Monday, February 28, 2011

these are a few of my favorite things

"When the dog bites..."  Actually, no.  Just whenever.  These are some of my favorite things.  In no particular order:

* Sitting at my backyard patio table eating frozen Girl Scout cookies.
* Sitting at my backyard patio table reading a magazine or book.
* Sitting at my backyard patio table with the warm sun on my back.
* Sitting at my backyard patio table knowing that no one can see me wearing sunglasses on top of my reading glasses.
* Sitting at my backyard patio table listening to birds.
* Sitting at my backyard patio table admiring the early daffodils, crocus and lenten roses.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

how many trees in a forest?

Harold, in Harold and the Purple Crayon "made a very small forest, with just one tree in it."  We have eight in our front yard and are having three cut down.  Will I still be able to call the area my woodlands garden?

Both Pook and Bug have requested that I play photojournalist, taking photos of the tree cutters at work.

Trees in Georgia are tall.  Pine trees here are amazingly tall before they even have their first branches. Unless you've seen them I'm not sure they can be adequately described.  Let's just say that we have a two story house with a kinda pointed roof, and the pines about to hit the dust (compost) are considerably more than twice the height of the house.

To cut them, they must climb them and cut bits at a time and lower those bits down.

The "Before" picture was taken one of the (many) days the guys didn't cut the trees.  The sky wasn't the great backdrop that it was for the rest of the photos, taken Tuesday.

The climber and his chainsaw begin to prune away the lowest branches.  He was held up there with a rope/pulley sort of contraption and didn't use spikes on his shoes at all.

The first tree looked like a telephone pole when he finished pruning all the branches away.  Then he began to cut lengths of the trunk from above his head.  The pine to the right of the climber and the smaller one behind him were also removed.  At least one of them had been attacked by pine beetle.  We couldn't justify keeping the one closest to the house, and the small one didn't add much to the overall yard.  Additionally we had the big oak pruned back by several lower branches. 

The "After" photo shows a sunnier area. The oak looks more balanced from the street than from the driveway. That's the only good thing I can say about it right now. Soon it will have leaves and the branches will be noticed less.

Mess of my "Woodlands Garden"-- plants broken, dug up and trampled.  It took is taking many deep breaths to cope with that side effect.  I finally closed the blinds so that each time when I heard that heavy 'thud' from an eight foot chunk of tree falling into my plants I wouldn't freak out. 

But plants rebound and spring has only just begun.  I expect everything to look lush and happy in a few months.  And, some of it will grow better since there will now be some sun getting in.  Something this yard hasn't had much in the past.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

yes, I'll wait

I have nothing better to do with my time than wait on other people it seems.

The guy coming to cut a few of our trees will come last Monday.  No, that'll have to be last Wednesday.  When phoned Wednesday he thought Friday would work well, but when I called Friday he decided Monday was best.

At 9am Monday I tried again.  He was "just on his way" and arrived three and a half hours later.  An hour later he decided it was too windy, so called the guy who was still an hour out of town to tell him to wait until Tuesday. (Today is Tuesday.  I have not counted unhatched chicks.) 

The guy coming to fix the freezer that is making really loud creepy-like-it-might-not-keep-things-cold-much-longer noises?  He said he'd come between 11am and 1pm.  He came at 2pm.

The job that was going to let me know by Monday at the latest?  Well, they did call at 5pm.  They hired someone else to work with that specific child but they've got another one now and will let me know this week if they want me to work with him. If the parents sign the papers.

Meanwhile, I think I'll watch someone cut down my trees.  They arrived at the bright and early hour of... 10:30 and got started only two and a half hours later.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

quiche masochist

CD called me a quiche masochist.  I was thinking that I'm more of a quiche manipulator.  I always love the quiches that other people make, but mine are a bit... inconsistent.  I'm just not much of a recipe follower.  I like the idea on a recipe, but I don't have or I don't like or I don't want to use all the ingredients.  No problem!  Make it up!  Change it!  Substitute!  Well, I've mentioned before that this gets me into trouble with quiche.

I keep planning to make side-by-side quiches with my mom.  We'd both make crusts, we'd use the same amount of egg and milk and we'd cook the veggies and drain any liquids identically.  Having not done that yet, I got suckered into printing out another quiche recipe I found online. 

Is it necessary to give the author credit when I didn't follow her recipe?  Just in case you want it, it was on a blog called "For the Love of Cooking" and gracefully called "Jalapeno Chicken Sausage,  Mushroom, Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar, and Tomato Potato Crusted Quiche".  Yeah.  I used the crust and the egg from that.

Here is what turned out great for dinner:
Potato Crusted Leek Quiche
2 large potatoes, grated and patted very dry
cooking spray
salt & pepper
     *Spray pie pan and pat potato into the pan on bottom and sides.  Spray again and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 375 for 12 minutes.  I'm tempted to put it into a cold oven while preheating to encourage more browning on the bottom of the crust.  Do this cautiously.

3 leeks, dark green removed, rinsed well and sliced
olive oil
     *Saute leeks until soft and most water has evaporated.

3/4 c. chopped swiss cheese
7 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 c. milk
freshly ground pepper

     *Sprinkle cheese into baked potato crust, then pour in leeks and egg-milk combination.  Bake 30-40 minutes and test with a toothpick.  Cook a few minutes before slicing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

not quite a parallel post

I have to confess:  I sat in Urgent Care this morning thinking of a blog title for today--  "no, I wouldn't have believed it either,"  "by a pinkie finger,"  "football is banned."  But, too bad for the really parallel post, but thank goodness for Bug... his finger is not broken.  Now the suspense is over and if you don't want the full story you can stop reading if you want.

The wonderful weather yesterday brought out neighbors.  Over at someone else's house, there were piles of boys (and one family of four girls).  There was basketball, there was running, there were snacks, there was beer.  And, in the backyard there was football.

I don't know why I didn't have a double take when Bug reported hurting his finger. Maybe I often ignore my children's injuries.  I guess I do hear a lot of complaints that come to nothing, so if I don't respond immediately many of the "injuries" go away.  But, nevertheless, I never even asked to look at it.  Only, he couldn't lift his glass of water by himself.  He couldn't take his clothes off.

When I did finally see it, I groaned aloud.  Purple at the joints and already swollen.  It looked exactly like Pook's hand had looked.  Bug pointed out to me that no, it wasn't the same as Pook's.  Pook broke his left pinkie finger and this one was Bug's right pinkie finger.  I wondered if there was a congenital pinkie defect in CD's family.  (Hey, I've never broken anything!)

No need to plan our Saturday morning.  Urgent care was open and could examine, x-ray and treat all in one facility.  Pediatrician recommended.

And yet!  It isn't broken!  He's stuck with a splint for five days, but it is much, much smaller than the splint they put on Pook. Five days instead of a month.  I think Bug is a bit let down that he didn't 'get to have' a broken finger just like his big brother.  I however, am relieved!  One, it is baseball season.  Pook didn't miss out on much.  Two, it was much more inconvenient for him than any of us had expected.  Three, it was more expensive than any of us had expected.  Four, things just bother Bug more than they bother Pook and it would have been... rough.

So, I don't know what I'd have done if both boys had broken pinkie fingers.  I'm glad I don't have to know!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

my mini-chef cooks lava

Guess who caught the virus next?

While I didn't get it as badly, yesterday afternoon found me wrapped in every blanket I could find and curled up on the sofa, trying to not think about planning dinner.  I had put a package of Happy Cow in a bowl of water to thaw and pulled out some tomato soup* for a simple dinner, but couldn't get myself up to make it.  (*This is the only meal I have in the repertoire that calls for soup.  I wouldn't make it, but the kids love it and it fits the bill when I need something really simple.)

Pook was at his first baseball practice and CD was joining him there straight from work.  It took some persuading but Bug agreed to make dinner.  Then was so proud of himself he wouldn't have accepted help if it had been offered.

I present to you a meal COMPLETELY made by a seven year old.  I call it Cheesy Sloppy Joes.  My kids think it has something in common with stroganoff and want to call it "Sloppy-noff".  My veto isn't getting anywhere.

Our first obstacle was that he refused to touch raw meat.  I was pretty sure I couldn't do that either, so I worked around it.  (One of my superpowers is the ability to parse an activity into steps and adapt them to work for anyone.)

The Happy Cow meat was packaged in a plastic baggie sealed with a metal clip on one end.  I instructed him to remove the meat from the bowl of water and place it on a cutting board.  With a steak knife, he cut through the plastic on the bottom side of the package, then held it by the "handle" to drop it into the pan.  He used utensils and materials he could reach- not always what I would have used- but I don't like stools by a hot stove.  (They seem to slip.)

He cooked the meat and broke it into chunks, then added some leftover diced tomatoes (optional ingredient) and the can of tomato soup.  (Fortunately Happy Cow meat has very little fat to drain, so we skipped that step.)  The soup had a pull-tab which he levered open with a spoon.  He used the spoon to put the soup in the pan "because it doesn't have a water-like texture".

I had him get cheddar cheese from the fridge and "chop up a pile as big as your fist."  To check, I had him put it in a measuring cup and tell me how close to full it was.

His pan was "looking like lava" so he added the cheese and then turned his attention to toasting some hoagie rolls.  He was on a roll at this point, amazed at his own abilities, so he decided to make some salad too.

He took plates from the cabinet and put baby carrots and some slices of cucumber on each. (Any excuse to use the knife again!)  Next thing I knew, he was setting the table, pouring milk and asking what sort of tool he should use to serve his meal.

His dad and brother were still not home, so he phoned to check on them and then declared, "Well I might as well clean up and put stuff away."

Yeah, pretty amazing. Too bad I didn't feel like eating any. But I'm glad I thought to have him take photos! (On his new hand-me-down birthday camera from his Papa.)

I look forward to the leftovers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

oh, my aching toes!

I woke up this morning very confused. "Woke" might not be the right word there. I heard the heat kick on and spent a while trying to decide if it was a weekend or weekday.  I chose weekday but couldn't remember which one.  A glance at the clock produced a series of digits, I believe I saw five or six, which I knew needed to be added together before I could learn the time (or maybe there was multiplication in there I was forgetting).  The alarm saved me from the math, as there was- unfortunately- no doubt that it was morning at that point.

I won't know about the job for another week.  They did tell me that there was another applicant in the running, but it sounds like if they decide I'm not the "right fit" for this particular child, there will be other opportunities as other children show up in the future.  So, nothing to lose.

How they'll decide if I'm a good fit with this child is under question.  He chose yesterday to be absent for the first time all season.  Instead I had a chance to watch another facilitator working with two small boys in a different classroom.  It was only somewhat helpful.  They were so bouncy at a non-bouncy time in the class that she ended up pulling them out to go do some more active things in another room.  Great that they have that option, but I'd like to see how they incorporate special needs kids into a full classroom.

One of the first things I thought about when I heard about this job was "But my yoga is Monday and Friday!  But the farmer's market is on Wednesday!"  And, unfortunately that is true.  M/W/F are days when I fit in activities for me.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are all about getting things done for other people in this family.  Except for the five loads of laundry I usually get done on Mondays, and... well, all the rest.

I would have to find a different yoga class, and I would just miss my farmer-friends at the market during the school year.  CD and I would fold laundry together in the evenings!  (That's romance, I tell ya!)  I would need to be sure to find Me times on T/Th instead of simply continuing to give those days to others. Since the interview yesterday was right during that favorite yoga class, I went to the YMCA with my friend VB last night.  She'd been to a class she'd loved and I figured I might as well check it out.

And it kicked my butt.  Oh my.  And my shoulders and legs and arms and stomach and back and even my hands and feet!  Yes, we spent a while lifting and exercising our big toes and pinkie toes independently.  The participants were a range of abilities and ages-- certainly some twenty years my senior, leading me to assume the class wouldn't be so hard.  Lots of people adapted.  A lot.  The instructor considered side to side lunges to be a resting position.  She kept music with a fast tempo playing the whole time and somehow kept up with it.  (I decided that she was much shorter than me and the time it took me to get my hands from the floor to the ceiling was longer because I'm taller.  I think that's a great excuse, personally!)

I'm a bit sore this morning. If I don't get the job, I will continue to go to my favorite yoga class Monday mornings, but if I do, I might accidentally get in better shape.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

wish me luck

I'm afraid that if I post this I will jeopardize this opportunity.  I was born on a Friday the Thirteenth and really am not superstitious, (though I wouldn't walk under a ladder anyway), but I am worried about jinxing myself.  Logical, no, but that doesn't stop me often.

I have been asked for a second interview for a job I think I'd really like.  It seems like a perfect fit and I think they like me as much as I like them.  I'm not normally such a pessimist, but I keep thinking that if I get too psyched about this, something will go wrong. 

I've dabbled in going back to work for about a year.  I haven't done much, but I've put my name out there a couple of times and spent time writing proposals and resumes etc.

I used to teach Preschool Special Education in the public school system.  I had a self contained class of preschool kids (3-5 years, usually chose four year olds if got a choice) with disabilities of all variety.  I had kids with vision impairments, walkers for physical issues, barely verbal kids with cognitive or language problems... a little of it all.  As the years (ten of them) went on, I got a reputation for working with those with autism.  I spent one awful year with four children no one else would/could take.  They were all probably autistic (if not diagnosed as such), mostly non-verbal and mostly violent when frustrated.  Which was often.  I'll always be able to date my last tetanus shot to that year.  I got bit on the butt, (I sort of deserved it, if anyone ever deserves that) and it actually broke the skin through my pants.

Ahh, fun stuff.  But, it seems to be in my blood.  I am a magnet for special needs kids.  If I don't find them, they find me. And I do find them. On playgrounds, in the library, at the grocery....  Other teachers acknowledge the same thing, but can't identify why it happens.  Maybe we make eye contact with them differently.  Not sure.

Anyway, I had always had a fantasy of taking a part-time job at my kids' school, teaching in the same field.  Except for the fact that they don't have a preschool class there. And that the county doesn't hire anyone part time anymore (not wanting their benefits isn't enough to convince them that part-timers could save them money).  And that lots of teachers try to get into this school and can't.

Well, that and that I let my teaching certificate lapse.  I quit teaching when Pook was born.  I'd just renewed my teaching certificate for five years, hated everyone and everything at my school, but remained smart enough to not burn any bridges as I waved goodbye.  But five years later I had two small kids and I knew that the field of autism was changing dramatically, so I chose to let my certificate lapse.  I could have hired a babysitter to watch the kids while I learned how to make a coat-hanger mobile at a school supply store, and then had to do it all again now anyway, five more years later but I couldn't get into any good classes in the actual field without being an official college student again.  So, I figured I could work at a private school that either didn't care about my certificate or would pay me to go back to school to earn it.

Some snooping around this year led me to believe there wasn't anything much out there.  With the help of a friend, I put together a proposal for a different fantasy job.  I would be the full special ed. department at a church preschool.  I'd help kids and teachers in different rooms and coordinate with parents and specialists.

The idea is sound, but the economy is not.  I quickly learned that even the best meaning school can't be persuaded to hire someone for a job they didn't think they needed, taking in kids they didn't think they wanted, to pay with money they don't have.  So, I sat on the idea and figured that if I talked about it to lots of people, someday something would come of it.

This position was on Craig's List, which I found last fall while looking for an appropriate price for a jogging stroller.  It said very little about the job, so I did some searching and found that it was a place I knew much about-- all good.  I applied.  Then heard nothing.

I was flattered when they called last week and said that they'd been holding on to my resume, hoping another availability would come up.  I interviewed on Tuesday and now am heading back on Monday.  It is almost my fantasy job.  Except the parts I don't like?  Like the background legal parts and the administration portion... I wouldn't have to do.  The job is M/W/F, about thirteen hours a week.  Perfect fit.

I should know their decision soon; I think they want someone to start right away.

Wish me luck.  Not that I believe in it.  Well, only sort of.

Friday, February 11, 2011

some will stay and some will go...

Slumber Party, take two:

5:00 pm
Four boys arrive.

Lego is played.

6:00 pm
Pizza is served.

Older brother vomits.

Older brother is quarantined.

Parents are phoned.

Cake is served.

Gifts are opened.

7:00 pm
Parents keep plans as they were.

Toys are played with.

8:00 pm
More Lego is played.

Two boys head home.

Two boys stay.

Looney Tunes commence.

Pajamas are donned.

Teeth are brushed.

Looney Tunes are resumed.

Snacks are eaten.

9:00 pm
Teeth are brushed again.

Boys are tucked into sleeping bags.

10:00 pm
One is unsure of sleep.

Night light is produced.

One parent is phoned.

Parent shows up.

Last guest and Birthday boy fall asleep.

11:00 pm
CD and I go to sleep.

5:30 am
Boys are up.

Boys are hushed.  Twice.

7:00 am
Playtime resumes.

8:00 am
Morning is inevitable.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

new guardian of the garden

What'd'ya think of him?!  He was a Christmas gift.  Referred to as a Budda Frog, I think I have to correct this to acknowledge that is isn't just a frog.  This is definitely Kermie.  The muppet, Jim Henson's alter ego, and my hero, Kermit the Frog.  But no longer green -- he is gold.  Gold!  The boys think he's valuable because he's gold and heavy.  If they hock him I'll be mad.

I am hoping that Kermie will bring green-ness to my gardens.  "It's not easy being green."  Or growing green things.  So I need all the help I can get.

The question is, where does Kermie belong?  I don't have a meditation garden or "quiet little spot" around here, anywhere.  (The closest to a private space I get is the laundry room, all 4'x5' of it, shared only with the laundry, clean and dirty, all the various cleaners from our home, a box of rags, 31 rolls of toilet paper, 14 rolls of paper towels and all sorts of other Large Packages.) Kermie belongs outdoors.

Please take a look at Kermie as he visited different locations in the yard today.  It will all look different when Kermie brings Green! to the gardens (and pink, yellow, orange, white...) so I may have to make a change later, but I'd like your opinions.  Where does Kermie look best?

A: on the new terrace wall (easily seen from the kitchen)

B: under the birdfeeders
(he'd get sat upon which might be cool, but also shat upon...)

C: at the lamp post at the driveway/sidewalk/house corner in the front

D: at the front door

E: at the corner of the "woods", grass and sidewalk
(not much demarcation there.  Dead grass turns to really dead grass
turns to out of control ground covers escaping into said grass.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

someday he'll be gone

Bug turns seven today.  He was born on 02-03-04 (pretty cool, huh?) And I was just imagining our home without him....  It would be quiet.  Maybe even too quiet.  We're so used to always, always hearing him.

Bug was at a friend's home one afternoon when someone asked me where Pook was.  I wasn't sure.  Four feet from me, around the corner, reading?  Upstairs playing lego?  Never sure without looking.  Even at the computer he's likely to silence the games.

But Bug.  Oh my.  We always know where he is, what he's doing,  how he's feeling, what he's thinking.

While in the tub? Singing.  While reading?  Often laughing.  Telling anyone who's in the house about his book. (They seem to have no obligation to listen.) While playing?  Talking for sure, maybe humming or trying to whistle.  Usually asking someone to please play with him, since playing alone does not suit our extrovert well.  While eating?  Humming.  On the toilet?  Singing.  In bed, while asleep?  Talking, maybe even shouting- yes, truly.

And so, with him out of the house, it was very very quiet.  I like quiet, more so the older I get.  Before Bug was born, Pook and I usually had music playing during the day.  I was used to being around people, in a noisy classroom, and being at home with a nonverbal baby was too quiet.  I turned on good music, kid music, audio stories, something to give us some background noise.

When Bug came around, as I've mentioned before, he screamed a lot.  Maybe I missed some food sensitivity and he felt sick.  Maybe he was just loud.  In any case, the stereo was used less and less, until it was almost forgotten.  He was exposed to less music- he heard less Raffi as well as less adult music.  It is interesting that he's probably the more musical of the two now. 

The noises he makes are not the awful screams of those first years.  The pitch is lower, even if the volume is louder.  Plus, the fussing is less; hearing him make up the words or hum to songs when the lyrics are forgotten, or have conversations with himself or a stuffed animal, well those moments are fun.  And, I always know where he is and what he's doing.  If it gets too quiet and he is home?  I go look for him.

He says he'll never move away from me, but maybe will live "like next door or pretty close." Hmm.  Yeah.  And so, even if I enjoy the silence when you leave, I'll miss having you around someday, my sweet Bug. It might just be too quiet. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I am planning a sleepover.  Here.  For Bug's seventh birthday.  Four friends.
  • One of them is excited to spend the night but he's never done it before.  
  • One has spent the night at someone's home before but is "going through some fear issues" right now.  
  • One thinks he wants to stay but his mother is less certain.  
  • One looked me in the eye last week and said "no way" was he spending the night.
Looks like a recipe for success, doesn't it?!  I wonder if this was a good idea.  I figured they needed to have a first time sometime, so why not?

My plan is to have a plan. 

They're coming over at 5pm so they have time to get crazy and make a mess before I feed them.  Pizza, of course.  Plain cheese pizza for four boys and a veggie lovers for the Party Boy.  Because my baby is unusual.

After dinner there should be time for more wild and crazy play before I break the news that they have to clean up the room to make room for sleeping.  I'll make them all get in pj's, then come downstairs for some short movie-like-product.  Then bed-- a pile of sleeping bags on the floor.

If I aim to have quietishness by 9pm, I hope that all wimps will have wimped by 10pm. I want all wimping out to happen before 10pm.  If you want to go home, that is fine.  Let's call your parents and see you off. Not a problem. BUT! If you choose to fall asleep, you should want to stay.  Because I don't want to have to phone any parent in the middle of the night.

Oh!  And I should remember to make everyone use the bathroom right before they fall asleep.  Please no wet-the-bed kids!