Christmas in May

May 11, 2000

For a good celebration there is nothing like a birthday. And if you really want to start the adrenaline flowing, there's nothing like a child's birthday. Benji always looks forward to his, along with what has become a traditional party and the chance to get together with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Oh yes, and let's not forget the presents.

We got an early start on celebrating Benji's sixth birthday when we held two parties in the same day on April 30. The first was a kids' party at Antioch Golf 'N' Games with three of his friends from school -- Daniel, James and Andrew. We played carnival games; dined on hotdogs, cupcakes and ice cream; opened presents; and smacked golf balls up hills, around obstacles and through little cottages in a wild round of miniature golf. Tiger Woods doesn't have anything on a group of rambunctious 6-year-olds when it comes to enthusiasm.

Later that afternoon, we opened our home to family and friends for a barbecue and a birthday cake with candles. It was also the first public showing of our still-under-construction retaining wall and stairs -- but more on that in a moment. Glenn flipped burgers and roasted chicken while Roni kept the table stocked with hors d'oeuvres. Benji scored some great gifts, including some Pokémon and Star Wars videos, a new cartridge for his Gameboy, some board games and a new shirt. As the party died down and Glenn's folks headed home, Roni's sister Jacki and her husband Kevin stayed for a while with Benji's cousins Kristi and Bobby for a wild game of touch football. We were all pretty worn out after that.

The celebrations continued May 2 -- Benji's actual birthday -- when he was furnished with still more presents, courtesy of his parents. He is still enjoying the many gifts he received, and it may be awhile before he has a chance to figure all of them out. He is finding many ways to play with the set of Pokémon action figures he received between Easter and his birthday, and we frequently hear Pokémon "battles" between Ash, Brock, Misty and Team Rocket emanating from the living room in the early hours of the morning. He does love that show.

Now, back to the wall...

Last month we told you how we had schlepped several tons of retaining wall blocks, bricks and other building materials into our back yard and were in the process of building the new wall and preparing to construct the first set of stairs and a low brick retaining wall. Well, the past month has seen substantial progress. We ran out of our original shipment of 180 blocks and 250 bricks and have been making almost daily trips to Home Depot in Pittsburg to acquire more, a few at a time so as not to break Roni's car. As of this writing, we have literally turned the final corner on the wall (Glenn placed the final eight blocks Wednesday!) and are marking out the area for the second staircase. The low retaining wall is also close to completion, needing just a handful of bricks to be placed. The first staircase in the garden area needs another couple of flights using the large cinder blocks that will eventually be encased in bricks. We ran out of bricks a couple of weeks ago and only just managed to acquire another 120, so our delayed brickwork should soon be finished.

Roni has been planting the wall with all varieties of ivy and ice plant. We had been fortunate to have wild poppies and lupines adding color to the area during construction, but most of those are now either out of season or have been in the path of Glenn's wall stones. The new plantings are beginning to take hold and we hope they will look more at home in a few months.

We had a brief but severe (for California) hail storm in mid-April which appears to have claimed this year's cherry crop. Rain is bad anyway for developing cherries, but hail is much worse. Looks like all we'll have is a few shriveled pits. :-( The strawberries have made up for the loss of the tree fruit, however, as we have already harvested a couple of large bowls of the berries. Roni expanded her strawberry garden this spring, and we joke that she may have to open a roadside stand soon to get rid of them all. Benji is a big help with that, as he loves strawberries. Our turtle Rhedd gets the bug-eaten ones.

Well, Benji is enjoying his spring break before returning to class for the last three weeks of kindergarten next month. Meanwhile, Glenn is looking forward to a brief respite from work and a chance to finish some of the projects that have been calling to him. Roni, ever busy with her many activities, would like a few minutes to just kick back before the phone rings again! Somehow, we'll all coordinate for some quality time.

May your May be filled with quality, flowers and whatever else floats your boat.

Glenn, Roni and Benji

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