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Today in My History

2000:  "Forever" friends
2001:  No entry
2002:  An Old Dog's New Tricks
2003:  The Not So Proud and the Profane
2004:  Just GO, Already
2005:  Thru the Years
A Life in Books
2007: Lord of the Rings


Books Read in 2008
Updated: 4/27
"Dead and Doggone"



SPCA 2008 Walk-a-Thon

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Mefeedia Video Archive

My Favorite Video Blogs
Desert Nut
(for others, see
Links page)

Look at these videos!
Ellen: The Musical
Hey, Jude
The Engineers Guide to Cats
El Camino del Rey
Just the Black Notes

Family Stories Vlog
(updated 10/2/07)

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SPCA Walk-a-Thon

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Airy Persiflage


6 May 2008

Unlike Ned & Marta, Walt and I did not take seriously the notion that overpopulation was a serious global issue back in the 1960s, and so we populated ourselves into a large family, by today's standards.  When you have five children (and they were born within six and a half years), there are financial issues that limit what you can do with them. 

I don't know why I remember this so strongly, but I can remember going to the circus with my parents and always wanting the junky things that they came around selling to the crowd (a bird that whirled around on a string attached to a stick is one I remember) and having my parents tell me I couldn't have it.  I swore then and there that when I had children of my own, I would not deny our kids the things they wanted.

Yeah.  Right.  I didn't realize then that those cheap toys were seriously overpriced and that my family was on a budget and we were lucky to be at the circus at all.

So we said "no" to things our kids wanted a lot (poor Jeri never did get "Marvel, the Mustang") and I always died a little when we had to, because I knew how they felt. 

But there were some things that we really wanted the kids to experience, one of which was learning how to appreciate eating in a "real" restaurant.  I remember as a child that our family ate out often, usually with my grandparents.  We would go to an Italian place in North Beach, or "Grisson's Steak House," or somewhere that my father could get prime rib.   "Eating out" was a part of my growing up and I wanted my kids to have that opportunity as well.  I not only wanted them to have the fun, but I wanted them to learn how to behave in a restaurant with real silverware and linen napkins.

When we went out as a family, it was usually for pizza or to McDonald's and I remember Char's kids thinking ours were so terribly deprived because all they got to have was a hamburger, shared large fries, and a soft drink, where Char's kids were having Big Macs, individual fries, and milk shakes.   Our poor deprived children.

If we couldn't afford 7 Big Macs at a time, we certainly couldn't afford to take them all out to a "normal" restaurant, so we came up with a solution that I'm still proud of.  We decided that once a month, one kid would go to dinner with one parent.  Walt and I alternated months so that over the course of the year, each child got to have dinner out with each of us. 

The child got to pick the restaurant and the only rule was that it had to be a sit-down restaurant.  No fast food for dinner night.

At that time The Nut Tree was a big deal around here, a favorite stop of people traveling along I-80.  (It has since been torn down and replaced by a strip mall, which tried to keep some of the flavor, and failed miserably.)  When we started kids' night out, it had a wonderful upscale restaurant with a huge aviary in the middle of it.  You could sit there waiting for your meal and watch all the exotic birds flying about in the trees.

NutTreeRestaurant.jpg (150733 bytes)
(The aviary is the glass wall in the back)

The Nut Tree bakery made all the breads and instead of getting rolls before dinner, each person would get a little individual loaf of home made bread on a tiny bread board, with a serrated knife to slice it.  Along with your bread, they brought a fresh pineapple and a delicious marshmallow dressing.  It was a favorite choice of several of the kids for a place to go for dinner.  And I loved it because I loved the place too.  There were frequently long lines of people waiting to get into the restaurant.  There was also a huge toy store where they sold offbeat toys, and a child's train that ran around the perimeter of the grounds, out as far as the Nut Tree airport and back again.  (Yes, it had an airport and the place was so well known it was not uncommon for some rich guys to hop in their planes in So. California and fly up for lunch.)

NutTree.jpg (86692 bytes)
Train leaving the Toy Shop, restaurant at back

The guy who founded the restaurant was a fanatic about planes, so there was a huge gift shop, where you could buy Nut Tree foods from the bakery (like supersized decorated cookies), or unusual gifts from around the world.  You could also visit the airplane corner and choose from a huge collection of books and photographs and memorabilia about airplanes.

It was always a multi-media experience, shopping at The Nut Tree!

But we didn't always go to the Nut Tree.  Each child had his or own unique preferences when it came to choosing where to go for dinner, whether the choice was for ambience or for food type or because they remembered having liked the restaurant before (or a sibling had raved about it).

Ned always had the most interesting choice of restaurants.  He decided that his nights out would give him the opportunity to experience all sorts of ethnic cuisine, so he would choose a country whose food he wanted to taste and we would check out the telephone book to find a restaurant.  I remember the two of us eating in one of the most wonderful Indian restaurants I've ever visited.   It was in Sacramento and I couldn't find it now if I tried, but it sure was a good meal.

I think we kept up the kids' nights out for about two or three years.  I don't know why we stopped, but maybe as the kids got older schedules started getting too busy.  But I loved the opportunity to focus on one child, to talk about serious stuff and funny stuff without being interrupted by another child who needed attention, while at the same time the other parent was at home trying to make it fun for the kids who were left behind.

And I'm proud to report that all of them today know how to behave in a nice restaurant.  :) 



family.jpg (142270 bytes)

The latest picture of Bri and parents


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