community

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dancin’ kiddos

Posted by lynn on 23 Apr 2013 | Tagged as: community, friends, melina

This afternoon I happened to catch Melina and her buddies practicing a salsa routine for their upcoming after-school program performance. Look at them go!

halloween

Posted by lynn on 02 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: community, friends, kai, melina, nalani

nali_parade

m_parade

What a jam-packed Halloween we had this year! On my agenda were two school parades (preschool and elementary), volunteering at the Halloween centers in Melina’s classroom, a half day of work, a parade and costume contest at the community center around the corner (also home to Melina and Kai’s after school program), and finally a potluck with trick-or-treating at the Beelers. Phew!

sibs

costume_contest

Melina had been looking forward to Halloween with as much enthusiasm as she counts down to her birthday and Christmas. It’s a big deal. And it didn’t disappoint: she had a full bag of treats before she even left kindergarten for the afternoon, and it only grew from there. The rec center party was especially impressive: they paraded for nearly a mile, with a few police escorts down the busier streets. And afterwards the auditorium was packed with costume contest participants.

trickortreat_poppers

tracees_groupshot

We also got a chance to trick-or-treat down our block on the way home. Nalani took it all in stride and got the swing of this candy-asking thing by the second house. (At the first, she knocked, and when someone answered the door she turned and walked away.)

Happy start to the holiday season!

sunday streets

Posted by lynn on 19 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: community, family, friends

readytoroll_streets_blog

family_sundaystreets2012blog

Last Sunday, Berkeley closed down 17 blocks of Shattuck Avenue to create a 1 1/4 mile-long block party. We have festivals all the time, especially in the fall, but always smaller-scale in geography and larger-scale in the number of food, craft, and music booths packed into a relatively small space. Sunday Streets is a growing, world-wide movement and is all about opening up a main artery to the walking and cycling public, letting the community take back the streets for an afternoon in a very literal and more personal way.

friends_streets_blog

kids_streets_blog

Rachel, Kendall, Mina, and I biked up Shattuck right before the party started but after the street was blocked off. (Empty! Exhilarating! Barely 11am and we could already feel what this was all about). We soon met up with the Schultzes and the Beelers at the top of the event in Gourmet Ghetto. We spent most the day together, trying to keep track of seven kids and at least four or five nicely-shared bikes and helmets between us.

schultz_streets_bike_blog

sundaystreets_group_blog

We walked, and rode, and watched the kids get their faces painted and decorate pumpkins. We drank beer from Andronico’s out of plastic cups and bought the kids ice cream drumsticks from the grocery store because the line for fancy sorbet was about two-dozen deep. The party officially ran from 11am to 4pm. We planned to go for a couple hours early on then head back in time for Nalani’s afternoon nap. We ended up staying until well past three. No nap for little monkey that day: we were all having too much fun!

happy halloween!

Posted by lynn on 02 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: community, family, friends, kai, melina

We had a busy Halloween weekend, and now have a house full of candy to keep us sugar-high for weeks if we so choose.

Coy Ballerina

Primping for the Parade

The fun began Friday morning, with Melina’s preschool Halloween parade. As I dressed her as a ballerina that morning she was already giddy and kept saying “I wanna be ballerina in parade!” She barely sat still for me to do her pony tails, but did insist on adding three pink barrettes. I think she was tired from all her excitement before we even walked out the door.

Duckies Parade Rope

Look at that bat, way up there!

Joey and I both took her to school that morning and walked with her and 60 other wee ones as they paraded up and down the block, collecting candy from merchants along the way. The two-year-olds held onto a rope the whole way, most of them wide-eyed with all the activity.

Lollipop w/ Zachy B

Pre- Trick or Treat

Meli’s teachers let her wear her costume all day – she was thrilled! That evening we had neighbors Max and Kendall (and their parents) over for pizza, cookies, and Halloween videos. All the tots wore their costumes, but Kai decided he was just a “student” in his school T-shirt. Kai was also the only kid to pay attention to “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” but they all enjoyed a Dora Halloween special.

Say Candy!

Trick or Treat Trail

Not surprisingly, by Saturday Melina seemed a little Halloweened-out until Kai started talking up trick-or-treat and all the candy. We double dipped on Halloween night, first stopping by Max’s house for a party with popcorn and cider, and then going to friend Lily’s house in the hills for a potluck party and trick-or-treating with play group friends. The kids all collected so much candy their pumpkins were almost too heavy for them to carry.

Next house please, I need more candy!

Trick or Treat w/ Emma

Melina spent the latter part of the party emptying all her loot from her pumpkin into a bag then back again, at least 20 times. She did ask to have a tangerine she’d collected, but didn’t try to eat a single candy until Sunday morning. I don’t think she knew exactly what it was.

We polished off our Halloween weekend with a Sunday Dia de los Muertos celebration at a neighbor’s house. And now, on to Thanksgiving!

mlk & obama days

Posted by lynn on 21 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: community, kai, melina

Ready to Paint!

Like most Americans, we found ourselves in a two-day-long celebration of MLK Day and the Obama inauguration. Kai was especially excited about both events, and talked me into helping him make a mini cake for Martin Luther King, Jr. using a mini pan and crazy cake recipe my parents gave him for Christmas. The cake turned out a little funky, but was full of good intentions.

Art on MLK Day

Earlier in the day, we celebrated summer-like January weather at an outdoor toddler painting party. Melina painted paper, a plate, a muffin, and my hair – and somehow ended up with a red and blue mouth as if to honor the national historical significance of the Obama inauguration the next morn.

MLK Day: New Friends at the Park

We all watched the ceremony from Kai’s school’s cafeteria, where parents were invited to join a school-wide assembly. My favorite moment of the day came just before the big event, when Kai’s teacher explained to 20 kindergartners the reasons for this inauguration’s special significance.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr!“Barack Obama is our first president of color. He’s also a very young president. And, he’s a president for everyone.” Leave it to a kindergarten teacher to have such clarity and diplomacy!

In the spirit of the great men we celebrated, we ended both days with an appropriate nod to community. On MLK Day Kai and Meli played with two newfound neighbor kids at a nearby park, and on Obama Day we had celebratory drinks at a newly opened cafe & wine bar down the street, with our newly formed, newly organized South Berkeley neighborhood association.

election 08

Posted by lynn on 05 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: community, kai

I can’t let today pass without at least saying something brief about the overwhelming significance of this election. All the obvious remarks go without saying. I mean, even five-year-old Kai had the talking points down: “We want Obama to win because he gives money to schools and health care. McCain is bad because he gives money to war.”

We watched the results from the living room of our friends, the Zarlings. We stuck around with two uber-tired kids long enough to hear both speeches. As Kai sat in my lap watching McCain’s concession, I said “Look – he’s not a sore loser. He’s congratulating Obama, and that’s the right thing to do.” By the time Obama appeared in victory, Kai’s eyes were heavy, and my own body felt overwhelmed by pride, relief, and joy. How wonderful is it that Kai and Melina will never remember a time when a black person can’t become president, or when a woman (all politics aside – and there are plenty of them!) can’t run for one of the nation’s highest offices. It’s about time.

obama mamas

Posted by lynn on 03 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: community, friends

Bagels + Obama Training Video (Quinn, Pamela, Joey, Meli)

Obama's S Berkeley HQ (Meli and I passed by on a walk)

With just two days left to go before the election, my writing buddy Pamela decided to organize an Obama Mamas phone party on Sunday. She invited a bunch of moms, dads, and toddlers to her family’s SF home, where half the adults took the kids to the park, and the other half of us stayed behind to make calls to swing state voters on behalf of the Obama campaign.

I got through a list of 25 Ohio voters. About a third of the numbers were disconnected or wrong (including one being a Starbucks), and we all left voice messages on at least half our numbers.

Quinn w/ Jessica

Joey w/ Meli and Aiden

I did connect with a handful of voters, including a couple elderly folks. (Ages are listed on the call sheet.) When I asked the first who she would be supporting on Tuesday she responded: “Well, I’m a democrat.” (implied: Obama, duh!) The second was a man who had to step away for a minute to turn down the TV volume. He came back and said “Sorry, I was watching the Browns.” When I asked who he’d be supporting on Tuesday he said “Obama, of course. We had a vigil for him this morning and will again on Tuesday. My daughter’s taking me to vote, it’s just three minutes away at the high school. Yes, Obama’s the man…”

Thank you for your time, sir. As Pamela would say, “Saving the world one phone call at a time.”

stop aerial spraying for light brown apple moth

Posted by lynn on 21 Feb 2008 | Tagged as: community

I haven’t written a letter of protest in years, but the thought of a government agency dropping little capsules of an untested synthetic hormone from the sky – onto the playground equipment that Melina and Kai use daily – once a month for the next three to five years scares me to no end.

Below is a letter I sent to East Bay assemblymember Loni Hancock and Governor Schwarzenegger.

Please help keep this on their radar, and push for full testing of any substance sprayed on such a dense urban area – or better yet, to use a different method altogether.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

February 20, 2008

Dear Loni Hancock,

I am a Berkeley mother urging you to help stop the scheduled aerial spraying of synthetic pheromone intended to eradicate the light brown apple moth in the densely populated Bay Area.

Spraying that occurred in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties late last year resulted in hundreds of reported cases of sickness following the application of the pesticide. These included burning eyes, scratchy throats, shortness of breath and stomach pain, as well as asthma attacks and symptoms as disturbing as interruptions in menstrual cycles, indicating that the reproductive system is affected.

I am seriously concerned about any number of frightening consequences for my young daughter and stepson, my family, my neighbors, and our community at large.

While I understand that the formulation of the pesticide has been changed since last year’s spraying in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, I am appalled that the USDA so easily earned an “emergency exemption from registration” and is allowed to spray the new pesticide without sufficient testing for immediate let alone long term health effects. I am equally disturbed that similar aerial spraying efforts have not been successful at eradicating the light brown apple moth in other regions, and the possibility that our government would put our children and our community at risk for naught.

Please force the CDFA to forego the aerial spraying for the light brown apple moth in dense Bay Area neighborhoods until the ingredients and their properties are fully disclosed and shown to be safe, the reports of illness in sprayed areas are investigated fully, and the threat to the ecosystem and feasibility of species eradication is proven. Urge them to proceed instead only with the less invasive measures currently in place in other counties, such as pheromone-soaked twist-ties, traps, and Bt applications.

Let our children play safely outside this and every summer.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
Laralynn W Rapoza

good bye griffon

Posted by lynn on 02 Feb 2008 | Tagged as: community, family

sign_logo.gifYesterday ended a mini-era for our family: After just a year and a half in business, Joey closed the doors for good on Green Griffon Games.

It was a tough decision that he came to by himself, though I’ve known for a while it was the right thing to do. Maybe if we lived in Anytown, Middle America – where store rents are reasonable and one income can provide the necessities for a family – we could make it work. But we’re not planning on leaving the Bay Area any time soon.

Ironically, he opened the store right after I found out I was pregnant. He set up shop as I lay nauseated with first-trimester sickness on our couch, and I have many fond memories of walking newborn Melina around neighboring gourmet ghetto while Joey worked Saturday Magic and Pokemon tournaments at the store last summer.

I’m so proud of my husband for following his dream and making it a reality, even for such a short time. Next time, though, he’s promised to collaborate with me more fully on such a large undertaking, and make it a joint dream-come-true. Hmmm… Neighborhood cafe/bookstore? Volunteer venture in South America? Ooooo, the possibilities! But first, let’s get through kindergarten for Kai and toilet training for the Melina Bean.

peace flags in the neighborhood

Posted by lynn on 04 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: community

Peace + Love

I wish I could title this post simply “peace in the neighborhood,” but alas it’s not yet so. We had another homocide (drug-related shooting) just last month. It happened one block from Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, a favorite hangout among locals. We heard about it by chance on the evening news.

Painting @ Sweet Adeline

Joey tracked down the officer in charge of community relations for ours and the adjacent police beat, and I’ve had multiple conversations with him regarding steps being taken to “get the bad guys off the streets.” His words, not mine. In the past I would have cringed at such rigid distinctions (there’s always a back story, right?) but having two small kids, a mortgage, and a desire for pride in my community has left me feeling much more pragmatic. Most importantly, I want to feel safe when I walk out my front door.

More Painting @ Sweet Adeline

Since having Melina I’ve met a ton of neighbors, people I never saw before because I never walked the streets. Before having a baby and being a stay-at-home mom, our home was a destination by car at the end of every day, not a place I considered growing roots. Since June all that has changed, and I’ve found plenty of like-minded neighbors, like Caryn down the street who organized a “Dia de los Muertos” community gathering yesterday at Sweet Adeline’s.

Melina Eats Daddy's Shirt, Sweet Adeline

Several dozen adults and an equal number of young kids gathered to eat cookies, chat, and paint peace flags. We met a young family walking down the street the moment we stepped out our door, and discovered they have lived less than a block away for nearly two years. The actual celebration presented much of the same: wonderful, community-minded folks who want to commit to improving our neighborhood but don’t quite know how. Caryn and I started an email/phone sign-up sheet. We’re not sure yet what we’ll do with it, but it felt like an appropriate step. At the least, the gathering filled me with hope and encouragement, and a nascent sense of belonging in a neighborhood where we haven’t yet committed to staying but really, really want to.

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