Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mt. Umunhum and Spring Break

The kids are on Spring Break right now, but we are going nowhere.  We don't usually travel this week anyway (too busy with baseball season) but we will frequently take the week off and do local stuff with the kids.  Unfortunately this year we couldn't find anyone to cover the office (plus I just had 2 weeks "off" for jury duty), so it is a mostly normal work week for us.  We had today off though and wanted to do a little something.

We started the morning off at Scramblz, the kids' favorite place to eat breakfast.  Then we decided to see how close we could drive to Mt. Umunhum.  Everyone local knows what Mt. Umunhum is-- The mountain peak with the big white cube shaped building at top that we can all see from Almaden.   An old military base (read here for details) the concrete tower was part of a radar system used to detect incoming aircraft during the Cold War.

For what ever reason, Vinny is fascinated with Mt Umunhum and the building on top.  Frequently when he draws an outdoor scene, he will include the mountain and building in the background.  We knew it was closed up top, but wanted to see how close we could get.  So off we went.

 We drove and drove, up Hicks Rd to Mt Umunhum Rd  We passed the Sierra Azul Open Reserve parking lot.  We finally came to a closed gate blocking the road.  There was an open gate to walk through, with a sign stating that the boundary of the reserve was 1.2 miles up ahead.  We decided to walk up.

 It was a beautiful hike, with amazing views of Almaden Valley below--look closely, you can see our house.  Lol.  I was surprised at how little the kids complained about the walk, which was straight up a hill.

The view was worth it though.

 So close, yet so far...

 We walked until we reached this sign, stating we were at the boundary of the reserve,  and that there was no trespassing past this point.

This is the tower next to the square building--some type of radar facility I believe?

When we got back to our car there was a nice Park Ranger waiting for us, with a written warning.  Apparently the "do not block access" sign that Pete parked in front of was real and they really didn't want us to block the road.  Thank you Mr. Park Ranger for not giving us a real ticket!

You don't have to go far, or do anything elaborate or fancy to have a fun family day.  It was just a few hours total, but we had a nice morning visiting with the kids, and enjoying some beautiful scenery right in our own backyard.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Happy birthday Joey!!

12 years ago it was a beautiful warm spring day.  Joey made his entrance smoother and easier than all my other boys (although admittedly they were all fairly easy).  I went into labor at 7 am, on my first day of maternity leave, and on Pete's day off.  Labor was fast and easy, and he was here by 3 pm.

That easy going entrance has defined Joey's nature ever since.  He likes everyone, and never has a bad thing to say about anyone (his brothers excluded of course.  He isn't a saint after all)  Because of this, Joey has lots of friends and is comfortable hanging out with anyone.  he is one of those kids that other kids want to be around.  A fabulous quality that will take him far in life.

Joey recently had his head shaved at school, as part of a fundraiser.  He was one of only 6 kids in the entire school willing to do it!

He loves playing baseball and has a quick glove, making him a great second baseman.

He lucked out and got on the Giants this year!

The traditional sprinkle waffles with ice cream birthday breakfast.  Eat up Joey!

Happy birthday to the sweetest boy I know--it is a joy and a honor to be your mother.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Juror #6

Today finally ends the jury service I started back on March 6th.  Like most people when called for jury service, I was hoping to get out of it, and planing what I would say to the judge to make him/her understand how indispensable I was at work.  I waited in the jury room with lots of other people.  Finally, the announcement came over head that would tell me what judge my group was assigned to.  Hearing the name Judge Julia Allogiamento I was thrilled.  I know her!  She lives in the same community/neighborhood that I do.  Our kids go to the same school (but different grades),  my boys have played little league with her son.  Pete and I even contributed to her campaign to be elected judge. And on top of all of that, her husband is a physician so she would understand why I couldn't serve.

We were called into her court while she explained the process, and how important it was to serve in jury service.  She made it quite clear the reasons she would find acceptable to dismiss someone, and because their absence at work would be an inconvenience on others was clearly not going to cut it.  I can not begin to repeat the speech she gave, but I was sincerely moved and decided that it was truly important and I wasn't special just because I was a physician.  I decided at that point not to even bother with an immediate dismissal--I did not want to offend her.  I decided to stay put and take my chances with the selection, with the comfort that per Pete "they never choose physicians to be on a jury anyway".  Then she read the charges.  A man was accused of sexually assaulting a  9/10 year old.  I was both horrified when hearing the charges, and excited because of course a PEDIATRICIAN would not be chosen to sit for a child sexual assault case, right?  RIGHT??

Right.  We were dismissed for the day and told to return in the morning to begin jury selection.  Score!  I know the judge AND it is a child sexual assault case.  I went home that night sure that I would be released the next morning.

The next morning jury selection started and I was in the very first group called up.  It immediatley came up that I knew Julia and how.  I was asked if that would somehow make it hard for me to be impartial.  Well no, of course not.  Neither lawyer had an issue with it, so I stayed.  Then came question time.  Those that have been called before know that it is a long, slow process of many questions asked, people being dismissed, more being called up to fill the seats, and so on and so on.  They knew I was a pediatrician, and a mom,.  Still I stayed.  By the end of the day Friday we still were not quite done, but it was clear to me that I was not going anywhere.  Each lawyer had many chances to excuse me, but they chose not to.  By Monday afternoon I was officially juror number 6.

We were given our trusty badges (which got us to the front of the security line daily--yay!!) and sworn in.  I was shaking and truly terrified.  This was a serious case.  I was going to have to decide this mans fate.  What if we chose wrong and wrongly sentenced a man to prison, not to mention labeled him for life.  On the other hand, what if we chose wrong and a young girl was made to believe that no one believed what happened to her, and she never gets over it.  I never thought before what it would be like to be a juror and to have such a big part in a persons fate.  It is power and it is scary.  I admit I also felt a bit honored that both of these lawyers put that trust in me and believed that I could be impartial and make such a decision.

The trial itself was exciting at times, with lots of down time and waiting around at others.  In the course of the 16 days I read 2 Nelson DeMille books (which are LONG- over 400 and 600 pages each).  I will spare you the details of the acts themselves (but will tell you in person if you ask), but was a 10 year old girl (14 now, 10 when it happened) who was molested by her Dads cousin (40 years old) on 2 separate occasions, for a total of 3 different charges.  The family life was chaotic, with a mom in prison at one point, drug use, kids left with different people, entire families living in 1 room, etc...  The defendant had lots of family there supporting him in court, and they were a rather rough and frightening group.  Other than the mom and dad and one aunt (who said she was molested by him when she was young) none of the other family believed the girl.  They were all there to support him.  There were crazy things happening and antics by the defense lawyer.  I felt like I was on an episode of Law & Order.

So what was the ultimate verdict?  We spent about 5 hours deliberating.  I was chosen to be the foreman by my fellow jurors (another honor I felt).  I was in charge of running the deliberation and keeping us all on track.  It is my signature on the final verdict documents.  It was initially difficult and there were some differing opinions on whether an 11 year old would/could lie about these particular acts.  It was emotionally draining.

The final verdict was guilty on 1 charge of "oral copulation of a minor", guilty on 1 charge of lewd and lascivious behavior, and not guilty on the second charge of lewd and lascivious behavior.

The DA had undercover cops acting as her body guards while the verdict was being read.  The defendant had about 20 family members there and they were not happy.  A bailiff escorted us out the back door, and had us wait for while, hoping the family would leave.  Some did not.  We left as a group, with a police escort, out the back stairs and were escorted to our cars to make sure we were safe. I was shaking.  But I made it to my car safely, and said good bye to the people I spent the last 2 plus weeks with, a mostly nice group.

A pen from the court, that only jurors get!
I need some time to digest the experience, and all that it meant.  I learned a lot and would say that it was a good experience over all.  Did it renew my faith in our judicial system?  Yes, I think it did.  Not sure about my faith in humanity though after some of the things I heard in court!  I think everyone should do it at least once--consider it next time you are called.  I learned a lot about our court systems, and saw things I would never (well hopefully will never!) have the chance to see and experience otherwise.  It was challenging (and expensive!) not being at work for 2 weeks, and did put a lot of work on Pete.  I would happily take on the extra work for him to have the experience of jury duty.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Winter Break 2014

Hard to believe, but this year was our 10th year going to Deer Valley Utah to ski over the winter break.  As usual we met my aunt and uncle there, my cousin Kelly, and our British cousins.  The snow was amazing, the company fantastic and a wonderful time was had by all.

 All the kids had fun in the hot tub--they all get along so well and have such a good time together.

 When they weren't in the hot tub they were hanging out in what we began to call the party room- mine and Pete's bedroom.

At times we skied with the kids, at times they took off on their own for a bit.

This year was a huge turning point for Chris--he improved in leaps and bounds!  He was able to keep up with his big brothers on any blue, and even tried out a few black runs.  In fact, he went on a black run called Lucky Bill that I would not go on!  Our ski time is slowly coming full circle--for the first several years Pete and I skied alone while all the kids were in ski school.  Then they got good enough to ski with us.  One by one they are now each passing us in ability.  For sure Zach and Vinny are better than Pete and I now.  I think Joey is pretty close as well.  After watching Chris ski this year he is very close behind.  Very soon Pete and I will once again be skiing alone because the kids will all leave us behind for the bowls (you will never catch me on any run with the name bowl in the title.  Ever!!)

A couple of days we got dumped on, making for fantastic snow to ski on.  Take that Tahoe!

 Every year my Aunt Dede buys all of the girls/ladies a matching Deer Valley t-shirt--here we are we this years model.
Uncle Harry with the Vinny and Chris

 After 5 straight days of skiing Pete and I were exhausted.  Friday we had a late night flight home so planned on a quiet day at home, packing and relaxing.  Not Zach though!  He went out with Izzy and Elle for the day.  I am sure they had a blast tearing it up with not a single parent on the slopes.  Everyone came back in one piece so all was well.

Zach and the girls
 Another great family vacation on the books!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Do you have a lame tooth fairy like we do?

Our tooth fairy has gotten more creative with her excuses.  Vinny found the following note with his money this morning (after several days of the tooth being forgotten) :

Don't judge.  What do you expect with 4 kids?

Friday, February 14, 2014

The same...but very different

 Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  As I was at the bookstore this week picking out magazines for my boys for their treat boxes, I thought about how unique each one of them was.  I very clearly remember being pregnant with Christopher, and all the comments that generated from other people (a lot of them not very nice--let's just leave it at that!).  One of the ones that I heard was along the lines of having another boy and how that would just be more of the same thing.  That couldn't be any further from the truth!  Yes they are all boys, both they are quite different in their personalities.

The magazines I picked out for them (we are going on a trip tomorrow so I got it for them to take on the plane) reflect perfectly the differences in their personalities.  The History magazine is for Zach, my news watching teen who loves history and wants to be a politician.  Mad magazine for my social, could care less about school pre teen Joey.  The Us magazine, Olympics edition is for Vinny, who has been GLUED to the Olympics every night, fascinated by all the athletes (he even watched the entire opening ceremony, with the parade of athletes, long after we had all fallen asleep in front of it).  And for Christopher, the precocious baby of the family, Simpsons and SpongeBob comic books.

They also got their traditional heart shaped pancakes,  heart shaped pizza 

and by request from Christopher, a heart shaped brownie cake!

Happy Valentine's Day Contini boys!  I love each and every thing about each one of you.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy birthday Big Vin!

Vinny is 10 years old today!!  Woo hoo!

What can I say about Vinny?  Vinny is my quirky, creative and imaginative, very bright, and frequently exasperating boy.  He drives his brothers crazy, and knows exactly which buttons to push.  He probably makes me want to pull my hair out more than the others, but also makes me laugh the most.  There is never a dull moment with Vinny around!  In the past I have talked about what a great singer he is (seriously, Pete and I can not carry a tune to save our lives.  Who knows where he gets it from)  and have shown what a great artist he is.  Turns out he is also a poet!

He wrote the above poem last year after our cat Buster died.  It brings a tear to my eye.

*click to enlarge
Last week (while he was supposed to be doing homework--  Omg, do not get me going on his unwillingness to do his homework!!)  he wrote the above poem just for fun. It reminded me a lot of a Shel Silverstein poem.  The sarcasm cracks me up and is classic Vinny.  Not many 10 year olds get sarcasm like he does.  Of course he has had a great teacher for that!

We love you to pieces Vinny and hope you have a birthday as fabulous as you are!!  Now go do your homework!