Wednesday, July 26, 2006


There are only two kinds of spiders where I live -- daddy longlegs and black widows.

So, imagine my surprise when I heard my daughter scream. I had never heard such a frightful scream.
She stood at the doorway shaking, and pointed.

I looked and then ran to get the camera before grabbing a shoe and killing this thing.

Now I wish I hadn't. Why didn't I catch it? This thing was huge. My other daughter said her biology teacher would have loved it.

Jenna had stepped outside to get the mail and when she was coming back in, she saw the spider hanging in mid air - at face level! When she screamed, it continued down and then ran up the door.

At first I thought this was a brown recluse (I thought for sure that was a violin shape on his back) even though I knew that they do not live in this area. Then I read that brown recluses have violin shapes on their heads, not bodies. So, I figured this may be a female Hobo spider.

But I really have no idea what it is.

Anyone out there ever seen one of these? I have zero idea what it may be. Why, oh why, did I kill it? (actually, smashed it and then flushed it down the toilet.)

Since then, I've looked and looked and have not found another one.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

13 little things every parent should do with their little ones

The hot weather has continued out West -- as it has everywhere else -- but yesterday was bad for the elderly and children -- reaching 112 in Porterville and 114 in Terra Bella, five miles south of Porterville. We experienced brownouts and short blackouts through the day so I kept my computers off for most of the day.

But, following up on the Thursday 13 thing that I read about on Kelly's blog -- I'll go ahead and post on 13 little things (most of them free) that every parent should do with their little ones.

Little ones grow up too fast. I have done all of these with my children and was always suprised to hear from my nephews and nieces that they never had done some of these things with their parents when they were little.

13 little things every parent should do with their children - in no particular order

1. Make a sand castle (or snow sculpture)
2. Bake a cake (or cookies, etc.)
3. Take your 5-year-old (younger if you think they can handle it) child to a very fancy restaurant for lunch. Before leaving, explain about all the silverware and how to place the napkin, etc. Practice at your own table at home. The child will feel extra special being there. If cost is too much, go out only for dessert. Take one child at a time for some personal one-on-one time.
4. Play charades with your child. (Disney movies work great)
5. Make sock puppets together and then invite the family or neighbors to a sock puppet show
6. play on the swing sets at a park together (not just push, but you get on too)
7. dance together - everything from silly dances to disco, swing, the twist and salsa
8. camp in the backyard - tent, sleeping bags (sorry, we used air mattresses under them) and smores.
9. hugs - lots and lots of them
10. read to them - every day (can't stress this enough - it is so important)
11. buy them a special ornament every Christmas. When they grow up, they'll have a collection to start their tree with. I started this when my girls were born. (A ballerina when they were in dance, a softball player ornament when one started playing. Whatever they loved or did that year, I'd find the perfect ornament. I'd start shopping as soon as they were out in stores, sometimes running into the perfect one in the summer at specialty stores, but I always know when I come across the perfect one for the year.) The best ones were not the expensive boxed ones - many of mine are from International World Market (love that store)
While in New York, I kept looking for one to buy and hide for my daughter who went with me, but I never saw any. But anyway, kids will treasure them and each one will have a year of memories to go with it.
12. Speaking of Christmas, go shopping togeher for a less fortunate child. We live in the Historical District, which means - it is next to the poorest (and highest crime) side of town, so it is easy to find a family every year (they move in and out next door) to semi adopt at Christmas. Depending on how poor they are, we have bought them a tree, lights and ornaments, or sometimes will just buy a special gift for the children. My girls love going shopping for others.
One year we did not know the family very long but we sneaked onto the porch early in the morning and left gifts for the children and a box of food. We knocked on the door and ran away.
Later, the mom came over, with tears, thanking us. She said she had no idea what she was going to tell the kids (recent divorcee and totally broke) and she said it was probably the best Christmas they'd had in a long time.
13. Don't let a single day go by without saying "I love you" to them.

Remember, you reap what you sow.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

13 is not a bad number

I have always loved the number 13. And today, I found another reason why. I ran across something called Thursday 13. I saw it on Kelly's blog - and I fell in love with her post. It was so beautiful! If you haven't read "13 reasons we love Grandma's visits" -- you're missing out. No, we all can't have grandmas like that. I never had a grandma. Maybe that is why I loved this post so much. Thank you, Kelly, for sharing a little of your grandmother with the rest of us. think of 13 somethings to post about. I know it is Thursday 13 - but it may be the weekend before its up.

End of days?

Every time the weather or moon looks different, my mother will call me to remind me that we are living in the final days.

A couple of weeks ago, the moon was full and orange. It was beautiful. But a bit eerie. This evening, there was a green tint in the sky. I thought it was strange looking but didn't give it a second thought until my youngest daughter came and said, "Whoa! Have you looked outside? It is all green-looking."

We all went out and noticed the way the sun was setting and the strange orange and green lights coming from the west. To the east, there was a large rainbow (it had not rained, or at least not in our immediate area - though it was overcast.)

An hour later, my mom called.

"Have you gone outside?" she said. "It's really strange and there is a huge rainbow out there."

Now, that surprised me. I live 40 minutes north of her. I never expected her to see the same rainbow.

She then started talking about the end times and how these were all signs. It is not that I don't believe her, because I too believe we are in final days (if you consider how many thousands of years have already passed) but I tend to find explanations to things she calls mysteries of God.

Yes, I do believe in God. But I also believe that many people, especially uneducated ones, tend to try to give everything a religous twist.

She had heard of the recent tsunami and brought that up. Then she started talking about strange weather patterns.

I almost asked her if she saw "The Day After Tomorrow" but decided it may scare her too much.

I explained that there is a really big monsoon in Arizona right now -- that's what the weather report said last night -- and it was going to bring a bit of moisture and a lot of high humidity our way. But I'm not sure she listened. Her mind was made up.

"Repent. Repent now for the end is near."

No, she didn't say those words. She knows that I'm a good Christian girl. But I do hear her telling others that. I stopped trying to reason with her. Some things, with some people, are just better off left alone.

We have had some very hot weather lately. And I did remind her that by the weekend, they are forcasting 110 and 111-degrees here. I would love it if she would come and stay with me for the weekend. (I worry so much about her when she does not) Nope. But, she promised to keep the a/c on through the weekend. (She's a constant penny-pincher and would almost prefer to sweat it out than turn the thing on -- even though one of my sisters pays for her electricity.)

Anybody else out there experiencing strange weather phenomenons?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Back in Business

First, I must apologize for anyone that might have tried to view my blog. I know it must have been frustrating if it jammed your computer in the process. At least, that is what kept happening to me.

I have had quite a few days filled with frustration but I believe it has been fixed.

I finally moved all of my band stories to a new page on my personal website and that seems to make everything run smoother.

So, now that I am semi-back, I can once more enjoy posting and reading. Though, I'm not really sure how much time I can dedicate to the Internet because I have been extremely busy with my upcoming 30th year High School Reunion.

But, until then, everyone keep telling those stories -- sooner or later, I'll try to catch up.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Porterville Panther Band - The Fresno Bee

Panthers win top honors at parade

Porterville High band plays in East Coast locations; students tour historical sites.

By Esther Avila / Special to The Fresno Bee
Friday, July 14, 2006

PORTERVILLE — Nine days and nine states later, Porterville High School Panther Band members returned July 6 from their East Coast tour with several thousand dollars in awards under their caps.

The band won top honors at the Fairfax, Va., Independence Celebration parade — an honor that came with a $5,000 award...To read the story, click here.

Porterville High School band director Jim Kusserow walks by as drum major Miguel Soto conducts the band in front of the Fairfax, Va., Independence Day parade judges. Kusserow says he is proud of the band and says they represented the city of Porterville with "maturity and honor."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I've been tagged

It has been awhile since I have participated in a techno-tag game. KellyC has tagged me so I guess it's time to step up to the bat and play.

The perfect parent:

It is hard to believe that all parents do not have their children's best interest in mind. It is heartbreaking to read so many awful stories in the newspapers -- so for you (Kelly) to come in and start tagging on this subject, is refreshing. The qualities you mentioned are beautiful.

I believe a perfect parent (rich or poor) is one who spends quality time with their children. That is the principal key to everything. Of couse, not everyone can be a stay-at-home mom and my heart goes out to single parents who wish they could.

I consider myself (and my kids) very blessed for that ability and I think that is one of the reasons they are such ideal kids.

In my opinion there are several things that children must have in a parent or parent figure:

1. Plenty of love -- "with love, all things are possible" -- is not just a saying. Love is strong. By loving a child, you are giving them self-esteem. Love must be given and shown. Love and respect your significant other and you give your child more than anything else you can dream of.

2. Being there -- A child needs parents to be there for them. I know, many of you have grown up just fine but today's world is so different. Not all children can be left alone for hours at a time. It is too dangerous. We are considered strict parents by many, but we don't care what others think. We are here for our children.

3. Reading -- can't stress this enough. I started reading to my children while they were infants. They not only loved it but by the time they entered kindergarten, they were reading second-grade material. (I never even realized it) They have been overachievers ever since and to this day, they love to read. I think reading to a child is a buildling block that can't be overlooked.

4. Spending quality time -- sometimes you have to let the dishes go while you take time out to take a little one to the park. The dishes will still be there later, your child may not. A perfect parent will take their shoes off and run in the grass with their child. A perfect parent lets her 3-year-old mix the batter while they bake. One of my favorite cherished memories (I wish I had a picture of it) is of my little one wearing a big apron and standing on a chair -- flour all over her face -- as she laughs and tells me about her day while stirring some batter for a birthday cake. Yes, they make a mess and it is simpler to make it yourself -- but the smile it produces and the pride you see beaming from the child when the cake is done --that is priceless!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I'm back!

I will never complain about the heat again! I rarely do but after experiencing the high humidy of the East Coast - I think I can handle the triple digit weather here.

What an amazing week I had -- going to New York, Philadelphia, Fairfax, VA, Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

I returned Thursday but worked Friday and today and had not had a chance to come in and write. I think I'm still living on East Coast time - which is fine - I love going to bed early and waking up so refreshed.

I'm off to see Superman at the theater and relax a bit for the afternoon/evening - but I promise to try to get in some writing (and pictures) about the trip. Hopefully I can start this weekend.

In the meantime, I will copy my stories from the week on here but I will return to add personal posts with pictures.

It's good to be home!

By the way, can anyone tell me how I can arrange these entries in a certain order. I placed all of the band stories in order from Day 1 through last day -- but they aren't appearing in that order. They seem to be jumbled up.

Day 7 - Panther Band East Coast Tour - Fairfax, VA -- Fourth of July

(Photo by Esther Avila)

PHS Band Brings Home Top Honors

By Esther Avila
for The Porterville Recorder

FAIRFAX, VA -- Porterville Panther Band members cheered and screamed Tuesday night when they heard their name announced as the overall best high school marching band at the 40th annual City of Fairfax Independence Celebration parade.

To read the story, click here.

Day 6 - Panther Band East Coast Tour - Washington D.C.

Photo by Esther Avila
Story published in the Porterville Recorder on July 4, 2006

They Don't Care if They Ever Get Back

By Esther Avila for The Porterville Recorder

WASHINGTON DC -- There was one main goal on Monday's agenda for the Porterville Panther Band -- to enjoy the day. And that is exactly what they did.

To Read the story, click here.

Day 4 and 5 - Panther Band East Coast Tour - NYC, Arlington National Cemetery and Washington D.C.

This story was published in The Porterville Recorder on July 3, 2006
Photo by Esther Avila

PHS shines at Arlington

By Esther Avila, For The Porterville Recorder

ARLINGTON, Va. - It was all about patriotism and honor Sunday as the Porterville Panther Band continued to shine on its East Coast Tour as it performed at some of the countries' most historical sites. A morning performance at Arlington National Cemetery was followed by a patriotic concert on the lawn of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

To read more on this story, click here.

Day 3 - Panther Band East Coast Tour - NYC - Lincoln Center

After leaving Alice Tully Hall from a morning practice session, Britany Bethurum and Bryce Beatty strike a pose when they post a Panther Band poster outside the Lincoln Center announcing their concert. The band performed Friday night. (photo by Esther Avila)
(picture can be viewed here)
To read the story, click here.

Day 1 and 2 - Panther Band East Coast Tour - New York City

This story was published in The Porterville Recorder on June 30, 2006

PHS band members explore Times Square in New York City (photo by Esther Avila)

NEW YORK CITY -- The Porterville Panther Band members' first day of their East Coast tour came to a fun and successful ending with dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and a night time tour of the Empire State Building Wednesday night.

To read more of this story, click here.

Off we go - Porterville Panthers head for the Big Apple

This story was published in The Porterville Recorder on June 24, 2006

Jaclyn McClung checks off a name Thursday as Thomas Eugene picks up his bright orange band shirt. To facilitate spotting band students, they will all be required to wear the shirt at the airports to and from New York. (photo by Esther Avila)

Students and parents crowded the Porterville Panther band room Thursday evening for some last minute instructions and details about their upcoming East Coast tour.

The band departs Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. for eight days packed with activities, including performances in New York City, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C., and Fairfax, Virginia.

To read more of the story, click here.