Sunday, November 30, 2008

College Application Time Again


Did you know that today, or rather tonight, is the deadline for college applications for the University of California system? My oldest boy, the 18-y-o high school senior, spent a few days with me this weekend. He had not completed his 2 essays yet, and they were due tonight. I helped him. I told him that the reason for most cases of writer's block was that people are afraid to write cr@p. I told him to go ahead and write cr@p, and I would help him fix it. He already had his topics worked out and got to work writing away. He wrote and wrote and came up with about 750 words per each essay. I cut out the repetitive parts and got it down to just under 500 words each, which is what was required. He is transmitting the application, along with the two essays, to the UC system and we will see which of the 6 universities he gets into. I will be sitting on pins and needles until spring, just like I did with my daughter 3 years ago. Wish him luck!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rabbi, wife and kids murdered in Mumbai, India


I mourn this tragic and senseless loss, as well as all those killed.

Above is a picture of Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg on the right and his wife Rivkah the left performing a wedding in India. This couple and their children from New York were murdered by terrorists in Mumbai, India this week.

To contribute to their orphaned son, the toddler Moshe who escaped with the nanny, or to help rebuild the Chabad Jewish Center in Mumbai, India, go to this website: chabadindia

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Neighborhood Pics and a Rant

Here is a view from the deck off the master bedroom. It is up a little higher, so you can see across the yards somewhat. The neighbor next door has cleared off her rubble. The corner house has not.


Here is a view of the tarp we have placed across our hillside from the cul de sac below our house. I bet those folks are glad we are being responsible. If we were to have a mudslide, they are the ones who would me most affected.


I was glad to see that the neighbors are tarping their hillsides as well. If any of the hill were to go, that would weaken our hill, and we would lose some of our property. You know that view I love so much? I guess there is a price tag. Hillside worries. Fire and mudslides.


I went through the answering machine messages today. One of them really ticked me off. And I'm not the only one angry about this. We evacuated at 2:20pm on Saturday the 15th. I decided to leave my garage because, in addition to overwhelming smoke, I felt actual HEAT from the fire. Thank goodness the babies were already buckled into the car. The city called us on reverse 911 at 4:31pm and told us to evacuate. This was over TWO HOURS LATE! Oh, and did I mention that there were no police or fire during the emergency? They showed up over an hour later, after many homes had already burned. There is something really wrong with the system when our officials are not there for us during our time of need. We lucked out at my house that the fire got going slowly enough for the firemen and neighbors to put it out. But really. I think there needs to be a better system of keeping track of the fire. I suggested to the fire captain last week that they should have infrared capability along with GPS in observational aircraft keeping an eye on things. And even if they run our of firefighters, they should at least send in police or a gosh darned meter maid to tell residents to flee. We're really lucky that nobody lost their lives. If there had been an invalid or somebody asleep in their home, they would have burned. We HAVE to do better than this. It's not right.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rubble


Here is a picture of my house on the right, and the neighbor's house on the left. We lost 8 houses in the immediate neighborhood, burned to the ground.

I just settled on a contractor today. I hope we can get going on the garage repairs. We can't move back in until that is completed, because the smoky smell keeps coming in the house. It's bad for the kids. The pool fence went up today, which is a big deal for me. I'm a stickler for pool safety. The wrought iron fence needs repair as well. It burned pretty thoroughly on the hillside and between our homes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Neighborhood Heroes

Here is a cell phone video of the news broadcast about our neighborhood. The little kid in the green pajamas is my 5-y-o son. I'm in there too. Sorry about the poor picture and sound quality.
video

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

pics of fire aftermath

You know that pic at the top of my blog? This is what remains of the deck. The one with the glass sides.


Here is a pic from inside the garage looking up to the new "skylight" in the roof. One of the contractors just told me perhaps it will rain Tuesday or Thursday. I hope he is wrong.


And this is my front door. Not a problem until the police and firemen keep telling us that there are looters in the neighborhood.

Not much time

On this picture, you can see the attic vent on the left side of this house that allowed the burning embers from the fire to infiltrate the attic. If you live in a fire zone, make sure the vents don't face the oncoming wind.


And here is the helicopter as it made one of the 3 water drops on my house.

My big family is shoe-horned into 2 rooms at a small hotel. Blah. Our insurance company will be getting us a bigger house soon, I hope. We may be out for a month. The smell from the damaged portion of the garage is overpowering. And the baby's room is the worst. The corner of his room is about 6 feet from the burned out hole. We can't put the baby in there to sleep with that smell in there. They are packing up all the stuff in the house for cleaning. And they will send in ServPro. That is the service that comes in and cleans everything to make it nice again. And all new mattresses.

I have been at the house constantly, during the day, interviewing contractors and overseeing work. The pool guy is here now. He pumped out the pool last night. It was a toxic soup of cinders and fire retardant foam. In fact, an 8-y-o neighbor kid fell in the pool the day before yesterday. He and my kids were running around. He walked through the melted portion of the pool fence. The foam on the pool was so thick and bright, he thought it was concrete and stepped onto it. So at least the water is gone now. And the remains of the neighbor's house will be removed starting tomorrow. That will be good, because with all that toxic dust being stirred up, I want that done before the guys clean my house.

There is just so much to do. I'm sorry I don't have more pictures. Here are some more from the neighbor man who took pictures during the fire. I was not here at that time.

I have some pics of the aftermath on my cell phone and camera, but I don't have time to upload them right now. Thank you all for your support.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First fire pics



The house on the right is mine. The house on the left, my next door neighbor's, burned to the ground.

My house partially burned

I am home. I had to sneak up by a horse trail to get here because the roads are all blocked. My kids and I hiked all the way up. Our house has a hole burned in the roof of the garage, and the back deck is gone, and most of the plants. Apparently neighbors used garden hoses to save our house because the firemen didn't arrive for 1 1/2 hours. :roll: There was no evacuation, just fire and smoke.

I just got interviewed by a nice Aussie TV reporter for channel 10. So you may see me with baby A in the back pack being interviewed on tonight's newscast. :-D

Our immediate neighborhood lost 7 homes. Including my next door neighbor. It was a miracle my house survived.

I'll get pictures for you soon. Trying to settle the kids in and clear out the smoke smell.

Sunday Funny


I saw this at the dentist's office on Thursday. If you can't read the caption, it says, "Come back! I didn't say 'dentistry'! I said 'destiny'! Our team has a rendezvous with destiny!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Amber Light of Destruction


Sunsets are pretty. Not this one. I saw the late evening light turn amber. And my thoughts turned to those people in Montecito, California who have lost so much. Homes, plants and animals burned. Brown haze across the sky. Not pretty.

Still loving martial arts

My boy still LOVES Brazilian Jujitsu. He loves every minute of the classes. Usually the class consists of 20 minutes of warm-up exercises, then technique demonstration and practice, then sparring, followed by a game. Recently they played tug-of-war. R is 4th from the right in this picture.

Then last night he was awarded his 4th belt stripe. Here he is pictured with his teacher and a few classmates. R is second from the right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Men Working

I have to say I am so impressed with what I have been reading lately on the blogs. If you haven't seen these posts already, I want to share them. Julia at Sometimes Lucid wrote another amazing post, this time about the Holocaust. You know this is a topic near and dear to my heart. It is a description of some of the events of Kristallnacht, which I wrote about previously in my post on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Julia's post is a forwarded email from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and is very very profound.

Another great pro-life blog post was written by Cassandra-Ann, about Down-Syndrome babies and abortion. This is a personal story about a family she knows and their experience having not one but two DS pregnancies in a row.

My own topic for discussion today is about street resurfacing. This was the first inkling I had that something was going to be happening on my street:

I had to park my minivan outside last night. I can't tell you how relieved I was to find my car still there this morning. I am petrified about parking my car on the street overnight ever since my car was stolen out of my driveway back in 1997. Yes, I live in a good neighborhood. But isn't that where the car thieves go shopping when they want a car? Thankfully, it is still there and I will park it in the garage tonight.

As I walked my son to the school bus this morning, I saw that all of the cars were moved off the street except one. There was a green Jeep Wrangler parked on the street in front of a neighbor's house who I sort of know. This lady used to work at the school's front desk, and she is in the process of moving, and her kids are supposedly living at the house. So when her car was still in the street 1 hour after the moving deadline, I called the school to see if they could reach her and let her know the car was about to be towed. I hope they were able to get to her on time.

The boys are very excited about all of this activity. They love big machines and men who do big, important work.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Should vs. Do


I read such a cute post at Sometimes Lucid. It was about what you should do versus what you actually do. Then not an hour later at breakfast I was faced with a Should vs. Do. I Should eat the fiber-rich cereal in the bowl on the right. I Want to eat the contents of the plate on the left.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dating Fun


So my big date turned out well, with only one super embarrassing moment.

I scheduled in a sitter from a local babysitting service. These are older gals, screened, with experience in early childhood education. The 30-y-o gal showed up with a suitcase full of toys, games and crafts. After she arrived I was able to put on my makeup and finish getting dressed.

Then we went to a mid-level italian restaurant. I decided on this one because I had splurged on the tickets to the show already, and I didn't want to break the bank any more than it had already been broken. Dinner was great. I had Mushroom Raviolis Al Forno, in white sauce, with a glass of Merlot.

From there, we went to see a play called The Heiress at the South Coast Repertory Theater. The play was amazing. Here is the description from the web page:
In 1850s New York, a widower and his daughter go about their lives, craving love but powerless to express their needs. Into their home comes a charming suitor who awakens the daughter's spirit and brightens her world. As the subtle psychological drama unfolds, audiences experience great theatre at its most compelling.

This turned out to be one of those thought-provoking plays that I spent the following day ruminating on.

So if you are still reading, I'll go ahead and divulge what was so embarrassing. Remember I said I splurged and bought the most expensive tickets? They were in the center section of the theater. Since I had bought them about a week before the show, I assumed they would be toward the back. Imaging my surprise when they were in the *Front Row*. Things were going fine for us until, in the middle of the play, my husband's cell phone blared out a loud, screeching song. He fumbled and fumbled and it took forever to shut the thing off, while I sat there covering my face with my hands. The actors happened to be on the front portion of the stage about 3 feet in front of us at the time, and they were forced to pause in their lines until the cacophony stopped. It was a truly horrible moment. My husband later explained that although he had his phone on vibrate, there is a button on the outside of the phone that controls a sort of MP3 player. And he doesn't really know how to work it. And periodically it goes off in his pocket and blares out music. Ugh! Our seatmates gently teased us about it later, and we laughed at it ourselves after the intermission, when the announcer reminded everybody to "turn off all beeping devices". Aaaaahh!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weaning - Goodbye Cleavage!


I always wean my babies around their first birthday. Happy Birthday Baby! :-( It makes me want to cry. Especially now. I'm turning 45 in March. Such deep sadness. Every time he nuzzles in for milk in the mornings and evenings. I breathe in the sweetness of his hair. His tiny (and growing) body. His chubby cheeks. His greedy mouth. I want to freeze the moment in time to last forever. But this can't be. I'm so happy he is growing. And so sad to lose my baby.

And last night on my big date, my breasts were over full with milk. So goodbye to big cleavage too.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Do you see a resemblance here?


Can you see a resemblance between my father and my boys? Especially the one on the left?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Update on DD, family

Well my daughter has stopped blogging, so I will have to do it for her. She and I last spoke about a week ago, right before she left on ANOTHER trip around Europe. She went first to Barcelona, Spain. From there she went to Scotland. And just yesterday she arrived in Paris, France. She will be back to her computer in Rome in a few days to post, hopefully, and share pictures on her blog (see link lower left). I'm not jealous. I'm not jealous. I'm not jealous.

In other news, baby A is getting a new name. A. He he. He turned 1 on election day, so he is not a baby anymore. I need to show you the piccies. Stay tuned for that.

Otherwise the days consist of slogging through 3 boys-worth of homework every afternoon. Driving to piano class, jujitsu class, Hebrew school and errands. Entertaining and exercising the boys. I have been doing much better lately at keeping them away from the television. Also, I asked Miss I to switch her hours so she works from 10 to 6, and she is around in the afternoon when the house is overflowing with boy activities, instead of running to her car the minute the boys get home from school. It is so nice to have her out back playing with some of the boys while I get the others through their homework.

And, to cheer myself up, (can't imagine why that would be necessary) I bought tickets this weekend to a play and made reservations at an Italian restaurant and booked a babysitter. My husband and I are going on a DATE. I know. Alert the media. MA is going on a DATE!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Congrats


Congratulations to my left-leaning friends. I know this moment has been a long time coming. I sure hope you are right about this.

Let's compare taxes: USA, Canada, Australia



OK. Let's demystify this whole tax thing. Here are the tax rates for a number of countries. Starting with the

United States of America, 2008 tax rates (Wikipedia):

For 2008, the Federal tax brackets for a single (unmarried) person are:

* 10%: from $0 to $8,025
* 15%: from $8,026 to $32,550
* 25%: from $32,551 to $78,850
* 28%: from $78,851 to $164,550
* 33%: from $164,551 to $357,700
* 35%: $357,701 and above
40 percent of Americans pay no federal taxes. The bottom 50 percent pay 2.9 percent of total American tax. The top 10 percent pay 70 percent of collected taxes. Those are the IRS numbers. We almost have redistribution already.

Canada's federal government has the following tax brackets for the 2007 tax year:

• 15% from 0 to $37,885
• 22% from $37,885 to $75,769
• 26% from $75,769 to $123,184
29% $123,184 and above

Australia's 2008-2009 financial year taxes are:

* Nil from 0 to $6,000
* 15% from $6,000 to $34,000
* 30% from $34,001 to $80,000
* 40% from $80,001 to $180,000
* 45% 180,001 and over

Sweden 2002 personal income tax rates:

* 31% from 0 to 232,600 Krona (about $173,065)
* 51% from 232,000 Krona to 374,000 Krona (about $278,000)
* 56% 374,000 Krona ($278,000) and above
Taxes in Sweden consume more than 50 percent of GDP (gross domestic product, or total value of all goods and services produced in a country). The aggregate tax burden rose by about 150 percent between 1950 and 1980, but has since that time remained relatively stable. The top marginal income tax rate is about 57 percent. While punitive, the top rate used to be nearly 90 percent in the late 1970s (right before I visited there). While the long-term trend is positive, the short-term trend is unfavorable. The top tax rate had fallen to 51 percent immediately after the 1991 reform.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Scenes cut from Obama infomercial

Look closely at your candidate.

What Would President Lincoln Do?

You will never build a strong country by pulling the strong down.
-President Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Political Cartoon #2

This really resonates.