The Kuraoka Family Weekly Journal

The Kuraoka family, August 2011
Us, April 29, 2012: Leo, Roy, Buddy, Ondine, and John

Friday, June 8, 2012

We've had a big week! We'll start with Roy's birthday, and if you missed the photos of his slumber party, they're hanging on our virtual refrigerator door.

Roy had a big day on his actual birthday. He received three awards in the Pershing Student Awards Ceremony - for Outstanding Performance in Technical Theatre (for his work with Tech Crew on Grease), the Learning Upgrade Certificate in Math, and Honor Roll 3.5!

It was interesting to see how many of Roy's friends also earned awards (and really only a small number of kids were recognized). It's a high-achieving bunch!

Then Roy had his at-home birthday. Grandma Baba came over after dinner for some dessert - we had apple pie and ice cream, and Roy got a Hostess Cupcake on top of all that! Then it was time for him to go to the Scout meeting, because there was lots of stuff for him to turn in for upcoming activities.

Here are the photos from Roy's Big Day:

Roy also received official notification that he'd passed his Pre-Algebra test with a score of 42 out of 45, so he's now approved to take 7th Grade Algebra next year! He knows of only four other kids who passed the test, one of whom was his friend Michael.

Leo had a big week too. On Tuesday, he received his 200-mile Running Club ribbon! At Hearst, unlike at Gage, kids can only run before school but mileage accumulates over the entire school career. As of June 4, Leo had run 238 miles since going to Hearst.

Hearst has something called the "Waste Food Bin," a program designed to cut down on food waste. Kids can put unopened, unwanted food items in a special bin, and kids who maybe forgot a lunch or are still hungry can go pick things out. We think it's a good program.

But on Tuesday, Leo decided to forage for spicy chips, and ate one bag plus part of another. He got so sick! He was practically doubled over in pain all evening, and we kept him home from school on Wednesday. By Wednesday evening he was feeling much better, and he returned to school on Thursday. But he learned an important lesson about good food choices!

Leo's class party was on Thursday, and despite the quantity of chips and chocolates, he did fine.

Kindles! Roy and Leo have Kindle Keyboards! We set up their Amazon accounts with pre-paid, reloadable American Express cards from Target. It took some doing to find reloadable cards that don't charge monthly fees. With the cards we got, the only cost is the initial $3 purchase price and $3 every time it's reloaded. We also set up email addresses for Roy and Leo that automatically forward to us so we can see what they're buying.

We set up Roy's Kindle first, to see how it worked and run out the kinks, then set up Leo's.

So Roy got his Kindle a week or so before Leo did. Anyway, in seconds they were navigating the Kindle ebook store like pros. Roy downloaded a bunch of free classics, and they've both downloaded some free samples to try out before they buy. So far, Roy's big purchase was a $10 Lego builder's guide, and Leo's was an $8 Big Nate ebook. We've also showed them how to log onto their library accounts and reserve ebooks to borrow.

We wondered how long it would take them to try going online with the Kindles. It took a day or two before Roy came in, excited, to show off how looked on the Kindle. Ha!

Mega Yard work! Our front and back yards got completely redone. The landscapers cleared the weeds, cut and hauled away dead trees and shrubs, removed the sick peach tree, and trimmed shrubs. Then the yards were excavated a couple inches down and leveled with truckloads of sand and gravel. Then, red brick pavers were laid, with spaces for the trees, a planting area, and two raised beds in front. Also, the embankments behind our house and Barbara's house were cleared!

The back was pretty much finished Wednesday. The front yard, including an extra bit finishing off the entry, was finished Thursday. Here are photos charting the progress!

June 1 - stripped bare.

June 5 - the back is almost entirely finished, and the front is ready for pavers.

June 6 - the front yard is nearly completed. Note our newly slurry-sealed street too! It really does look that black.

We couldn't park or drive on the street from 7am to 5pm, and had to park a ways away. Even the landscapers had to park way down the street or around two corners. Some people forgot about the signs, and were yelled at by the work crews as they drove out.

However, the street was opened up for driving and parking that evening. So, with all the hikers who park along Boulder Lake to go up the mountain, the sealant in that area is already churned up in spots. Maybe the city should've kept the streets closed - at least for parking - until the next morning?

June 7 - all done!

Buddy was amazed during the first few days of the yard renovation. He'd go out in the back yard and there'd be a huge pile of cut brush and severed tree limbs. He'd pussyfoot around the pile, sniffing it gingerly and eyeing it warily. He soon got used to the chaos, although it was tough when he couldn't go outside all day long. We took him next door a couple times, to run around in Barbara's back yard.

One sad note: with all the noise and ground cover being ripped out, two gopher snakes took refuge on a neighbor's property where they were promptly killed. We're told the snakes were both six feet long. So much for rat control - and Buddy's everyday playmates - until another gopher snake crosses the street or comes all the way up the culvert! For the past couple years, neither Barbara nor we had any rats, which was notable because of all our fruit trees and composting.

Thursday we went to see Bryan Gust, our financial advisor, to check in on retirement and college savings plans. We're researching 529 plans for education savings. Any tips?

Ondine had Thursday and Friday off, because she's on call this weekend - her last on-call weekend because the company is phasing it out. She's enjoyed swapping a weekend for having a couple weekdays off, although it will also be nice to be able to share every weekend with the family.

Weekend Preview. Ondine is on-call, so she's sort of tied to the phone, plus she has paperwork to do, phone calls to make, and a visit scheduled. She also wants to work with Barbara to build the second raised bed planter box for the front yard.

Neighborhood gas prices are still about $4.25 per gallon for regular, although the Chevron near Hearst is $4.15 per gallon. That station's prices often lead in both directions, so when they heads up we know prices are rising.

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