Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End Report Card

Ed reminded me that I made a 2009 wish list. I was curious to see how the year turned out....

1. To spend more time on things I love (working out, volunteering, reading...) and less on things I hate (housework, jumping through the never-ending hoops of our health insurance, dealing with whiny children).

I think I succeeded in this to some degree. However, I think it was more a result of having slightly older, more independent children than from deliberate prioritizing. Judging from the state of our home this instant (still getting unpacked from NYC and taking down Christmas) housework sure took a backseat!

2. To find some much-needed career clarity. Yes. I have a plan.

3. A new car (or more realistically, a slightly-used version). We didn't get a new car this year, but I am ok with keeping more money in our bank accounts for now.

4. The passage of House Bill 83 (which would require health insurance companies to pay for autism related therapies. This would also help tremendously with numbers 1-3 listed above).

House Bill 83 failed in committee. Now that VA has elected a Republican governor, I have little faith that a similar bill will pass anytime soon. Further, the few states that have passed autism insurance mandates continue to have trouble with insurance companies paying out. On a positive note, we found a new university-run ABA-VB provider for Noe. The quality of the program has been excellent and costs are lower than our previous private provider.

5. Language, language, language!!!! (for Noe) Yes. Thanks largely to above mentioned ABA-VB program and the work of his private speech therapist. Still have a long ways to go, but we are pleased with his progress the past few months.

6. A reliable babysitter = more time with Ed

Sort-of. It's called preschool. Ed's work schedule (nights and weekends) has made it difficult to find a sitter, but we have been going out occasionally in the afternoons while Asher is in preschool

7. To start seeing the change I voted for, and to find ways to participate in that change as well.

Wow. Was that a year ago already? I am generally happy with the direction of our country and was never under the illusion that all of our problems would disappear immediately after Obama moved into the White House. Would I be less patient if we were unemployed or about to lose our house? Probably.
As for participating in change, I do feel like I am more conscious of my actions and we are more community-involved than ever....but there is always more to do!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas 2009: Noe's Christmas Wish

"All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth." -Noe

Of the six teeth Noe has lost, he has only handed over two of them. Perhaps he is hiding them away, waiting for the lost tooth market to recover before collecting his cash.

Christmas 2009: Letter to Santa

Asher wanted to type and print out his letter to Santa. I told him that Santa only reads handwritten letters from children. I'm pretty sure that kindergarten doesn't issue laptops (even in Fairfax County!) so the kid needs to get used to a pencil in his hand.....

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 2009: Snowpocalypse

The week before Christmas, a huge snowstorm hit DC. We received close to two feet of snow, the biggest December snow storm on record for the area. It fell beautifully, but ultimately caused a lot of havoc. School was canceled for the entire week, along with holiday parties, church services and other fun activities we had planned. For me, it was a bit of a Christmas bummer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Joining the Family Business

There has been an interesting development in Asher's life: a love of newspapers.

It's rooted in what goes on at his preschool, where his wonderful teacher gets a big sheet of paper out every day, titles it "Daily News" and writes up what is on the kids' minds. He loves reading about what's going on in his classmates' lives, and he's been asking his teacher after every class lately if he can "take home the newspaper."

Between this and his blossoming interest in typing on our laptop and agonizing over every word, I have a sinking feeling of where this is going.

I can see us now, sitting out back on our deck chairs in 30 years after Asher has joined the Family Business and me lamenting what could have been, his Pacino to my Brando in a recreation of the garden scene in "The Godfather."

Asher: What's the matter? What's bothering you?

(Me, saying nothing, looking at him sadly.)

Asher: I'll handle it. I told you I can handle it, I'll handle it.

Me: I knew that I was going to have to go through all this ... (I sit down next to Asher) ... But I never -- I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life, I don't apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool, dancing on the string held by all those -- big shots. I don't apologize -- that's my life. But I thought that -- that when it was your time -- that -- that you would be the one to hold the strings. Senator Guzman. Governor Guzman, or something...

Asher: Another pezzonovante.

Me: There wasn't enough time, Asher. Wasn't enough time...

Asher: We'll get there, Papi. We'll get there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Photoshoot

Downtown Herndon. Lollipops from Target.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas 2001

Yesterday, we got our Christmas tree. We drove a few miles and found a nice tree lot, not too kitschy, but not exactly in the middle of the forest either. I had to keep telling myself, "At least we didn't go to Home Depot." Although, that would have saved us about $30.

On the way back, with Asher shouting from the back seat, "Whatchu guys talking about?" Ed and I reminisced about our first married Christmas together.

We were living in Portland. Three months later Ed would be taking a plane across country for a copy desk try-out at the New York Times, but we had no inkling of our East coast fate. We did, however, know that Ed's contract at the Oregonian might not be renewed in a few months and I was in my last year of business school with few job prospects (this was back during the LAST recession). We were living a grad student lifestyle in a 6000 square foot home (the home that my mom and sisters had moved out of following my father's death). It was a strange set of circumstances to say the least. Behind our house was a tree-filled ravine with a creek at the bottom. Our great idea was to just chop down a tree behind the house to use as our Christmas tree. It was both quaint and economical.

Two hours later and bathed in mud, we had no tree. I think at one point I even fell into the creek. I guess there is a reason they grow Christmas trees on farms. Everything was too bushy or flimsy or way too tall. We drove to a tree farm instead and Ed cut down his first Christmas tree ever.

My other favorite memory of our Christmas that year was the story of my Christmas sweater. Besides my full class load, I worked almost full-time at the corporate offices of Hollywood Entertainment in hopes of getting a formal offer at the end of the school year. On Fridays, I didn't have class and worked a full day there. Early one Friday morning, just before Christmas, I was running late and trying to find something warm and professional to wear. I remembered that my sister had left some clothes at the house and so I went to look through her old closet. Inside I found a great Abercrombie & Fitch sweater. Definitely something office worthy and cozy. It looked like her style, so I didn't think twice about it....and knew she would never know the difference that I had worn it once.

Later that night, I returned home to Ed. I think he was preparing to go out and cover a game. When he saw me in that sweater, he just stopped and stared....trying to say something but unable. Finally, he got the words out. That was his Christmas gift to me. He had "hid" it in my sister's closet. Why he left it hanging in there with the tags off is still a big mystery. He obviously didn't understand that all rules of honesty and good manners are off when it comes to borrowing your sister's clothes!

I treasure that first Christmas. We were newly married, perfectly broke and unbelievably happy. It turned out to be our only Christmas together without children or the soon arrival of children. Our next Christmas was spent at an upper East Side Manhattan hospital, trying to fight off preterm labor. Noe would arrive just three days later. We have made it home only one Christmas since. We have definitely had our share of wonderful Christmas memories in the past few years, but that first Christmas will always hold a special place in my heart.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy 5th Birthday, Asher!

This week begins Asher's 5th annual birthday festival. Party today, preschool celebration along with more cake and presents tomorrow.

Four was good to you, kiddo. I actually hate to see the year go. This year you....

*learned to read and swim and ride a bike (with training wheels)
*improved your Spanish skills
*took two cross-country trips
*gave your first talk in primary all by yourself
*built 365+ (one every day plus a few extra) creative and unique train track configurations
*gained some seriously scary computer literacy skills
*learned to dress yourself (finally!)

And I love you, even though....

*we find you asleep next to our bed most mornings
*you tried to convince me that your "trains" could say naughty words because there is no church on the Island of Sodor
*you won't wear clothes with any kind of print
*you think cheddar Goldfish are a major food group
*yesterday I slipped and fell down several stairs after you had hosed them down with "anti-Monster spray" because you are afraid to be downstairs by yourself

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Only in DC

A few only-in-DC moments we've had lately:

Today, I met Pierre Thomas. We were at the same kids birthday party. I've known and loved his wife for four years....our kids were in the same autism preschool class. And we've been autism mom friends ever since. Finally, today we discovered that our husbands both work in media and that she is married to a fairly high-profile journalist in the DC area (ABC Nightly News/Dateline/GMA). I guess we just always had more important things to talk about besides what our husbands do for a living.

We were downtown recently and saw a helicopter circling the White House. When I told Asher who was in the helicopter (although it could have been a decoy), he was hardly impressed. He was sure it was Sir Topem Hat and the helicopter was Harold.

I drove into the CIA Headquarters entrance again trying to get to Clemyjontry Park. I'm pretty sure that by now I have my own CIA file under the category, "Idiot Suburban Soccer Mom Drivers."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Asher's World

asher waits for his birthday in december when he will be excited to have a treasure hunt he will have lots of presents in trains he will be 5 years old now asher will listen so asher will invite his friends names t and r j d j and c s m s and asher has ten kids and asher will be happy thank you asher

asher has to make some cake so asher need some presents asher needs some thomas trains asher will have lots of trains asher is 5 years old asher choose the chocolate cake he love chocolate asher wonder if kids coming after asher goes to school he will have a party asher need to go to the present store whiff mommy asher has to listen asher will be for halloween as thomas

Welcome Asher!

We have a new permablogger on Just Your Average American Family. He is 4 1/2 years old and will be mostly writing on transportation issues (Thomas), education (preschool) and cultural traditions (his birthday). We can't wait to hear his insights on these subjects and many more. Hopefully his punctuation and grammar will improve with time. Blog administrators will keep their intense and compulsive need to edit copy at bay for our youngest blogger. Welcome Asher, so glad you could join us!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

early thanksgiving morning

I am up early to finish cooking and get the big bird in the oven. Asher is with me. Noe and Ed sleep soundly. I am enjoying the early morning calm, the fog that lurks outside our living room windows. I told Asher that today was Thanksgiving and I asked him what he was thankful for. Trains and toys and Noe. I think he added that last one for me. We're working on it. Later today I will take him to help with a local food drive. I don't think his little self can really understand what it would be like to have an empty refrigerator and cupboards. And honestly, I don't think I fully understand either.

Here are a few things I am grateful for this year:

-Noe's new ABA-VB program and the rapid progress he has made in it. Communication with your child is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
-the stellar teachers and therapists both Noe and Asher have this they ever have to leave us?
-my cute little house and its new cute little interest rate (4.85% - will we ever move? Probably, but I'll enjoy it for now)
-Ed's continued employment in an extremely volatile industry
-that our country is headed by a strong, smart and virtuous leader
-the town we live in and its strong and diverse community and having everything I need within walking/biking distance
-health insurance...may we soon never have to fear being without it
-the loving embrace of extended family...even if they're a coast away
-books and podcasts and good tv.....things that distract me from Noe's therapies and Ed's work schedule... both which keep me at home... alone.... more than I would like right now
-exercise, my natural prozac
-a steady and loving husband

What are you thankful for this year?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fat City!

Last night, the boys and I were chilling out in the living room just before bedtime when I had the most random childhood memory. I remembered that when I was little, my dad taught us kids to tackle him in hugs whenever he shouted "FAT CITY!"

I don't know the exact orgins of this Rasmussen tradition but I can guess. I remember my dad wore an old ragged Fat City cafe t-shirt that he probably received from my Grandpa Razz when he delivered milk to the SW Portland eatery. I'm sure one of us kids came up to him, just like Asher does to me now, and asked, "what's Fat City?" And the rest is history. I also recall that when it was basketball season, Rip City would often stand in for Fat City.

So I decided to try and pass on the tradition, right then and there. I told the boys I was going to shout Fat City and then they were to come tackle me in hugs. It kind-of worked. I had one very enthusiastic 4-year old, a rather indifferent 6-year old and a stuffed bear who came to give hugs whenever I shouted our code word. We did it a few times and moved on to our bedtime routine.

But I suddenly got how wonderful a large family could be and why anyone would want to have so many kids. Five little bodies showering you with love and laughter and hugs every time you shouted the words. I would have to say that it almost makes up for all that extra laundry and college tuition.

Monday, November 16, 2009


A couple days ago Ed woke up to Noe hovering over him in bed, signing for "drink." Who knows how long he had been standing there, patiently using his sign while Ed slept soundly. That has been one downside to Noe's use of sign language, but there have been many many upsides.

Finding a communication system has been one of the most difficult things about Noe's autism. When words weren't coming, we started him out on sign language. Unfortunately, his difficulty with imitation and motor planning kept him from making much progress. A couple of really wonderful preschool teachers taught him PECs (Picture Exchange Communication). He was able to expand his language and communicate his needs. Unfortunately, we hit a rut this summer with PECs. Despite great efforts to keep PECs reinforcing and fun, Noe began to hate his PECs book. He did, however, spontanteously begin to use some signs with us. Simple signs, like "more" and "candy", that he had previously learned. He also began verbalizing while he used his signs...something that he had never consistently done with PECs.

We decided to go back to sign language. I can't tell you how I agonized about the decision. Noe could not afford to waste any more time waffling between communication systems. I could not fail Noe again.

There were a few things that factored into our decision. We follow Noe's motivation, and he was motivated to learn and use sign language. His imitation and motor planning skills are much improved now, so he is able to learn the signs much faster than before. And most autism teachers prefer to use sign in the classrooms, very few teachers are well-trained in PECs. Last year, I had PECs training for his teacher written into his IEP. But Noe has been getting a new teacher every year, and none of them are ever properly trained in PECs. It seemed like a never-ending fight with the schools.

Since we started formally teaching sign language this fall, Noe is learning about one new sign a week. Most importantly, he is using these signs independently, and retaining them. It has been such a great thing for him. He is so much more communicative, and is naturally trying to approximate words, although his pronunciation is still poor.

It's funny. When someone learns that Noe is mostly non-verbal, they often get very sad for me. They think that I've never had a conversation with my child, when in fact, we talk every day...just not with words. Sign language is just allowing Noe to talk with the rest of the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tell Me A Story

Lately, Asher has been requesting stories. Stories without books. He wants me to tell him tales of his train friends on the Island of Sodor. He gives me a title, "Frank's Day Off" or "Peter Sam and the Incline" and I must instantly come up with an imaginative, action-packed story using proper train names and train terminology. I have no imagination. I feel my brain literally stretching inside my head to come up with original plot lines. The whole ordeal gives me a headache.

But at the same time I love it.

Asher curls up on my lap, puts his little arms around me, and listens attentively. Occasionally, he will whisper hints if I misname a train or mix up my Island of Sodor geography. As soon as I gasp out a final "The End", Asher always says, "that was a really great story, Mommy." Even if it really wasn't.

It is all happening so fast. Next year he will be in full-day kindergarten. Soon he will outgrow my lap completely. Thomas the Train and Curious George will be replaced by.....I can't even guess....but it won't be nearly as wholesome. The only thing I know for sure is that my days of snuggles and story telling are numbered.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Married to a sports journalist

Scene: early Monday morning, our bedroom

Me: Don't forget, Noe has speech therapy this's your turn to take him.

Ed: Actually, can you take him? I have an interview this afternoon.

Me: (grrr.....). Is it really important? I have a ton of stuff to do.... who are you interviewing, anyways?

Ed: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Me: Oh. Crap. You win.

Catch Ed blogging on Wizards Insider, including his upcoming book review of When the Game Was Ours.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

happy birthday to me

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like to be surrounded by lots of friends and family on their birthday and those who don't. I am one of the latter.

My alone time is treasured these days. This year, I was inspired by this friend's weekend away so I spent the day in the District doing a few of the things that I've wanted to do, instead of the usual outings tailored for the boys.

My favorite stop ended up being the Library of Congress, and specifically, an exhibit on Herblock, the famous editorial cartoonist. He spent most of his career at the Washington Post, which began in 1929 during the stock market crash and ended shortly before 9.11. I loved looking at his images hung on canvas. They are nothing like the cursory drawings that you look at in newsprint form. It was like taking a walk through modern US History, in cartoon form.

Late in the afternoon I met up with Ed in Arlington for a meal at our favorite Peruvian hangout. Later in the evening, we had cupcakes at a local bakery because I refuse to make my own birthday cake and one never magically appeared on my kitchen counter. It was a nice, albeit overpriced (really $4 for a cupcake? We're NOT in New York) treat.

Friday, October 30, 2009

around town

autumn at the Capitol

Library of Congress ceiling

picking apples and pumpkins with friends (Loudon Co.)

Georgetown waterfront

Monday, October 26, 2009

Out Sick

I'm sick during my most favorite time of the year. My chest feels like Mike Tyson decided to take a nap on it. I keep looking out my front window and thinking, "STOP CHANGING, LEAVES! I still need to experience your beautiful colors and feel you crackling under my feet and jump in a big pile of you, STOP IT THIS INSTANT!"

But don't worry about me....the boys are taking great care of me while Ed is at work. They've got it all covered....laundry, meals....heck Noe even drove himself to school this morning. It's all good!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Notes from Last Week

Sunday: Spent the afternoon walking around Georgetown before dropping off Ed at work. I told Asher we were going on an "Adventure" because if I say we're going on a walk, he will bitterly complain. A boat was trying to pass through the C & O canal so we got to see the locks in action and the boys were mesmerized. Afterwards, Asher said, "that was a great adventure, mommy!" Phew.

Monday: Got up early and headed to out to Loudon County to find apples and pumpkins. My friend found a beautiful old farm for us near Purcellville. I like farms that are all food and no animals...more pleasant on the nose.

Tuesday: Woke up wondering if I was pregnant. Quit my Kaplan job over a pay dispute (I had taken a buyout in June, but was rehired this fall at what I had assumed would be my previous salary). It felt good to not allow myself to be taken advantage of....but my wallet is feeling a little emptier. Great bike ride with Ed on the Reston trails while Asher was in preschool.

Wednesday: Volunteered at Noe's school in the AM. Spent the afternoon cooking up freezer meals in the read that right.

Thursday: PAYDAY!!! Ed and I started a new monthly cash-only budgeting system in an effort to spend less and build up our savings. Let's just say that the last week has been a little tight for the both of us. Followed balloon boy saga while I ran errands. Did a therapy session with Noe after his sports one we've had in a long time. Thinking of making him run sprints around our block before every therapy session from now on. Had friends over for apple crisp and ice cream in the evening. Made applesauce with the remaining apples from Monday's trip while Ed was out cheering for his Dodgers. Couldn't sleep....still wondering why I am having pregnancy symptoms.

Friday: Pouring rain for the second day so morning run was out. Paced anxiously around the house instead. Mid-morning I sprinted across the street to get a home pregnancy test and sprinted back. When it came back negative, I realized that it was the first time I had ever taken a pregnancy test and failed. Lots of mixed emotions, but mostly relief. Tried to get little sis pumped up for her big interview. She is doing well on her own so far with little R, very proud. In the evening, I tried a movie night with the boys. We watched.....drum roll please..... a Thomas the Train video and ate popcorn. I fell asleep. Next week is Mama's choice. Think the boys would like Pretty Woman?

Saturday: Spent the morning at a Panera studying for my SVLE exam while Noe was at his Saturday morning socialization camp. I would have had even more time to study, but I forgot my trustee GPS and had to find my way to South Riding by MEMORY. At Panera, I overheard a real estate agent meeting with a young couple. She said that the real estate market was starting to come back strong in our county. From her lips to God's ears....

Today: Asher gave his first primary talk all by himself and he did AWESOME. His face was one big smile from one giant ear to the other. I volunteered myself to do a big project for the local POAC (Parents of Autistic Children) chapter. Oh vey... time to do some restructuring of my schedule to actually pull this off. How exactly am I going to work full-time next year when I don't have enough hours in the day as it is? Just read that the balloon boy's parents staged the whole event. Sick. Sick. Sick. Interesting that the little six year old boy got physically ill at the television interviews. Kids have a much stronger sense of right and wrong than adults sometimes.....or most of the time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Oh Bear. You have become the fifth member of our family. You are quiet and unassuming and you just might be my favorite. I still remember the day you were born. It was Teddy Bear Day at Asher's preschool and a mad scramble ensued to find a bear... any bear.... for Asher to take. When we pulled you from the bottom of the boys' clothes hamper, it was like you emerged from the womb. We dusted off the dirt and loose socks....and life began with you in our home.

You have been such a great friend to Asher. You will sit for hours on end and watch him play trains. When Asher is upset, you are the first to hear about it. When he is excited, you are often the first to hear about it as well. You have even found your voice, which is squeaky and high-pitched and ALWAYS in complete agreement with your best 4-year old buddy.

"Yes, Asher."
"Do you think I should play trains and eat ice cream and candy?"
"Yes, Asher."
"But because....I love Asher."

Asher has become your fierce protector. When we carelessly toss you aside, we hear about it:
"DON'T HURT BEEAAR!" When Noe uses you as a napkin, Asher gives your fake Dodger-tatooed fur a gentle sponge bath. When you were subjected to the indecencies of the x-ray machine at the airport security, Asher defended you.

Oh...the horror. An endless line of business people and government bureaucrats waiting to pass through security and board their planes....all of them running behind schedule. A frazzled mother, loading bins of carry-on items while simultaneously trying to head off the escalating tensions in front of her. And Asher, in full-terrorist mode, snatching you off of the rolling x-ray machine and tackling you to the ground, taking you hostage while pleading with the security guard not to take you away.

Welcome to the family, Bear!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Another Day at the Office

When the Redskins lost to the Detroit Lions, who had previously lost 19 games in a row, it was a sad day for DC, but a good one for Ed. He came up with the winning headline, which got him some national attention, at least until the next news cycle. His headline was played on ESPN's SportsCenter, on all of the local news channels and was plastered all over the Internet. He also got a personal shout out from a local sports radio celebrity, who called it "brilliant."

The headline is a play on words from the Redskin's fight song, Hail to the Redskins. Yeah... I totally didn't get it at first either.

On a live web chat on the Washington Post website, a Redskins fan commented, "Whoever wrote that headline should get a raise." I totally agree.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Family Day in Baltimore

We took a day trip to Baltimore this past weekend. Although I yearned to explore the old neighborhoods near the harbor and stake out a charming neighborhood restaurant, we took the boys to the giant Aquarium, ate lunch at Potbelly's and walked through the Inner Harbor. 100 points to Ed and I for being such selfless parents. Grrr.....

This was our first trip to the Aquarium and it was [almost] worth the hefty price of admission. I guess I've been a little spoiled by all of the free museums in DC. Both Noe and Asher genuinely enjoyed the exhibits, and it is a rare day to find something that interests both of them, so that was a good thing. However, the Inner Harbor feels like Times Square, with water. It is still enjoyable, and I'm glad the area wasn't left for ruin....but I was still left scratching my head a bit. It has almost become that the only way we know how to revitalize an area in the US, is to use the Disney model.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What to wear to Pre-K....

Asher is wearing....

short sleeve button-up by Ralph Lauren
navy blue shorts by Gymboree
sneakers by Carter's
tote bag (recycled, fabric name patch from Etsy)

What to wear to 1st Grade....

I look forward to Design Mom's back to school series each year, and decided to do my own version this year in lieu of first day of school photos.

Noe is wearing....

striped rugby shirt by Ralph Lauren
red tee by Hanes
canvas shorts by Gap
white tennis shoes by Lacoste
camoflauge backpack by Gap (recycled from last school year)

Note: Any high-end labels the boys happen to wear are very likely from their slave-to-fashion Abuela.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bye bye Portland.....

Don't be a stranger!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Portland Trip: The List

So I found this fantastic list and decided to make it the centerpiece for our trip to Portland. I thought it was a great compilation of Portland standards (the Children's Museum, the Zoo) and less-known only-in-Portland experiences (the City Blocks Farmer's Market, Voodoo Donuts).

We had a great time tackling THE LIST. Of the 50 Things to Do with Your Kids in Portland Before They Grow Up.... only 38 activities were even possible to do (12 were out-of-season). So out of the 38, we completed 26 during our three weeks in Portland. Among our favorites....

#21 Riding MAX

#36 Eating an oreo & glazed covered donut at Voodoo Donut

#2 The Jamison Square water fountain in the Pearl District

#11 Playing on a dormant volcano above the trees at Mt. Tabor

#23 The Children's Museum

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Portland Trip: Grant Park

I read Ribsy and Henry Huggins to Asher this summer as an introduction to chapter books. When I told him that we were going to see Henry and Ribsy in Portland, he was very excited! Unfortunately, I forgot to explain that Henry and Ribsy were bronze statues in a water monument dedicated to Beverly Cleary at Grant Park (BC grew up in Portland and many of her books are set there). Asher forgave me, and we had a fun day seeing the statues, playing in the water and exploring the park.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Portland Trip: Grandparents Picnic

Asher and Noe are lucky to have all of their great grandparents still living (on my side). We held a picnic in their honor during our visit home. It was a bit chaotic, but definitely memorable. Before the end of the day we had nursed kids with bee stings and called an ambulance for my Grandpa Razz (not pictured). Here is Asher with my mom's parents, Jay and Colene Mattson.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Save the Date

Some dates on a calendar are easy to remember and need no explanation: January 1, December 25, 9/11, Fourth of July, just to name a few. Other dates take on personal meaning, like birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

Today, September 21, falls in the latter category for me and my parents. It was on this day 18 years ago I flew back East to go to prep school for the first time.

The roots of this moment took hold more than a year earlier when my East L.A. junior high school set up a scholarship program in which two or three kids would go to a New England boarding school starting with their sophomore year of high school (we were grades 7-9 at the time). I was in eighth grade then and I figured if I kept getting strong grades, I might have a shot at this.

A year later, the first two students from our school go East. What we didn't know at the time was that one of them got terribly homesick and decided to come back after only one week.

I was sitting in math class on Wednesday, September 18, when an office messenger came in and handed a note to the teacher. The teacher looked confused, but then walked up to my desk and handed me the note. I needed to see the assistant principal. I had no idea why.

I get to the office and he calmly explains to me that he helped set up this scholarship program in our school and that one of the kids who went this year came back. Not only that, but the prep school had an opening for a ninth-grade boy. So with this extra scholarship in hand, would I be willing to take their place immediately and fly out on Saturday, September 21?

I said I would.

It seemed like a golden opportunity to get a better education, which would lead to better options for college and beyond. Plus, I was 14 years old so it wasn't like I was fully able to comprehend exactly what I was about to embark on. So leading up to it and even when I first got to my new school, I was pretty calm. It was all happening so fast that there really was no time to feel homesick or overwhelmed.

My parents, however, were another story. I'm an only child, so to have to tell them that I was going to go away to school at 14 and, oh yeah, that they only have three days to wrap their heads around that concept was quite jarring.

They came in that afternoon to speak with the assistant principal and in his best broken Spanish (with me translating some), he tried to tell them what going to a school like this would mean for my future and how well I'd be taken care of and that I'd be able to come home for Christmas and spring break. All the while, my mom and dad sat there, stone-faced.

Finally, they looked at me and asked me if I wanted to do this. After I said yes, they said (at great pain, by the looks on their faces) they would do everything to support me. I don't know what would have happened if they had said no, but deep down I figured they would understand. They always stressed education with me and even though it was now unfolding in a surprising manner, they remained supportive. For which I'm eternally grateful.

After two days of frantic packing, Saturday morning came. It was time to go to the airport and start a journey that would eventually take us to places previously unseen by the family. A high school and college graduation. A son's life built primarily on the East Coast. Grandchildren born in Manhattan, with grandparents who were born in rural Mexico.

It's a quiet life we've carved for ourselves out here, with children, school, errands and work filling most of our days. But I always wonder how different it would have been if it hadn't been for what happened on this day 18 years ago, when everything changed.