School daze

August 10, 1999

It seems as though it has been a long time since the last newsletter, but that is probably because so much has happened in out lives during the past month.

Benji trooped off to kindergarten for the first time on July 14. Glenn preserved the event on video tape while Roni provided reassurance, hand-holding and extra hugs as needed. We weren't sure what to expect on Day 1, but Benji handled it pretty well -- that is, until it came time for the parents to bid adieu. When the fateful moment arrived there were enough tears in that classroom to raise the tide on the Delta. Although he protested loudly at our departure, Benji calmed down moments after we left. Roni peeked through the door and found him happily showing off his name tag to one of his female classmates. Ahhh, first day of school and already flirting with the girls!

Benji has learned much in his first few weeks of school. His teacher has the class practicing letters and sounds, making art projects, creating their own books and reciting such things as the Pledge of Allegiance. Hardly a day goes by that he doesn't come home whistling or singing some new tune the class has learned. It makes us more than a little proud to hear that he is far ahead of his peers in his reading and language skills. Now, if we can only find him some interests beyond trains! There are 20 students in Benji's class. Roni and Glenn helped out with the first school field trip July 29 when they visited the Contra Costa County Fair. Everyone brought home big bags of freebies.

With Benji now in school five days a week it has required some adjustment on everyone's part. Where once we could schedule family activities around Glenn's days off Monday and Tuesday, now there are no days when we all have free. We try to make the most of our family time during the week, taking 20-minute walks to school with Benji and playing word and letter games along the way. On Monday and Tuesday, Glenn and Benji have play time together in the afternoons. On Saturday and Sunday, there is whatever time in the morning and early afternoon before Glenn goes to work to schedule family fun. We make use of the four hours a day that Benji is in school by running errands or spending time together on various household projects.

One of those big projects recently has been the construction of a garden railway. Thanks to a gift of a G-scale train set from Roni for Glenn's birthday, we have been creating a miniature world outdoors for the train to run through. We began by purchasing four cubic yards of topsoil and constructing a raised planter box. Next, Glenn laid 54 feet of track, ballasting it with a cat litter-like material that resembles the crushed rock one might find on a real railroad. Then it was off to the nursery for plant specimens, the landscaping supply company for a couple hundred pounds of rocks, and the toy stores for scale-model cars, characters and other props. Glenn designed a house under construction and is currently in the process of adding a barn, station and other assorted structures to complete the scene. The only thing that hasn't been settled yet is a name for our pike. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Another advantage to Benji being in school is that we have had time for recreational activities that otherwise might be impossible. We have taken in two movies in the past two weeks -- "Star Wars Episode I" and "The Sixth Sense" -- upping our theater movie total for the year to three (hey, it's easily the most movies we've seen on the big screen in over five years!).

But not all is fun and games. Roni has been hard at work writing her column and extra articles for the Brentwood News, as well as volunteering for the Oakley Almond Festival in addition to taking care of her regular clients. And Glenn's hours -- always unpredictable -- continue to fluctuate with demands at work and new production deadlines.

Our garden continues to be a source of pride for us these days. We harvested a basketful of red flame grapes the first week of August and had a hard time keeping them on the counter. You have never tasted as crisp and sweet a grape as these were. Glenn already is talking about getting some more vines in anticipation of more than a single meal's harvest next year. The tomatoes are hitting their stride, ripening in bunches on a daily basis. Beans, peppers and onions are also doing well. With the mild weather we've experienced this year, our strawberries are also still producing. Now, if we could just figure out how to keep the lawn alive...

On Aug. 7 we got up bright and early for a trip to Santa Rosa to see the Celebrate the Century Express, a special train featuring exhibits on U.S. postal history and painted to represent a rolling stamp collection. The weather was cool and drizzly, so we wound up buying an extra-large souvenir T-shirt for Benji to wear as a sweatshirt. We'll be sure to share photos when we have them processed.

That about does it for this month. Next month we'll celebrate our first anniversary online. Hope your end-of-summer weather is not inclement.

Glenn, Roni and Benji

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