When it comes to birthday cake, nobody does it better than Baskin-Robbins. Unfortunately, they don't leave a lot of room for those icing messages. Photo by Glenn.
The ice cream cake was good. Now it's time to delve into the gifts. Photo by Glenn.
Roni gets the Gary Allan CD she really wanted. Country still rules the roost on her iTunes playlist. Photo by Glenn.
Our back yard is in desperate need of help. Here is our "lawn" and evergreen ash tree (visible at left). You're looking at what used to be the railroad garden in the distance near the fence. Photo by Glenn.
Roni's garden is buried beneath a sea of foxtails. Photo by Glenn.
Standing on the garden path and looking back toward the gazebo, it is hard to see where the weeds end and the path begins. Photo by Glenn.
When you start weeding you encounter some interesting finds. We're not quite sure how this fish head wound up in our yard, as the Delta is at least a quarter mile to the north. We speculate that a bird transported it from the nearby marina and left it here. Photo by Glenn.
There are a few things growing in our yard that aren't weeds. The African daisies are doing quite well on their own, thankyaverymuch. A flying insect is digging on the cool blossoms. Photo by Glenn.
Poppies technically qualify as a weed, but would you dare call the state flower a weed? Of course not! So we enjoy their golden orange presence in our garden. Photo by Glenn.
Did we say golden orange? Do not attempt to adjust your monitor, this really is a yellow poppy growing amid a sea of its orange brethren. Not sure why it's yellow. Just a genetic oddity, most likely. Photo by Glenn.
Ben works on getting some eggs ready for the rabbit on Easter eve. Photo by Glenn.
Roni tries one of the new egg decorating kits that she found at the store. Guess these are kind of pretty, but they were also rather messy. Photo by Glenn.
Yard look any better? The day after we cleared away some of the weeds, Ben hunts for candy eggs on Easter morning. Photo by Glenn.
There must be one or two hidden in the ivy... Photo by Glenn.
Did we find them all yet? Ben shows off his almost-full basket during his Easter egg hunt. Photo by Glenn.
Peter Cottontail's designated egg inspector (Mom) checks to verify that all plastic candy-containing eggs have been accounted for. Photo by Glenn.
Spring marks the return of dirt track action at the Antioch Speedway. This is Daniel Buck taking practice laps in his dirt mod. Photo by Glenn.
Scott Busby and David Press run hot laps in their dirt modifieds as the sun sets at the speedway. Photo by Glenn.
Last year's sprint car champion, Bob Newberry, gets in some hot laps. Look at the time it's time for the night's race card to get underway. Photo by Glenn.
Michael Jackson in training? Ben strikes a pop star pose as he shows off his work gloves prior to a serious weed-pulling session. Photo by Glenn.
The first step to backyard recovery is to remove the accumulation of weed piles on our patio. Roni bought a new garbage can just for the occasion. Ben helps fill it up. Photo by Glenn.
Our sweet broom is happier now that the weeds have been cleared from around it. Two weeks after Easter the plant is bursting with yellow blossoms. Photo by Glenn.
With the ravenous gophers cruising through our yard over the winter, Roni feared that her favorite blue girl rose bush would be toast. But it appears to have survived the season quite nicely. Photo by Glenn.
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Revisionist history 101
April 24, 2005
The great thing about being a parent is that you get to learn about the world all over again. For example, it is a little known fact of American history that Sylvester Stallone explored Monterey Bay in 1602. Apparently, long before Sly donned boxing gloves for his famous film roll in "Rocky," he was cruising along the Pacific coast with a bunch of Conquistadors ratting out all the cool stuff the Indians had to the monarchy of Spain, convincing them that they should send a few more expeditions to the Golden State.
This factoid is absolutely true, and was verified by our son, Ben, as he prepared his timeline of California history recently for a class project. OK, so it's not entirely true. Ben didn't actually say that Rambo explored California; he correctly typed the name of Sebastian Vizcaino into his word processor, and it was only when he spellchecked the thing before he printed a final report that the software, in its infinite wisdom, subbed in the name of the 20th century movie star for that of the 17th century explorer. We know not why. But the moral to this little tale is never rely on spellcheck for anything.
Being that we were studying about famous explorers, we took their lead and did a little exploring of our own and fortunately discovered the error before it was submitted to the teacher. We have recently been engaged in a dialog with Ben's teacher about the merits of letting him type his work on the computer. Despite the fact that both of his parents write for a living, Ben hasn't yet picked up the joy of writing in his studies. In fact, trying to get him to write anything longhand is a major chore. He is much more comfortable at the keyboard, and until recently his teachers have let him use it to compose his homework assignments.
But Ben's current teacher is trying to discourage him from using the computer because she is afraid he'll rely on spellcheck when he should be practicing how to spell. He's a pretty darn good speller without the software, but he tends to be impatient when it comes to homework, so any tool we can find to encourage him in that area is important. It's not like the good old days when the kids used to sit in class for hours going over penmanship. Some of them ours included can bearly write their names legibly. It's just not a valued skill in the age of the Internet and No Child Left Behind, where everything is tests and numbers. Bottom line stuff. They'll eventually all be communicating in ebonics through their blogs anyhow, so who needs to learn stuff like penmanship, or grammar, or spuhling... er, spelling? If it feels good and sort of makes sense when you write it and someone else sort of understands it when they read it, then hey, maybe that's good enough. Whatever.
A Spanish explorer or Hollywood film crew would certainly find plenty of challenges in our back yard these days. We've lamented before in this space about the disastrous state of affairs in our garden, and every spring we start out with good intentions to clear the overgrowth and plant anew before the temperature climbs and all those plans go out the window. This spring has been no different, unfortunately.
We were kind of forced into doing some spring cleanup on our wedding anniversary, which fell the day before Easter. Any parent who has ever had young children at Easter time will understand the importance of having a weed-free yard in which certain oversized egg-bearing mammals with floppy ears (or not) can move about freely to deposit their treasures. How horrible it would be, we said, if E. Bunny should come hopping along and happen to stumble on a broken brick and become impaled on a grape stake, or insert his paw into a gopher hole. So it was a simple matter to convince Ben that he should assist in the worthwhile endeavor of turning our backyard obstacle course into something slightly less obstacley.
While Roni visited the grocery store, Glenn and Ben tackled the weeds on what had been our back lawn. It was almost a year ago that we began tearing out the old sod in preparation for new ground cover of some sort eventually. The loosened soil is easier to work in, but it is also fertile ground for the weeds that sprout like... well, weeds. March/April and August/September are the weediest months of the year in our yard, and just about any ground that wasn't covered during winter's rains has been thicketed with wildflowers or foxtails. We cleared out enough of the big weeds that the aforementioned bunny had no problem hiding his plastic goody-filled eggs that night.
Ben, of course, wasted no time tracking down the bunny's leavings the next morning. As far as Ben is concerned, candy is dandy, but it's the toys the bunny leaves in some of the eggs that get him revved up for the hunt. This year the rabbit left behind some Megaman battle chips for Ben's electronic Digivice, as well as some Legos that can be turned into Pichu or Pikachu, depending on which of the Pokémon the user prefers.
Unless you think incorrectly that Easter concluded this year's gardening campaign, we were back at it two weeks later, this time armed with gloves, Hefty sacks and a new garbage can that Roni picked up from Kmart. In a couple of hours we managed to liberate the triangular patch of patio that hides behind our spa where in ancient times we occasionally held barbecues. Sand from the slope behind the patio had spilled over the retaining wall (actually it had some assistance from a certain 10-year-old) and had mounded in one corner, sprouting weeds. The opposite side of the concrete had been used to store last year's weeds and bits of green netting from the sod we'd been tearing out. Over the winter this patch too had sprouted weeds. To make things more challenging, our Chenin grape has been growing like gangbusters and its vines were working their way through the debris pile. We separated the branches out of the muck, then shoveled the rest of the weeds into the trash bags. That's one small step for spring cleaning, one giant leap toward giving our yard the extreme makeover it desperately needs.
Despite the fact that we neglect them terribly throughout most of the year, there are some plants in our yard that have fended quite well on their own. We have a rosemary bush in Roni's garden that has grown so large we have to prune it regularly or it will take over the back yard. Glenn has been bringing in freezer bags of clippings to the newspaper, where his colleagues rib him about the funny green plants he is smuggling in to the newsroom. Poppies thrive every spring, along with our dozen rose bushes that are putting out one of their best crops of blossoms despite being ravaged a few months ago by Mr. Gopher. And our sweet broom, which once was a centerpiece on Glenn's garden railway, bounced back again with a dazzling display of flaming yellow flowers just a few weeks after we were ready to pronounce it dead. Our wisteria vines one in the back yard and the other at the front porch both put out blossoms for the first time this year, and four of our five grapes have made it into a new growing season. The Chenin already has lots of bunches taking shape.
April always seems to be a big month for national and international news, and this year was no exception. The passing of Pope John Paul II and election of Pope Benedict XVI kept Glenn working late several nights at the newspaper, mostly on papal death watch. It was very unfortunate that the Vatican, being almost halfway around the globe, tended to make announcements at 1 o'clock in the morning our time, a little late for a morning paper's deadline. As it happened, the pope died on Glenn's day off and all was well. And then of course there was the Terri Schiavo feeding tube fight in Florida near the end of March that had everyone on death vigil. And we just got through with the anniversaries of Columbine, Waco and Oklahoma City, all in one week. Too much death and misery. Makes you want to hide out indoors and turn off the media for a while just to escape.
On the subject of misery, we beat the tax filing deadline with about a day to spare this year. As usual, we wrote a check to our uncle in Washington, D.C. He never even bothers to thank us either! It would have been nice to get a refund because we have plans to buy a new mattress for our bedroom. The old one has finally reached the point where we fight it more than we sleep on it.
Roni celebrated her 43rd birthday March 23 with Ben and Glenn in attendance. We feasted on pecan pralines ice cream cake and watched her open her gifts, which included scented candles, a Gary Allan music CD, a suncatcher and a couple other sundries. We brought Ben along March 26 when we celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary with dinner at Mimi's Café in Antioch. It was a pleasant evening for all, even if we did end up taking home a lot of leftovers. Mimi's feeds you pretty well.
The racing season has started again at Antioch Speedway, where Glenn went April 2 to catch the action on what turned out to be a typically cold spring night. He stuck it out until the race card concluded at 10:30 p.m., but he decided it was time to come home when his teeth started chattering so loudly he feared he might end up breaking them. Sweaters and heavy jackets are highly advisable when you visit the Delta this time of year.
Temperatures should become less of a concern as we prepare to head into May. That's typically the time of year when we suddenly rocket from 60s and 70s to 80s and 90s. Before then we hope to get back to conquering some more of our back yard weed world.
Glenn, Roni and Ben