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Fourth of July started on the third of July, when Penasquitos traditionally does their fireworks at the high school football stadium.  Concerned about how Dancer would react to her first Fourth of July, Kristi stayed home to comfort her through the fireworks.  She needn’t have bothered.  She said you couldn’t hear them this year from our house. Fireworks this year were decidedly non-traditional, with few to none high star bursts, and lots of lower altitude Roman Candles and multiple-tipped two staged pyrotechnics.  Did anybody else get the feeling their fireworks more closely resembled CNN footage of attacks in Iraq more than the traditional displays of yore?  Dancer had a much more difficult time the following night, the 4th of July proper.  It wasn’t the big displays miles away that scared her, but the neighborhood bottle rockets.
We went to the San Diego Country Fair (nee Del Mar Fair) on the Fourth of July proper.  We did all sorts of things we don't usually do, like give the kids $20 to blow at the midway, watch monster trucks crush cars, and actually buy things from the commercial booths (chamois, dog tag, sunglasses).  Once every several years we get lucky and go on the day with swine showmanship (where 4H'ers are judged on their ability to manuver their pig around the judge in the ring); it happened again this year.  And the kids got to hear yet again about how Mom and her brother raised pigs and Jeff actually participated in swine showmanship. The boys went on all their rides together.  Good brothers.
Both boys were promoted at church in Sunday School.  Doug moved from the first and second grade class to the third and fourth grade class.  As a new third grader, he was presented a children’s bible in service.  He’s also now expected to stay in service for the sermon, offering, and communion; second graders and younger leave midway through the service to attend a children’s service.  This isn’t too big of a change since he’s actually preferred to stay with us for the last several months as he became bored (too old and cool?) with the children’s service.  Brad graduated from his father’s fifth grade class.  Somehow they both survived.  This is a big deal for Brad, because he is now out of the Children’s Program at church, and officially in the Youth Program, with Middle and High Schoolers.
Big changes lie ahead in Sunday School for teacher Keith.  The third and fourth grade teacher has retired, and there are only 3 fifth graders.  So they asked Keith to take on a combined third, fourth, fifth grade class.  This could be problematic for a couple of reasons.  Keith prefers to operate at a fairly high intellectual level, and sometimes struggled to bring his lessons down to the fifth grade level.  (For example, two years ago he started and finished the year with a one sentence essay question: “What does it mean to be a Christian?”)  Not only will this triple the size of the class he’s been used to for the last two years, but it means he will again be teaching a son.  Keith was really counting on a year or two off to recuperate after Brad….   Kristi, who used to assist with children on Wednesday nights before she shifted to organizing the meals, is temporarily assistant teaching to help both with the number of kids and to remind Keith to keep it fun and interesting, not just intellectually stimulating.
Despite fantastic family vacations and great Grandma camps, Brad's declared favorite summer activity remains a week long church summer camp at Loch Leven in the San Bernadino mountains.  He spent his week there this year the week after Fourth of July.  He came home talking endlessly of all the wonderful experiences there, Faith related or not.  Despite his father's urging to keep a journal or some sort of written record, he refuses.  Just like Grandma Camp!  This year Brad got to mentor Bennett Bird, who has lots of camping experience with Y Guides with Doug, but no camping without Dad experience.  Brad's enthusiasm for the camp was just what Bennett (and his parents) needed to calmly accept being separated for a week.
Indian Guides’ July camp out was on the beach at Marine base Camp Pendleton, just like last year.  And when I say on the beach, I mean sand 200 yards wide between parking lot and ocean, and you set up your tent right in the middle.  Last year you may remember that we found a barracuda and hundreds of foot long squid washed up on the beach. Nothing so exciting this year, but remembering what fun dead animals were last year, Doug did try to bring a dead sea gull he found back to camp.  Yech. Doug body boarded for hours; I’ve never seen him enjoy the beach so much.  The boys built a sand fort below the hide tide line and played some volleyball. 
Two weeks after camping, the tribe's final even of the year was a bowling outing.  This was my last event as chief of the tribe.  I’ll be glad to be done with responsibility.  I will be happier not trying to teach my Boy Scout wilderness ethic to the entire tribe and just go back to enjoying being with Doug.
The boys started summer basketball.  The league started in June, but between vacation, Grandma Camp, Church Camp, and the Beach Camp Out, the boys weren’t around to play until the fourth game on July 18.  Not too good in an 8 game season! We didn’t realize our summer was quite so front-loaded when we signed up to play.  Doug in particular had a steep hill to climb as he has never played organized basketball before, and didn’t go to any practices before his first game.  But he managed quite well, and continues to enjoy himself.  Brad fell right back in, picking up where he left off when basketball season ended and baseball began back in March.
Susan Middleton, Aunt Betty's step-daughter, invited us to go boating one Sunday afternoon on San Diego Bay.  She and her son Sean were house and dog sitting in the Coronado Quays, the only San Diego community with houses with their own docks.  We sailed on a 24 ft sailboat for 90 minutes, rested, then returned to the water for a stint in a motor boat.  It was the first time the boys had sailed in three or four years.

Puppy Chronicles :  
Although Dancer is calming down and growing up (she’s really still just a puppy at 8 months and 60 pounds), we’re back in more dog classes on Saturdays.  The class after “Puppy Kindergarten” is “Family Manners.”  We’re trying to add “Stay” and “Wait” and a better “Come!” to her repertoire. Rather than the whole family going this time, we’re usually sending just two, generally Kristi and one other.
The inevitable has occurred: Dancer has created her own doggie door through the back screen door.

They Said It:
At the Del Mar Fair, Keith, leading the family from the Carnival Rides back to the Exhibits on a “short cut” through the Carnies’ rest and food area: “Look!  The seamy back side to the seamy front side!”
Kristi, to Keith’s surprised look at finding her reading Seabiscuit as opposed to her usual Nora Roberts fare: “I wanted to read something that I’d allow you to put on the web page.”
Doug, describing a Mongolian restaurant where patrons may bang a gong: “If you give them a tip, you get a bong hit.”
Brad, describing an incident at Church Camp, and in the middle remembering lessons from Church Camp: “We were halfway up the mountain when this one girl chickened out – I mean, discovered her limitations.”
Brad, describing a summer afternoon spent hanging out with friends at Vons, Starbucks, and 7-11, with a mischievous, slightly embarrassed smile creeping across his face: “Dad, we loitered.”


Text and Pictures Copyright © 2003 Keith Sherwood - All Rights Reserved
Questions or comments? Write keith at virtualsherwoods dot com .