Sunday, May 31, 2009

left out

I left out one of the most beautiful blooms in the South. Here is a flower from our Southern Magnolia. Bug's hand would be about the size of one petal, to to give some perspective of size. One winter we had an ice storm which coated everything with 1/8" layer of ice. We went for a walk in the winter wonderland and discovered that the ice would slide off the magnolia leaves, with all the leaf veins showing. They'd have made wonderful dessert plates or soap dishes.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

my thumb isn't very green this year

We still haven't turned on our A/C. Spring has dawdled around here and the drought-ending rain is still not ending to let the heat crank up. In addition to my already documented issues with growing vegetables this year, the rest of my yard isn't completely happy about the change in climate. I've encouraged drought tolerant plants and they're expecting more sun than they've gotten. This is what it looks like Chez Pook and Bug right now...

This is the milk crate which was supposed to protect Baby Cucumber Number Three. Every leaf was eaten off this time, and the ground dug up in the area, but the crate undisturbed.

Nearby are carrot seedlings, ignored by whatever pest loves cucumbers. They were dug up once after seeding them, so they're no longer in straight rows, but they're coping. A volunteer pea/bean plant is behind the carrots. The baby pepper plant, in it's toilet paper tube for protection, is photographed a few hours before being polished off as something's dinner. The only bugs I saw were pill bugs which supposedly don't eat live plants. I think they made a mistake and ate every pepper I put out.

Onto the chewed up parsley. Nothing left but stem. Next to it, the baby basil is untouched.

The two inch tomato plant is actually lucky to be in a pot; all the rest were eaten to the ground. Who eats tomatoes and cucumbers and ignores carrots and beans? Are you in tears yet? This is the worst of it fortunately. In addition to the tomatoes started from seed I bought some lovely one gallon organic heirloom varieties. I think I know what I'll plant next year. There are several one inch green tomatoes already hanging on the tall plant.

I should leave veggie gardening to the farmers. The rest of the yard is doing better, if not lush. I'd like to fill in all the space between plants but it just doesn't happen. However, my aim for a twelve month yard of blooms has been on track for the past five months- the easy ones. My rosebushes usually bloom for Mother's Day, and they were heavy with flowers this year. I brought lots indoors to put in vases and shared some at a Memorial Day party with the hostess.

Elsewhere in the yard is spider wort. Near it I found an unidentified flower I like enough to keep. Don't tell me it's invasive or poisonous please.

Next come daylillies. Mine are behind schedule, but getting ready for a good pop I hope. I should shuffle them around a bit. I don't like the way I have them all clumpy by type. It would give a better presentation if they were mixed. I've got Stella d'Ora, generic orange and some redish ones I don't remember getting.

Beside the daylillies is some feverfew that self seeded. I'd like more in the area, but it's on a slope and seeds itself lower and lower until the driveway interferes. The purple coneflower plant, below,wasn't ready to bloom when I took the photo a few days ago, but the visitor made the photo worthwhile before the bloom showed up. I hope she eats all the pests that have bothered my plants.

Like everything else in the yard, the hydrangeas are having a weak presentation. I have three types but only found blooms on the Oakleaf and the Lace varieties; the traditional blue is AWOL.

The last bloom to show is the sedum, a slow but steady grower which looks nice all summer. It hasn't spread much, but comes back strong in our woodlands area each year. The sun will soon become strong and the rain will probably stop, so some plants will prosper and many others will suffer in the heat and turn brown. I'll check in again in July and compare. There is always much to be improved upon in our big yard.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

just desserts

"What's for dessert?"
(in my head) I've got fresh strawberries from the farmer's market but no energy to wash them. And leftover extra birthday cake still in the freezer. And some whipped cream we still haven't used up. I take a moment to decide if I can summon the will to go to the kitchen to prepare this. Nope.
Another thought...
"Bug, go put the stool by the sink."
"Pook, go see if you can find the ziplock in the freezer that has the small loaf of birthday cake in it."
"Bug, put the colander from the pasta into the sink."
"Pook, take out the cake and put it on the wooden cutting board."
"Bug, put eight strawberries in the colander." (It was only a pint and I wasn't up for arguments about who got the most berries.)
"Pook, use the big, long bread knife that's on the counter and cut the cake into four pieces."
(A conversation ensued about the knife and I asked Bug to turn off the water so I could hear Pook better.)
"Bug, get out four plastic plates."
"Pook, put a slice of cake on each plate."
"Bug, put two strawberries on each plate."
"Pook, can you reach the whipped cream in the fridge?" (affirmative)
"Bug, get out four small forks."
Very soon Pook emerged into the dining room balancing three plates. Bug followed with one plate and the dripping colander of strawberries. Someone ran back for the whipped cream. They assembled the plates tableside and each put whipped cream on two. We ate.

"I'm proud of you two getting this for us. Bug washed the berries by himself and Pook sliced the cake alone. Thanks guys."
"I didn't wash the berries. You told me to turn off the water."



For the Preschool-Handwriting-Illiterate: "Please pack me blueberries for lunch today."

He wrote this to his daddy one evening, writing "tmoro" but then realized that CD would be reading it in the morning and cleverly changed the timing to "tudaey". He got blueberries.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

allergy testing

I am Peanut Phobic. My mom has a severe peanut allergy and I grew up without them. I was tested for a peanut allergy years ago and surprised when they said I was safe. My allergist suggested I keep my kids off peanuts for five years, which was not a problem. I keep a peanut free house and can smell the things a mile away. CD takes all the peanut Halloween candy off our hands and eats it in the privacy of his office. Good riddance.

Unfortunately, the schools and the church have these pesky forms to complete that ask if my children have any allergies and what reaction is likely to occur. I go through this routine every year as I explain that they've never had any peanuts so I don't know if they'd have a reaction or not. The authorities are displeased by this answer.

Since Bug is starting public school and is now five, I decided it was time to get formal testing done. They had to have appointments on different days for skin testing unfortunately, so I debated about who to condemn first, knowing the one untested would be observing. They both had screaming reactions to the prospect of flu shots, so the choice was difficult. If it was awful, I finally decided, Pook would throw a loud tantrum but I could verbally convince him into going, whereas Bug would throw a loud and physical tantrum and would be harder to wrestle into following Pook. Bug first.

Bug has had sniffly sneezy allergy symptoms every spring and fall. He was tested for lots of pollens, grasses and trees, as well as peanuts. The doctor, and then the nurse, showed him the "crab" that would "prickle" his back. Oh no, it did not prickle. That child, who doesn't like to be seen crying, sobbed silently into the stiff paper pillow. We praised him up and down and told him he'd done great. And then the doctor decided to do seven follow up pricks, each with a needle. The nurse suggested I hold him, but I couldn't even catch him (amazing, considering he was on the doctor's narrow paper lined table). I hadn't thought to bring Teddy, or even a lollipop bribe unfortunately. She was patient and persuasive and I finally wrangled him onto my lap. Seven times she pricked the skin with a needle and injected a bit of allergen into his arm while he observed the whole process. When she left he cried and left tiny dots of blood on my shirt.

Results? No allergies. Not to peanuts, not to plants. He has very sensitive skin and showed lots of red bumps, but none were "significant". It was called "nonallergic rhinitis" and explains why all the antihistamines I've given him over the years never really seemed to help. Instead we now have a nasal spray sample to try next time it becomes a problem.

This isn't what I expected; I'd hoped to be told to start him on antihistamines every March and that he'd be able to stop taking them when the season for whatever-it-was was over, but I'm relieved. And when we stopped at the Farmer's Market he chose a peanut butter granola bar for his treat but didn't like it).

Pook goes Friday. We've decided to only test him for peanuts so the appointment should be short and sweet and hopefully include no crying. He won't eat peanuts even if they're safe, since he's become peanut phobic too, but it'll be good to know.

Pook's results: no peanut allergy!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

why shouldn't I cry over spilled milk?

When a child drops a full 8 oz. of freshly stirred chocolate milk in the middle of the kitchen and the milk and unmixed blobs of chocolate splash the cabinets, the refrigerator, a chair and the table, the trashcan and even the pantry door and slightly within the pantry, and then size 13 bare feet walk through it and beyond the approximately ten feet of puddle and splashes and leave footprints for another six feet or more before you call to the owner of the size 13 feet to stop, and then to calm the child down you stop mopping up long enough to get another of the individual sized chocolate milk sticks that you thought would be a fun snack out and pour another glass of milk and the child spills half the package onto the wet floor before getting it into the milk and then starts to walk across the wet and sort of clean part of the kitchen as if he wants to drink this milk in the carpeted den and you get him back but then find yourself kneeling and hand washing the floor with a rag around his legs as you discover that the milk and cracker crumbs under the table are making a pasty gooey mess together and by now the child is done with his milk and playing and you are still rinsing out washcloths and cleaning places you've never actually cleaned before (yes, you can now lick my clean baseboards) and you realize that by the time the floor is dry you'll need to start some dinner... well, why shouldn't you cry?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

take three

The last cucumber plants are in the ground. I put the rim of the peat pot slightly above ground level to distract any cutworms, and I put a milk crate over the whole thing to keep away whoever else was upsetting them. Two days and counting. I'll put the rest of my baby plants in the ground as soon as I have time- sweet peppers and more tomato plants. A volunteer with pea or bean leaves is looking for a trelis. I'll keep it out of curiousity. I think some of my radishes are radishes. I should thin my carrots because when they got dug up they got clumpy, but there are only a few clumps and if I thinned them I'd have very few carrots. They are just an experiment anyway.

Pook's baseball team is entering the semi-finals. They were seated 9th (of 14) but were the only team to have beaten the #1 team. When faced with them last night they did it again. This is exciting, but it is also more baseball. Both baseball and school are finished on Friday. They went to bed late last night. Again. Three of his coaches have asked me about his glasses. He "squints or closes his right eye" at bat and has a much better swing than his batting average reflects. I told Pook about their questions and emails. "No, thank you" is all he'll say. No explanation. He wears the glasses all day at school, removing them still for gym and outdoor play. We've told him they're safe and he can keep them on but he hasn't done it yet.

Bug woke up at 1:10 am and I knew it wasn't good. He couldn't find dry pj bottoms (which pleased him) to replace the wet ones he had on. He screamed and yelled and tried his best to make us all miserable until we finally settled him at 1:47. I fell back asleep quickly, which surprises me, but I'm still exhausted this morning. So were both kids.

Bug has a playdate this afternoon. I'll plant my seedlings. Pook has more baseball tonight. Dinner tonight? Sandwiches packed in a cooler at the ballpark. Maybe we'll splurge for concession stand french fries. We'll make it to the weekend somehow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

passport, please

We've decided on a summer vacation, finally. Yellowstone got postponed for a better economy, but we're going to visit Sister MD and family in Pittsburgh and then spend some time around Niagara Falls.

Yikes! Our passports are way out of date! (Isn't that depressing? I'd like to think of myself as a world traveler, but my passport was issued when I was in college.) Since they're way out of date, we have to spend an extra $25 to get them in person instead of through the mail. Spend extra for your extra inconvenience, please. I was able to print out all the forms at home, and I had them all filled out. I even had a semi-recent photo to use. All I needed was the time to go to a post office to do it all. Ha.

Bug had a birthday party today, held at a bouncy, jumpy place about half an hour away. Seemed practical to drop him off and deal with the passport at a nearby Post Office. Here was my day:

10:00 drop Bug at Jumpy Place, leaving contact info with parents

10:10 arrive at P.O., ask about passports. told to "Wait over here."

10:12 (ooh, how quick!) Passport Lady calls me forward. "You need an appointment." {mistake #1} I ask if I can get one right then. Both her 10:15 and 10:30 time slots are filled; I can have 10:45. Hmm. Wait at Jumpy Place or P.O.? I choose P.O. just in case they can get me in sooner. Didn't think to bring a book, by the way. {mistake #2}

10:15 Her appointment doesn't show. She sells stamps. I sit.

10:30 Her appointment doesn't show. She sells stamps. I sit.

10:45 I am called for my appointment. Just on time, wow!
I spread out all my forms, my old passport, my photos and drivers license as if I had a winning poker hand. (Royal Flush, thank you very much!) "Your name has changed." Yes, I was married. "You need an original marriage certificate." I have a drivers license also issued by the state, in my married name.... "You need an original marriage certificate."

11:00 I watch kids bounce, then watch them eat pizza and cake. I've had enough of both of those recently, so I passed even though I was hungry. {mistake #3}

12:30 arrive home. Leave Bug in car {mistake #4}, grab safety deposit box key and a banana. Used the bathroom. {not mistake!}

12:31 Back in car. Bug: "I'm thirsty." No anything in car. {mistake #5}

1:00 Bank. Remembered to get cash before getting into my Pirate Secret Treasure Chest for marriage certificate. (Bug usually likes this place, but it has no drinking fountain.)

1:15 at our local P.O. Whoo Hoo, no appointments needed! But the people in front of me are here for a passport too. I brought the birthday party goodie bag in, as well as three markers, one notebook and one book. Bug doesn't want any of it. He's thirsty. The P.O. has no drinking fountain. He's whiny.

1:45 My turn! Again, I spread out all my lovely, completed documents, photos and identification, including the marriage certificate. Passport Lady Two looks at them. "You don't need the marriage certificate. Your drivers license has the same name." Would you take it anyway? Just in case? She does, but rolls her eyes at Post Office Lady next to her.

2:00 Finished! Time to pick up Pook from school. Swing by home for the emergency water break first.

2:25 Home. Eat lunch.

Now, anyone want to chime in on this? Two Passport Ladies claim (actually, they swear up and down) that the kids need passports to go to Canada. The website for the State Department says they need only birth certificates. (I'd add a link, but then you'd just read what I read, and that wouldn't really be another point of view, would it?)

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Pook played his last regular season baseball game last night against the number two seated team. The boys were losing 2-7 when I got after them for ignoring the game and made them stand at the fence and cheer for their team mates. After the next inning they were 3-9, and dispirited. The other team had much older-looking and taller players and the boys had all but given up the possibility of doing well against them, despite being the only team in the league to have beaten the first place team. I'm not sure what prompted it, but they rallied in the sixth (and last) inning and got four runs- the maximum allowed in an inning. That should have been the end of the game since mercy rules would have prevented the winning team from taking their last half inning. But the kids were sent back out into the field without umpires or their coaches. Odd. Parents started talking and, since it was bedtime for all the boys, complaining that they were ready to end this already.

The Dugout Parent (helps get the kids organized and ready) filled us in. Despite being one of the best teams in the league, one of the boys on the team hadn't had a single hit all season. Not one. His coaches had asked if he could have one more chance. He was going to swing until he hit. There was a collective, pained exclamation from all the parents as we heard his story. None of our boys have hits every game.

A small boy, no bigger than Bug, walked to the plate. He swung and missed, swung and missed, swung and missed. When he left the plate the coach called him back to continue trying. He swung at several more pitches. He missed several more pitches. Finally his shoulders slumped and he began to walk to the dugout, dragging his bat. The game was over. His team had won. His team was headed to the playoffs. His team mates were shouting in the dugout, cheering the end of the season. He had lost.

I told both Pook and Bug what had happened. I also told them that I wasn't sure what he should do next. Maybe he should try fall baseball, the more educational league. Maybe he should try soccer. Maybe there was something he loved, that he could do well. But maybe he loved baseball.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

stolen, reward offered

My cucumber plants have gone missing. Twice. I put three seedlings in the garden last Monday and checked on them Wednesday. Gone. Gone. Gone. As in: gone. I did some research and blamed cutworms. Advice was to plant new seedlings in circles of toilet paper tube. I planted four more seedlings yesterday and today? Gone. But this time there is new evidence: the area is dug up and tossed around. I have four more seedlings. They are upstairs under the protective glow of a plant light, sitting in a little peat pot, anticipating Life in the Big Garden. But I'm afraid to let them go. History is now against their survival.

I started seeds of cherry tomatoes, sandwich tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. Of those, I like cucumbers best. I'm learning to be a tomato eater, starting with the cherry tomatoes the way I started with white zinfandel wine once upon a time. But the taste of home grown cucumbers is what I want. None of my seedlings grew as quickly as I expected. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but only the cucumbers were past the three inch mark and looking strong enough for the outdoors. Everything else is still indoors.

I did a quick survey of my yard. There have been other thefts also. The new marjoram is gone. There are no chives where I started some from seed. There may or may not be any radishes. (I'm not sure what the leaves look like so I may be nurturing weeds in the garden under their name.) But, the little unknown plant from Bug's school that came in early, early spring in a hand painted pot, which I lovingly kept at the windowsill until after the last frost? Yes. Gone.

My usual policy in the garden is to not invite back any guest who can't survive under the harshness of Atlanta Summers. If they don't make it, I try something else in their place. Harsh policy, but I'm a fair weather gardener. Once the mosquitoes beat me up, I flee, not even returning to water them in the heat. When the lovely sweet potato vine was consumed overnight by slugs, and when the dill was treated as an offering to the caterpillars, they were not invited back. Others, like the trumpet vine I planted in the front, and mint, are pulled up and put on Pot Probation. If they leave the confines of their pot, they're out forever, but I like them enough to offer this second chance.

The cucumber issue feels different. I know cucumbers love this climate. They've grown spontaneously from the compost pile. I want cucumbers. I need cucumbers. And so, I am offering a reward. If you can help me find a way to bring my cucumbers to harvest, I will reward you with... something. Probably cucumbers. Possibly pickles.

Monday, May 11, 2009

pizza, anyone?

I'm posting our week's menus again, having previously intended to show how we attempted to eat healthy family meals even during the height of little league baseball season. But after this week's preplanning, no one will ever believe that Bug's current favorite food is swiss chard. I had to write out our schedule so I could be sure I'm fitting everything in.

Monday- Pook takes cookie cake to school. Pick up both boys early to get Pook to Dr. appt. (check-up) 5:30 last tee ball game, pizza party on the field following the game.

Tuesday- Meet CD at Lego store to buy items for Pook's party. Take gifts to Pook's school for teachers. Bug's last day of school... skip party if possible. For dinner, stir fry with leftover steak.

Wednesday- 9:30 Bug's singing performance. Take him to farmer's market and grocery. 2:30 piano lesson. 3:20 pick Pook up from Chess club. 5:30 baseball game. For dinner? Leftover meatloaf and something fresh from the farmer's market!

Thursday- take Bug to Pook's school to help one last day in media center. Pick up Nana at station at 4:15. Dinner? I'm planning on a vegetarian enchilada soup.

Friday- hopefully take Bug to a friend's house while my mom and I get pedicures. If he has to come, I'll offer to let him get his toes painted too. 5:30 last regular season baseball game and pizza party following game at nearby restaurant.

Saturday- baseball practice, time TBD but probably at dinner time if luck continues. I think we'll eat fresh produce in huge chef salads for dinner.

Sunday- 9:30 church. 12:45 church meeting which at least CD must attend. 4:00 birthday party, serving... pizza. By now the adults may be ready for something else. We'll see.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

medium sized

Pook has been eager to know when he'll stop being a "little boy" and start being "a medium boy". I find this interesting because he has vowed he will never be a teenager. (I'm ok with that.) But when the "little kids" are grouped together at events, he has begun to resent being included. It's one of those things that will always vary depending on the other ages of the kids, but I agree with him, eight is clearly not little. He and his brother keep trying to squeeze into the bathtub together and it isn't working very well these days. I told him that from 8-12 he'd be middle sized and then he'd be a big kid as a teen. Works for him.

He opted to have a birthday party at home this year. He weighed the opportunity to see a movie, go bowling or have a restaurant meal with a friend with how many gifts he'd get if he could invite lots of kids here. Greed won. We're having a Lego themed birthday party next weekend since baseball and Mother's Day make this weekend a bit too full for a party.

His birthday falls on Mother's Day this year. We'll share the day. He's choosing breakfast and I'm choosing dinner. We're mutually dependent for the holidays. He wouldn't have birthdays and I wouldn't celebrate Mother's Day if we didn't have each other. I will reminisce, as I do every year, of our first Mother's Day.

On our first morning home from the hospital, he was in the cradle next to me and had woken up to be fed, which I did in bed. When he finished, he fell asleep between me and CD. I lay there watching him and realized it was Mother's Day. The sun was shining in the window and the two of them shared peaceful expressions. I just watched until they both woke again.

I'd post the photo but I keep it in my head. Happy Birthday, Pook!

Friday, May 8, 2009


We've been sickly around here- on top of being end-of-school busy. Both have made me a bit scarce.

I made Pook upset once when I acted too paranoid about catching his germs. So I try to be the loving mama even when my kids have the cooties. But then I get paranoid again and I have to fake it.

We had strep first- Bug. I tossed out toothbrushes, washed laundry and lovies, quarantined him (and me) until he was cleared to return to society, and put his kisses on his head.

Then Pook got pinkeye. I wiped up behind him, washed laundry and lovies, and gave him hand sanitizer regularly. As it turned into a run-of-the-mill cold, I was self conscious in public of people's reaction to his coughs and sniffles. Swine flu, anyone? Life was too busy to keep him quarantined. But at home I put his kisses on his head.

Now I've got a fever and ear infection. Probably the same cold they have. I'd even cautioned the kids to drink lots of water to prevent an ear infection. I barely had any cold symptoms until I rolled over in bed at 11:35 pm last night and was smacked over the head with a painful earache. I'd figured the mild sore throat I'd had was hypochondria induced strep symptoms.

CD has avoided it all so far. And we've done a good job of not spreading our germs to each other, much. But we're tired of having cooties around here. We're ready to all feel well.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

my money's worth

I enjoy stopping in the Store-Which-Can-Remain-Unnamed but which sells everything for $1. I always buy greeting cards there 2/$1 and I went to get cards for teachers. Of course I saw lots of "What a bargain!" items and I bought a bit more than intended.

For example, I saw these cute gardening gloves. Turquoise with lovely spring flowers, cotton and not caked with clay. I picked them up and added them to my basket.

I also noticed some wonderful, bright whiffle balls, five in a pack. During baseball season, we've lost a lot of whiffle balls to the ivy. More is practical and bright is great. I hesitated about buying two packs but held myself back. Into the basket went one pack.

Both items were used immediately. I got some flowers into the wet, muddy ground and the boys played ball. As I worked and the gloves got soggy in the rain soaked dirt, I began to notice a strange feeling. As if my hands were actually in the dirt. And, looking at my hands, especially my thumb, I noticed this:

My thumb was poking out! The gloves had dissolved! One time use, apparently.

Giggling in the backyard. The smack of the ball. I checked in. "They broke!" "I broke the whiffle balls!"
Guess that's what you get for a dollar. Buyer beware.