Sunday, August 26, 2007

How we spent $2200...

If you've been following Magnus Patris, you know about our recent tree woes. Here's a link for you to catch up: Tree House

The arborist who arrived last Friday confirmed our fear. The tree had to come down. It was at least 100 feet tall, had been crowned poorly years ago, there was a nest of Japanese Hornets about 40 feet up, and it was probably hollow in the center. One good storm, and that puppy would crack in half, and the half following the law of gravity would land either on our house or our neighbors. He'd get rid of it for $2500, but first we had to get rid of the hornets.

Our pest service is always very responsive, and this time was no exception. They were johnny-on-the-spot, and dropped by an hour after the call. Yep, we had a hornets nest. A pretty big one (why we never noticed it before, I have no idea... except that it was 40 feet up the tree). He didn't have a tall enough ladder, but could get one the next day and dispatch the hornets for us. For $455.

That night, we kept hearing 'plink, plinks' against our french doors. We flicked on the deck lights and underneath the soffit were a handful of HUGE hornets (2 inches long, I think. I swear, they were THIS BIG). They must have known their number was almost up.

A few days later, our contractor came by to look at the deck steps. We still have some leftover Trex material, and we were hoping that he could fix them for little $$. Brian's a great guy, and not only did he recommend we call his tree guy (who saved us $700), but he's going to fix the steps gratis. Mike's going to build him a web page in exchange. Whew! (Or at least, as much of a 'whew' as I can muster for being $2200 lighter in the pocket).

Here are some photos:

About 6 feet above the nest:

At the nest:

20 feet below the nest:

I shudder when I think about what could have happened had we left that tree much longer. Last weekend was spent anxiously looking to the skies, praying for good weather. This weekend, we had massive thunderstorms last night, but without that tree I actually enjoyed them. Before the rain, Clay and Drew went out on the deck with Mike, counting the time between lightning and thunder. It was a beautiful storm.

p.s. We've gotten a lot of helpful suggestions about less expensive ways of removal. Insurance? Well, they only pay for damage to the house. And we had a $5,000 deductible. Plus, in our experience, calling homeowner's insurance for small repairs can flag you as a problem client, and we didn't want to get cancelled. Which is why our deductible was so high. We've since asked for the a lower one.

Wait until the first frost and the hornets would be leave: we're not that lucky. Sure, the hornets would be gone, but there's still 2 months before the first frost. The tree had already dropped a massive branch. We weren't willing to gamble that it would stay intact (and our property undamaged) for the next few months. In my opinion, that branch was God's way of sending us a big ole' message. We listened.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Candyland Diaries, or How I Learned to Tolerate Game Night

For Christmas 2005 Clay received, at my request, both Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. We wanted to establish a “Family Game Night”, and couldn’t wait until Clay was old enough to make it so (if it were just the two of us, it would be “Couples Game Night”, which has an entirely different connotation, in my opinion).

Clay delighted in his new games, and drawing cards and flipping the little spinning arrow were the coolest things to him. For me, Family Game Night turned into The MOST Boring Night of the Week because we were playing the MOST boring games on the planet. It's amazing how a 30 year time span will really color your perspective about an experience's entertainment value. I quickly hid the offending items, and Family Game Night was no more.

For his birthday this year, I was determined to find something age appropriate for him, but still interesting to me. If it was interesting to Mike, then that was a bonus as well. Not a requirement, mind you. I was more than happy to throw Mike into the black hole of Candyland with Clay, as long as I was safely out of its reach.

So I did some research. I like research, especially if it involves the internet. Fortunately for sites such as Amazon and Epinions, there was some good information out there. Scrabble Jr., Boggle Jr., and a particularly simple and fun game called ‘Zingo’ that was recommended by Clay’s preschool teacher, were all dispatched via Visa. And so far, they’re not uninteresting at all. Boggle Jr. is a little dull, but fortunately Clay likes to play it by himself. Scrabble Jr., I must say, is a lot of fun. I was never a big Scrabble player, so I was a little confused about how a 4 year old was going to do with it, but it’s been great! The board is already covered in simple words, and you draw tiles and take turns covering the letters on the words. The trick is, you have to cover the letters in word order. So for example, “FRUIT” has to have the “F” and “R” tiles covered before you can put the “U” down. Once he gets older, we can flip the board over and play the traditional way. It’s a veritable hat trick, a trifecta of fun, education and versatility. I approve.

Clay’s latest favorite is a Finding Nemo Go Fish card set, that for me is starting to border on the boring again. However, I am finding entertainment value in beating the pants off both Clay and his dad. Poor boys. Clay doesn’t quite get the strategy of Go Fish, and Mike desperately tries to give him a helping hand. “Don’t show us your cards, Clay!”, and he’ll quickly pick them up while saying, “Two Nemos, 1 Gill, and 3 Peaches.” Mike rolls his eyes, and I just know he’s got the fourth Peach in his hand, and is going to save it for Clay. At Mike’s round, he’ll ask me if I have any Peaches, hoping that Clay will pick up on the clue. At Clay’s turn, he’ll ask me if I have any Nemos instead. I’ll tell him to go fish, and he’ll draw a card exclaiming, “Just what I wanted! A Dory!” Ay yi yi. The next round I take his Dory. At the end of the game, I’ll have 9 sets, Mike will have 1 and Clay will have 2. I’m ruthless.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Farewell Friend

Tonight I found out that a neighbor of Pop's back at the Virginian has died. A favorite of ours, Mrs. Goodman just loved Clay. And I suspect the feeling was mutual, and not just for the treats she always had for him. Mrs. G had a thick German accent, and fabulous, and horrifying stories to go with it. See, she was an Auschwitz survivor, and was the only one of her family to make it out alive. She and the rest of her camp mates were taken on a death march, and she said that at the end she collapsed, sure she was about to die, when an American soldier came up to her and asked, "Are you a boy or a girl? Are you 15 or 50?" She was 18 at the time.

She married an American, and moved to this country as a young woman. She never thought she could have children, because of her time in the concentration camps. But, she did eventually have a daughter. Mrs. G always had a smile and a laugh, but she was also quite savvy. Behind her eyes, you could tell that she had seen things that still gave her nightmares.

Although our lives could not be more different, we found out that the world was still small. On one of in-laws' visits with Pop, Mike's dad struck up a conversation with Mrs. G. They discovered that not only had they both lived in Stuttgart at the same time post WWII, but they rode the same streetcar. They probably shared more than one ride, but didn't meet officially until 60 years later in Fairfax, Virginia.

Trying to explain this all to Clay tonight, I thought he understood. He heard me on the phone with Pop and based on my tone of voice, he asked who died. At bedtime we remembered Mrs. G in our prayers, and Clay wanted to know why she died. I explained that she was sick and her body just wore out. He wanted to know when she was coming back. Was she in the "hospipal?" My explanations of "a better place" and being with her husband and family now just confused him. And, in a few months, he may forget. So, I wanted to type this up because years from now, I want him to know about this lovely lady who showered him with candy, and dreidels, and kisses, even though she had every reason in the world to be angry and sad and distrustful.

Shalom, Mrs. Goodman.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

You think I'm FAKING?

Years from now, Clay will read yesterday's post, and then this one, and he'll smugly say 'I TOLD you so.' For today, after Vacation Bible School, he threw up in the back seat of the van.

He was fine immediately thereafter. I'm chalking it up to heat. It was 103 degrees here today, after all. But still, it makes me wonder if yesterday's antics weren't the foolishness I thought they were.

And then, as if that wasn't enough, I read an article tonight about growing pains. Who knew they were real? That may have been why his knees were bothering him.

This incident has done nothing to boost my confidence in my parenting skills. Could someone loan me the manual? I never got mine...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Preschooler Arthritis. Or Preschooler-itis?

We've had quite a... day here in Sheleheda-ville. I am too weary to come up with an adjective. Sorry. It's Vacation Bible School week, which we thought Clay would really enjoy (and for a 5 day morning camp at a mere $30 tuition rate, mom and dad were looking forward to it too!). Yesterday, I dropped Clay off and after an initial apprehensive moment which dissipated after Clay declared that he was 'comfortable now' and I could 'go have fun at work', I left. Mike arrived a little early, and reported that Clay seemed to have fun (I'm sure Mike will update you all on the funny little mix up at pick up time...)

Fast forward to today, and Clay wakes us up with the phrase 'my knee hurts'. But, he's walking on it, and he says he didn't hurt it at VBS. Then, the pained knee mysteriously switched from one leg to the other, and we concluded that he was probably okay.

And so it's time to get dressed! Time for Vacation Bible School! But, still no go. Clay's hungry. His knee still hurts. He's not feeling well. He has no fever, and we suspect that he's just grumpy. We've noticed that ever since he turned four, he's been acting like he's fourteen. We decided to call his bluff, and offered to take him right to the doctor... where a SHOT may be required. (This was not wise... he just got 4 shots at his 4 year physical, and he was still freaked out. Plus, what nimrod parents are we to remind our kid that a doctor gives shots? HELLOOOO????? Do we ever want him to go to the doctor again without freaking out?)

He (of course) said 'NO' ... with wide-eyed panic. We again suggested getting dressed for VBS. He said 'No'. So, we told him to go to his room to 'rest' until he felt better. This caused tears to flow, and left me wondering if we should have taken him to the doctor anyway. Or Vacation Bible School (which he didn't attend today). Or maybe a therapist. Come to think of it, maybe I need some parental counseling because I don't think I handled this morning very well.

Oh well... I was heartened to hear that he later asked Mike if they could go to the pool. When he was told that he wasn't feeling well, so no, Clay perked right up! (Funny how that happened). So, Mike said they should go to VBS.

And suddenly, Clay's knee hurt. Perhaps I should have checked for ticks.