January 2002

Rancho de Chimyo restaruant done up for Christmas
Brad (left) with his Geobowl team and two ribbons
Sioux Tribe watches their heat
Father takes his son to the race track for the first time.
Brad applying final scenic touches
Showing off the finished mission
Dad schools Brad on the finer points of air hockey
Mom and Brad watch Doug tee off

The Sherwoods made a lightning trip to Los Alamos the first week of the New Year.  On New Year’s morning, a Tuesday, we had breakfast with Kristi’s parents here in San Diego (they didn’t head back to Illinois until the 2nd), that night we spent in Flagstaff, AZ.  The next three nights we were in Los Alamos with Keith's mom, before returning (via Phoenix Saturday night) Sunday afternoon, in time for school and work on Monday morning.
We had a wonderful time.  We did all the usual things , plus a few out of the ordinary things.  Nana took the boys to the animal shelter to help pick out a new cat.  While exposing our children to things we did as youths is often nostalgic and fun, we could have done without a trip to the Los Alamos Medical Center.  But Douglas had developed red splotches the day we left, and a trip to the pediatric ward confirmed a case of fifth disease. Benign.
What the boys were really looking forward to, however, was snow.  They were so excited the first night in Flagstaff, playing in twice melted and refrozen gray drifts in parking lots. Not for the last time their parents were reminded how little exposure to snow the boys have had growing up in San Diego. When we got up the next morning to find the car windshield covered with ice and realized we had no ice scraper, the parents were reminded they hadn't been exposed to the reality of cold weather either for 15 years.    
From an everybody-getting-along-in-the-car standpoint, this was the most successful car trip ever. Yes, we resorted to electronic mesmerizers GameBoy and CD player.  But there was also train spotting, state license plate collecting, alphabet game playing, and a general absence of “Are we there yet,” “I’m so bored,” and “I have to go to the bathroom.”  All in all, it was a pleasure to travel together, which is a good omen for the 3000 mile car trip we have planned for this summer.
The San Diego County School Geography Olympiad was held January 14th.  Bradley made his school’s team again this year, and has been staying after school for team practices once or twice a week for a couple of months.  Kristi goes most times to help quiz kids.  She also bakes tons for the obligatory bake sale fund raisers.  This being her second year, she took on ordering the trophies.  She’s in danger of being drafted to run/coordinate the whole effort next year, a move she is so far resisting.  Last year the school team got first overall, but Brad didn’t get any ribbons.  This year the school earned third spot overall, and Brad’s teams got two first place ribbons, including first in the premier event, “Geobowl” (i.e. college bowl, similar to Jeopardy).  Some example Geobowl questions that Brad answered: “This state is the fourth largest state and home of Glacier National Park.”  “The Great Salt Lake is saltier than the ocean.  Name two lakes in California that are more saline than the ocean.” “This state capital is the largest French built city in the US.”  (Answers: Montana, Mono Lake and Salton Sea, and Pierre, ND.)
The Indian Guides event for January was the Pinewood Derby.  This held great interest for Keith, since he participated in 3 Pinewood Derbies in his youth in Cub Scouts.  His two second place trophies (1973, 1974) are proudly displayed even now in the family room.  Keith can still readily remember building those cars with his dad, especially pouring the molten lead into cavities in the car.  Doug, at 6 ½ years old, is considerably younger than Keith was.  That, combined with Keith’s enthusiasm for the project, gave credence to the old Pinewood Derby adage (that I just made up) that “the first one is always for Dad.”  Since Doug had neither the interest nor stamina (Keith spent multiple hours sanding by hand with extra fine sandpaper) for the project as his dad envisioned it, the compromise was struck that Doug would participate in each step (sawing, sanding, masking, painting, decaling) as much or as long as he could stand (or his dad would let him).  A few tears were shed at spray painting time, which is something Doug really wanted to do, but Dad wouldn’t let him do much since he couldn’t spray evenly and without splatter. Although Mom had reservations, everyone enjoyed the spectacle of melting fishing weights on the stove and pouring the molten  lead into the car.  
After The Build Process, the Race itself was rather anticlimactic.  Doug got second place in the tribe (twelve boys/cars), so honor and tradition were served. Doug's car was quickly eliminated from the playoffs, so there's room for improvement for next year.
No sooner was one craft project complete than another begun.  In California, state history is taught in fourth grade.  The two highlights of the fourth grade year are the end of school field trip to the state capital, Sacramento, and the build a model of a California Mission project. Every California fourth grader builds some sort of a Mission model.  I didn't fully appreciate the implications of such a state-wide fiat until I discovered there were actually mission kits for sale at the area arts and crafts stores.  We quickly purchased such a model, realizing Brad's grand but unfocused plan for building out of clay was a blueprint for family strife.  
As with earlier social studies projects this year (local Indian diary and poster, detailed California map), Bradley really got enthralled once he got rolling.  As with all projects, Dad couldn't let any teaching moment go untaught, showing Bradley that two coats of paint looked better than one and that paint brushes must be washed after every use.  Bradley's enthusiasm steadily increased for the project, although it's difficult to tell if it was proportional to how recognizable the model was as the mission San Luis Obispo, or inversely proportional to the amount of instruction he received from his father.
In the end, he didn't receive maximum marks (apparently you have to create from scratch for that), but the real goal of learning about the mission was accomplished, and the secondary goal of discovering the fun of modeling was achieved with much less stress than attempting something from scratch.  In fact, his ownership and pride in the model are enough that he won't let it be thrown away, but insists that it be stored in the copious free space in the garage.
It has become family tradition to take a day trip at the end of January.  The kids have a day off from school for Teacher growth day, and Keith trades his Martin Luther King Jr holiday at work for this Friday. Last year we went to Disneyland.  This year we were going to go to the new adjacent theme park, California Adventure.  But when the morning arrived, we woke up to that most shocking and rare of southern Californian events, a thunderstorm.  Figuring we didn't want to  go in the rain (or fight the rain snarled traffic), we scratched our plans.  When the rain broke up, we decided to make the best of it and go miniature golfing instead.
If the original plan had to been avoid the crowds, it worked.  No one else seemed to interested in going to the Family Fun Center at 11:00 am on a cold, blustery Friday.  The astro turf carpeting on the golf course were soaked, and several holes were filled with water.  We gave the kids some quarters to plug into arcade games (nearly as rare as a Southern Californian rainstorm) then went out to lunch.  

They Said It:
Brad, seeing a TV commercial for the musical "Tommy": "The Who Tommy?  Is that from the Grinch?"
Kristi, upon driving past the restaurant with the windmill out front: "Look, See Poop Anderson's."
Doug, exploring the motel room and discovering Gideon's Bible: "Look, it comes with a book!"

They Read It:
Keith: The Two Towers
Keith to Doug: The Indian in the Cupboard
Brad: Books 1 & 2 in Seventh Tower Series


Text and Pictures Copyright © 2002 Keith Sherwood - All Rights Reserved