Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Arrival Day 2011: Prithee, Peace!

Yesterday was Arrival Day, the fourth anniversary of our arrival in San Francisco. Ron and I try to remember that day each year, but generally can only celebrated with a nice lunch during the workday or a beer that evening.

This year's Arrival Day was much more fun. It was a Friday, first of all, and Ron and I drove to work that morning in our car (yay!) after dropping Benny off at Shakespeare Camp. Benny has been very cool about Shakespeare Camp, although he still contends he was lured into the camp under false pretenses. Two years ago we attended a summer camp expo and Shakespeare Camp had a booth full of toy swords and one of the "teacher artists" taught Benny swordplay. Well, after that it was all "I want to go to Shakespeare Camp." We couldn't afford it last year, but this year I laid out a shocking amount of money for the two-week camp.

Well, then Benny comes home the first day looking a little glum and I ask him how he went and he shook his head. "It's a lot of reading," he said. As the days went on, however, he started to get into his role as King Alonso in "The Tempest," making his crown and his sword and running around the apartment yelling "Prithee, peace!"

But he still feels like he was had -- he confessed to me that he always thought Shakespeare Camp meant you could shake a spear.

Yesterday we saw the result of all his hard work: "The Tempest". Ron and I worked a half day, and it was a good day for me. A special publication was going to press, called — and I swear I'm not making this up — Health Care Heroes. Thankfully, however, I was not the editor of that project, so I could bug out at 1 p.m.

We stopped at home to get Ron's Flip camera and went to the big Methodist church on Geary where the camp was held. We'd never been to any Benny performance except for Little League games, so I sat the whole time with my mouth half open while Benny said lines like:

"O thou mine heir
Of Naples and of Milan, what strange fish
Hath made his meal on thee?"

I must admit though, my favorite part was when Benny wore a mask and was a dog spirit — he hopped around the stage on his hands and knees and then crawled out the door.

After that, there was a cast party, where I met the amazing little girl who played Ariel. (She also plays the piano and the violin and does ballet.) Another girl who looked about Benny's age sat on a chair like a throne while her family surrounded her and gave her flowers and wrapped presents. Ron was immediately gripped with remorse because we didn't bring Benny anything, so we took him out for ice cream.

Then we went home and ordered Chinese for dinner and sat around watching the Roomba vacuum the living room and were happy.

It was a great Arrival Day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Arrival Day 2007: How Far We've Come

Every year around this time we celebrate Arrival Day. It was July 22, 2007, when Ron and I loaded up 3-year-old Benny and the cat and flew to San Francisco. It was the culmination of 7 months of preparation, including six weeks of separation from Ron and five months of trying to sell the house.

It truly ranked as one of the most stressful periods of my life and every year I take a minute to see how far we've come. Four years ago on this day I was awake at 1 a.m. in our Ann Arbor house, our luggage piled in the empty living room. The whole house smelled like cleaning wipes, since we had a showing later that day.

By July 2008, I'd survived a year at the Business Times filling in for a senior editor, produced a giant real estate publication, negotiated the sale of our house to Andy and went with Ron and Benny on our first trip (a few days on the coast) since arriving in S.F.

By July 2009, we'd managed to to pay for Benny's fiendishly expensive school for two years and managed to score a spot in a good San Francisco elementary school. The recession was clamping down, with layoffs and paycuts at work, so we huddled in a tiny one-bedroom and concentrated on paying down debt.

By July 2010, we'd gone to Mt. Lassen — our first long family vacation since our RV trip to Shenandoah Valley in 2006. Four of our credit card lenders imposed giant APR hikes on our balances, requiring us to “opt out” and close the cards. We threw Benny's first real birthday party since he turned one and moved (finally) to a two-bedroom apartment that is walking distance to Benny's school. And July 2010 was a great month for us, even though Benny didn't like his summer daycare: we visited the Charles Shulz "Peanuts" museum, I joined a geology hiking group, and Benny and I went to Muir Woods.

Now here we are at July 2011. In the past year we bought a car (!)and I flew to Alabama with Benny to see Greg's graduation. We still miss Ron's dad, who passed away in November. In February we traveled to Death Valley and paid off most of our debt, thanks to an sum of money from Ron's dad. Benny joined spring Little League baseball and I wrote another NaNoWriMo novel. (You're supposed to write it all in November; it took me until April.) I visited Greg in Fort Hood, Texas, before he left for Afghanistan, and saw Cindy, Scott and Andy too. Then we topped it all off with a cross-country drive by way of South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

Yes, I'd say we've come pretty far.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Lego Helm's Deep

Benny didn't feel well yesterday, so he didn't go to camp and I worked from home. When I wasn't making photo assignments, reading stories and bugging reporters, Benny and I worked on a Lego project.

This is Helm's Deep, from the second Lord of the Rings book "The Two Towers." The orcs (red, yellow and blue bears) are attacking the mountain citadel while the soldiers of Rohan stand waiting on the walls. The mysterious Forest (green bears to the right) looms ominously, waiting to take its revenge on the orcs. Note the King's tall tower (complete with satellite dish) on the left, the little red orc preparing to scale the walls with a ladder, and another little red orc with a battle hammer.