Monday, August 31, 2009

the witching hour

I can tell time by Bug these days. When he's somewhere like school, he runs on High Power and uses up all of his Good, leaving only remnants of our usual child to return to us in the afternoon. We knew it would be like this, starting kindergarten. I had prepared, somewhat. We'd gotten him used to going to bed at a different time from Pook-- a mighty feat I may add, considering they share a room. I'd also prepared him for the return of regular naps once summer ended; it looked like there'd be time for naps on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and that seemed like it would do. Unfortunately, it takes him longer to settle down after school than it did Pook and where Pook had a baby brother taking a nap when he came home and soon joined his brother in napping, Bug isn't settled enough to sleep until about 3:30 (home by 2:30). In my house, no one has ever been allowed to nap past 4pm, so I had to make the decision to scrap naps this fall. That, I knew, was a recipe for disaster.

So here we were, both boys practicing magic tricks I helped them learn today-- Bug while Pook did homework, and Pook while Bug... annoyed Pook. I was doing some PTA project on the computer and suddenly Bug fell to the floor, melted. If you know the book Knuffle Bunny, I'll call it "boneless", if you just want to picture a puddle of crying five year old, that'll do too. "I can't do it." It's all your fault!" "I'm never doing this trick!" I looked at the clock here at the bottom left of my screen... 4:58.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

don't forget

My baby lost his first tooth yesterday! After only giving me two weeks to adjust to kindergarten, he has to prove he's grown up by doing this. Sigh.

It is sitting on the backsplash in my bathroom, where CD last night's Toothfairy put it, thinking it would be hard to see, but where I could find it to save if I want it. Do I want it? To be honest, they're pretty gross. I thought I'd kept Pook's first tooth, but when he lost the second one I couldn't find the first one so I threw the second one away. Yesterday when I got out the little tooth basket we have, I found some random tooth of Pook's in it, but I threw it out the window* and placed Bug's in it instead.

* I threw it out the window because I was indoors and it was hard to throw it on the roof. Follow the link to a good book which will explain my actions.

I suspect that Bug is a more sentimental person and I might get by with saving his tooth/teeth without saving Pook's. But you never know if it might be one of those "you love him more than you love me" issues. I'd hate to have it come up in therapy some day that I only saved the teeth of one child. The problem I remember having with Pook's first tooth was: Where To Put It? I ought to have at least one private place in my own bedroom, but I'm not optimistic. And the Safe Place where I probably put Pook's tooth? I have no idea where it is- that's why it's so safe. (There are lots of things there, including, at the moment a sign-up sheet for our PTA that I need.)

So, in comes the usefulness of this blog! I am taping the tiny tooth to an index card and putting it in the upper right desk drawer. Don't forget. I might need to find it someday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


To be fair to the photo, I should have put a ruler next to the snake. Straightened out he might have been ten to twelve inches long, about as thick as my thumb. He was very dead and I will convince myself that his family has mourned and moved on long ago. Far away. The holes behind the dishwasher are filled with insulation and expanding foam, so visitation hours are over.

Monday, August 24, 2009

simple but deadly

"How does she write a post about her new dishwasher and use both the words 'simple' and 'deadly'?"

I'm up to the challenge. First of all, whoo hoo for us! We're getting/we've got (depends on the time I post this) a new dishwasher! The old one gave up on everything but running (meaning, spraying water and soap around and sort of cleaning) a long time ago. Plus it smelled. And had rusted. And the front panel was off, revealing the cardboard "insulation". But once we decided to get a new one, we ended up buying a new refrigerator. Then we recovered from that purchase and bought a new garage door. And here it is, August.

We did our appliance shopping online, found the model we wanted and the store who "carried" it. Then we went to the second store which actually did carry it (less than simple, but still ok). It fit into our car (simple) and our favorite handyman said he could come over Monday at 9:30. All wonderfully simple.

He came over at 10:30, which by handyman standards is "on time". Unfortunately, wrong dishwasher. I returned and swapped them out, relatively painlessly, but did waste Handyman's time. (Fortunately he charges by the project, not the time.) And, insulation that CD wanted to put behind the new dishwasher won't fit. And Handyman had to cut a new hole into our sink area and run a new drain line. He's only had one extra trip to the store, but it is 1:15 as I type. (I knew it was ill fated when he asked about my afternoon plans and when I said I had to get the kids at 2pm he responded with "Oh, if I'm still here at 2, we have bigger problems!)

So, nothing is simple when it comes to home ownership. But still, you ask, what is the 'deadly' part of this dishwasher replacement?

This: the dead baby copperhead he found when he removed the old dishwasher. It is now resting on top of the compost pile. Maybe it will scare away any critters who want to eat from our garden.

So, no, there ended up being nothing much "simple" about the installation of this lovely new dishwasher. Handyman finished at 3pm. But, we have a new dishwasher, and it works.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I am trying to help out at the boys' school as much as possible this year. Maybe if I make myself indispensable, they'll want to hire me someday.

If I'm valued, I'll be kept. That's the rule in my yard too. I have some volunteer plants every year. Maybe our compost doesn't "cook" long enough and spreads seeds. Maybe the birds poop a lot. Regardless, here are some of the volunteers who have not been pulled. I can identify very few, so if you know who my visitors are, please share.

This first is a vine which grew from the compost pile itself. One year we had three pumpkins ripen in August, last year we grew gourds. Nothing wrong with a lovely gourd, but you can't eat them.

I was hoping for cucumber, but I'm guessing pumpkin for this volunteer.

There are two of these, probably sown by birds since they're so near my feeders. Small, yellow blooms, but reminiscent of a sunflower plant.

I know this one, but I leave it to grow and provide tasty strawberries to birds and other critters. If I feed them treats like this, won't they leave my other plants alone?

This lone swiss chard plant grows in a bare area I reserved for... chard and lettuce. I planted those seeds in early spring but here is one small plant that just began to show itself in August. Not enough for a meal, and yet I can't seem to get any to grow when I want it. I'll sow another attempt to see if I can give this plant some neighbors. And if I can get a meal's worth.

Some of my volunteers are much loved. This one was transplanted from the front lawn along with four others of different varieties. All five accepted the move, but I only wanted one. This red maple is now nine years old. I hope someday it will have a swing tied to it's branches. I have so many trees and yet none near the house and none with good swinging branches. It is hoped that this one will provide fun to my grandchildren. It is already taller than a two story house.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

whine and brag

What's for dinner?
I don't like that.
I won't eat it.
You can't make me.
What else can I have?
I don't wanna have that.
That's gross.
Can I have more?

This is my dinner hour these days. Bug has been a great eater all his life, but this summer he began to complain about everything I made. Pook has always been a more typical child in his eating habits, and although he's been influenced to improve by his younger brother, if he says he doesn't like something, he doesn't. He's willing to eat the taste we require him to have, and however grudgingly he does it, we know he will eventually eat a bite. I offer him an option if I'm really cooking something I don't think he'll want. It happens very, very seldom.

But when Bug complains about the dinner menu, I ignore him. If I start to discuss it with him ("You ate this last time" "You've always liked it before") I'm just dooming myself to a whining tantrum and will be told that I'm wrong and he hates me. Better to ignore it. Because, only once has he really complained about the food (which he'd always liked before) and then followed through and not eaten it. That tired night he fell on the floor in tears, was carried up the stairs and put to bed, hungry perhaps, but mostly just exhausted. Most of the time, he whines and fusses while I cook, then sits with one final complaint and devours everything he's served. And asks for seconds and thirds.

This morning Bug saw the contents of his lunchbox-- home made pimento cheese spread, crackers, celery and a plum-- and began to whine. "I hate your cheese. I only like the Kroger one." I ignored him, finished packing the bag and sent him off to school. Later on, I was volunteering in the library when I realized it was his lunch time. I stopped in to say hi. His teacher saw me and came to talk. "He and I were talking about how good pimento cheese is and he says that you can buy it but the really best stuff is what you make."

I beamed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the agony of homework

Oh the agony of homework! Pook had homework starting the first day of school. I looked at it and it seemed trivial; a few worksheets with 4-10 questions each, 20 spelling words to write 3x. I figured each task might take him 5-10 minutes. I set him up and went about my business. An hour later, he was still sitting at the table (or half on a chair and half on the floor, or partway upside down, or standing with one knee leaning on the table, or...) and the work was barely started.

I sat with him and tried to help him focus. He is so, so very distracted. He stares right through the teacher's paper. His eyes aren't focused on anything. He doesn't "get" it. I read the homework "Draw a conclusion based on the paragraph above" and repeat it to him. "Oh." He should understand, but his brain is not home. Another page which has a request to think and give opinion is beyond him and he falls on the floor in tears.

Bug keeps refusing to read to me. I cannot sign next to Read Aloud until he does. He's still practicing piano, so I could be doing worse. But written homework for him will start after Labor Day, and we aren't even getting the current work done yet. "You can't make me!" He falls off the sofa during his teary shouts.

No, I don't want to make them do homework, but they do have an agreement with their teachers to do what she asks. I'm here to help them focus and to explain problems. I won't give Pook answers to thinking questions. I try different plans of attack. Bug used to play school and want to be big. Now he's in school.

I'm a teacher. And I at least I thought I was an effective teacher. So why have both my children been in tears over homework? Is it just an adjustment coming off from summer? Is it really too much? Too hard? Too something else? I know they're exhausted. The babysitter, who came while we were at the school meeting his teacher, did not put them to bed when I asked. Instead of an early bedtime, they both stayed up later than usual. (If this happens again Thursday when she returns for the upper grade Meet the Teacher night she'll be history. I hope it goes better because she lives next door and I really want to like her.)

I remember fourth grade being a big deal because that was the year you started getting homework. Bug, in Pre-K was asked to cut out pictures starting with the letter of the week. He did it several times near the start of school and then I gave up the fight and he never did it again. I've been warned. We're in for a ride.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Eleven minutes. That's how long I just left my eight year old home alone. Bug's piano lesson was a group lesson today and I didn't need to stick around. I gave Pook the option of staying home alone while I drove his brother over. He calmly said he would. I confirmed with him that he was sure it was ok. Then I reminded him of basic rules: don't answer the door, ignore the phone unless you see that it's Daddy, stay inside, call me if you need to. I turned on my "cellophone" (I love that word my kids still use!) and headed out to the car with Bug. Pook sat down with his book. I popped back in. "I'll lock the door, ok?" "And I'll close the garage door." "Daddy might come home while I'm gone because it might storm soon." "I think I'll leave the garage door up for him, just in case." "Are you going to be ok?" He mumbled something and permitted me to kiss him before I exited again. I locked the door behind me, but made sure the key was in the lock, inside. I checked the time and put my cell phone in my lap. Red light #1- a long one. Red light #2- barely missed going, another long one. I turned into the subdivision and pulled up at Piano Teacher's home. "Learn something!" I blew Bug a kiss and turned the car around. The two left turns were simple right turns on the way home. I pulled in the garage and stopped the car. I called out my "I'm back" both as I was unlocking the door (so he wouldn't worry and would know it was just me) and again after I opened the door. No answer. I peeked into the den. Pook was sitting in the leather chair, reading. "You did it! Were you a little bit worried?" He looked at me blankly. "Just a little bit afraid while I was gone?"

"No. I kind of forgot."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

on cookies

Pathetic. Really pathetic. I clicked on a link from the White House to read the President's policy on cookies. Is there any reason my brain should have been thinking of websites, software, and privacy? Because my brain was wondering what cookie recipe the Obama family has that is so newsworthy. Sugar is what my brain thinks of first. Sugar.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

mom will be proud

I pulled out the vodka at 8:30 this morning. And yet, I know my mom will be proud of me.

Pook asked if I'd make a vidalia onion pie for dinner yesterday. While no mother in her right mind should turn down a child asking for a vegetarian dinner, I did, because I couldn't find a pie crust in the freezer. In comparison to my pie crust method, my mom is one of the best at making them. My dad may have married her for that flaky pie crust. Fortunately CD isn't picky as long as he's fed.

I used to use the excuse that my kitchen counters are tile. Really, you cannot roll pie dough on a counter with grout lines. I'd tried Christmas cookies there and had poor results. I tried the kitchen table, which even if I dig all the art and mail off from it and clean it, is still awkward because of the low height. I tried rolling it on a cookie sheet. I tried to keep the cookie sheet from slipping with all sorts of methods. I got a stiff plastic pie dough sheet that was just for the purpose. Nothing worked and the grocery store crusts just became the norm.

Not too long ago, CD's mom regifted to us a marble slab and matching rolling pin which he had given her years ago. They're pretty. But not used. But one excuse was gone. Still, though, pie crust is a pain. The ones I have made haven't been terribly successful. Similar to our search for the perfect biscuit recipe, CD and I have found that everyone has the same recipe for these foods. Until now.

The show, America's Test Kitchen, caught my eye with a blueberry pie recipe. (Having three gallons of hand picked, organic blueberries in my freezer has made the word blueberry an eye catcher.) They called the crust a foolproof pie dough. My mother had mentioned this method before, but watching it convinced me it was an option. Still, I was hesitant.

This morning, not having any other ideas for dinner, I decided it was as good a day as any to attempt the vidalia pie, crust and all.. Without reading the full directions, I vaguely remembered that it was supposed to rest in the fridge for a while, and I decided to make it this morning. I pulled down flour, salt and sugar, found the rancid Crisco and threw it out, decided Smart Balance and butter would work fine, and then the magic ingredient-- vodka.

The crust is happy in the fridge right now. I'll see what the verdict is tonight and add an addendum here.

I thought the crust was too buttery; it baked up hard and crunchy, and somewhat greasy. Still, Bug declared it better than our usual storebought, which I must remind myself, he often breaks off and skips. I'll give it anther try. Mom, you might need to pay us a visit so we can practice together. I do think vodka might be a good trick.

Monday, August 10, 2009

off and running

We had an inauspicious start to the first day of school. Pook wanted a second bagel and I couldn't see sending him to school hungry on the first day. But our morning schedule is *tight* and a second bagel does not fit on the calendar. We rushed him along and were standing at the back door waiting for him as we got later and later. All four of us decided to walk to the school this morning, to celebrate the first day of school and CD's availability now that he works nearby. Only, we didn't walk to school, we ran. Uphill. Steeply uphill.

The boys' classrooms are at complete and total opposite corners of an 'L' shaped school. We were lucky to find the back door open for a change and we photographed and kissed Pook and left him to find his seat. Pushing down the crowded hallway towards kindergarten, I stepped on toes of two people. Both, fortunately, were good friends. No time to visit though, we had to get our Bug to his room. I got a photo of his anxious and excited face outside his classroom, we helped him find his seat (right next to the only child he knows in the room!) and I gave him a big kiss. I wish I'd had a calmer start to the day, a slower goodbye and a more settled departure. Suddenly, that was it. Someone began to talk to me and I didn't have time to think.

CD and I walked home through the already hot morning and he set off to work. I decided I might as well return, before my shower, to the cut-through path with clippers to deal with poison ivy on our route. On my way there a neighbor jogged by and paused, "Oh, you have both boys at school this year! I'll bring you tissues on my way back!"

I was so off kilter by the empty house that I completely forgot to go to my yoga class at 10:30. My mornings are free, but they aren't exactly unscheduled! Maybe I should set a timer so I get there on time for dismissal!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ready, set,... -wait!

We met teachers today and found out class members. Pook has a great third grade class of kids he knows, and although I don't really know the teacher, she seems fine. Rumor says strict but friendly. A student teacher will be in the room this semester too, and an extra hand is always a good thing. He set his school supply box down at a desk by good buddies and his neutral attitude became excited. He's signed up for chess club again and somehow looks and acts as if he knows all this stuff. Routine.

Our county (state?) has had to cut back so severely that they've taken the paraprofessionals (aides) out of the kindergarten rooms. What a mistake. One child bounces off the ceiling and 19 don't learn to read? I figured I'd end up helping regularly and finding other parents to do the same if the classroom felt too wild. You can't mess around with kindergarten; if they don't learn the basics you're setting them up for a bad experience all the way through. I was relieved that there is a special needs child in Bug's classroom, because she'll have a para helping her out and I've never met someone in that position who didn't help any other child who needed it while they were around. The teacher is dual certified in early childhood ed. and special ed. which is also great at that age. I got great vibes from her and am excited for my baby.

I'm not ready for this. I'll have an empty nest. I'm sending my baby off. My SIL has just had to leave her eldest child to be taken to her freshman year of college, by relatives, after their family has left the country to go back to their current home in the UAE. Perspective.

And me? I'm not starting anything fresh and new. I'm going to need to make some plans, since back-to-school is when I'm at my most productive. I've just gotten the hang of accomplishing daily tasks while kids are around ("Look, Mama" "Play with me" "Read to me" "Can we go to the pool?") and suddenly my day is open and I search for projects. The kitchen will get painted. Oh, and I've scheduled a massage for myself. Pampering must be fit into the new schedule.