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The Sherwood Men in wetsuits at La Jolla cove.
Old Man Doug
At the elementary school silent auction last June, the Sherwoods engaged in a furious bidding war with one or two other families for an ocean kayaking package put together by Brad’s fifth grade teacher (and leader of the Ride Across California), Mr. Bueker.  Brad was perhaps as excited as we have ever seen him when he learned that we had indeed prevailed.  Mr. Bueker I’m sure would have been delighted with whoever eventually triumphed, as all bidders were parents he knew (like us) from the classroom and bike ride.  It wasn't until the first weekend in October that we were finally able to synchronize the Bueker and Sherwood schedules along with the tide tables and collect on our package .
Keith and Kristi took a weekend getaway to Las Vegas for Keith’s 40th birthday on the eleventh.  The boys are old enough now to leave with someone else and their parents can be pretty sure everyone will survive and thrive.  That someone in this case was 21 year old cousin Beckie Ninnis, recently graduated from Whittier College and come to San Diego to seek her fortune.  She stayed at our house with the boys for the weekend.  Becky probably ended up spending more time with Dancer than the boys: just because the parents were gone, the boys saw no reason to pause the torrid pace of their activities outside the home, and still managed to spend time at friends' houses, go to church and basketball.
Keith and Kristi are not Las Vegas regulars, and are decidedly not high rollers.  Our goals for the weekend were therefore correspondingly modest: tour the strip, see a show, and lay by the pool.  Keith took Friday off work, and we started north Friday morning shortly after dropping the boys off at school. We stayed a couple blocks off the strip, preferring a less expensive suite to a more expensive smaller room in one of the behemoths on the strip. 
Friday night and Saturday day we walked the strip.  Very few times did we actually stop and gamble (if nickel slots and quarter video poker even counts as gambling).  We just took in each hotel/casino's spectacle in turn. Saturday night we saw Penn & Teller (magic with an attitude), then checked out downtown, where we bought gaudy baubles at cheap souvenir shops.
There are no pictures of this trip.  We didn't even take the camera.  Frankly, for all the spectacle that is Las Vegas, there is really nothing there we wanted our picture in front of.  I suppose that is a good defining difference between Vegas and, say, a National Park.
Kristi finished up both school directories in a final flurry of activity in mid-October.  They actually could have gone to the printers a week earlier, but our computer printer at home failed, and she was reduced to emailing documents to Keith at work for him to print and bring home.
She was just getting the directories off her plate when the next big annual school project started needing Kristi's attention: running the elementary school’s County Geography Olympiad team.  Kristi got the new principal on board and recruited a teacher sponsor.  She then completed the hardest task: publicizing tryouts, writing and then administering a tryout test, and finally grading the tests and picking a team.  All of which was rendered useless within 24 hours by the receipt of notice the Olympiad had been canceled this year for lack of schools signing up.  Kristi admitted to being both disappointed and relieved.  Bradley, who made his Middle School’s team and was going for his fourth year in a row, was crestfallen.
Brad has been playing one or two basketball games every Saturday this month.  So much for our dream of free Saturdays this fall when both boys decided to retire from soccer.  The team is a bit over matched in the league, getting whomped more often than not.  Still, Brad continues to impress his parents with his good attitude, during and after blow outs.  We believe we see the lessons of 5 years of recreational baseball and soccer have firmly taken root: have fun and do your best. 
With Brad in competitive play, we have experienced another, not nearly so innocuous, first: paying to see our son play.  Although the league fee covers gym rental for practice, the facility charges admittance for spectators on Saturday.  Really quite galling.
With two months of school completed, we now have a pretty good idea of how each boy’s school year is going to go.  Doug’s teacher Mrs. Castro was new to the school this year and therefore an unknown.  We think Doug lucked out getting her; she’s fantastic.  Some of the other teachers have already adopted some of the curriculum she brought over with her.  Doug continues to do well in reading and math.
Brad has adjusted extremely well to the demands of middle school.  He likes the movement between teachers and rooms for different subjects.  And he's even buckling down, preferring working hard at school to loads of homework: in order to minimize what can be a sizable homework load, instead of goofing off when he completes an assignment in class, he gets out his books and works on that evening's homework.  He's also enjoying daily PE and band.
Not only was October 2003 the 40th anniversary of Keith’s birth, it was also the first anniversary of the new Mustang convertible in the family stable.  We remain one of the few families we know without either a mini van or an SUV.  Over the course of the last year, nearly every weekend held some event (bicycle trip, camping, dog training class, fire evacuation) where an SUV would have come in handy.  On the other hand, the convertible top is utilized nearly every day commuting, and at least one day a weekend.  The top is down over 90% of the time.
Friday evening October 24th we traveled north to be with Great Aunt Betty at Brighton Gardens. It was their Halloween Ball with staff and various residents in costume.  Betty's step daughter Susan and friend Beth had already been there for awhile when we finally completed our commute up to Carlsbad.  Betty was in great form.  We arrived just as Betty was competing in the costume contest. She was enjoying herself immensely.  She surprised, delighted and scared us all by dancing with Brad for some 10 minutes.  One of the staff remarked, "We've never seen Betty like this before!" to which Kristi replied, "This is the Betty we knew before the stroke."
Were we in danger by the San Diego firestorms on Sunday October 26? Well, we were alarmed enough that we made initial preparations to evacuate.  We did pack a box or two and some clothes, and moved them downstairs nearer the car.  It's pretty scary watching TV reports from neighboring suburbs, and recognizing places that are burning. After checking the TV reports again before going to sleep, Keith woke up a couple times at night and checked the sky for smoke.  By Monday morning, it was clear Penasquitos was safe as long as winds didn't change.  All in all, it was very reminiscent of the Los Alamos wildfires of 2000.
Kristi had by far the closest look at the fire of anybody in the family.  She left church service Sunday morning to go with the minister’s wife to their home in Tierrasanta, which was being evacuated (and where 10 homes would eventually be lost).  For more details of the fire and what our week was like, here is a diary of the week .
With school unexpectedly closed the week of Halloween, moms all over town were going crazy because the kids were home and cooped up inside (because the air was too dirty to go outside) .  Also, Room Mom Kristi was left holding the bag of Halloween paraphernalia bought earlier for a classroom party that never happened.  Combine the two with some clever moms, and you get Gail, Julie and Kristi holding a daytime Halloween party at Gail's house mid-week. Just about all the kids from the camp out attended.
Halloween day the boys spent carving their pumpkins in the garage. That evening Doug went Trick or Treating with friends while Brad attended the Halloween Carnival at church.  Brad was a hippie and Doug was an old man. Kristi worked on affixing labels to her 1065 middle school directories.  Whenever the doorbell rang, Keith would hold Dancer back while Kristi opened the door.  Although it was hoped Halloween would renew our spirits and mark an end to the fire mourning period, foot traffic was definitely very light this year.

They Read It:
Doug: Swamp Monsters Don't Chase Wild Turkeys; Monsters of Morley Manor
Brad: The Fallen Man (thanks, Nana!)

They Said It:
Brad, contemplating the Vons workers' strike: "Darn, I was counting on Vons for a high school job.  Oh well, there's always Starbucks."

Most idiosyncratic items evacuated from the house:
Doug's and Keith's "rounders," the YMCA Indian Guides badges with both our Indian names on them and the beads we get for attending an activity or camp out.


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