Photo of the month

In the lap of luxury, or at least sprawled at the foot of it, Ben kicks back for the first time on his new full-size bed. Nothing says you've arrived in the world of big kids quite like your own giant sleeping pad covered in SpongeBob SquarePants decor. Photo by Roni.

June 2004

Our little field researcher at work. Ben takes notes on the plantlife along the as-yet-unopened Halsey Trail on Jersey Island on May 24th. We were there on a work assignment, believe it or not. Photo by Roni.

Ben looks on with rapt attention as Dad helps him identify the components of a cow chip. (It was a dry one!) Photo by Roni.

Back to his notes, Ben keeps track of his observations along the trail. Mount Diablo is visible in the distance. Photo by Roni.

The best thing about a bigger bed is that it gives you more room to hang out with your pals. Captain Underpants and a similarly stuffed compatriot pose for a photo in Ben's room. Photo by Roni.

Don't bother me, I'm hot. June 15th and its 100-plus degree temperatures gave us our first taste of the dog days (no offense, Ariel) of summer to come. Photo by Glenn.

Eevee has found his own way to beat the heat — sprawling on the cool tiles of our entryway. Photo by Glenn.

Roni heads out to grab the mail, passing beneath the wild jungle known as our front porch. This is a day after we added some lattice to get things back under control. Photo by Glenn.

Wisteria grows quickly during the spring. After Glenn nearly got his head sawed off one night by a wayward vine, we decided it was time to add the lattice. Blossoms next year, maybe? We hope. Photo by Glenn.

Our front lawn is looking pretty tired these days. Roni tried to spruce it up a bit with these flowers along our front walkway. We will be extending the path soon, which ought to eliminate some of the dead grass. Photo by Glenn.

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June 14, 2004

Perhaps it is appropriate that today is Flag Day, because we are feeling more patriotic than family oriented this month. This is not to say that there isn't any news to share in this missive, just that in the wake of last month's opus on our travels to Monterey, life on the homefront has been fairly dull by comparison. In fact, it has been one of those months when news from the world around us has had more impact on our lives.

On June 3, the Delta experienced one of its rare events when a levee collapsed along the San Joaquin River on an obscure piece of land called Lower Jones Tract. The resulting flood took out several thousand acres of farm land and left a 400-foot hole in the levee wall that crews are working to patch back together even now. While this break did not have an immediate effect on our home here in Oakley, it did wreak havoc for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, whose mainline runs right behind our house. The water from the broken levee inundated a railroad trestle, rendering it unsafe for train traffic. While repairs to the trestle are being conducted it has been blissfully quiet at our home. Until last night, freight traffic has been all but nonexistent. Amtrak has been rerouting its trains through the Central Valley, so we are absent our usual eight passenger trips per day. There have been a few work trains and switching operations, but that has been about all. We could grow to like this! But we know not to become complacent with our newfound quiet, because it won't last nearly long enough.

Memorial Day found us out shopping for a new bed for Ben. We had been wanting to get him a new one for a long time, but just hadn't found the opportunity until now. Our shopping excursion took us barely half a mile from home, to the tiny showroom of Oakley Sofa & Mattress. That was where we narrowed down our choices while Ben gave the display models a workout. Naturally, he liked all of them. We settled on one that is reasonably soft and ordered it in the full-size. It was delivered on June 3 and takes up quite a bit of space in Ben's small bedroom. Once he got past the trampoline stage, Ben took to his new mattress well. He noted that it is much higher off the ground than his old one, which is because this one has a box spring that the old twin bed lacked. It hasn't made getting to sleep any easier, but it has instilled him with a new sense of pride, and the sleepful hours are hopefully more restful. We have enjoyed watching Ben and his new bed so much that we might follow the lead and replace our own aging mattress next.

But who needs a new bed when you can put in new window screens instead? That was our mission this weekend, as we trekked out to Home Depot and picked up supplies to fix some of our screens that have been in disrepair for the past year or two. As the temperature has been rising the past few weeks, we had reached the point where we couldn't bear the thought of another summer without proper air circulation in our house. We don't have many doors or windows, so when the screen is damaged on one of them you notice it in a hurry. We had two missing window screens and two ripped screens on our patio doors. Not fun, unless you are a fly or mosquito.

We picked up a couple of screen kits, and Glenn spent Sunday afternoon cutting the frames to size and placing the screen material. By evening we were able to open the living room window and front door at the same time to enjoy to cooling breezes off the Delta. This won't help much in the middle of July and August when there is little breeze, but for now it feels pretty good. Eevee, Ben's cantakerous cat, in the main reason we hadn't replaced the screens before now. He reminded us why this morning when he pushed his way through the netting of the new screen. The damage was minimal, fortunately, and Glenn was able to patch it back together. We are now in search of a cat deterrent to prevent further escape attempts.

Our other goal currently is to recapture some of the splendor of our front yard, which has been looking overgrown and run down of late. Roni picked up some more cobblestones and jasmine bushes that she plans to use to extend the path along our driveway and plant hedges along the border of the lawn. The gopher that had been attacking our back yard has migrated to the front and has been working his way along the rose bushes, out to the street. We keep hoping that this will be the last we see of him, but we know we won't be that lucky. We'll have to take anti-gopher measures when we plant the new hedges.

Finally, we opened this month's newsletter by saying that we are feeling patriotic. It's sort of difficult not to on the heels of a week like last one, during which the nation watched as we laid the 40th president to rest. We are a bunch of cynics here, so despite the fact that we found it awe-inspiring to witness the pageantry that comes with a presidential state funeral, we also reached the point of enoughalready by about the third day. Cable news network smother coverage has a way of doing that.

Ronald Reagan is the first president to be buried in a state funeral since Lyndon Johnson back in 1973, when Glenn and Roni were too young to really remember or care. He is the first president to die since Richard Nixon, and the first one in Ben's lifetime. (Ben missed Nixon's death by 10 days.) Ben was about as impressed with the Reagan ceremony as we were with Johnson's, so it is reasonable to assume that he won't have much memory of it by the time he's our age. Ben has been learning about the presidents and a bit of American history, so at least there was some context for explaining to him the significance of a presidential funeral.

For those of us old enough to remember Reagan's presidency, his death is cause for reflection. He was the man at the country's helm when Roni and Glenn were married, which sometimes seems so long ago, even though it has only been 16 years. We both graduated from college during his administration, and watched the nation's priorities shift from concerns over Cold War politics to Political Correctness. What a one-eighty. We came from different family backgrounds — Roni from conservative Catholic/Jewish roots and Glenn from a family of liberal agnostics — which has of course colored our perception of the man Reagan was and the legacy he leaves behind. With all the effusive praise we have heard this past week, it is easy to forget that during his two terms in office Reagan was one of the most revered and reviled presidents to come along in a generation, on a scale equalled only by the esteem in which our current president is held. But for all the talk about how Reaganomics was going to run our country into the ground, and how standing up to the Soviets was going to result in our mutual destruction, and how Reagan was just an actor with an addled mind and without an original thought or an intelligent bone in his body, America is still here, stronger today than it was before Reagan took office. It can't all be attributed to him, of course, but he surely deserves a big part of the credit — more than people in today's political climate will give him credit for. The problem with greatness is that you never know what you've got till it's gone, and only the objective eye of history will see what truly great works our nation's best leaders have done.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 at 01:35 hrs.

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