Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Messy kitty


She kicks her litter out as if she's trying to get rid of it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The hunter


Every morning, the cat sits in the window, wishing she was outside eating birds. She makes strange noises while lusting for their blood.

Dirty Jack


The seat after they took him out was even worse

At a party


Drew in his swimwear at Jack's 1st birthday party

Sleeping girls



Friday, June 26, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A wedding


My friend Jess from middle and high school got married today to his bride Becky. Congratulations!

The tractor fair


Grandpa took me and Drew to a tractor show. This machine separates out oats. The man operating it told Drew he was making cheerios.

I just need to relax..

...on the treadmill???

A baleful look worthy of a McMillan.

Granted, I woke her up when I got off the sofa.

The kitty's nap spot.

Between the recycing box and the sliding glass door. A nice warm spot.

Drew and Grandma


Friday, June 19, 2009

Mt Shasta



Rain on the hills



Driving into a storm


On the way to Oregon, by Orland, California.

The city


Even on clear days, it can still be a little hazy.

Sharing with nature


I had a meeting this morning in Richmond, so I left early in case of traffic. I got there about 30 minutes early, so I went down to the waterfront to relax and enjoy the unusually clear bay weather. A couple fat little squirrels at the Shimada Friendship Park started asking for food, so I shared the remainder of my morning bagel with them. In all honesty, I didn't do them any favors, these little guys seriously need to diet.

Amy's Update on Drew

Uh...not quite, Rich. I dropped Drew off this morning and despite my best efforts to distract him with stuff to do after kisses and hugs, he still followed me outside the classroom for another kiss and a hug. He was crying, so we had a little chat about whether he wanted to go back to Wendi's, and he said he didn't know. He's just not used to walking into a room where none of the kids say hi and get excited.

Heck we were walking in at the same time as another kid and his dad and it was one of the kids Drew was saying he's kind of friends with and the bugger wouldn't even acknowledge Drew! How rude! The kid actually ran ahead and avoided Drew. Kids are so mean.

Anyway, I'd say he's making some progress, but that I'm still concerned that this is crushing his natural optimism a little. It would be one thing if he was hanging out with just kindergartners all day, but because there is such a mix, I don't think he's found his space yet. Plus, it probably doesn't help that the teachers kind of dote on him because he's so cute and articulate. Damn it, I knew there had to be a downside to making him speak in full sentences.

That being said, he still wants to go and is enjoying the novelty of having a backpack and packing his lunch and all that big boy stuff. So progress is being made. It's just a little slower than we'd like. At least we're dealing with all this now. And by the time we have to do it again in six weeks when kindergarten starts, we'll already be over the parental empathetic rejection complex.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An update on school

I've gotten a few comments on my dark outlook on Drew's new school, and our readers are entitled to an update before they think that we're sending him day after day to a place he doesn't like.

The short story is that things are getting better by the day, just as we thought they would. By the end of day 2, he had found a boy and some girls that would happily play with him, and by the end of the third day, he had several male friends, of whom he actually knew their names. The funny part is that some of these friends were some of the same names he mentioned as antagonizing him just a day earlier.

Each day when we ask how things were at school, he relates about how someone pushed him or yelled at him, but when we press him for information, he happily tells stories of crafts he did at school or who he ended up playing with. Today is "play in water day", so he was sent to school with a towel, swimsuit, sunscreen, and flip-flops in his backpack. I also gave him a quarter so he could enjoy a popsicle.

Every time I drop him off, I'm still met with sad eyes and a request for "another hug and another kiss", but he's liking it more. I predict by the end of next week, it's just going to be a "Bye, Dad", and him running off to see his buddies. Then I'll be posting about how nice the repeated hugs and kisses were.

Sniff...


I tossed out another pile of tissues earlier today. Gotta do it again.

Oh, and I know it's gross to have a pile of these, but my trash can is on the opposite side of my cubicle, and I'm using them far too often to roll back and forth every time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A man and his cat.

Crazy and the cat



What's under Drew's chair?

I had my doubts as to whether she'd manage to get out. I suppose I shouldn't doubt a cat's ability get into and out of spaces that appear physically impossible to do so.

Drew's new school experience

Yesterday, Drew went to a new school for the first day. It was a tough day for him and a tough evening for me.

I took Drew to Ms. Wendi when he was 1 1/2. She has an in-home care center, and she was the place I took him when I first moved to Natomas. Drew quickly became a favorite there, and the school was usually around 10 kids. He was one of the youngest when he started there, but due to the small class and close attention by the teachers, he was well cared for and closely monitored. He excelled at Wendi's, and quickly advanced in his studies. When he had his last day there, he was one of the oldest kids, at over 4 1/2 years old, and was possibly the alpha male of the school. That changed.

He's now in the "4th R" program at his new school, where he'll be attending kindergarten. It's a before / after school care program affiliated with the school, held on the school campus. We were very excited when we found out about it, and were thrilled at the chance he'd have to attend the new program for 6 or 7 weeks prior to the actual start of kindergarten. This means he'd meet a few classmates and schoolmates prior to the start of class, as well as becoming familiar with the school itsself. He'd also be one of the youngest in his class again, something we attributed to his quick learning while at Wendi's, as he always aspired to play and communicate with the older kids.

The 4th R class has a range of kids, from pre-k age (Drew's among the youngest), through probably 4th or 5th grade. That means an age range from 4 - 10. Developmentally, it's an enormous range. And as it's part of the solution, it's part of a problem.

Dropping Drew off at school was a good experience yesterday. We packed him a lunch, put a few other essentials into his backpack, and both took him in. The program coordinator was expecting him, and addressed him by name when he entered the class. She introduced him to some of the other kids that were already in the classroom, and he was excited to get started. Hugs and kisses, and Amy and I were off to our own days.

We never received a call while at our respective places of work, a good sign that nothing was wrong. Amy sent an email to me wondering if bullying still occurs, and I brushed it off as a thing of the past. This was going to be a great experience for him, and that was the end of it.

Amy picked him up from school the next day, and I saw her car in the lot on my way home, and I couldn't resist dropping in myself to be part of the pick-up experience. She walked him out to her car, and I asked how his day was, but Amy told me that he'd tell me all about it when we got home.

Drew's recollection of the day was like a punch in the gut. He told me that kids told him to stop following him. One boy did the "what's that on your shirt - zip (to the nose)" trick on him. Another kid called him "little". I felt like I'd thrown him to the lions. He commented that "no one there likes me". I was crushed. My little guy had been rejected by his peers for the first time in his life, and I was powerless. I asked him if he wanted to go back to his big boy school or back to Ms. Wendi's the next day, and he surprised me by saying that he wanted to go back to the big boy school. Not that I was ready to let him choose, but I wanted to know how he felt.

Crushed, I called my own mom to ask how my first kindergarten experience went. She said I cried the entire day, and assured me that this is what happens with new locations with little kids. That made me feel a little better, in a strange way. Drew related his day to Grandma, and she told him that the kids just don't know him yet, and that every day would be better than the last. Drew, an optimist after my own heart, agreed, and I like to think that he made up his mind to have a better day.

This morning, I talked to a teacher when I dropped him off about the experiences that Drew related to me from the day before. She assured me that none of the incidents that Drew related to me happened in the classroom, but it's possible that they were all from when he was out playing on the playground equipment. I asked her just to watch him and see how he does today. There were 15 kids there already, and I can't expect him to have preferential treatment, but maybe it's just something I asked to make myself feel better.

I gave Drew a hug and a kiss, and tried to scuttle out of the classroom as quickly as possible to avoid the drawn out goodbye that tends to upset kids, and he scurried up to follow me as I made my escape. He asked for another hug and a kiss. Then I stepped out of the door, and he asked for yet another, his eyes tearing up. I wanted to just take him back home, but I knew better. I gave him one last hug and a kiss, gently pushed him back into the room, and acted like I left. 10 seconds later, I saw him approaching a teacher, who offered him another hug.

So here I am at work, hoping that today goes better. I know yesterday wasn't a complete negative experience. He loves being around other kids, and I'm sure that he played with others a bit. He just let negative experiences from some of the older kids overshadow his day. I'm sure today will go better, and hopefully by the end of the week, he'll have appointed a new best friend. I'm always hopeful.

Monday, June 15, 2009

First day at new school


Drew started his new program where he'll start kindergarten in August. Amy is doing the last minute fixes. Not pictured: Drew turning on the waterworks while we snuck out on his first day there. We peeked through the window after we left, and he went right to playing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bay bridge


Really nice weather in Oakland today.

Cockfighting fan?


What else could it possibly be?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quilt-a-thon

For the past several weeks, I have been taking a beginning quilting class. I've always wanted to quilt, but inertia is really powerful, so I just wistfully looked at quilts and sighed.

Then, about three months ago, now, I mentioned that I was interested to a coworkers and she told me about a class and agreed to take it if I would take it, and voila. The nudge necessary for inertia to take hold.

The class itself has been interesting in that I met some nice women, got to hang out, and have generally had a good time. However, as I am a relatively handy person, the class moved painfully slowly. So I decided to embark on my own quilting escapades.

Since I like blogs, I immediately went out and found some great quilting blogs and read up on quilting and technique and fabric and came up with a couple of small projects to work on. I had really good excuses in that two good friends, Deb and Stephanie were both pregnant and well, wouldn't a baby quilt just make the best present for the new baby.

Now I had a mission.

Quilt One: strip quilting.

Cutting fabric is quite nerve wracking. It's permanent. It's decisive. And I was really worried. I took a nice short cut in buying a precut fabric set, called a honey bun. The strips are the width of the fabric (42-44 inches) and 1 1/2 inches long. Then they wrap it all up neatly and tie it with a ribbon.



The first thing I noticed when it arrived, though was the crazy amount of fabric lint involved. So I promptly took it apart and ran it through the dryer on air fluff.




So then I arranged them into sets of five that were complimentary.



And then stitched them together into 5 piece strips.



After I had them all stitched together, I cut them into squares and started alternating them vertically and horizontally and laid them out.





Then I started piecing the squares together.





I ended up going for five block long strips and seven strips. Here, I've got the first three strips stitched together and am still in the process of putting the other four strips together.



With my leftover little pieces from cutting the squares, I made long 1 1/2" strips of squares leftover to be used as a border. This isn't the best shot, since the top is done but then along the right and bottom are the border strips and on top of the top is the striped binding fabric.



I used some white cotton to provide some contrast and then did some simple machine quilting (which was the most nerve wracking part) and then bound it up and tossed it into the washer with some baby detergent.

And voila!









I had some leftover strips of 1 1/2 inch squares so I pieced a little bit on the back.

This was the second quilt to be finished despite the fact that it was the first quit top pieced, so it was folded up and labeled like this.







Quilt Two (technically one?)

For this quilt, I used what is known as a charm pack. It is a pack of precut 5-inch squares. This time I use a concept I had seen online and almost duplicated it to surprisingly acceptable effect. This quilt had machine quilting, a little free motion, and I even did some little curves. Very scary.

I didn't take progress shots on piecing this one, but here is the final product.





This was much smaller than the other quilt. I don't know how useful it will be as a quilt in the end. I really liked the little triangle prairie points around the edges. I may play with that idea some more. Maybe add a loop and other kid-friendly things.

Anyhow, this one ended up folded up and labeled, too.





While making those two adorable girl quilts, I used Drew for practice and made his Transformers quilt, which is nothing more than two large pieces of novelty Transformers fabrics (two different ones, actually), and sandwiching them with some batting and using it to practice machine quilting. It turned out poorly from my perspective but was good practice. Drew, of course, adores it and it is on his bed. In the end, I suppose it worked out well for all parties involved.

Current Work In Progress

Right now, I am working on a quilt for Drew, a quilt for a friend, and my quilt for my class. The one I'm making in class is not really to my liking. I made it with fabrics selected rather blindly without having a clue what I was doing.

Now, I'm diving off the deep end, reading books about quilt technique, color theory, etc. My next few quilts will play off color more as I'd like to try to do what I call an optical quilt. A quilt which uses a simple repetitive block, which uses color, more than the blocks for the dramatic effect. I know it will be challenging as it will take far more patience than the rest have required.

The quilt for a friend is using my first ever home-made bias tape for binding. (See, I'm throwing around terms for credibility!) I've never done much work with stuff cut on a bias (other than buying bias cut skirts and dresses), but after reading up on the benefits of bias tape instead of straight cut binding, I had to try it. I'll post how it goes. I expect the binding part to be easy. (Binding being the edge of the quilt.) The machine quilting should prove interesting, too, since that quilt is also my first go at using *gasp* colored thread for quilting.

Anyhow, I delayed and delayed putting these photos up because the two quilts were gifts. But both baby girls arrived safe and sound and received their quilts. (Despite a mailing mix up by yours truly, no less!)

Stay tuned for more quilting. It is my hobby du jour...maybe for the year or longer at the rate I'm going. I've decided that to get a more expensive sewing machine (and the one I want is like...4000% more expensive than the one I have), I need to exhaust my current machine and make the most of its limited abilities. Most of the features of the one I want are extras, nothing that can't functionally be achieved with my current machine. They just make things easier, nicer, and in the end, faster. But in the meantime, I'm appreciating my machine's cooperative nature.

My project this weekend is to some periodic maintenance. I'm pretty sure it should be oiled and blown out with compressed air. I'm going to take a deep breath and take it partially apart to do that. Hopefully it'll go back together and work afterwards!

I do have a little other hobby that I'm going to engage in soon for a little Christmas project which I expect to take FOREVER. But it will be worth it! That's all you'll get to hear about it, until December 26th, though, since the Christmas gift recipient is a blog reader. :) Too bad!