Saturday, February 20, 2010

2/20/2010 Yardwork

Today we cleaned up our yards, moving hoses and toys and such, getting ready for demolition to start next week.

I can't believe this is happening. After 10 years of a bare-bones useless huge yards, where an annual war against Mother Nature was waged every spring, they're going to be peaceful and pretty. I'm panicking about the cost, but when the cost is amortized across over a decade of near-neglect, it's pretty low.

After cleanup today, the boys played catch for a while until I confiscated their baseballs for (surprise) not listening -- they can only throw underhand and only out front where there are fewer windows to break, rules themselves quickly broken.

So they latched onto Katrina playing in the West yard, with her little purple ball. They all had a good time together for a while, both boys trying to "teach" her to catch, when mostly she wanted to run and goof around.

Since landscaping work is supposed to start next week, I took as many "Before" pictures as I could think of today. Good day for it, overcast and cloudy, great light.

Today (before):

Artistic conception of 10-12 weeks from now (after, sort of):



I realize that trees won't always be flowering, and there will always be neighbors' houses in the background, and that an artist's concept drawing always makes things look way better than they will in real life. I know my sights are set too high and that I'm bound for some disappointment. I know I'm going to have many anxious moments about the cost, much stress about the implementation, panic moments about forgotten elements, and the usual buyer's remorse and wondering if you did the right thing. I know I must reconnect with reality.

But do I have to right away? For now, I am really really really happy about the idea of feeling pride instead of cringing every time I round the corner and see our house.


Friday, February 19, 2010

2/19/2010 3's the charm

3 weeks done! I figured it would take 3 weeks to adjust to my new employment status. And many routines are in place, but we got a pass on this 3rd week, since the kids didn't have school.

I'm finding one of the biggest downsides to working is my greatly diminished enthusiasm to leave home. It used to be I needed to get away, now I need to be home. I just remembered, for instance, that I reserved a camping trip for Memorial Day weekend -- I'm only glad about that now, instead of jumping-for-joy ecstatic. Which I will be when the time comes, but any additional logistics feels crushing right now.

I signed a contract with the landscaper today though...!! Demolition starts next week. It will take at least 10 weeks (probably more, these things always do), but I'm very very excited about the idea of finally not having a major project glaring at me every time I pull into the driveway, for the first time in over 10 years. And unlike the interior of a house, the landscape can get better as it matures. I also worked out a space designated for a playset with the landscape designer today too. I can't believe how much I'm looking forward to that!

And now, I need to put PJs on, get a glass of port, and watch the Winter Olympics commercials with the kids for a while. 3's the charm, after all.

Katrina likes watching the "skeeting."


Thursday, February 18, 2010

2/18/2010 Watching TV

The kids have been allowed to watch some Winter Olympics, if they're completely ready for bed first. It helps that there's no school this week -- it takes so much pressure off.

The one thing I can't stand, and this time for new reasons, is the commercials. They take up so much time, and many of them are borderline inappropriate. I'm as big a Beyonce fan as the next tween, but it makes me uncomfortable seeing her act sexy (and few can do that as well as Beyonce) in front of my boys -- and my very impressionable little girl. It makes me cringe -- perhaps moreso because of what a prude I've become over the actual effect on my overall clueless children.

Some commercials aren't so bad though; there are a few tear-jerkers, like the one of Dan Janssen skating a victory lap holding his daughter Jane, named after his sister who died of cancer right as he was competing in speed skating in the last Olympics, and lost then. And the McD's commercial of the two parents racing to get their son french fries first is funny too. After a stellar effort, the Dad wins, but the kid says, "Thanks Mom!"

Complaining about commercials is as deeply instilled in the Olympics-watching tradition as the 5 rings, of course. The quality and quantity of commercials take on a new level of irritation -- and, to some extent, amusement -- when there are kids involved.

Katrina doesn't like watching hockey anymore, but when she does, she favors the team with red uniforms (China). They all love watching the half-pipe snowboarding, but have to be persuaded that long-haired competitors really are guys. I mused at Katrina claiming she didn't like cutie-pie 23-year-old redhead gold medalist Shaun White....she will!

Of course, my mind is on much more grownup things than racy dance outfits on pop stars and tousled snowboard dudes. I'm preoccupied with interior and exterior decoration, primarily our future landscaping. An artistic rendering of our future front yard:

Grown-up yes, but the kids aren't forgotten: I'm looking into some sort of play structure, and have it on good authority from friends who have such things that kids get good use out of them. None of these friends have two boys close in age who tend to turn any object, fixed or mobile, soft or hard, heavy or light, long or short, into weapons however, and can't offer direct experience on the potential weapon value of swings. I have to think about that one.

And now, it's time for the men's figure skating. I can't miss that, though the commercials gave me plenty of time to update my blog.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2/17/2010 Rainbow Girl

It's time to sell Dave's motorcycle trailer. Would you buy this?

It looks so cozy there, nestled among the weeds. Almost hidden, in fact. In a few months, that lush green and pretty yellow will turn to the harsh sharp brown that is most seasons in California.

(But not in this yard. Not this year. Another round of questions for the landscape designer (such as, we weren't planning on irrigating the yard where that trailer is), and we're closing in on a deal.)

Speaking of contrasting colors, today when I picked Katrina up from preschool her teacher asked, "Did she dress herself today?" Yup, like always -- and who are we to argue with an orange-striped shirt (Halloween) with white-and-red striped pants (Christmas). Add in the pretty rainbow silver-sequin-edged tutu, and we have a perfect color storm.

The blue ponytail holder and the clunky white sneakers really makes it. She's almost up to a par with my fashion (non)sense!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2/16/2010 Winter Olympics

I can't believe how much easier our days are when there's no school. Even though Dave and I are both working, and I haven't adjusted to full-time work yet, the lack of lunch-making, homework, and keeping track of a zillion things to sign, send in, and prepare for is a tremendous relief. (The boys are going to the CDC for spring recess "camp," and Katrina goes to TLC Preschool as normal.)

We even had time to watch some TV tonight. The boys asked about watching Winter Olympics, and I said OK, but they had to be completely ready for bed -- bath, brushed teeth, PJs. Julian wasted no time and started his own bath before 7:00 to meet this goal.

He wasn't all business though, there was time for silly bath games.

Julian was first, but all 3 got to watch some hockey (women's, China v. Finland) and men's singles figure skating. Katrina rooted for the red team (China). To my surprise, Gabriel preferred the individual figure skating over hockey. I silently enjoyed the stereotype-contradiction and acted like this is normal life: the men were dancing to music in glitzy costumes, while the women were knocking each other over.

The kids still had to get to bed on time, sort of -- a little later than on a school night, but not too much later since ironically, when there's no school, Dave and I can get to work earlier the next day. But it's nice to have a little leeway, and it was really fun watching hockey and figure skating with them. A nice treat!

In truth, my moment-to-moment life these days consists of my overwhelming, all-consuming, total, mind-boggling joy at the possibility of turning our property from the neighborhood pockmark into a little park. I am thrilled beyond expression at the idea of having our jungle disaster landscaped into a neat little slice of heaven. It's all I can think about, when my descendants allow.

(White blob on left is the garage, white blob at middle top is the house; surrounding green is planned, managed, thought-out plants instead of out-of-control weeds like now.)

I'm in daily contact with the landscape designer asking questions and making adjustments, and we will likely go forward and sign a contract this week. I can barely contain myself, it changes my entire view of living here. No projects are entirely hassle-free, but this seems so much easier than interior remodeling. And the payoff, both in terms of usability and home value, is tremendous.

By this summer, the tremendous thorn in my side that is our huge uncontrollable landscape; this source of relentless consternation, disappointment and pressure, could become my favorite part of living here. I can't wait.


Monday, February 15, 2010

2/15/2010 Baseball day

No one was in the mood -- or sync'd up with meals and energy -- to bother with a real outing today. Instead, we continued with the baseball theme and went back to Big 5 to get bats, then to a nearby park for some more baseball practice -- this time, including batting. All the grownups -- including Dad -- took turns pitching to the boys, and then the boys also acted as catcher and fielders too.

Even I had a chance to play, starting with a little catch with Julian, and then it turned into a pretend "game." I pitched to one of the boys, with the other boy acting as an outfielder and Dad as the catcher. If the batter hit the ball, he'd drop the bat and run the imaginary "bases," while the outfielder was supposed to get the ball, throw it to me or Dad the catcher, and we'd try to get the batter "out." In practice, the outfielders always ran with the ball instead of throwing it, and there were no bases and no teams, so the boys always scored runs, but it was still fun to throw the ball to each other and run after each other and yell to them what to do. (I still can't yell, my voice just breaks -- seems it will take quite some time before my entire vocal range recovers from my bronchitis bout.)

While we played the baseball "game," Mom & Papa Paul were off appeasing Katrina with swings and minding her in a toddler playground.

Gabriel's real mission today was to learn to solder. He got a radio-controlled car kit for his birthday, that involves some serious assembly. Before he and Dave could really put it together, Gabriel had to re-inventory all the parts he'd scattered all over the place. He did so meticulously, earning a trip to Fry's to get a new soldering iron appropriate for electronics. He tolerated the detour to the park to play baseball, but was anxious to get home to work on this kit. And it wasn't long before indeed, he was soldering components himself.

My real mission, as always, is THE photo-op. It was getting dark by the time I was able to assemble everyone, so unfortunately the best faces happened to be a flash shot and the best-lit photo happened not to have some non-smiling faces, but, at least I got it. We've had enough visits over the years that my photo books and scrapbook pages are becoming necessities to keep track of who was where when!

Bonne Maman and Papa Paul are leaving tomorrow to take their Californian vacation up north, with a rented BMW convertible (Mom's dream for her 70th birthday), and a few days at a B&B in Napa. I'll be sad to see them go, but I can't deny them paradise!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

2/14/2010 Mom's Birthday

Been awfully busy! With Mom & Paul here, there's a whole lot of doing...well, not that much actually. But hanging around, cooking, and playing can be very time-consuming anyway. And lots of fun.

Yesterday, believe it or not, our big outing was all (minus Dave, who was at home in bed with a fever) to a Subaru dealer to check out the new Outback. Mom & Paul are considering one, and I'd like a fallback plan for when that tree falls on my car. The kids approved.

(Try as I might, I haven't found the right tree in San Jose to fall on my car yet.)

After the car dealer, we went to Big 5 Sporting Goods, and Papa Paul got all 3 kids baseball mitts!

We played a little in our weed-choked front yard. Our poor boys have almost no experience catching or throwing, but Paul gave them a much-needed lesson.

I sort-of played with Katrina, but she mostly had her own ideas about how to throw, mostly behind her. I'm not much better. Still, we both had a great time. I'd much rather play catch with her than go shopping.

Today we did a little surprise party for Bonne Maman. She's here to celebrate her upcoming 70th birthday next month, so of course a cake and presents were in order. No sense waiting, and this way we have the cake for tomorrow too! With Papa Paul's help, we pulled off the surprise.

The kids had posed for some special birthday photos, which made it into a fridge magnet and onto a card they did for her.

The other big event around here was Gabriel losing his first upper tooth (his 3rd overall). This thing has been hanging by a thread for a few days, so we knew it was coming. French toast did the trick.

This afternoon, some more "catch" was called for. Every boy should play ball with their grandmother -- especially this one. You think you know someone...I had no idea my mother was so good at throwing and catching! But, like her youngest grandchild and youngest granddaughter, she too grew up with two older brothers and played ball a lot as a kid. Even at (almost) age 70, it shows.

The mitts are a HUGE hit, the boys have been playing with them a lot.

Ironically, we've rarely made use of our yards like this, and are doing so just as we're closing on on actually landscaping it. Saturday, Dave and I met with a landscape designer who presented us with a complete plan for the entire property that is fabulous. I am beside myself. We might actually go from being the neighborhood eyesore to being the neighborhood gem. We could potentially get it done by this summer, and then the whole place will go from being a decade-long thorn in my side to a little slice of paradise. As for the baseballs...well, with all this practice, soon they'll outgrow our space and have to move to a real park anyway.

Everybody's off work/school/childcare tomorrow except me, but I'm taking the day anyway -- any time with grandparents here is too precious to spend at work!

And now I must go sprinkle some fairy dust and drop some cash on our whistling, lisping firstborn.