Things in our week

Last week we went to Aunt Dana’s house for a hair cut. This was totally surprising to Benji: That a person could have a hair cutting salon in their own home.
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Overall everyone seemed to actually have a decently good time, and Benji’s head now looks 50% smaller, so that’s all for the best. We’ll for sure be going back, because it was also nice to get to see family and catch up at the same time we’re getting something productive done. Double whammy!

On the drive home, Benji read our Prius owner’s manual, and he and Daddy read it together later in the day.
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Now we are all experts on what each indicator light means. Actually, we’ve passed through the expert phase and entered into the “please, please, please get tired of this topic” phase.

Later in the week, we colored a bunch of things in rainbow colors, including this Q-related page. Benji thought Grammy should make a quilt like this. That would certainly be rainbow-licious.
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Today I discovered a new cookie recipe where you bake one gigantic cookie in a cast-iron skillet and then slice it up like pie.
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Pretty amazing, actually. I bartered this in trade for a discount on new tires from my bike shop. We have a good symbiotic relationship going, I think.

Also today, Benji had a playdate with his little friend Catherine from school, and they both thought “two kids in a slide” was hilarious. Catherine said, “Two kids in a slide! What could be better?” Benji laughed hysterically. You just never know what will tickle their funny bones.
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(For those of you concerned that they went down the slide together, have no fear: Benji is too scared to go down most slides. He just climbed into the bottom of the slide when Catherine got there.)

Oh, and riding home, we were going up a small hill near our house and I’m riding slowly and panting, as I’m wont to do. Benji pipes up: “Nana never has any trouble driving up this hill!” No kidding?!

Visiting LA

We’ve been in LA since Thursday, celebrating my Nana’s 85th birthday. Benji has had so many fun experiences, I don’t think I can document many of them. But here are a few:

At the airport:

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At Great-Nana’s house:

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Benji demonstrates how some drums have foot pedals.

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Out and about:

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At the Alhambra Headquarters Fire Station
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Fire engines look pretty similar even thousands of miles apart.
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Firefighter Fernando gives us the grand tour.
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Very long urban search & rescue truck
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At Almansor Park pouring wood chips over a ball
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Looking at a June bug with Aunt Colleen (the bug is by Benji's foot)
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More fire trucks, this time San Gabriel trucks near Nana's house

Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition, Part 8

Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day! We had a happy day – the tile got finished on our fireplace! Also finished are the final repairs to the wall, adding texture and paint.

Here’s where we were on Monday:

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And here’s where Pat left it last night:

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Finished tile!

It’s hard to capture the colors accurately, but you can see the pattern. Those shelves off to the left will go next to the fireplace on either side, and the two boards (you can see them better in the first picture) will become the mantle. So close! But I suspect we’ll still hit a two-month anniversary for the project on March 23.

Oh, gosh, I should mention the mantle. All along we’ve been ambivalent about what to do – never wanted anything elaborate, but what would be right? Finally, last Wednesday, Pat and I went to a place called Crosscut Hardwoods and looked at wood. A lot of wood.

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After looking at every piece of wood in the place, we found a couple boards of walnut that would be perfect. They have an organic light and dark grain that echoes the light and dark tile pattern. I can’t really describe what we’re going to do – it’s a kind of naturally split skirt with a thick beam on top – but when we came up with that idea, it felt just exactly right.

Then, when we finally got home (through absurdly slow traffic, taking perhaps not the must efficient route), who should be there but the delivery guys from Bothell Furniture, dropping off our bookshelves.
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They are really nice, and will look great when installed.

In unrelated news, last week Colleen and Jordan came to visit for a few days and Benji had a very fun time getting to know his aunt and uncle a little bit.

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A Few Stories

Believe it or not, life has been happening beyond our fireplace project. Here are some things we’ve been up to lately.

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Playing in the tube maze at Nana's house.

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At the park with Harper doggie (oh, and, incidentally owner Christy) this weekend, Harper took his first Ride down a slide, and I managed to get a couple pictures.

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It’s been warm, but rainy lately. Benji and I go outside anyway, and he’s started “helping” worms find dirt when they’re out wiggling around. I heard that sunlight paralyzes worms, but can’t confirm that from observation due to lack of sunshine. However, I can confirm that toddlers squeezing worms seems to have a somewhat paralytic effect, which may or may not wear off if the worm survives the trauma.

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And, a while ago, we drew handprints on the wall inside the fireplace. Once it’s tiled we’ll never see them again, but it made the project feel a little more ours.

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Finally, a story about being two. Over the weekend, we had dinner at my parent’s house with some family (my phone first offered faculty, an amusing slip because Mom knows them from teaching) friends of theirs. The friends brought a delicious lemon meringue pie, and as soon as Benji saw it, he started asking for pie. All through the dinner prep – pie. Eating dinner – pie. Waiting for everyone else to finish dinner – pie. He really, really wanted pie, and probably waited an hour or more for it, a very long time for a little kid.

Finally, it was time for pie! Mom cut him the first slice, he eagerly reached for it… And suddenly his expression dropped and he burst into tears. Through the storm of weeping, he made us understand that this wasn’t apple pie, and he had all along been expecting apple pie. Oh, the disappointment! The tears! Mom have him some strawberry slices, which sort of placated him, but we won’t soon forget the tragedy of the lemon meringue pie. (I should add that it was excellent lemon meringue pie, with a crumbly, light crust, fluffy sweet meringue, and tart, smooth lemon custard. Yum.)

The Beach, and Stuff

The garden here is a little crazy, but lovely in the sun. Actually, everything looks nicer in the sun. Funny how that works.
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We went to the beach yesterday; pictures follow. I think somebody’s going to be very sad when our vacation is over. Benji might miss it, too.

Oh, I should also mention that Benji is fascinated with Grandpa Gary’s coffee bean grinder, and waits eagerly for bean grinding in the morning. Then he periodically tells us about it with great enthusiasm during the day.

Also still receiving great enthusiasm is the story of following a street sweeper around, a memory Benji continues to remind us of daily. He and Mom saw this almost a week ago, and still he gets excited. No memory issues for this boy, that’s for sure.

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Benji has started calling Gary “Papa,” which hardly seems fair for my dad, who somehow became “Boo-boo”… But at least now we know when Benji talks about them. He still can’t/hasn’t said “Grammy,” despite our diligent efforts to teach him. The “gr” sound seems to continue to stymie him. Other new words include cracker, uh-oh (often accompanied by an intentional drop), apple, all gone (usually for all done), ice, car, blue, red, big, doggie, truck, bus, and bleck or my personal favorite variation, bleck-a-bleck-a-bleck.

Ah, yes, irony

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Can you make out the little sign there past the rear of that pickup truck? Oh, you can’t read it, you say?

Here, let me zoom in.

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In case you  still cannot read it, this sign clearly asks people not to park in front of mail boxes. Exactly as the pickup truck did. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt: Maybe the truck left before the mailman comes. Still, we don’t exactly live in an inner city with cutthroat parking competition. Plenty of space on the street.

In other news, a picture of our son, a budding Calvin:

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Yep, that’s Grand-Nana, who has been up visiting from California for a few days. Benji has been having fun discovering the joys of watermelon with her, reading Dr Seuss’s ABC book, and practicing crawling up things…like stairs, gack!

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Downs and Ups

Day’s Verse:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Carmel 2002 In the movie Clue, there’s a scene where, after all sorts of craziness, Colonel Mustard says, “I can’t take anymore scares!” as the chandelier crashes to the floor inches from him.

This pretty accurately reflects where I’m at right now. On Monday morning, Dad sent me an email early, asking me to call about Carmel — not a good sign. When we talked, he elucidated that Carmel couldn’t use her right hind leg, and he planned on calling the vet when they opened. My spirits plummeted. A couple times I’ve dreamed Carmel died, and woken up both times crying, tears running down my cheeks. If that’s how I reacted in a dream, how much worse is it in real life? I’m not ready to find out! Especially not with already having the emotional burden of Grandpa dying at Easter, Ben’s memorial service just on Saturday, and my dear friend Rachel moving to Fresno in a couple days.

The vet X-rayed Carmel’s back and told Dad she had a spinal injury. He gave her a shot containing a very high dose of steroids and sent her home, telling Dad that if she didn’t significantly improve by this morning, she probably wouldn’t improve and that would be that.

Well, this morning she wasn’t dramatically better, but if Dad picked her rear end up, she would bear weight on it. And she was willing to walk for a Milkbone. But it wasn’t enough improvement to think she’d get back to living a functional, happy doggy life — what’s life if you can’t walk around and sniff stuff? — so Dad made an appointment with the vet to put Carmel down at 5:00 today. I stopped by midday to check on her, and she had moved! –just a few feet, and frankly she didn’t seem herself at all when I came over. She didn’t move an inch, and although I petted her ears the way she likes, she seemed extremely subdued. My impression was that she was really just enduring, and we’d already lost the the happy dog we know and love.

I won’t sugarcoat it; I spent a good portion of the day crying and heartbroken. We went to go on a farewell walk with my dear friend Rachel, who is moving to California in a couple days, and all I could think about was losing Carmel. Carmel has been in my life since I was in high school, and I can hardly imagine not having her stinky, hairy self around at Mom and Dad’s house. She sometimes comes for visits at my house, and we practically have to drag her out the door when it’s time to go home. Carmel has been a consistent, unconditionally loving presence in my life for many years, and the prospect of losing her truly broke my heart.

I have so many happy memories of her, I can’t even begin to quantify them, let alone describe them. We hiked innumerable miles, snowshoed (that darn snow between her toes!), walked in parks, took her swimming, dressed her up silly, taught her tricks; I won’t go on. You get the idea. I missed the best years of her life while I lived in Massachusetts, and she was the one thing I really missed all those years back East. You can talk to parents on the phone, but you can’t get dog cuddles remotely. I collected tennis balls on my commutes and mailed Mom and Dad long tube full of tennis balls. Oh joy! …at least, on Carmel’s part.

So Dad picked me up at 4:45 to go with him and Carmel for her last visit to the vet. She was surprisingly able to walk, but kept staggering badly and losing control of her rear legs. Standing up proved particularly difficult. We walked into the vet’s office, and Dad asked to talk with Dr. Marsh a bit before we put Carmel down. He came in, and Dad described Carmel’s symptoms (a different vet had seen Carmel the previous day). One new symptom Dad mentioned: Carmel seemed to hold her head at a strange angle. Hmm. Out came the eye-examining light. Hmmm. More discussion, some more investigation of her posture. Yes, she definitely held her head at an unusual angle, off to the left. Stand her up: Gee, she’s clearly listing to the left. Well, hey, this lameness may not be due to the back injury observed on the X-ray! Turns out Carmel has vestibular syndrome, which he described as kind of like doggie vertigo, where Carmel doesn’t know where down is. It’s a central nervous system problem that isn’t treatable, but often resolves itself in a week or so, with a decent likelihood of her getting back to reasonable functionality.

We walked back out into the waiting room with Carmel. The entire staff was there, waiting to be sad with us. Instead, when Dr. Marsh announced the new diagnosis and sent us home, the entire staff clapped and cheered. Hooray! What a huge blessing! I felt like I was the one reprieved, rather than Carmel. She’s still a 13-year-old overweight golden retriever, and nothing will bring back the boundless-energy ball of enthusiasm we remember, but at least we get time for more stinky, hairy cuddles.

Now I’m exhausted. Like I said at the beginning: I can’t take anymore scares! Or, more accurately, I can’t take any more, PERIOD.

And here’s my all-time favorite video of Carmel.