June was a fun month. First was a weekend in Idyllwild with cousins Kevin & Rachel for a childrenís concert. Gunnar Madsen, a favorite performer of ours, was performing along with a couple of other people that we didnít know. We drove up on Saturday and arrived just in time for the concert. The concert was very intimate, and Gunnar was excellent (as always!) Inspired by one of Gunnarís songs, Marc had made a mobile for him, and we gave it to him before he performed. He was very appreciative and after he performed, he came and sat with us while we watched another act.
We spent the night in rented cabins, and had a nice time in the hot tub. The next day we went to a cherry festival that we had noticed on the way to Idyllwild. The grownups were disappointed by the lack of cherries at the festival, but the kids took one look at the rides and were in heaven. Jackie even (very uncharacteristically) joined the boys in one "ride" that was actually a water gun fight inside a maze. Everyone went home happy.
Near the end of the month, we celebrated Marcís 40th birthday with a trip to Las Vegas, sans kids. Cousin Rhonda was celebrating her 35th birthday, so she and her mom joined us. We flew up on Friday and checked into the Hilton. Aunt Sandyís plane was delayed, so we killed some time gambling. Then Marc and Jackie went off to see Circus Circus and Rhonda met up with a friend and drank dinner. Jackie called the airline several times and each time was told that her auntís plane was coming in later. So she stopped calling. But eventually Aunt Sandy made it. The next day, we all walked from one end of the strip to the other, just looking at the different hotels and sights. That night we had tickets to Blue Man Group and we enjoyed that very much. After dinner, we had planned on going to NY NY to see the Dueling pianos, but Aunt Sandy started feeling poorly, so we went back to the hotel. While she rested, the rest of us gambled. We were all very grateful to her because (for that night, at least) all of us won money.
The next day was Rhondaís actual birthday. Aunt Sandy still needed to rest, so Marc and Jackie went off by themselves and decided to try indoor skydiving. Indoor skydiving is basically floating over a huge fan blowing you up. It was fun, but we doubt that itís much like real skydiving. We met up with Rhonda in the afternoon and went to see Mystere (Circ du Soliel.) For dinner, we met up with Rhondaís friend and went to a steak restaurant in a nearby hotel. We quickly discovered that Dennis Rodman happened to be eating dinner at the restaurant. A primary topic of conversation was whether Dennis would consent to having his picture taken with Rhonda (since it WAS her birthday!) The answer was "yes" (after some nudging from a female friend.) We then went off to hear the dueling pianos we had missed the night before. That was a blast. The next day was our last, so we lost some more money gambling, before heading off to the airport for home.
Jackieís birthday (in August) was slightly more sedate, celebrated with a play ("The Vagina Monologues") and dinner. But Marc, as always, made it special. He arranged for two other couples to surprise Jackie by joining us for dinner. He said the look on Jackieís face when she saw her friends and realized they were there to celebrate her birthday was priceless.
On July 3, Jackie had the uterine artery embolism procedure. It went swimmingly, even better than she had hoped. She was home by 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and the pain pills were very effective. The next day, she stayed in bed until around 4, when people came over to swim and celebrate the 4th of July with us. Although many people told us were crazy to have people over the day after surgery, it was not a problem at all. In fact, the following weekend, one of Jackieís friends from Texas A&M came into town to visit, and one of the things we did was to visit the zoo. The good news is that the procedure went very well. The bad news is that Jackie thinks that it is not shrinking the fibroid. She has an MRI next week to confirm or refute her suspicions.
A couple of months ago, Jackie and her cousin Susan decided to get the younger generation cousins together every month or so to play, so that they would grow up knowing each other fairly well. The second get-together was timed to coincide with a family reunion that brought some normally out-of-town relatives into town. So rather than our normally expected 2-4 families, we had 8 families, 2 of which included 3 generations! We donít know if the kids enjoyed it, but it was great for us adults!
Jackie took a quilting class with cousin Rachel. It was a lot of fun, and the best part was that Rachel and Jackie decided that even after the class was over, they would continue to meet on Wednesdays to work on unfinished projects. Jackie is determined to complete all the unfinished projects she has lying around the house, even if she and Rachel have to meet for the next 20 years to do so!
Jonathanís big accomplishment this summer was learning to ride a bike. For some reason unknown to man (or woman.) it was very important to Jackie that he learn to ride. Jonathan, on the other hand, was not at all interested. But Jackie kept pushing and by the end of the summer, not only was he riding, but he was enjoying it too.
We went to several plays and concerts in July and August (Gypsy, Sgt. Schleppers, the Fisherman and his Wife, the Vagina Monologues.) The second best event was when Jackie was invited to join her friend Fanny to see David Cassidy at the Greek Theater. Fanny has a cousin with connections, and he got both tickets and backstage passes. David Cassidy puts on a great show, and being backstage was just da bomb! Not only was David Cassidy there, but so was brother Shawn, and also Drew Carey!
What could beat that, you ask? Well you should have been there when Jonathan played a duet with 10-yr old cousin Mitchell. Jonathan was on piano; Mitchell was on viola. They played Beethovenís "Ode to Joy." They were wonderful. This summer, Jonathan took piano lessons at Northridge park, after losing his piano teacher because she moved to Orange County (yes, this is how he lost his last teacher, too!) At the end of the 8-week session, Jonathan gave a recital. He played very well; his major difficulty was in pronouncing the name of his piece ("On the Bridge to Avignon.") Piano is another one of Jackieís big successes. After months and months of being forced to practice, Jonathan told us that he was beginning to like it!
This summer, we got a lot of use out of the pool. We bought a new pool cover (the old one was shedding little blue plastic bits into the water) and the pool was usually in the 90s, even though we never heat it. After doing so well in swimming lessons in May, Benjamin backslid at home, with his parents. But we worked on him all summer, and by the end of the summer, he was actually swimming. What he wasnít doing was propelling himself forward. Oh well, canít have everything! Jonathan, on the other hand, is a fish.
Jackieís work got hectic in July and August. They were trying to finalize the software she works on, and problems kept cropping up. For weeks, she put in about 20% more hours than she normally works. But finally things settled down. She celebrated by taking a week off. It was the first time she had ever taken a week off just for herself, not for a vacation with her family. It really felt good. And this newsletter got done!
Marcís work was also hectic. The website project that he was leading had a major delivery near the end of August. His team was producing well and was on schedule, but they were having some trouble with some of the supporting teams. But the troubles were ironed out before the deadline, and they even released a day early. However, no good deed goes unpunished, so the day after the new version of the website was released, Homestore decided that they were not making money on it, and they were going to stop all development and do only minimal maintenance. At the same time, they laid off 2% of their staff, over 70 people. Since they werenít doing development on Marcís project, Marc was one of the people laid off.
Fortunately for us, another project that we took care of this summer was to sell our first house. Ironically, Marc picked up the check from the sale the very day he was laid off. Selling the house will give us a big cushion so that Marc can take his time finding a new job, and wonít feel like he needs to take the first thing that comes along.
Marc took advantage of being laid off for some father-son bonding with Benjamin. The two of them went to Magic Mountain. They both had a blast, and even Benjaminís tripping and knocking a tooth loose did not mar the day. Fortunately, by the time they saw the dentist the next day, it had healed by itself. The incident was slightly complicated by the fact that when Benjamin is stressed or upset, he will often put both hands over his mouth, one on top of the other. So it wasnít initially obvious that he had gotten hurt. Plus, when Marc took Benjamin to First Aid, Benjamin wouldnít move his hands and let the nurse look at his mouth. Note that the tooth that was knocked loose was not the one that is gray from the last time he fell on his face, but the one next to it.
In September, Jonathan starts 3rd grade at Balboa, and Benjamin will be in pre-K at our Temple. They each seem so capable, so grown-up. Benjamin, who has always had a hard time expressing himself when he is upset, is starting to respond well to encouragement not to cry, but to use his words. And Jonathanís vocabulary and choice of words frequently amazes us. Jonathan was given a book on chess, and has shown an interest in the game (although heís no chess genius.) They both continue to amuse us with their little idiosyncrasies. For example, Benjamin refuses to wear shorts. All summer long, he went to camp in "longs" (long pants.) Jonathan continues to be a bookworm and a Harry Potter fanatic, although we were able to convince him to read other books this summer.
Hoping you are healthy and happy,
Jackie, Marc, Jonathan, and Benjamin