Monday, February 25, 2008

Families are like Fudge....

Mostly sweet with a few nuts. Haha.
A weekend visit from a large portion of John's entire family- extended and immediate, left me in an empty and quite house. Quite the opposite from a couple nights ago! Although the visit was quite adventurous, it wasn't overwhelming for me... They made it very easy on me- probably because I broke down to John about how stressed I've been since the start of the year... We have hardly had any time to ourselves and every moment has been reserved for some activity or obligation. Other than the kiddies running around, it was easy to forget that I had people staying over. The visit started on Thursday when John's parents and brother and wife came out and were joined shortly after by the Uncle from Louisiana. That night was a low key night of grilling out some shish-kabobs and just visiting. The next morning, more family came in (Aunt and Uncle and cousin from Pennsylvania, Cousin and hubby living in Chicago and the other Aunt and Uncle from Flagstaff) and we all did the fun "go to work with John" day where we all loaded up onto a van...

watched him do his pre flight check, saw his take-off and a select group even got to go up the the tower and watch his aerobatics as he came in to land. A group went bowling on base afterwards. Uncle John is a pro bowler and got to see what his brothers were made of in the lanes.


The next day, the PA crew went to check out the Grand Canyon, which is only 4 hours away. Little did they know that it was a snow storm up there so they got to see the canyon as I never had- completely covered in snow. The rest of the group split up and the men were restless to go to the drag races so they bought tickets for general admission and the women did what women do best- shop. That night we went out to a restaurant where earlier we realized it was Paulette's birthday the next day so we baked a cake and brought it in for our waiter to deliver to our unsuspecting birthday girl. It was intended for a birthday boy too- Paulette's brother was born on the same day, just a few years apart. Unfortunately, the Grand Canyon got the best of the Pennsylvania group and they retired to their hotel for the evening. The show went on and the cake came out.

After dinner, we headed to a local watering hole to grab a family favorite- Irish Car Bombs. Relax- I didn't do an Irish Car Bomb. I think John appreciates that I'm the built in DD.
Sunday was Race Day! We had tickets to the NHRA Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals. I don't know a thing about it, and I could maybe fake it for a sentence or two but I'm coming clean. However- it was amazing to see. I've seen car racing on TV but those televised programs don't begin to do the real thing justice. The experience was made up of not only the sights, but especially the sounds (deafening rumble from the Nitro fuel) and feeling (as your eye balls shook along with your heart skipping a beat). We watched the final day of racing and there were rounds of the big dragsters and funny cars (both nitromethane cars= very loud!), and then it would go to gas cars.
There were a number of elimination rounds, and in between the rounds the cars would go back to their pit where the pit crew would completely replace the entire engine. I learned from talking to Uncle John that the life span of one of their engines was about 90 seconds. You could go back to "Nitro Alley" where all the pit crews were set up, and watch all of this being done and even stand right beside the cars as they started them up and tried out their new engines while the cars were on blocks. I thought it was loud and powerful in the stands... it was almost scary how powerful it felt as I stood within 15 feet of the car.

Here is one of the races of the dragsters. Again, you can't even begin to fathom how loud it is until you're there.
video

So the day at the races left us all tired from all the anticipation and excitement, and covered in a little rubber dusting from the cars peeling out their tires. Some of the family left during or after the races (due to the crazy snow storms going on in Flagstaff) and I dropped John off at the airport too for his Vegas class. Home again, I returned to Uncle John, Aunt Betty, Rebbecca and the boys for one last night of entertainment (the boys are very smart and can be quite funny). Then they, too pulled out Monday morning and headed home themselves. All in all it was a fun filled weekend, and not to brown-nose but I am truely blessed to have such cool in-laws and a great family!

Update: OASIS

Well, the week was long and John sure did work hard. Most of the time he worked alone, and I don't think you realize how much work you really have in store to you attempt it alone! I am a very limited helper but before work I'd try to be out there with him, doing whatever I could. The first thing to get finished was the retaining wall. After the help dug and leveled the winding trench, he started laying the first layer down. It was a tedious job since you had to pound the brick with a rubber mallet to level it PERFECTLY (John is a perfectionist- big time!). After the first layer was in the rest went up quicker. Between the dirt mound and the wall is a mesh lining to hold some gravel up against the wall for drainage. We didn't have the cap for the wall so that is still a "to do."
The next part of "Phase I" was to prepare and lay the patio pavers. The prep seemed pointless to me (although I know that it matters). He dug out (about 6 inches deep) the entire area where the patio will be, then wheelbarrow load by load he filled it back in with other dirt... I suppose it's a special dirt. He had to make forms to pour some concrete into to hold the weight of the BBQ pit, a planter (for my herb garden- yay!) and a curved bench. We spread the previously deposited dirt out and tried to make it even before he tamped it down.

Then he laid some metal piped in the perfectly leveled and tamped dirt, threw some sand in between the pipes and spread that level with a long 2x4. Finally he was able to put in the first paver. Unfortunately he wasn't able to finish the patio since he reserved all day on Thursday for that and we had an OB appointment and his family got into town that morning . So the project is somewhat on a temporary hold until John gets back from his 2 week trip to Vegas.



The Backyard- Before (just started to bring the dirt back)



The backyard- So far!

The only casualty is our poor dog Cana. I think he's allergic to the new "special" dirt in the back because he broke out into hives the day the backyard project commenced. We took him to the vet, and $150 later, got him some medicine (along with the usual- heart worm check and meds, etc.) So I think it's clearing up but there's still a little funk around his eye.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

MISSION: OASIS


The long weekend promoted the commencement of the looming backyard project. Let me rewind to our house hunting experience.... We were looking only in resale with pools because we figured that we'd go for it since Phoenix was one of the few places in the country we could justify owning a pool, but as our journey continued to find our house, we grew more and more discouraged about the market. You see, when we were looking to buy the market was going down and it was a great time to look. However, most homeowners were still in denial that the Phoenix bubble had popped and they were still trying to get top dollar for their mediocre house. One of the stand outs was a house priced over quarter of a million dollars which had doors gnawed on by dogs as well as a rug conveniently covering up the floor boards completely chewed and warped, not to mention the house smelling like an ash tray. We were frustrated after a week of that, so by our friend's advise we looked at new builds. We ended up falling in love with a new build that was basically a spec home, move in ready that fell out of escrow and was on a DEEP discount! Part of our deal with buying it was a pool- at least the deal between John and I. So anyway, to make a long story a little shorter we had plans for our backyard which included swimming. Once I found out I was pregnant and broke the news to my darling husband, pretty much the first thing he did was call the pool guy and cancel the check. So sad. But in reality it's what we had to do. So anyway, we (ie: John) have reworked and redesigned the plans and now he's taking on the project as a DIY. What started as a pile of dirt will soon be beautiful. Yesterday morning, before the sun even came up I heard the beeping and commotion of the trucks dropping off loads of bricks, dirt and cinder blocks. They rented a bobcat and our friend, Karl drove it all day transporting dirt from here to there. Bright and early, day 2 and John is already out there shoveling away. He's taking off this entire week to work on our yard!!! And this is only "Phase I" out of 3 phases. After this week, we should have a curvy retaining wall along the back, an extended patio made from pavers (equipped with poured concrete for a fire pit and built in BBQ- which will be completed later in Phase 3), and mounds of dirt strategically placed to create depth and provide proper drainage. More to come about this post as it all comes together!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Stone's Throw North




So far the month of February hasn't been as calm as I was expecting. Just like January, every weekend is occupied with visits, events, and baby showers. It seems that I'm not the only one expecting around here and I've got 4 invitations for baby showers all with in a span of two weeks! Anyway, our last weekend was spent in the snowy wonderland of Flagstaff, Arizona. It's amazing to me how I haven't seen so much as a flake of snow this winter, with the temperatures in the Phoenix area plummeting to a chilly 50 degrees, and yet only 2 hours north of here the snow is so high that it was completely covering out door grills and picnic tables. There is an Air Force owned site up there, Fort Tuthill, that rents out cabins and hotel rooms which John's squadron took advantage of and declared a group trip. With hopes to snowboard, John packed his boarding equipment and clothes and lugged it up to Flagstaff just to be talked out of spending the money for sub-par snow and over crowded slopes. Instead, a bunch of the crew went sledding on Saturday while I enjoyed a little touring around historic Flagstaff with a couple other pregnant wives, and a non-preg too. In the evening, we all rendezvoused in "the big house" (the largest cabin meant for multiple families which a bunch of students rented) for a chili cook-off! Through out the night, there were heated games of Trivial Pursuit, Euchre,and of course Beer Pong. To wrap up the trip, sledding commenced yet again at 1:30 am as the excitement of an otherwise mediocre hill entertained even the biggest sled hill connoisseur. The darkness added an element of mystery that was not present earlier. The next morning, John and I were able to visit with the much loved Aunt and Uncle in Flagstaff as well as all the girls (cousins) and families! Home again... sigh. Even just leaving for a few days sure makes you appreciate the comforts of home that you overlook on a day to day basis.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Meet the Parents

After just starting work not too long ago, and juggling my work with High Schoolers, social activities, sewing purses, and the never ending house chores, in comes a much needed visit from my parents. You may think that statement is riddled with sarcasm, but I full heartedly mean it. You see, my parents were easy house guests and didn't require much abnormal entertaining, and on top of that my mom spoiled me by taking over the kitchen and cooking/cleaning as I enjoyed a break! They brought their pets, Sheba- the ancient and molting dog (that I begged my parents to let me take home when I was in Junior High), and Tober- the autistic kitty (that I adopted as a stray kitten when I was in college).. I guess it sounds more like they brought up MY pets. Anyhow, we got to see how Cana would react to having a cat in the house. We've socialized him with many other dogs and he's fine with that, but since John uses Cana as a hunting dog and he has little exposure to cats, his curiosity was peaked. He was good, but he definately wanted to chase the cat, but found it was anticlimactic since she would just jump up on a counter and safely out of reach soon after the chase commenced.

Over the weekend, we drove over to Phoenix to find the house my parent's lived in before Trav and I were born. They were both in the Air Force at the time and were stationed at Luke Air Force Base- the same base we're stationed at now. The area was much different where as John and I live a mile from base (as the crow flies), there was no housing in the west valley so they commuted everyday from Phoenix about 20 miles. We found the house and they were astonished with the changes of the cactus size. They stopped to talk to a current neighbor when the home owner came out to check out the excitement. We were able to get a tour of their old house, see all the remodeling and even see that the pool that my dad had put in over 30 years ago was still there and in use today!

After that, we stopped by to check out some of the Superbowl hype. A complex around the stadium was hosting bands and other attractions in leux of the big game. It was quite packed but the excitement was overwhelming! We ran into a few friends looking to do the same and we walked around the complex, touring million dollar house boats, stopping at booths for Arizona's state parks, etc. Then to return back home and out of the crowds for a quite dinner. We made it over to another guy's house to watch the game, where he invited a handful of guys. The guys had their own little football game before hand (touch football) and a bunch of the neighbor kids saw the action and joined in. We watched the game and ate too much- standard. All in all it was an enjoyable visit. Now to prepare for the Wilson Family Reunion at the end of the month!!!!