Tuesday, July 26, 2011

state affair

My band was going to be performing at the state fair so I decided to plan a whole weekend for us there. Incentives given to the band like free tickets for us and our families and free priority parking made it seem more worthwhile. The girls hadn't ever been to the fair, I haven't been in many years, and there is a water park inside which is right up John's alley and something I thought the girls were finally good enough swimmers to try out.

We were also overdue for a visit with Susan and her girls, and since they live nearby they met us there each day. On the first day they all started out with a giant ride on the slide.

And we spent a lot of time at the animal exhibits. Both Susan's oldest daughter and Erin want to be veterinarians. There were all kinds of farm animals and many staff members from UCDavis vet school there to visit with.

Allison and Erin got some cow milking lessons.

Growing a garden in a wheel barrow.

Apart from the livestock, there were all kinds of other animals to visit also. Exotic animals and fishes and chinchillas, rabbits, birds.
Handling the turtles and watching the sturgeons swim in huge tanks.

Fair food.

It was a hot, hot day. There are plenty of things to see in air conditioned buildings or open shaded covered areas, but during the hottest part of the day the kids wanted to go on some rides out on the black asphalt where any shade is really scarce.

In between all of this fun I had to leave twice to go play a gig with the band. By the time I finished our last set and packed up my instrument it was about 8:30pm, and the kids were exhausted.

The next day we got to the park again when it opened and checked out a couple of exhibits that we missed the previous day before going to the water park, which opened an hour later than the general fair.

I reserved some lounge chairs in the shade while John and the girls started having fun on some small slides and the lazy river.

All the girls can swim pretty well but K&A were slightly too short to go on any big water slides. There was a fun wave pool they liked though. Erin was tall enough for everything so when Susan's daughters arrived they took her on some big, fast attractions with them. She's always loved roller coasters and the bigger and faster the better. Like John, she now is a fan of big waterslides too.

last hurrah

Uncle Jeff sold his house so we had one last swim weekend there after he'd moved out nearly all of his belongings but before the new owners took possession (they're going to knock it down and build something else, by the way).

The girls are going to miss his pool, that's for sure. Cousins Brian and Jake and Brayden came to swim with us and so did some friends of ours with their son and daughter. Even Jeff's daughter Sydney was in town. Jeff hadn't moved his grill yet so John cooked some burgers and hot dogs and it became a nice, final swim party.

The crew of potential lifeguards:

It was fun to take the pool cleaner's hose and use it as a water gun.

We bought this boat last summer, or maybe the summer before that. The kids had fun floating in it, and then later, jumping into it from the side, which tore out the bottom. Then it was fun to jump in from the side through the open boat. By the end of the day the poor old cheap boat was definitely "done", but that was good timing. Sadly, we won't have a pool to use it in anymore.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

the house where trees come to die

Recent events have caused me to reflect, and it's come to my attention that we have a tree concentration camp here. We might be single-handedly responsible for global warming. Does Al Gore know about us? Please don't give him our phone number.

We had a couple of lovely birch trees in our front lawn when we bought this house 10 years ago, and a few years later they died, very suddenly and completely, so that one day John just went outside and pushed them over. With the addition to our house years after that, those trees would have needed to be removed anyway and we have planted a new one out front in their place, but still. Two suddenly dead previously fine-looking trees.

But the curse on our trees was just getting started. Then another tree died in the corner of our yard, near the play structure that John built, and then the one next to it died too. That was a couple of years ago. Around that time, our beloved, huge, prolific apple tree started looking funny. And the apple crop that year was extremely wormy and many of the apples were inedible. And over the last two years it's become more and more obvious that our apple tree was going too. This really was a great tree. Pretty and just perfect apples for pies and applesauce. John took a sick-looking branch to a fancy nursery at one point and was told the tree is too far gone to help.

Yesterday, Allison rushed into the house from the backyard shouting, "The WHOLE apple tree just fell over!" Well, what's left of it anyway. A good half of it no longer had leaves.

And there it was, our formerly beautiful, shady apple tree.

It clearly had termite damage, though our house had no signs of termites two years ago at our big remodel. Maybe the termites moved in
after it had become very sick. Maybe they caused it. We don't know.

So John got out his power saw and wasted no time in cutting it up, and it was very sad to see it go.

And then he looked over a new problem we've been discussing, another dead tree in our backyard.

None of this does much to make our backyard look attractive for potential buyers in the near future. Our formerly fully-landscaped backyard is now nearly devoid of shade and empty.

And we have four HUGE, mature redwoods on our property in our new house. If this bad tree karma follows us there we are going to be in for some serious trouble.

fab fourth

I thought we needed to do something different this year. Last year we were in Sacramento for the fourth and had a great time. Every previous year we've joined in on the morning (admittedly fairly lame) community festival in our town, which two years ago they girls proclaimed as boring and wanted to leave pretty soon after it got going.

This year I thought we'd find out what goes on in what will soon be our new town and it turns out there were a few options.

So in the morning we joined a community parade that got going much later than advertised, and wasn't very interesting. Okay, noted, there's going to be a bit of a learning curve here.

Then we went on to the next activity, which is some music and food and activities at a park. This turned out to be a pretty good time. The music was much better than I expected.

The girls loved the red, white, or blue shaved ice and BBQ lunch. They got their faces painted and guessed how many red, white, and blue jelly bellies were in a huge jar, and we met up with some friends and all the kids played barefoot in a nearby creek for a while.

Before we left the girls tried out the dunk tank game, and their recent softball skills served them well.

We spent the later afternoon at Uncle Jeff's for swimming, and then met up with cousins Jake and Brayden in a park close to us to watch the great firework show from our local high school.

Happy Birthday, America!

summer so far

Summer has been busy. The question everyone asks is how our house is coming along and whether we'll be moved in by the time school starts. That was the original goal when we bought it, but here are a few photos from about two weeks ago. I think we're a teeeeeeny bit behind schedule.

Back of the house:

This will be the kitchen:

Taken towards the kitchen from the living room.

It's got a lot of that open, airy feeling. The new windows are in, but no need to open one in order to determine the weather outside.

The girls are in German summer camp, as they've done for the past couple of years. "What do they do in German camp?" various people have asked us over the past couple of weeks, "Prepare to invade the French camp," John answers.

"I know they're just a bunch of little kids and camp is only four weeks long, but, c'mon. It's the French. I hear the kids there make white flags at arts & crafts every day."

The girls are also back in swim lessons. The fabulous swim school I found for them last year closed so we enrolled in another recommended by a friend. They are in a class all by themselves, in more ways than one. Their teacher is a college student-aged young man who was very impressed with their swimming at the first lesson and is now teaching them news strokes. Currently they are working on the butterfly.

They've been enjoying swim days at Uncle Jeff's house also. They can jump in and swim anywhere now and they never seem to get bored or tired.

When Uncle Randy was in town for business recently he came over and helped Erin and Kate with diving. Kate caught on much faster (see video below), though Erin did get one good dive in, which I luckily got a picture of, at right.