Through the eyes of a child
August 26, 2005
...It was a hard month for us, as we painted to our heart's content. You see, Our month has been as good as gold... er Yellow. We painted the hallways Citron ice, as well as the dining room. Outside we painted pale daffodil. It's not as easy as it looks. We had to trim the hedges. But Glenn was having so much fun with the new toy, he sliced the extension cord in half!...
That's been our month in a nutshell, and Ben sums it up pretty well. Recently our 11-year-old son has become interested in these monthly missives and has been reading back issues posted in the archives on the family Web site. We thought it would be fun to see what would happen if he actually got to write one of these newsletters, so we invited him to compose his observations on his computer with the promise that we would publish the results during August. We offered some suggested topics, but we generally gave him free rein to write about whatever he felt was important. He accepted the challenge and produced about a page and a half of text covering everything from our home improvement misadventures to the experience of attending his first middle school dance.
Because these monthly stories generally run a bit longer than Ben's page-plus we've decided to excerpt some of his best passages throughout the newsletter, but you are strongly encouraged to read his unedited full text. You might be surprised at how articulate he is becoming in print we are. The spelling, punctuation and grammar are all his. Not bad for a kid that just a few months ago would protest vehemently if assigned to write more than a couple simple sentences for a class homework project. And all the more special when you realize that Ben had to overcome adversity to see this project through his computer crashed when he was more than halfway done and he lost a chunk of the text. Fortunately he still could see part of what he had written on screen, so with Mom's help in transcribing it longhand onto paper he was able to resurrect most of what he'd lost. Atta boy.
...It's Been a Rough month, But lets see what glenn says....
Rough might be overstating it just a little, but it certainly has been challenging. Particularly in the area of home improvements. After warming up with a flurry of small projects in early July it was time to get serious. For us, serious meant tackling the job of painting the outside of our house. It is something we hadn't done in eight years right after we bought the place and that desperately needed to be done. Our trusty blue-gray with dark blue trim was showing its age, and there were sections under the eaves that hadn't been painted since the house was built 17 years ago. That old original white paint was flaking off in ribbons, such that all we had to do was breathe on it and we'd be down to the bare wood. But beyond that, we'd grown bored with blue. A lot of houses in the neighborhood have been sporting new paint jobs lately, so we were inspired to try something different. That something, as it turned out, was yellow.
Yellow, as we have since learned, is one of those colors that either looks right or looks very, very wrong. The secret is in finding a shade that is bright enough to be pleasing yet subtle enough not to blind the neighbors at high noon. We've been to both extremes and in between.
Following several weeks of analyzing paint chips collected from Home Depot, we settled on a shade called Moonlit Yellow. Not knowing quite what to expect, we had them mix up just one gallon so we could experiment with it on an inconspicuous portion of our stucco. That inconspicuous spot, in fact, was about 250 square feet of east wall facing the weed-ridden area of our yard that in better times was our garden. We spent a couple days clearing away debris, then let Glenn load up his power sprayer and test the results. We knew right away that Moonlit Yellow would be too pale, as it barely hid the light blue paint beneath it. Ah well, it was only 20 bucks for the experiment, which was better than blowing about 200 bucks to do the whole house in a color we hated.
So it was back to the paint chips to figure out a Plan B. This time we were determined to select a color that would stand out more. The first paint was so pale that we couldn't possibly go wrong with Summer Harvest, which became our new choice. It looked warm and cheery on the sample. And that was exactly what we wanted. But after applying a gallon of this second color choice on top of the first experiment, we realized that perhaps the color was too bright. Bees were actually bumping into the wall. Roni said she needed sunglasses to view it in the morning light because its reflective power was simply too intense. Glenn sort of liked it after looking at it a couple of days, but it was Roni's insistence that the color would never do that sent us back to the paint shop for a third time.
By now our little experiments were beginning to get expensive. When we came home with our third gallon of "test paint" Pale Daffodil we had already spent close to $70. This time, we vowed, whatever the result we would stick with it. And fortunately Pale Daffodil turned out to be a color we both could live with.
After conducting our third test spray and letting it sit for a day or two, we decided to take the plunge and invest in a 5-gallon bucket of Pale Daffodil. We returned to Home Depot while Ben was in school one morning and placed our order with the clerk in the paint department, blissfully checking out wallpaper samples and selecting a hedge trimmer while she mixed the color we had ordered. Then on Saturday morning, Aug. 20, we got a bright and early start in the yard, prepping the walls by hosing off the dirt and taping over doors and windows. Roni and Ben cleaned up weeds and broken pieces of concrete from around the back yard while Glenn gleefully set to work trimming back the wax leaf privets around our kitchen window using his new electric trimmer. What a joy it was to swiftly and neatly hack off the overgrowth into something shapely while providing better access to the walls.
If you were paying attention earlier then Ben has already told you what happened next. Glenn was cruising along just fine until he decided to backtrack and touch up a couple of branches he'd missed. When he swooped back to prune the little cluster of green, he noticed an instant too late the ribbon of orange that he'd hooked around the whirling blades. There was a sudden snapping sound and then all the power went dead. The 50-foot extension cord had been perfectly severed. Rats! We still had another cord, but it was only 25 feet hardly long enough to reach the heights it would have to reach if we were to spray paint the woodwork on our roof. So it was off to the store for Roni to buy us a replacement cord while Ben and Glenn finished up the rest of the prep.
About 2:30 p.m. we finally began the actual task of painting the house. That part was a breeze now that all the preparations were out of the way. In no time Glenn had finished off what was left of the east wall and worked his way past the reachable portions of the south and west walls. By the time he stopped for the day on account of dinner and impending darkness he had gone through a little more than two of the five gallons. There wouldn't be enough paint to finish the job, but we'd finish off what we had the next day and then decide how much extra we'd need to buy.
That evening, we sat around the living room trying to relax our aching muscles. Painting is intense physical labor if you're not in shape, which we definitely aren't. It was while Glenn was kicking back at the computer and listening to his music that he happened to glance down at the label on the paint bucket and discovered to his dismay that the paint Home Depot had sold to us was not exterior latex, but INTERIOR. A whole day of work wasted because a clerk had pulled the wrong bucket off the shelf. What to do? We could repaint all the walls we'd already done, but that would be time consuming and too difficult to see the new stuff over the old stuff because the colors are identical. So we did what seemed the only logical thing under the circumstances, which was to leave the "bad" paint right where it was and finish the job with the exterior that Home Depot was kind enough to sell us for $5 (which was the difference between the cost of the exterior and the cheaper interior mix we'd originally paid for. Cheapskates!) We'll probably have to repaint those walls that got the interior paint within the next couple of years, but at least for now it looks OK.
Sunday found us much more productive after getting the proper paint. Glenn finished up the west wall behind the garage and made quick work of the front yard. He scaled the ladder to the roof and took care of the two attic windows as well as the back of the chimney which is the Mount Everest of our rooftop. He managed to do all of this without breaking his neck, thanks in part to Ben helping guide him down the ladder at the end of each trip up. The next several days were spent doing trim work. Adding white paint to the front gutters and windows and along the garage door really makes the job look finished, even though we are still far from it because the eaves need to be scraped and repainted. But you won't see that immediately just by looking from the street.
We are starting to feel like oldtimers in our neighborhood as lately there have been many comings and goings on our block, thanks to a hot housing market and spiraling prices. This month our longtime neighbor to the east moved out (this would be the perpetrator of the infamous fence fiasco) and in her place moved in a quiet family whom we haven’t met more than briefly. They apparently don’t have kids, which might be a disappointment for Ben, but it is nice for maintaining the relative calm at our end of the block.
It dawned on us as we embarked on our painting project that most of the folks on the block today probably weren’t here to remember when we last painted eight years ago. Starter-home neighborhoods have a fairly high turnover rate.
...on july 31, we went to old town sacramento and the pear fair. Some pictures with captions will brief you on what we did there...
True, it wasn’t all work and no play for us this past month. On one of the hottest days of the year we engaged in one of our oldest summer rituals with a drive up the Sacramento River to attend the Delta Pear Fair in Courtland. As always it was a one-day event, held the last Sunday in July. Attendance was up quite a bit this year, which was no doubt good news for the promoters and charities that benefit from it, but it made for cramped quarters in the small community park where the fair takes place. It did nothing to harm the taste of the food, which is what keeps bringing us back each year. We haven’t missed a Pear Fair since when? 1993, when we had to attend the Gilroy Garlic Festival because Roni was a finalist in the recipe contest.
We watched the parade, for what it was, and browsed the craft booths before purchasing a pear pie and loaf of pear bread to take home. Ben brought along a disposable camera and snapped a few frames of the car show that was taking place across from the carnival area. For someone who complains every year about having to go to the fair because he doesn’t want to miss his TV time at home, Ben had a ball.
The real reason for Ben’s camera was for our next stop a few miles up the river in Old Sacramento. Recently we pulled out some of our old video tapes from our railfan excursions when Ben was four. Seeing one of our trips to Old Sac made him nostalgic for another visit. So we decided to take him there as an end-of-summer-vacation treat. We didn’t go inside the railroad museum as origianally planned, but the steam excursion train was running and there was enough other activity to keep everyone entertained. We ate our lunch from the deli counter near the tracks and watched the old steam locomotive do its thing. Afterward, we cruised through the novelty shops and looked for postcards and knicknacks to bring home. Naturally we wanted to find trinkets featuring the likeness of the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, but none was to be had. Curious. Ice cream cones topped off the day and were a welcome relief from the triple-digit heat.
It was a fine way for Ben to wrap up his vacation, because the following week it was back to school as a sixth-grader at a brand new campus. It is said that kids mature a lot once they hit middle school, and Ben is no exception. He is getting taller, eating like a horse, and his interests are slowly shifting away from a steady diet of cartoons to one that includes early teen-type programming. He wants to be a lot like Dad, but he isn’t embarrassed (yet) about kissing Mom goodbye at the curb when she drops him off for school in the morning. Even his teachers are noticing the difference from when he was starting fifth grade. He’s becoming more task-oriented and handles friendships and class activities a bit better than before. And he loves to read. He just finished off a condensed version of “Dr. Doolittle” that he bought with his own money at the Pear Fair. He eagerly awaits the next installment of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” that he is reading with his class. He has even been watching (and sort of paying attention to) the Hollywood epic “Ben Hur” that his teacher is using to expose the students to a study of ancient Rome.
...On august 18, ben went to his first school dance. the dance consisted of Dunktanks, Obstacle courses, Jousting, snow cones, Pizza, Soda, And Dancing, which Joey Thought was too loud. ben went With his friends, Joey, And JD...
Ben eagerly attended his first school dance a week ago, but if you think he was there to sweep the girls off their feet then guess again. This was strictly about the food. What 11-year-old in his right mind would turn down a pizza party with friends? Not Ben. Although he said afterward that the music was too loud. Give him time and we’re sure his priorities will change.
We must have just been in a party mood this month, for on Aug. 13 we joined a couple hundred boating enthusiasts at Lauritzen Yacht Harbor in Oakley for their annual customer appreciation picnic. As non-boaters we were decidedly in the minority, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the fine chicken and hotdog barbecue put on by Roni’s friend and marina owner Chris Lauritzen. Ben brought his Gameboy because he wasn’t sure there would be anything for him to do while he was waiting for the food. We weren’t there more than 30 seconds before another boy saw him with the game and they were inseparable best buds the rest of the evening. Ben even sat and ate with the boy, leaving Mom and Dad abandoned on the opposite side of the picnic grounds. No problem, for we were in the company of celebrity. A few feet away from our table sat former San Francisco 49ers lineman Bubba Paris chatting with his all-too-adoring fans. Bubba moved to Oakley a few years ago and pops up every now and then at local charity events and such. We weren’t aware that he has an interest in boating. Or perhaps like us he had an interest in free barbecue.
Roni suffered a little misadventure this week while trying to help Ben with a homework assignment. His task seemed simple enough: Go out and gaze at the moon, which was supposed to be some incredible shade of red, then report back to the class the next day on what he observed. The first night, however, Ben and Roni went out in the back yard and looked skyward with no luck. It seems the moon was in one of its late-rising phases and didn't make an appearance until well after Ben's bedtime. Ben's failure to see the moon cost him some points on the assignment, so the next night the two of them ventured out again, this time driving out to Humphrey's Restaurant in Antioch to select a spot by the water unobstructed by buildings, fences, etc. Still no moon, but on the walk back to the car Roni managed to twist her ankle and scrape her knee, convincing her all the more that this was a bogus homework assignment. To add insult to injury, Glenn did in fact see a red moon a couple of nights later at 11:30 p.m. on his drive home from work.
And while we're on the subject of colorful things, it's time now to return to the house painting chores. Still another few gallons to go before we can call it done until the next time.
Glenn, Roni and Ben