamps rose, it became a not-insignificant cost each year, especially when you added the cost of cards and the cost of printing the annual Christmas letter. Yet, to start cutting and slashing my Christmas card list seemed cruel. I really enjoyed communicating with so many people each year. I just gritted my teeth and bought the stamps.

Enter the internet! And most of my closest friends having e-mail accounts. There was little need to write actual letters any more when you could get a message there faster and for little to no cost. Obviously a host of others started doing the same thing. The post office reacted by raising the cost of postage stamps, which just solidified our resolve to use the free mail at our fingertips.

I must admit that I still feel a bit tacky sending out electronic Christmas greetings, and I do mail a few to people I know won't read a Christmas letter on line, but the printed version is plain vanilla. Black print on white paper. Period. The on-line version can be multi-colored, have lots of big pretty pictures, can be designed to have a Christmassy look to it. It takes a LOT more love and effort to design an on-line Christmas letter so I'm gradually getting over my sense of the "tacky." Sending 200 Christmas cards at 42 cents apiece just seemed silly. So I no longer make my annual big donation to the post office.

Oh, I still use the post office. I mail things to Peggy that she has purchased here in the US but which vendors won't send to Australia. I send packages to others now and then, but whereas I used to be a regular at the post office, now I'm there maybe 4 or 5 times a year. And my "postage budget" has been reduced significantly.

Part of me wants to feel sorry for the postal service that it is losing money, but I don't see it ever disappearing entirely. How else will e-Bay customers get their stuff? How will Amazon survive? I think the post office needs to re-invent itself in order to maximize potential revenue.

But as for me? They've priced themselves out of MY price range, when I have a faster, better alternative.

As for cutting from delivery 6 days a week to 5 days a week, I can't see why that's such a big deal, in my life at least. I can certainly go another day without a mountain of catalogs for stuff I don't intend to buy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Behind the Wheel

I thought about my father today. One of the things we used to do as a family was to "go for a drive." I don't remember where we were going all the time. My parents liked to drive around and look at houses. My mother always wanted to buy a house; my father did not. But they could always look, she could always dream, and we would spend a Sunday afternoon driving around. Or we would be driving out into the country, perhaps on the way to see my grandmother. I don't remember the destination, but I always remember the drives.

Invariably in those days before highways, we would find ourselves driving behind someone who my father would angrily categorize as a "Sunday driver," meaning someone who was driving more slowly than he wanted to drive. Sunday drivers made him angry and he would speed up and pass them at the very first opportunity, often continuing to lecture about the stupid Sunday drivers.

I realize that I've become a Sunday driver most days of the week. Unless I'm facing a deadline, I am more interested in enjoying the journey rather than rushing to get to the destination.

I took my mother to Kaiser today to get her pre-op blood work and EKG done. Kaiser is one freeway stop from where she lives and I actually enjoy taking the frontage road. The speed limit is 40 mph but I like going slower and it's fun to look at the shops along the way. I know my mother usually rolls her eyes. She can't understand why I don't just take the freeway.

There are two choices to get from I-80, the freeway that takes me from here to my mother's. One is to continue on the new freeway bypass that goes by Marine World. On weekends it's often clogged with cars filled with happy people ready to climb into machines that will send them hurtling off into spirals and corkscrews.

MarineWorld.jpg (87433 bytes)

The other choice is to get off at American Canyon, a lovely 2-lane road that winds down between two hills, past horse farms and into the road through the town of Vallejo (which connects up with the busier freeway before it actually gets into the town. I always opt for American Canyon. It's slower, but especially at this time of year, the hills are a deep green, the poppies are blooming, there may be young colts romping in the fields and you don't see any of that on the big freeway.

We spend so much of our lives in the car and, I don't know, maybe it's because David died while doing something stupid (driving drunk), but I have become much more aware of my driving habits over the past few years, and I am a much more conscientious driver...a "Sunday driver," if you will.

I heard a report once about how many accidents are caused by people busy doing other things while driving, things that take their eyes off the road briefly which may be the last brief moment of their lives.

Jeri routinely makes cell phone calls while she's driving to and from gigs in Boston, but she's a conscientious user, who has a hands free cell phone and who actually says "I have to stop for a minute and pay attention to this traffic" when things get heavy. It comforts me to know that she seems to be a responsible cell phone user.

In contrast, I have a friend who spends a lot of time in the car and, like Jeri, uses her phone a lot to fill the empty miles while she's driving. Before the recent law went into effect, which means big fines if you're caught using your cell phone while driving, she just used her cell phone while driving. But now that there is a fine involved, she still uses her phone, but holds it in her lap and actually sends and reads text messages while driving. Scares the heck out of me to be sitting next to her, me looking at the cars ahead of us, and her looking down trying to read a text message.

There is something very compelling about having a phone ring while you're in the car. Somehow you just have to answer immediately. My way of dealing with it (since I don't have hands free equipment) is to let the phone ring and then pull off at the next offramp and check the number of the call I missed. It may mean that the conversation has to take place 3 minutes later than the original call, but I comfort myself by thinking that I have a better chance of not causing an accident while I'm trying to manipulate the cell phone and drive at the same time.

We are a nation of instant gratification. We don't want to wait a single minute. We don't want to take time to smell (or look) at the roses...we want to race through the highways so we get to our destination a few minutes sooner, even if there is no reason to arrive at the destination sooner. We want to answer every cell phone call or text message instantly, not wait for the next offramp, no matter how many lives we may be putting in jeopardy.

It just seems to me that life would be so much better, and we would have so many fewer accidents, if we slowed down a bit and enjoyed the view...without having to call your BFF to describe it to her at the same time!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Harry and Grandma

Before you do anything else, you must check out the video of the Dog in the Blue Sweater. It's hilarious.

SleepwHarry.jpg (56873 bytes)

It feels like this is all I've done today. I don't know why Walt ever asks me which puppy is in my lap because it's always Harry. Harry will leave a perfectly comfortable warm pile of puppies and come looking for me. I'll be in here in my office and suddenly there is this soft little whine from this tiny little puppy sitting at my feet just looking at me with his head cocked.

"Whine" he will say

I'll try to ignore him, but it will go on longer. I finally pick him up and try to type while holding him, but he's uncomfortable.

"Whine, whine" he will say again.

And naturally, I'm a wimp, so I get up from my desk, go to the family room, get into my chair and let Harry culr up like this on my chest until he falls asleep, which may take a long time (especially if I get engrossed in something on TV!). Eventually I'll move him back to the comfy warm pile of puppies and he'll sleep a bit longer.

He's become this growth, always attached to part of my body.

When I'm sitting in the recliner, with the leg rest elevated, this little head will pop over the top.

"Whine" he will say.

We have now worked it out so that I can lower the footrest a bit, he tries to climb it and I catch him with my feet and then he crawls up into my lap. Tonight I likened it to a newborn kangaroo who has to climb up the distance from the mother's vagina to her pouch before s/he can settle down and rest until it's time to be "re-born" and allowed out of the pouch.

And then there is Diana, whom I started feeding separately from the rest of them because it just seemed that she wasn't doing as well and I thought she wasn't eating enough. So she gets her own bowl in the kitchen, with different (smaller) kibble mixed with human baby food (beef, chicken or lamb) mixed in with it. She seems to have caught up with the others, but when she's hungry, I find her standing in the kitchen, where her food bowl is at supper time, just waiting for me.

The other two are just ... cute. They are affectionate, but not demanding, and they pretty much amuse themselves. The nicest thing is that they are getting fur, finally. It's just little fuzz on their backs, but it has color and you can stroke them and they don't feel like rubbing a raw chicken any more, if you stroke the right part of their body.

puppypile.jpg (65632 bytes)

No matter how comfortable their bed is, they always
prefer to make a bed on my chair.

Walt had a call from his sister today and sadly, their mother is back in the hospital, unable to breathe again. She had a difficult time breathing when we were down there for Brianna's birthday but had stabilized when we left and we knew it was from the exertion of getting in and out of her wheelchair. It's so difficult to watch her struggle for each breath. I can't even imagine what it must be to be her struggling for each breath.

So our plans are scrambled up again. Walt is probably going to go to Santa Barbara before I do, so he can be with his mother (and possibly drive down with his brother). I'll still go down there on Friday after taking my mother for her pre-op appointments for her surgery next week.

It's starting to look like we may have bookend mothers at hospitals at opposite ends of the state.

Has anybody invented that Star Trek transporter yet?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


A friend mentioned that her grandchildren will be turning 16 this year and will be getting cars soon. She didn't say that their parents would be buying them cars, but I assume that is what is going to happen. That seems to be what happens to a lot of kids, getting cars from their parents when they become of driving age.

I admit that I always feel a little envious about kids having their own cars. I never had a car of my own. It's not that I ever went without access to a car. I drove my parents' car when I was living at home. I don't remember my peers having cars that their parents bought for them either. We just didn't do that in those days, I guess.

I didn't need a car when I was in Berkeley, and since we've been married, Walt and I have shared cars. For many years we had two cars, a big one for taking the kids everywhere and a little one for when it was just the two of us going and we didn't need a gas guzzler, but there was never a car I could call "mine."

I did, for six weeks, have Walt's 1953 Rambler (which he bought for himself) when he was in boot camp for the Air Force reserves, before we were married.

Rambler.jpg (50541 bytes)
(We drove it leaving our wedding reception, but
did not drive it all the way to Canada for our honeymoon!)

That car hated me. It purred whenever Walt got behind the wheel, and it fell apart whenever I got behind the wheel. The most drunk I ever was was after a particularly bad episode with the car. I had taken it to a brake shop to get something minor done. They recognized a rube when they saw one and managed to talk me into a very expensive, very unnecessary repair, which took all of my savings. Walt called from Texas to yell at me. "What are you doing to my car?" was the first thing he said to me.

After that conversation, I was so upset that I got very drunk. I was ushering for a Kingston Trio concert on campus that night and have no recollection of how I got there or how I got home. All I remember is trying to stand upright in the auditorium and being so dizzy I think I just left. But though I drove the car for six weeks, it was always Walt's car, never mine.

We never gave our kids cars either. When you're a kid growing up, you have this vision of all the wonderful things you're going to do as a parent, and when you become a parent and the financial reality hits, you realize that you can't do all those things after all. So when our kids got cars, of necessity they were vehicles they bought themselves. Before that they drove the family van, "The Jolly Green Giant" and Walt warned them that they should be sure to do everything right because we had the only van like it in town and everybody recognized our van, so if they were doing something they shouldn't be doing, we would eventually hear about it! (One of the perks of living in a small-ish town, which Davis was in those days.)

Jeri has always been a bike person, even now that she lives in Boston, but she eventually bought herself a truck when she decided to move back east to go to school. It's a 1989 Toyota pickup she bought in 1997 ("before trucks had names"). She has driven it back and forth across the country a couple of times and still drives now.

Truck.jpg (59622 bytes)

Ned and his friend Greg bought a car together after Ned graduated from high school. We told Ned to be sure that there was insurance on the car before he got behind the wheel. He assured me there was. But there wasn't. The insurance had recently lapsed and so when the brakes failed and Ned caused a 3-car collision (thank goodness there were no injuries!), we insisted that he had to pay the bill himself.

Paul didn't buy his own car, but he inherited my father's orange Pinto station wagon when he died. I don't remember if that was because he was the only kid without a car when my father died or whether my father had specifically left it to him, but somehow that car became Paul's and was as much of a laughing stock as Walt's Rambler was when he was Paul's age. What 18 year old kid has a Pinto station wagon, of all things? Like our "Jolly Green Giant," it was quite recognizable in this town!

Tom's first car was a truck he rebuilt himself. I wrote recently about Tom and his truck and how I would come home each day and find Tom with the truck in the carport, parts all around him, and a "how to" book open nearby, looking like I would look if I were in the kitchen testing out a new recipe. I wrote about how proud I was of him when he got it all put together and turned the key on and the damn thing worked. He has since told me how badly the truck ran, but I'm still proud thinking about his ability to take apart a motor and put it back together, with only a few pieces left over, and have the thing actually work. I couldn't do that if my life depended on it!

Dave bought a car from a friend and ran it into a ditch within the first month that he had it. Then he got the bright idea that he might be able to find a car like it to use for spare parts so he could fix it. Not only did he find a car like it, he found a car exactly like it. Same model, same year, even the same color. He had both cars parked in the driveway while he worked to use the non-working car to fix the banged up car. Again, something I wouldn't dream of doing. (David later inherited a very old Toyota that my mother and her husband had bought for a Dutch relative who was staying with them for 6 months. They called it "The Tomato Can" and we moved it here after he died. Adding insult to injury, the car was broken into and the new stereo system ripped out of it two days after his funeral.)

I wonder if we do a disservice to kids by buying them a car. I wonder if they appreciate it more if they have to work to be able to afford the car and they learn about insurance by having to pay the consequences when they get into trouble without it. At least that was the way we felt about it.

But I'll admit that if someone had given ME a shiny new car (or even a shiny USED car) when I turned 16, I certainly would have been excited about it!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Empty Music Stand

It was July of 1986 and in the orchestra pit of Presentation Theatre, the conductor's music stand stood empty, with a baton on it, while the orchestra played the overture to HMS Pinafore, without a conductor, a traditional way to honor a conductor who has died, the orchestra playing a piece that it knows well enough to play without a leader.

It was the memorial service for my friend Gilbert Russak, the music director for the Lamplighters and conductor for the orchestra. The orchestra would continue to play throughout the memorial service, but with a conductor, Alan Harvey, a long time member of the Lamplighters and music teacher at Piedmont High School, who stepped in to conduct the rest of the run of Yeomen of the Guard and, later, to become Managing Director of the company itself.

AHmusic.jpg (36433 bytes)It wasn't Gilbert's conductor's stand that stood empty at the Alan L. Harvey Theatre on the grounds of Piedmont High School today, it was Alan's.

Throughout the memorial service for our friend, who died in January, a spotlight shone down on the conductor's stand, another good person who has left us far too soon.

It was a moving tribute, filled with more music and laughter than tears, but which gathered together people from all parts of Alan's life. Students he had taught at Piedmont High during his 19 years there, parents of students he had taught, people from The Lamplighters, where he worked full time for three years before taking a position as Executive Director of the Festival of the Arts, the Performing Arts Alliance, and a professor of music and drama at Foothilll College, later Dean of the Fine Arts and Communications Division until his retirement two years ago. Foothill College had held its own memorial service for him earlier this year.

After his retirment, he moved to Carson City, Nevada where he performed with the Carson Valley Pops, the Washoe Valley Woodwind Quintet, the Toccata Choir and played viola and flute wit the Carson Valley Symphony. But he missed teaching and so in the fall of 2008, he came out of retirement to become instrumental and vocal music teacher at Incline High School. There was also a memorial service in Carson City earlier this year.

If there was ever a doubt about the effect that one man can have on the human race, all one had to do was to listen to the people who spoke at the memorial, talking about how "Harv" (as the Piedmont people knew him) had changed their lives.

This was a "gentleman" in every sense of the word, yet he left a profound legacy, and countless people whose lives were touched and in some way changed, or at least shaped, by their encounter with him.

There was, of course, lots of music including the ubiquitous "Three Little Maids" from The Mikado

AH3maids.jpg (53400 bytes)

performed by former students (Piedmont High did lots of Gilbert & Sullivan in the Alan Harvey years!), as well as a piece from The Gondoliers sung by Lamplighters

AHLLs.jpg (45726 bytes)
Baker Peoples, Jane Hammett, Bill Neil, Katy Daniel, Rick Williams

The MC for the event was Austin Tichenor. I never knew Austin well, but his brother John was in the Lamplighters Something's Afoot (about which I wrote in 2003), a show which had a profound impact on everyone who was involved, so the high point of the afternoon, for me, was seeing John and getting caught up again, if briefly. (John and brother Austin are featured on the Video of the Day in a number from 1776).

Austin also did a number from Iolanthe with the Lamplighters' Jim McIlvaine (one of the organizers of the Memorial) and Davis Stein.

AHJim.jpg (46927 bytes)

The ceremonies ended with a rousing rendition of the Halleluja Chorus. We all had sheet music to join along, but it had been literally decades since I'd read sheet music and I'm an alto, so sight reading it was pretty much impossible for me, so I just listened while the rest of the gathered audience filled the theatre with glorious Handel music. Alan would have loved it.

I hate going to memorial services. It seems we attend too many of them and even when they are real celebrations, as this one was, it's still a reminder that we have lost someone else very special.

But if you can look back on the difference the honoree made in so many people's lives, as Alan did, it makes you feel good for having been able to say "this was my friend and I'm so glad to have had him as part of my life."

When words fail, we speak through music.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I used to be able to handle frazzledom much more easily when I was younger. In fact, I thrived on it. Juggling 10 things at once was one of the things I did best. Of course I probably wasn't the most pleasant person to be around at that time, but I don't remember it throwing me for a loop the way this week is.

(Once again, I am SO grateful that my mother doesn't know how to use the internet and relies on me for getting links to journal entries...she will not get this link!)

On the surface it doesn't look all that bad, but I feel like there is a flock of butterflies flitting around in my head at the moment, trying to keep it all straight. I don't know how I could manage without a calendar.

The week started out looking just fine. Walt is going to his sister's Sacramento condo on Tuesday to let guys in with a new refrigerator for her new tenant, who is moving in, and he has tickets to the symphony on Wednesday. This worked out just fine because I'm working on a feature article and will be spending those days at home writing and won't need the car.

I had a show to review on Saturday, but Bri's birthday is Sunday so I did a work-around for that and we figured we'd drive to Santa Barbara on Thursday, I could go shopping for cake supplies with Laurel on Friday, and would be there to work on cake fixings on Saturday. Piece o' (literally) cake.

But then Peach called. She is at my mother's this weekend and apparently my mother got all of her instructions for her surgery next week. She's having to have 2 screws in her ankle removed because it is preventing the skin from healing over the incision. From all the information my mother had given to me, it sounded like a simple in-and-out surgery and I rearranged things to be there with her for the surgery.

But first, Peach had information about a certain type of screw that had been banned in the U.K. because it caused exactly the kind of problems my mother is having and she was wondering if my mother should sue the hospital (I discouraged that since (a) her discomfort has been minor and it has not caused any life-altering problems and (b) a lawsuit is entirely too complicated (and expensive) to contemplate, especially since this is not costing her anything out of pocket anyway.)

But it turns out she has blood work and an EKG on Wednesday. Based on my last trip to the doctor with her, we both realized that she has passed the point where she can go unaccompanied. She just can't remember things and can't find her way around the hospital, so I said I would definitely go with her to that.

BUT, Walt has tickets to the symphony. He can take the train to San Francisco, but there is no train back after the symphony, so I will have to hang around my mother's until 10 or so when I can drive to SF and pick him up. And I have a feature article to turn in the next morning, so I'll have to take my computer with me and work on it while I'm at my mother's (no marathon Canasta sessions, or puzzles to work).

Then her pre-op appointments are on Friday morning and there is no way I can be in Santa Barbara and San Rafael (400 miles apart) at the same time, so I had to let Laurel know that I would not be able to go with her to the store. Walt and I will drive to San Rafael, I'll do the pre-op appointments so I can figure out what's going on (the way Peach reads it, it's much more complicated than my mother has expected it was going to be), and then we will leave from there to go to Santa Barbara, getting there late Friday night, but there in time to do the cake on Saturday (fortunately, the party is Sunday).

If my mother read this, she's be upset because she would feel she was putting me out, but really, I do this because I love her and want to make sure that everything goes right. It's a minor inconvenience and I would not rest if I went off to Santa Barbara leaving her in the hands of someone else, or, worse, by herself, even though she will pish and tush and say she's perfectly capable of doing it alone. She may be, but I just don't want to take any chances. It's too important.

I'm also waiting for calls from two people about the feature article. I only have e-mail addresses for them (they are in high school) and have written twice, but have had no response.

And tomorrow we are going to a memorial service for our friend Alan Harvey, who died a few months ago. I volunteered to bring cookies and didn't make them today because I was doing puppy baths and medication and cuddling. I figured I'd make them tonight. I got the dough started and realized that I have no eggs, so I have to go to the store before I can finish them.

In the middle of it all, I'm trying to put the laundry room back together again. Walt was so terrific and got it all cleaned out, and clean for the water heater guy, but now everything he took out has to be put back in again and I'm trying to go through things piece by piece and get rid of a lot of stuff I will never use again and wash all the things that are going back on the shelves again. Perfect timing, since the SPCA thrift shop is in need of more stuff.

Maybe it's the disorganization of the laundry room that is making me feel so frazzled. I used to be able to juggle Scouts, 4-H, diving team, children's theatre, La Leche League, PTA stuff, and work all at once without going nuts. At least that's the way I remember it. (Perhaps it's like childbirth--we only remember the positive parts), but this all has me just feeling at 6s and 7s. Kind of like this.

terrified_cat.jpg (89101 bytes)

I know it's all going to work out all right but I hate it when I can't see it all clearly and know how it's going to work. I just hope that the following week, with the arrangements I'm making for how to be with my mother for her surgery and afterwards...and still get the shows reviewed that I have to review...will be a little less stressful.

(Walt says he never should have retired. It was so easy when he was at the office all day long and came home and was too tired to do anything!)

The one thing that is making this all somewhat easier to deal with is knowing that Ashley is around so at least I don't have to worry about Sheila, Lizzie or the puppies.

In the meantime, I have to go to the store to get an egg.

OOooo. No I don't! Walt was out at the store and came home with eggs. Bless him! The evening is looking up!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Taking Too Much for Granted

This is probably how I'm going to start my next feature article -- or something like it. I'll try it out on you first!

I left the house today in my air-conditioned car, drove to the mall and grumbled because I had to park half a parking lot away from Peets Coffee. I waked to Peets, grumbling because the parking lot needs resurfacing and the ground is bumpy and uneven and, in spots, uncomfortable to walk on.

I went into Peets and ordered an iced cafe mocha and took it outside to a table, where I was waiting for my contact, film maker Jared Martin. I was early, so I took my new iPod Touch out of my purse and tried to send a Facebook update, grumbling because I needed an access code and had forgotten to get it while inside the cafe. But that was OK because I had the James Patterson book on the Kindle app, so I sat and read my book until Jared arrived.

It didn't take long into the interview before I was feeling very guilty.

Jared has made a short film called The Lost Boys of the Sudan, which he is entering in the 6th annual Davis Film Festival next month. This is a film he started 5 years ago, when he was 14 and visiting his aunt on a summer holiday.

The aunt knew that he liked to play around with making movies and suggested that he might like to interview five of the young men from the Sudan who were being sponsored by her church group. The eleven-hour interview he did with them was edited down to 45 minutes and last year edited again into a 7 minute documentary.

From "Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan" :

Imagine you’re a young boy—maybe as young as three or four—separated from your family by civil war, traversing deserts and mountains with little food or water, no medical care, and no protection from wild animals.

Imagine watching hundreds of boys perish around you from hunger, disease, injury, and exhaustion. To most of us, it is unimaginable, but this was reality for “The Lost Boys of Sudan,” thousands of young boys who were separated from their families and forced to travel for more than two years and 1,000 miles to find refuge from war and certain death.

In 2001, approximately 3,800 Lost Boys were granted refugee status in the United States, and through a program with the United Nations and Lutheran Social Services, 85 of the boys came to Jacksonville in the summer of that year (We now have 135) .These young men needed instruction in the most basic requirements of daily life, such as how to flush a toilet, use running water, sleep on a bed with a blanket and pillow, and use electrical appliances such as lamps and stoves. Although it has been difficult, the boys have worked diligently to assimilate into American culture. Education, which is granted only to the wealthy in their native Sudan, has become a beacon of hope for these young men, many of whom work two jobs so they can pay tuition expenses.

Because the boys have been malnourished for most of their lives and have also been subjected to a variety of life-threatening illnesses and disease, most still suffer from health and dental problems. For this reason, Joan Hecht founded the Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan Foundation in 2004, to assist with the medical and educational needs of the Lost Boys living both in the U.S. and Africa.

Jared added that the boys were between the ages of 3 and 15 when they began their 14 year search for a safe place to live. Many died from starvation or disease or were killed by animals or soldiers. To add insult to injury, when they finally arrived in the United States, many were adopted by church or community groups around the United States, but the government took responsibility for several of the groups, essentially dumping them after 6 months, leaving them to fend for themselves. Imagine arriving in this country not even knowing how to sleep in a bed with a blanket and in six months be expected to have learned the language, learned how to function in a world with indoor plumbing AND have to find a job in order to pay for food and lodging.

Jared's film has already won acclaim at several film festivals and he hopes it will do well in the Davis Film Festival.

I asked him what he hoped to accomplish by his film, since the "boys" in question are now in their middle to late 20s and the program is not in need of funding. He said that he just wants people to be aware of what these kids went through to get here and to be a little more understanding of the difficulties they are having adjusting to life here. Those who have jobs are trying to earn enough not only to pay for their upkeep here, but to send money home to family in Sudan, to relatives who have the sense that their children are living in luxury (in comparison, I suppose they are).

When we finished our interview, Jared invited me to come to the screening, which I hope to do.

Then I got back into my air conditioned car, drove to the big supermarket to buy expensive baby food for one of my puppies, and then came home to my computer and my television to write about the plight of some very brave boys who have known more suffering and challenge than I would bet any one of us reading this entry could even imagine.

I hope not to take things so much for granted any more....but, being human, I probably will. And that's sad.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's a "Mom Thing"

After seeing pictures of the puppies, someone wrote to suggest that I color code them so I can tell them apart, but actually after the first hour, I had no problem at all.

Two of the puppies have white noses. These are Harry and Princess (one boy, one girl). That means that the other two without the white noses are William and Diana, also a boy and a girl, so it's very easy to figure out who is who.

PupIDs.jpg (36503 bytes)

But over and above the obvious genitalia identification (white face with penis? Must be Harry. No white face, no penis? Must be Diana), their behavior and Princess's markings are a big help.

Princess is the only one with a white spot on her back and a white tip on her tail. She has almost no fur at all, but the white spot is very distinctive.

And Harry? Well, Harry is a determined lap dog. I'll be sitting in my office and I'll hear a puppy whining over and over again. I don't even have to get up to know that it's Harry and that he's sitting staring at my chair. He wants me to sit down and hold him. If I get tired of holding him, he'll be happy to stay in the chair, but none of that running around on the floor for him.

Diana is the shy one. She was the last to join the group, only surrendered about a week after the others were surrendered, so she was separated from her siblings for long enough to be kind of the "outsider." When you open the door to the dog cage, three wiggling bodies tumble over each other trying to get outside (fortunately, most of heir elimination products make it outside). But Diana stays in the cage, looking kind of dazed. She eventually comes out but she seems to have a problem with her hind legs and she favors the back left especially. She has a lesion there which may be hurting her, so I've started putting Neosporin on it and hope it helps.

As for William? Well, he's the largest and the least needy, so William just pretty much goes his own way while I'm catering to the others.

But, as you can see, if you're with these guys for any length of time, it's very easy to know instantly which is which. Or maybe it's just a Mom thing.

They are on a pretty good schedule. They go into the cage around 9-10 p.m. at night. I cover the cage and they usually bark around 11-12, when I take them outside and they do their business, then they go right back in the cage and I don't hear from them until morning (7, if I'm lucky). During the day they play outside of the cage, and sleep in the cage (their choice) but are no problem at all to care for.

waterheater.jpg (24047 bytes)Their willingness to go so uncomplainingly into the cage was a great boon today when our new water heater was finally installed.

The arrival time was anywhere from 2 to 4, and of course the guy didn't show up until 4. I locked the puppies in their cage and locked myself away in this office with Lizzie and Sheila so they didn't spend the entire installation time trying to get into the house.

It worked perfectly, and within an hour or so, we had the water heater hooked up and heating water. Within another hour, we had hot water again. Yippee! You never know how much you want something until it's not there, of course.

All of the dogs were very happy to have it done. Lizzie and Sheila immediately ran in the house and the puppies immediately ran out of the house.

Walt and I just sat there watching the passing parade.

Today is my 9th Journalversary...I am starting my 10th year of writing this journal!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Magic Puppies

I've never had it happen before.

I locked four puppies in the cage last night at the end of the night. This morning when I got up, there were only three. I swear I locked four in there and I swear there were only three when I uncovered the cage. I also swear that the doors to the cage were not only closed, but locked.

One of the puppies is a magician.

I was in a total panic. I picked up all the bedding and shook it, hoping a sleepy puppy would fall out. I started looking everywhere for the missing puppy. I went to check the bedding again and to take it out to the washing machine. I sent a frantic message to Ashley. "One of the puppies is missing--and I don't know how!"

When I got back into the family room, there were four puppies playing happily.

WTF???? Where had that puppy been? For that matter, which was the puppy that had been "missing"

PupsCage.jpg (51025 bytes)
(That's, left to right: Princess, Harry, William and Diana)

I haven't lost any more puppies today, though I have found myself counting an awful lot. They love playing outside and it seems that I can always find three of them...and always a different grouping of three. Then sooner or later the fourth comes sauntering in.

Diana seems to be the shy one of the group. She was the last to join her siblings. I guess the owner decided to keep her and then decided to give her up to the SPCA. But in the time she was gone, she seems to have lost the bond she had. They all sleep together in a heap, but when they wake up and I let them out, she always stays back by herself, unless I encourage her to come out. Once she gets out, they play well together, but she does seem to be the outsider of the group.

They all, however, love chewing on my shoes (they would rather chew on my socks, but those sharp little teeth dig into my toes!)

RoyalShoe.jpg (36575 bytes)

After we got home last night, Walt discovered that we had no hot water. When he checked the water heater, he announced that it was time to buy a new one.

(I'll tell you, they don't make appliances like they used to. This one wears out after only 36 years!)

Walt went off to Home Depot and bought a new water heater, which will be installed this afternoon. We thought about one of those "instant on" heaters that don't have to store water, but it would involve doing significant reworking of our gas pipes, so we went with the old water filled kind.

The laundry room needed to be straightened up and he spent the afternoon doing that, since there is only room for one person in there at a time.

Since we have no hot water, I went out to Panda Express to get dinner for us...individual serving bowls that didn't need to be washed!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Royal Welcome

18 March 2009

We arrived home from Santa Barbara around 7 p.m. tonight and received a royal welcome. That would be a welcome from Princess, William, Harry, and Diana, our new puppies (I didn't name them).

Royals1.jpg (43328 bytes)

That's Harry in front with Princess behind him and I'm not sure about the other two. I haven't had a chance to get to recognize them yet. But you can see that these 7 week old puppies have a severe skin problem! They are bald! It's a condition called Demodex and as I said in an earlier entry, Gizmo had it when she arrived.

GizmoOld.jpg (11930 bytes)

But Gizmo's wasn't as severe as these guys seem to be. I mean they have NO hair on their bodies! Look at Harry's head:

Harry.jpg (34218 bytes)
("Hey, Fella, you're bald as a billiard ball. Bald...bald....bald..." - from Free to Be You and Me)

But I have medication and shampoos, and love to give them...and in time they will start looking more like real dogs again.

We had a nice day, all things considered. I was a little concerned when I got up, thinking I had nothing green to wear for St. Patrick's Day, but then remembered that one of my t-shirts has a green dinosaur on it, so nobody could pinch me after all. Walt says his shirt was a very faded dark green, but you can't fool me--it's really grey.

AliceGreen.jpg (36140 bytes)We stopped first at Maravilla, on our way out, to say goodby to Walt's mother. We found her still in the dining room, wearing her green sweater that she bought in Ireland many years ago.

We sat and talked with her for about half an hour and then told her we'd see her again in about 10 days when we return for Bri's first birthday. (I'm thrilled -- I get to make the birthday cake!)

On the drive home (when I wasn't driving), I alternated between reading my "real" book and reading the James Patterson book I downloaded to my iTouch Kiva application. I have to say that the Kiva ain't bad. I really got to liking it. But it depended on whether I wanted to read about grumpy Yorkshire men or psychopathic killers which I chose at any particular moment.

BQ.jpg (44451 bytes)We stopped for our usual hamburger at the Burger Queen (no...not the Burger King!) in Gonzales.

I'll tell ya, Carls Junior has nothing on the Burger Queen (not a chain, and they make your food fresh when you order it) as far as burgers that fall apart when you eat them because they are so full of stuff.

And my onion rings were great.

We managed to miss 99% of rush hour traffic, fortunately and enjoyed listening first to a tape that Jeri and Phil had made for Walt's mother for Christmas -- they send her such great stuff. She can't do much other than listen to tapes, so they just record conversations while they're driving around Boston. (We'll return the tape to her when we go back to Santa Barbara.) And then we switched to Walt's new "Oldies But Goodies" CD set and reminisced to songs like "Rock Around the Clock," "Blueberry Hill," and all the songs that we grew up with.

We were (almost) home in time for Jeopardy and now we're getting caught up on mail, newspapers and the bazillion programs that were recorded on the DVR while we were away!

It really was a wonderful weekend and it's nice to know that we'll be back again so soon to help Bri celebrate her first birthday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

For once it was NOT me with my foot in my mouth.

What a terrific day we had! It started quietly. Alice Nan's stepdaughter Jocelyn left at 6:15 to take an exam, Joe snuck out shortly after to work, then Alice left for work, then Norm packed up his car and headed home to Petaluma. That left Walt and me to sit here with dueling computers.

Walt had brought his new laptop...and I covet the built in web cam! Now if only he'd get on Skype...

Eventually we got ourselves together and drove over to Maravilla for a visit with his mother, who is very tired after her long day at the christening yesterday, but actually pretty perky, compared to other times we've been here. We sat with her for about an hour, sometimes watching her sleep, while I tested out my new Kindle.

Yes, I have a Kindle. Sort of. It's a faux Kindle. I found there was a free Kindle app for the iTouch, so I installed it, downloaded a book and discovered, to my chagrin, that I enjoy having it to read, even on that tiny screen. It's the best of all possible worlds (and definitely cheaper!!!)

At the appointed hour, I called Laurel's mom, who is the Monday babysitter, and asked about coming over for a bit. She reported that Bri had just gotten up from a 2 hr nap and had finished her lunch and was in a fairly good mood.

What a great afternoon we had! For one thing, we've never actually had time to just sit and visit with Gerry (Laurel's mother) and I thoroughly enjoyed talking, grandma to grandma. And then the three of us had such fun watching Bri toddling around the house.

She was fine as long as we didn't try to hold her, which was definitely OK because we just enjoyed watching her and interacting with her. She did eventually let Walt hold her, briefly, because that beard is just entirely too tempting.

She's just doing so many new things now -- dancing to her favorite music, mimicking sounds, starting to use baby sign language (especially "more"), and she loves books. It's hard to believe she will be a year old in 2 weeks.

We left the house around 4 and went back to Maravilla for dinner with Walt's mother, then we watched Jeopardy and Heuell Howser's California Gold until Alice Nan arrived. I had unfortunately filled up my camera disk and missed the chance to record Grandma, Alice, and the caregiver dancing to "Oh Boy" on Dancing with the Stars!

We came home in time to see The Daily Show and now all have gone to bed and I shall do so myself soon. This has really been a very good trip...and best of all, we'll be back again in 2 weeks for the big birthday party.