Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How To Motivate A Mojo-less Knitter

  1. Have a beautiful baby girl.
  2. Keep pictures of beautiful baby on your desk.
  3. Ask knitter to make this hat for beautiful baby girl.
  4. Mission accomplished.

(I am charmed by the quirky smile on this hat's face. I hope I can replicate it.)

(In other Very Important News...due to a Very Annoying Snafu, my lunch plans fell completely apart at the last second today. Irritated, frazzled, with a to-do list of epic proportions and now NO LUNCH, and also hungry, I went to the Specialty's website and ordered a boxed up salad lunch. And threw a cookie into my online cart at the last second, because I am now in a mood, people. Worked a bit more, raced over to grab my bag off the wire shelf, raced back to my desk, reached in for my salad and guess what? My after-thought cookie? Was still hot. And gooey. And marvelous. And I ate it before I ate my salad, shamelessly and having to resist the urge to show everybody around me like a six year old: "Lookit! I haz a warm cookie! mmmm, warm cookie!")

(Funny how much the littlest things can give you the biggest glow sometimes, huh?)


*snork!* Huh? Wha? Oh! Hai! How are ya, how's yer cat, how's the weather, how's every little thing?!

What? No! NO! No-no-no-no-no, heh, no. I wasn't asleep on my keyboard or anything! I was just doing this…thing…see, in Welsh, you always put an 'll' before, uh…

OK, fine. I may have dozed off just a smidge. It's been that kind of…hmm. Less than a month, more than a week? Weeth? Meek?

Oh gosh no. It has been no kind of 'meek,' y'all.

Work the last two weeks has been…let's see, what can possibly describe my working life these last couple weeks…ah yes. Here we go: I have been running like a schizophrenic squirrel pounding back highballs of espresso-meth infused Red Bull.

To make a very long and involved story shorter, we're deploying a new process in about a week. It's a pretty big deal; extremely "high visibility" and so forth and so on.

One of those things that has been talked three-quarters to death since April, but then sort of simmered on the back of the stove for a good long while before suddenly erupting into flames two weeks ago.

Because why do things over a matter of, say, six luxurious weeks when you can cram the entire six week lifecycle into only two? Oh, and if you can throw in some Technical Difficulties, the database servers having to be reset, key personnel being on vacation on critical weeks and such, well, you can have yourself a real party.

So I've been pretty much logging in to work as soon as my butt hits the bench on my 4:40 train every morning, and then I work straight on through until it chugs back into town at 5:30.


Speaking of which, the new schedule is working out really well. All obligatory "gosh doesn't commuting suck" kvetching aside, this is turning out to be a really good idea. MegaBank is getting a better deal in terms of how many hours are available for me to work for them, and in terms of how active my brain waves are during said hours. Much as I hate to admit it (don’t know why, actually), I'm one of those "morning" people types.

My ability to process information goes sharply downhill after, I kid you not, noon.

I know. That's pretty lame. But there it is – by 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, if you don't see me write whatever you're saying down, just assume I will have forgotten all about it by tomorrow morning.

My timesheets are quite a bit better, too. Gone are the 5.5 or 6 hour days – right now, I seldom have a day that doesn't involve overtime. And it feels so much easier, since I'm not trying to log back in from home while the Denizens are pounding around trying to break the house apart with the sheer power of their noise.

It is impressive, their noise.

Speaking of the Denizens, I'm arriving a full hour earlier to grab them from the sitter's house, which makes them happy. And if anything goes wrong along the way, from meetings running just a little over to delayed trains to missed shuttles to more delayed trains, I still get there in time.

The delays would have to be pretty epic for me to miss my deadline these days.

I'd say the only real downsides are that I get a lot less time with the husband, and that I'm really tired, really early in the evening (golly, really? because usually people who have an alarm blaring at them at 3:30 in the morning are so chipper at night!).

Meanwhile in other news…I have some form of knitting-related depression. I've lost interest. It's all just sort of gray. I can't get worked up about anything.

This is because I want to knit a lacy shawl, but do not need one, nor do I have the appropriate yarn easily at hand, and furthermore I intellectually know that a lacy shawl (at least, any of the ones I want to do) (because why do an "easy" lacy shawl when you can choose one with a 600-row, 38-stitch pattern repeat?) is exactly-precisely the wrongest possible thing to choose as a "oh goody, let's sit on a train and knit!" sort of project.

And thus, I am sinking into a knitterly lethargy. I look at Eldest's Lillehammer and think, Meh – too heavy, too wool-y, too hot.

I look at my sock yarn collection and go, Yawn.

I look at every single ball of yarn in my easily-accessible stash and dash off the reasons it, too, just isn't right.

Too bright, too cool, too cotton, too wool, too acrylic, too blue, too orange, too brown, too not appropriate for a lacy shawl

I don't know why I get like this. I really don't. Most of the time, I'm pretty promiscuous easy-going when it comes to project loyalty. If the sweater is too big, I'll just throw a new sock on the needles; if the sock isn't charming me, I'll grab the sweater again. If this project is too complicated for a "take along" project, I'll just keep it next to the sofa at home for "at home" knitting and take something not-fussy in my mobile kit.

But then…every so often…I just… get my mind set on something that is completely inappropriate for some reason. Something that requires a yarn I don't have, at a time when I'm on a yarn diet. Something wool at a time of year when 97 degrees is a "cool" day.

Something complicated when all I have is train-time available for knitting.

Will I actually do that to myself? Will I make the time to dig through the put-away stash looking for a fingering weight yarn to make one of those excessively fiddly lace shawls I've been daydreaming about for the last two weeks?

I honestly don't know.

Except that yeah, I totally think I will.

Because visions of knitted on borders, cunning cast-ons, and the thought that seriously, it's not THAT hard to keep track of pattern repeats on a moving train (inability to learn from past experience: check!) keep running through my head. And maybe it's a Sign! And if I don't start this project, well, maybe something…awful will happen!

Far be it from me to bring about global economic disaster (or something) by refusing to Knitter it up and take on the overly-fiddly knitting project on the train…that's right, I would never let the world that depends on me down!

Because I'm a giver, people.

That's right.

A giver.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Garden Report: July 27, 2010

The garden is still moving along. This weekend, I was looking at the butternut squash from a respectful distance.


And then I reached down to fiddle with a dead leaf. Which led to fiddling with a few more dead leaves. Which led to fiddling with a whack of dying leaves trying to figure out if I had a catastrophe on my hands or just a normal life-cycle sort of thing and then I sort of, uh, well…accidentally picked one.

accidental butternut

Dog mah witness, I didn't tug on it. Or twist it, or pull on it, or step on it, or anything else. I lifted it slightly to pull a dead leaf out from under it, and it just went, ::snap!:: off the vine in my hand.

Usually I would call that a sign that it was ready…but I'm not quite sure. I wouldn't have bought this one at the supermarket; it's mostly-almost completely tan, but still has greenish white stripes right at the very top. Hmmmmm.

But, what's done is done. So, I'll just have to hope for the best…and resist the urge to prune out the dead leaves around the remaining squashes, I guess. (eeeeeeeeyeah, not going to be able to do that…it's like not pulling on a loose thread, I just can't do it…)

The first round of cucumbers failed to even sprout, thanks to the drip system being off when we thought it was on. Yeah. Funny thing there: No matter how much time you give a seed, if there's no water, none at all, it's probably not going to do much.

But the two plants that we planted later are doing just fine – and one of them went and made a cucumber!


It's not the prettiest I've ever seen, but it's the first one this season – which tends to make up for an awful lot of hawk-nose-like skinniness.

Also, it was sweet and juicy and I ate it standing over the sink. Because, quality control is my middle name.

The roma tomatoes are heavy with fruit. Really heavy, with really green fruit.


They are taking a fair bit longer than the projected time on their seed packet. I can't blame them, of course – they had a rough start in life and all. But still, it's making me crazy to go out there day after day, week after week, and see the same couple fruits with the same tiny bit of almost-blush on them.

The sweet potatoes, though, are doing awesome.

sweet potatoes

It's like an ivy ground cover, and spreading fast. If I were doing "edible landscaping" and I wanted something that looked like a traditional ivy, I might go with these little guys. The only tricky part is, they like to send down little anchors into the ground – and apparently if you mess with them too much, they get pissy. And who wants pissy sweet potatoes? So you've got to keep a good eye on them and move their runners quick if they're going somewhere you don't want them to go. Or risk the wrath of the tubers. Which sounds like an excellent name for a rock band. Or a 1950s sci-fi movie.

They're going to take over the area where I moved the artichokes which, alas, have not survived. One already died completely, eaten by the cats. The other two sickened badly where they were, probably due to a combination of being chew toys and litter box fodder.

I've got a few new peppers that are settling in nicely. Say hello to my little friend…


This is an "Inferno" chili. It's all mild and green looking now, but it's supposed to turn a bright orange when ready to go and kick like a mule.

I've also got some "cherry bomb" chilis starting to fruit (they're milder than the Inferno, and allegedly make good red pepper flakes when dried), and some good old green bell peppers, and some anaheims.

The corn is getting ears, unevenly. Although every time I say that this stalk or that one is "obviously" not going to "do anything," it will immediately swell up and stick out its silk at me. Nyah.

corn with ears

This variety (Kandy) is producing two ears on just about every stalk! The variety we planted last year ('Gotta Have It') had a strict rule: One stalk, one ear. And we only planted about fourteen plants. Which led to fist-fighting a lot. We still won't have "plenty" this year, but we should have a satisfying round – followed by another one in early fall, when the second little field hopefully gives us one last hurrah.

Last night, I noticed that the summer squash I planted in the reclaimed-from-the-neighborhood-cats front boxes is starting to sprout; naturally, because I planted too many of them due to poor success rates from that particular seed packet, every single seed I planted is coming right on up. Sigh. I'm going to have to thin, which is not my strong suit. I just hate doing it, is all. Perfectly healthy little plants, but because they're too close together, some of them have to go.

Seems so darned unfair.

Like the romas, the white potatoes are also taking longer than I expected to get to the finish line; I'm coming to the point where I'm going to need to just pull them in, regardless. It's getting hot, and when it gets too hot, the potatoes stop growing – all the plant's energy goes into, well, surviving the heat.

Just like the human energy does.

I brought in about eight pounds of red potatoes last week, but left the majority of them in the ground because the plants seems to be sending out an awful lot of new little babies – I figure if they're willing to give it a try, I'm willing to let them. For another week or so, anyway – but pretty soon I'm going to want to take whatever I can get so I can cycle the patch to something else.

I find that part of gardening so strange; unlike landscape gardening, where you plant a bush or something and expect it to hang around pretty much forever, the vegetable garden is in constant flux. Bare patches, barely-there patches, big beautiful plants that start to bear fruit…and then, you rip it out and plant something else. Back to a bare patch.

I often feel a little sad, or even guilty, when the time comes to take one thing out and replace it with another. Sure, the pea vines are wilting in the heat and we've already got a freezer stuffed with peas and everybody is sick to the point of tears of spending their evenings shelling pea pods (and begging me to buy a sheller), but still…it worked so hard for us. It gave so much. And I'm just…ripping it out? Just like that? "OK, that was swell, thanks ever so, now get out – we want watermelon now"?

I mean, what kind of message is THAT for the Denizens?!

Although I have to say, the watermelon is a thumping success. The vines, just two "little" vines, are taking over the whole patch…and we have about eight baby watermelons forming. I pointed the first one out to the girls, and they cooed over it like it was a cute widdle baby bunny wabbit.

They haven't been that interested in anything growing back there before. Oh, they're interested, sorta. They like to pick the tomatoes, and to peer through the corn. They love bringing new friends over to see their yard, and are always begging to "plant something."

But that's about it. They're not that interested in watching over what they plant, and have to be dragged out and forced to admire any progress, and will generally have that air of "I'm just waiting for you to shut up so I can go back to playing" about them the whole time.

Also, I think they find my Fascinating Facts to be…less than riveting. Like, did you know that each individual bit of silk is attached to an individual corn kernel? Yeah, and if any one strand doesn’t get fertilized, well, that's a kernel that won't plump up with sweet, juicy deliciousness.

Now, when I learned that, I was all, "WOW! I HAD NO IDEA!!!!" and got this lovely glow of I just learned something kewl all over me.

The Denizens just looked at me like, Ya, whatever and waited for me to shut up so they could get on with what they actually wanted to do, which was pull every single cherry tomato that could by any definition be considered red-ish off the bush.

Furthermore, they have not suddenly developed a deep, passionate love for vegetables. No new-found respect for carrots (one of my personal favorites, cooked or raw). No epiphanies around green beans. No sudden clamoring for "more peas, please!" (In point of fact, one of those little heretics looked at the peas on her plate one night, sighed heavily, and said, "Mommy, why can't we have real peas anymore? The ones in the cans, that taste good?" So I threw her out of the house yelling, "…and don't you come back until you are dating a guy named Snake who plays the drums in a two-bit wanna-be metal band!!!!!") (OK, I made that last bit up.)

But undaunted, I carry on, pushing more and more vegetables on my family like a grimly determined drug dealer. I grow them, I cook them, I serve them with ever-dwindling amounts of meat and pasta. I hide them in sauces, and leave them brazenly whole on their plates. Season copiously. Sweeten on occasion.

Eventually, they'll learn to love them.

And then, they will move out, get married, start families of their own, and call me moaning, "I don't understand it – little Johnny won't eat carrots! Carrots, mom! I mean, seriously, who doesn't like carrots?!"

And I will go, "Oh my gracious, imagine that, not liking carrots, tsk-tsk…"

And then I will hang up and die laughing, the end.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Funny, I don’t FEEL particularly god-like

At 5:00 this morning, my life went from Fast to Stop. Captain Adventure went to bed with a fever last night, which automatically meant I was not going into the office today – but I hoped he’d be feeling better this morning and I’d be able to settle him down with some crayons or the Wii or something for a few hours and, you know, work for money.

At 5:00 this morning, I woke up to him crying in his room. Aw, biscuits.

So I got up, grabbed some children’s Motrin and went in to check on him – burning up, sweaty, clingy, super-extra-high-maintenance.

Captain Sez: FULL STOP!!!!

This post has been interrupted seven…heh, eight times so far. (He started bellowing, “Noooooooo, doan touch it mine pay-per!!!” – apparently, a sister was trying to “help” him color. Sigh. Full-bore sibling warfare, and I’m the United Nations. Awesome.)

But I’ve been thinking today that, you know…Mommyhood is a crazy job.

I didn’t gain any Cosmic Insight the day I became a mother. Shoot, poor Eldest spent the first year of her life bawling because I couldn’t tell the difference between a ‘hungry’ cry and a ‘hurt’ one and a ‘bored’ one. We dragged Danger Mouse to the hospital emergency room because of a fever – one that came right down with a single dose of Tylenol, never to return.

I frequently feel like I’m in a boat without an oar when I’m confronted by things the children drag into my life.

But the Denizens trust me to know what to do about just about anything; the older ones are starting to suspect that maybe I might have a human failing or two, but for Captain Adventure I’m still infallible.

He stopped crying the minute my hand was on the door handle this morning. He knew it was me. He reached out for me from the bed, confident that I was going to make everything all better.

Not the grape flavored medicine – me. He trusted me so much that he stopped crying the instant I was there, so sure that relief was coming with me that he actually felt it before it was really there.

Being the woman behind the curtain, I know the wizard is full of flaws, frequently uncertain about what she should do, not sure which path is the right one.

But to the Denizens, The Mommy is all-knowing, all-seeing, and (mostly) benevolent being.

It’s a lot to live up to, day in and day out.

But comes in handy when somebody has a rotten sore throat and is running a fever – I shall use my shazam!, and because you beeeeelieve, you shall feel better immediately (and by the time you’d start to think maybe I’m full of it, the Motrin will have kicked in…SHAZAM!!!!!)

(Bets on how long before whatever germ he’s got moves into my system, anyone…?)

(Ohmygah…he’s trying to give me his candy. Which he has probably already licked. Seriously, is it, like, a kid rule that they have to do everything they can to give Mommy whatever disease they’ve picked up?!?!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Garden Report: Now with added DRAMA!

OK, so, this isn't really a garden report so much as a welllllllllllllll, isn't THAT…special… report.

To really set the scene, I need to let y'all in on my grim new reality latest awesome idea.

I turned to my husband weekend before last and said, "You know what we really ought to do?"

He paled.

The only thing more horrifying than, "You know what would be fun?" that comes from my mouth (well, other than the occasional charming turn of phrase picked up from my armed forces buddies) is the phase, "You know what we really ought to do?"

This is Tama-speak for, "I am about to suggest something that is not at all pleasant, likely involving some form of personal sacrifice that you are going to hate to the very core of your being, but it is logical and if you were a Vulcan you would have suggested it a long, long time ago and thus you will not be able to argue with me. Much."

"What?" he asked, cautiously, with the air of a man who is trying to decide whether he'd rather turn and fight the mountain lion, or attempt to run through the field of landmines.

"We ought to split our commutes. One of us should take the very first train, and the other should take the very last one. First one in leaves the car at the train station, second one takes the kids to the sitter's house and leaves the van – then the early bird catches the very first train home, grabs the van, picks up the kids, gets dinner started and so forth, then the late bird catches the last train home and we all yay, 'Hooray, we're all home again!' And then we eat dinner. And go to bed. Unless Deadliest Catch is on because we have SOME standards around here."

The logical aspect of this is undeniable. Catching the early train (at, by the way, 4:40 in the morning) gets the first person into the office just before 7:00. Said person then leaves the office at 3:00 on the dot, catches the early train home, grabs the Denizens and is home by around 5:30.

They're not the last kids at the sitters, and in the entirely likely event that something goes horribly awry on the many, many rails between Here and There…you're not screwed. If Early Bird misses the first train home, the second is still there and will still (normally) get them to the sitter on time – granted, the kids are the last ones there and this causes Drama! and also Angst! to happen, but you know hey – at least I turned up, right?

Meanwhile, the Late One shows up around 9:00, and can stay until 5:00.

Thus are we both less stinky in the nostrils of our Esteemed Leaders and our really don't give a gosh-darn but whatever floats your canoe, you guys long-suffering coworkers, I get a full week of work without having to go all She-Ra on my work from home day, and, well, there you are.

It's brilliant.

Except for the part where the Early Bird (which would be, naturally, me) has to not merely get up, but have her sorry carcass to the train station by 4:40 in the morning.

Beloved friends…I have done it for one week and two days so far. Lo! I have managed to not die. (Actually, all joking aisde, it's working out well – my "natural" biorhythm is actually the early bird sort, so shifting to getting up a bit earlier isn't that bad for me.) (And, I'm brighter in the morning. I think my IQ actually drops throughout the day – by 12:00 it starts to sort of taper a bit, takes a sharp drop after about 2:30 and by 5:00 at night I'm functionally a moron.) (Don't tell me anything important after 5:00. I'm daydreaming. Money-back guarantee on it.)

So yesterday I did everything just right. Got out of the office at 2:50, caught the 2:54, had a nice saunter to the bus (instead of the mad run I have to make if I miss the 2:54 and catch the 3:09 instead – it gets me there, but I have to RUN! about, eh, three block I think?, to the shuttle stop), caught my train, melted like butter out of the ACE parking lot, and picked up the Denizens right at 5:15. (And two of them were all, "Oh, man! Why are you here so early?!" because one had just finally gotten their turn on the Playstation and the other one had just gotten her turn in the playpen with the Cutest Baby Evah™.) (I mean, really, you can't win – get there late and they're all, "{sob! sob!} Why are we always the last ones here?! WHY can't you get her SOONER?! Don't you love us AT ALL?!?!" – get there earlier and they're all, "Gah, what are you doing here?!")

Loaded their squabbling, babbling, pleading bodies into Homer the Odyssey.

Aaaaaand drove on home. I was thinking about what to make for dinner, and of course the perpetual mental checklist of Stuff I'd Like To Do Tonight.

Stuff like, Find my bedroom floor (it's gotten a little crazy in there) (yes, again) and make a new playlist for my iPod because I've had the same three lists for about two YEARS and the same three lists every single day for the last seven months is getting a little old and picking out a new, lighter knitting project for my commute were high on the list.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the Lillehammer pattern and all – but I'm on #4 of 6, I'm almost to the collar of Eldest's so it's getting bulky and awkward for a train commute and, well, I'd like a nice pair of socks or maybe something in a laceweight for a little bit now. Something extra light.

And small. Very, very small.

Also easy. Something I could do with my eyes closed. Which I can't do with the Lillehammer, as the recent episode of having to drop back five rows worth around each end of the underarm areas would attest.

But I digress.

These are the sorts of ideas churning around in my mind as we pummeled into the Den after a long, hard day of commute, work (and my job is becoming more and more demanding as I'm migrating into a new role under a new manager – who, by the way, is an absolute doll and also scary-smart and demanding – which is good because I need to be challenged like crazy or I get pissy, lazy and ironically harder to get working again), and you know what would hit the spot right around now? A beer. A nice cold beer from the fridge in the…wait…why am I hearing water running? Why am I hearing lots of water running…?!

Friends…I looked into my backyard and…

Lake Chaos

Lake Chaos.

What happened was this. The husband and our neighbor were rebuilding the fence this weekend. (I know. He gets all the most-fun jobs.) As part of this, they had joined two hoses together so they would reach to where they wanted to soak some of the ground to make it easier to dig out the rotted fence posts.

Then somebody (who shall remain nameless, but the name rhymes with my husband) left the hose turned on, full blast, and it sat there under pressure for at least 24 hours…maybe a little more…definitely until after we both left for work yesterday…and then…:pop!:

The hoses blew apart, and the water just gushed and gushed and gushed allllll day long.

I don't know how well you can see this in my frantic cell phone picture, but that entire area is flooded all the way up to the very top of the concrete "pen."

But that's OK, because as we all know, California is a water state. We have loads of the stuff! Shoot, we're constantly shipping it by the truckload up to Portland, because we just don't know what to do with it all! We have constant rain, swollen rivers, water tables mere inches below the soil…oh wait… NO WE FREAKIN' DON'T!

We're that other thing – a desert sort of state! Constant drought! Water rationing! The "If you dare to waste water on your garden, we will hunt you down and kill you!" State. (That is our official motto, right?)

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Seriously. I didn't. I just looked at all that water soaking the play equipment and, on the one hand, I was glad it hadn't flooded my garden instead.

On the other hand, though, wah!

That's a good hundred bucks right there, going to waste…

But then my inner pioneer said…well, let's not repeat what she said exactly. She has kind of a potty mouth at such times. But the gist of it was that I would kick my own arse if I didn't think of something to do about that, right.NOW.

So I got the sump pump, and I hauled all five of our "rain barrels" (a.k.a., 48 gallon black trash cans picked up from OSH to go under our downspouts during our annual rainy season week), threw off the lid of the spa-slash-graywater-containment-unit, hooked up the hose to the sump pump and dropped it into the middle of Lake Chaos, and started filling.

And filling.

And filling.

And filling.

Kids…the spa holds roughly 450 gallons of water. It was about half empty – now it is full to overflowing.

The five trash cans are also full.

As is the yard tote – another 50 gallons.

Plus everybody in the garden got a nice, long drink. Even the front lawn, which has been feeling like maybe we don't love it anymore since those stupid vegetables came along.

On the plus side, Lake Chaos was drained to just a few (impressively deep) puddles here and there. The majority of the formerly-standing water is safely stored.

On the downside, well, I've shut off the automatic sprinklers completely. It's just me and my sump pump for at least the rest of the week while I use up all that water.

Because you know, that's just what I need: Another time-consuming, manual, daily task.

Yet another reason why we are the Den of Chaos, not The Restful Home of Eternal Peace and Tranquility.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Don't panic, dinner's in da Crockpot

Even thoug this does mean there will be food tonight even if I'm still running around like a psycho trying to cram One Last Thing into the weekend, there should perhaps be maybe an...ever-so-slight level of...concern.

This pork loin has been heavily glazed with a new steak/burger sauce recipe. A coworker gave us some beautiful little plums, and as we were eating them on the way home (what? Commuting is a hungry business, y'all) (the kids did not deserve ANY of those delicious little morsels of pure sugary, juicy goodness. They left wet towels all over their floors AND let their brother spread half a ton of beads all over the Den while I was "catching" for my table-saw-using hubby - no plums! Nothing but salted ROCKS for a week!), I thought something like, "I wish I had fifty pounds of these so I could can some for later."

Then one thing led to another and I found this recipe that uses plums, peaches, apples, banana chilies, blahblahblah lots of spices and stuff, and then I went to the farmer's market for what I didn't have and went all "mad chemist" (term here pronouced, "messed with a perfectly good recipe for absolutely no reason") and produced five pints of this glaze/marinade/stuff.

Canned all five, then promptly cracked one open and poured half of it over this pork loin roast.

I have no idea what I've actually created. It's sweet, tart, mildly spicy, a hint garlicky...hopefully, it will be awesome with pork.

We shall see. And until then, hope.

(sent from my Treo)

That's my boy...

Guess who is helping me clip coupons this morning? (Fortunately, I already got the ones I REALLY wanted - the 25 cent notebooks and 12-for-a-dollar folders. Back to school is coming waaaaaaaay too fast this year!!!!!)

He is such a momma's boy right now...whatever I'm doing, he wants to be doing too. Enjoying it while it lasts...all too soon, I'll be nothing but an ATM made entirely of chopped liver, I'm sure...

(sent from my Treo)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Yeah, we should totally have that talk…some…other...time...

"Mom, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Sure, sweetie. What's on your mind?

"Can I stay home tomorrow? It's soooooooooo boring at daycare; I mean, you know I'm also thirteen, and I was talking to Leader yesterday and she says that she doesn't take kids who are over twelve anyway, so I was thinking that instead of being bored at daycare, I should, you know, practice being home while you're working, since, you know, I'm going to have to since I'm almost thirteen and all…"

Bored, huh? Well, I can fix that. What YOU need, little princess, is your bear…


"…and I promise I won't blah blah blah and I will yadda yadda yadda and I have my cell and etc. etc. etc…"

Yup. One pink bear. HOURS of amusement. Just need to find your bear and you'll be A-OK at daycare for ten, fourteen hours, no problem…


"I can fix my own snacks and I swear I won't even think about using the oven or the stove for anything. I'll even not use the microwave if you say I can't, I can make a sandwich or something…"

A sandwich? Aren't you just the cutest thing…sandwich, indeed…


"…after all, school starts next month, and I'm supposed to be walking there and back with Melissa and Jackie from next door, right? So you're supposed to be giving daycare notice anyway, right – although do you even have to do that, or are they giving you notice? Well, anyway, so, I really think it would be prudent to have me, you know, try staying home on my own a few times and…mom? MOM! Are you even listening to me right now?!"


Eldest trying out Indian cuisine

What the @*&^@?! When did that freakin' happen?!

In just over a month, this tiny baby will be starting seventh grade – and will officially be over the age and grade limits for every daycare I've contacted. With the budget cuts, the after school programs are likewise history.

There's nothing for it. She's going to have to be home alone from time to time while I'm working away from home.

Whether I like it or not, she's…she's…she's not…well. Allegedly and if recent photographic evidence can be believed, she's not seven pounds, nine ounces anymore. She's not eating mushy, flavor-impaired vegetables from a rubber-padded spoon, either. Nor is she particularly keen on the idea of taking a fluffy pink bear to daycare, even though I'm pretty sure it would be The Answer to that whole "bored" problem of hers.

How does that happen? How does something thirteen years in the making go by in the blink of an eye like that? How does a creature that can't even get through a night without bawling for me two or three times suddenly, seemingly overnight, become something that not only can start having independence…but arguably should.

Oh baby. I know it horrifies you terribly, but you're still, well, my baby. Yes, yes, I know how old you are. I know how to do the math, even if it involves carrying a one. I know "all" your friends are doing the same thing (and that's actually part of what worries me, but let's not go there right now).

And I know you know the rules (and that vee haf vays of knowing whether you're following them) (the cell phone GPS thing? I'm so freakin' glad my mom didn't have that when I was a kid…not that I ever did anything she didn't know about and wouldn't approve of, mind you, ooooooh no, heh heh, never! Except maybe once or twice…a week…or so…)

And yes, I trust you. I really do. I trust you to be cautious, and to avoid being in trouble, and to be a good kid. (Don't let the "nanny cam" stuff we're installing all over the Den mislead you. That's because, uh, we want to keep tabs on Dharma. I'm afraid she's on heroin or something. I don't want any kitty raves going on in the Den while I'm at work, yo.)

But, you, you are a good kid. And a mature and sensible one. Far more mature and sensible than I was at your age, come right down to it. I did some pretty stupid stuff when I was your age, stuff that could easily have gotten me killed…because my mom didn't have nearly the control issues or the control mechanisms we have today, and hey, guess what? I lived. And learned. And have to admit I'm probably a better rounded person because I was taking city buses to and from school alone by the time I was your age…or in the company of the little brother who was under my thumb in my care for most of my return trips from middle school…

But I just…I can't talk about it right now.

Let's talk about this later, OK?

Maybe, you know, when…when you're just a little older…

Talking things over

Yeah. We'll definitely have to talk…when you're just a little tiny bit older…

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Clipping it fine

Last night, I cleaned and trimmed Captain Adventure's fingernails. One of those everyday sort of parenting things that hardly seems to merit any discussion or thought, you know? I mean really…Dear Diary, you'll never believe what happened today!! followed by the blow-by-blow excitement of cleaning and trimming a five year old boy's fingernails?

Not exactly reality TV material.

Unless, of course, the boy in question is autistic and not terribly fond of the fingernail cleaning and trimming process (or any personal hygiene routines, come right down to it…which I suppose is more "yeah, he's a boy all right" than "autistic symptoms" except for the way he reacts to it, which is more like "demonic monkey on crack" than "typical little boy who just really would rather not take a bath right now thanks all the same").

Because in that case, it's like, Next, on World's Scariest Parenting Moments…!!!!!!

It's one of those areas where I choose my moments carefully – but the "right" moments tend to be few and far between and I often wonder if his teachers and therapists wonder if I am one of those mothers who is too busy taking more stray cats into my trailer and finding creative ways to recycle my empty Southern Comfort bottles to notice that her child is filthy…and has holes the size of bread plates in the knees of his jeans (all of his jeans acquire these holes by the third wearing, whether I've sewn patches into them or not), and that his obviously ancient shoes (purchased less than a week ago) have holes in the toes through which his dirty socks (well of course they're dirty, he's got holes in his shoes!) peek like frightened (and unwashed) potatoes.

Monday night, after three whole days of frivolities, I looked at his fingernails and I thought (concisely), Ugh.

"Filthy" doesn't begin to cover it. I could have planted potatoes under those fingernails. And they were too long – which is a bit dangerous with him, because when he gets into A Certain Mood, he'll dig those suckers into me, or a school aide, or his teacher, or anybody else who happens to irritate him.

But he wasn't in the best mood. He had seen Toy Story 3 with daddy over the weekend, and then the two of them went out to run some manly errands together, and everything was cool, and there was a manly trip to the hardware store and a manly haircut and a manly stop at Starbucks…and then there had been manly discussion about watching Toy Story 2 at home on the way home, which of course daddy meant as a "sometime we ought to" but which was translated by our Captain to mean "the instant we get home we will totally do this immediately, even though it is already dark and I haven't had dinner yet."


It was far too late to start a movie when they got home. And sisters were already piled up on the sofa watching stuff. And they yelled at him when he tried to climb up and get the DVD binder. And took it away from him because they assumed he was up to No Good. And then when the parents waded in an intervened (before he killed one of them), we couldn't find the DVD anyway.

And really, is life even worth living?!

Furthermore dinner was yucky and he didn't like it and there was no!ice!cream!, and while a cookie is OK and all let's go back to the part where I was essentially promised a movie and now am being cruelly sent to bed instead.

And then here I am, looking at his fingernails and thinking personal hygiene is in order.

Let the games begin.

First, I got him to wash his hands by pretending I wasn't going to let him use the strawberry soap. Reverse psychology, getting little boys to use soap since 1802…BC…

Then I pointed out the dirt under his nails and asked if we should grow some potatoes under them. And because autism and subtle don't go well together, I'm exaggerating my expression and tone of voice wildly to make sure he recognizes that I am being playful right now.

He looked at me sidelong, judging whether I was kidding or not. Sigh. I swear, I could put on a clown wig and start juggling goldfish and he'd still not be sure I was kidding around.

"Nooooooooooo, no ap-tah-toes," he told me solemnly. "Dat silly."

"Oooooh. Well then. We'd better get the dirt out so I don't make any mistakes. Because that looks like potato-growing dirt right there." Duuuuh-duh-duh-duh-duh…{juggle-juggle-juggle}…c'mon, these are the jokes, folks!

There was a long moment of silence. I've got my what? I'm not up to anything… face on, and he's looking at me all sidelong with an expression that clearly says, Oh, you are TOO up to SOMETHING… and I'm thinking that the gig is definitely up and he's going to school tomorrow with enough dirt under his nails to grow a fine crop of prátaí and oh well, whaddya gonna do…except that he's still sort of sitting there, like he's waiting for me to make the next move here…

…well…in for a pence, in for a pound…

"Allllllllrighty, mister. C'mon, let's go to my bathroom and we'll clean up those nails!" I sang out cheerfully, as if it were all settled, then.

And. He. Went. With. Me. WOOT!

There are large victories, and there are small victories, and then there are victories that aren't really victories but they surely do feel like one at the time. I'm not sure what category this actually was, really, but was too happy to care whether it was large, small, fake or fleeting.

He sat still while I took the orange stick to the first little pinkie, being careful not to give the impression that I was, you know, holding his hand. Because that would have put an end to the whole thing, dudes. Hand holding is right out. He loathes it under any and all circumstances. He's like a cat – don't hold the paws, man.

Whisk! Out came the dirt, like magic.

"OooooOOOOOoooooh!" he exclaimed, like this was some brand new trick he'd never seen before. "Dat is sooooooo cah-wean! Good job, mommy! NOW, uuuUUUUUUUU do-it da numbah…da numbah…da numbah TWO one," he commanded, holding out the next finger.

YES! Thank you oh $DEITY and I promise I will never swear in public again… (I had my fingers crossed behind my back on that one. Just so you know.)

He numbered each of his fingers and held each one out in random order.

"NOW you do-it numbah SEB-BEN! OK! Good job, mommy! NOWWWWW, you do-it numbah FOR-YAH!"

Eventually, ten squeaky clean little nails were ready for the big test: The Clippers.


The clippers are a challenge for both of us. The chances that I'm going to accidentally hurt him with the orange stick are very low; the chances that I could accidentally nip a little skin with the nail clippers is significantly higher.

And he insists that they tickle. So he jerks around a lot. He twitches. He falls over in hysterical laughter.

I'm always afraid I'm going to take half his pinkie off trying to nick a quarter-millimeter worth of fingernail. (Which would be some trick considering that I still use the Gerber nail clippers on him, but still…)

But this time…he held still. First I had to do-it dah numbah one-one. Then dah numbah two-one. And so on and so on, each decision carefully made, each finger proffered with great seriousness and the quality of work minutely inspected, the project suspended until each phase got the Captain Seal of Approval: OK, good job, mommy.

Eventually, I got to sit back and look at my handsome little guy. Freshly shorn hair, brushed teeth, clean and neatly trimmed fingernails…wow. What a looker.

And I felt like mother of the year.

For a moment.

And then…I eyed his feet as they beat a rapid tattoo against the side of the bathtub where he was perched, admiring his potato-less fingernails and humming to himself.

Let's see, the last time I went after his toenails was…uh…um….er…


And also, oh well. The feet were a mile too far. The feet were soooooo ticklish that even taking off his socks sent him into paroxysms of giggles. He kicked. He flailed. He shrieked and thrashed.

I immediately gave up.

I'd won one battle, and found myself content therewith.

The tootsies and their potato loam will be mine another day…oh yes, they will be mine…BWA-HAHAHAHAHAHA…

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Garden Report: July 3, 2010

Today was a long, hard day out in the garden. We got started at shortly before 10:00 this morning, and I only just staggered in – sweaty, tired, sore, and with a massive swath of dirt smeared across one cheek.

I’ve often wondered how it was that someone could walk around with a big old smear of dirt on some part of them and not, I dunno, feel it or something.

I didn’t feel a thing. I had no idea I had a half-a-dollar-bill sized smear of dirt on my cheek. Awesome.

Anyway! The peaches are starting to get ripe. We knew this, because look what we found when we went back there to peek at them:


Uh-huh. Birds. It’s funny how quickly I’ve gone a bit primal on this; my immediate thought was that I needed to do something about this, and fast. You would have thought the world food supply depended on what I did next, y’all. I was actually worried about the peaches.

And then two things occurred to me. One, the birds are going to get a few no matter what I do. And two, they were only gnawing on the ones on the very top – the ones they could easily reach without having to go to extreme measures like dangling upside down under the little tree or something. The ones underneath those were completely untouched.

While I was inspecting them, one fell into my hand.

And then people damage happened.


Sweet, juicy, tangy…it was on the small side, but it was perfect. (Also, I’m sure I made quite a spectacle walking around with my camera in one hand and juice dripping all over my other hand, and then I kept trying to find somewhere other than my jeans to wipe the juice off, not because I didn’t want to get juice on my jeans but because the jeans were so filthy that it would have made things ten times worse to use them as a towel.)

About this point, I looked up at my little empire. And, you know…wow.


It’s strange to think that not that long ago, it was just a dead lawn…in some ways, it’s even stranger to think of it back when it was a lush lawn. Even though a lawn would be a perfectly rational thing to expect in a suburban backyard, a perfectly normal and automatic sort of thing for someone to do with 30% of their backyard. Or even 100% of it.

Whereas this is…well, kind of crazy.

But it’s a cool kind of crazy. Except when it’s hot outside. Then it’s a too-hot-and-sweaty-but-at-least-you-can-cool-off-and-recharge-with-a-big-fresh-organic-salad-you-grew-yourself kind of crazy.

Behind me here, there is a new small patch of sunflower seeds planted. We decided to go for a sunflower patch, because one of the things I regret is that there wasn’t a good place to put a whole whack of sunflowers this year.

I love me the sunflower seeds. Hopefully, this spot will work for them…it gets a lot of sun right now and isn’t too horribly windy thanks to the narrowing of the fence at that point.

Back in the back forty(yards), the empty space is already starting to see some sprouts of the next round of corn.


While the first round is starting to play coy with us.


No silk yet, but definitely kernels peeking out, here and there. The pumpkins are moving slowly right now, and the pinto beans are having a grand time in there. It’s like a sea within a sea…


There’s some cilantro growing on the outside edges of the corn, and it just erupted with some lacy white flowers.


Eventually, those will get little “fruits” on them – and those fruits will become coriander. I use a lot of both cilantro and coriander, so I’m hoping to restock my spice jar with lots of those little seeds.

The green beans are slowing down a bit. I “only” got a little over two pounds off the bushes today…but guess what?


Blossoms. There will be at least a few more green beans before these bushes give up. Which will undoubtedly sadden their lady friends.


Which is good, because the aphids have found them – big time. Feh.

Meanwhile, their neighbor the zucchini is quietly starting its quest for world domination. Remember that little tiny nothing of a thing? That you had to squint to see last week?


It’s an actual zucchini now. And there’s about six more that are “oh, never mind us, we’re just little nothin’s here…” right now.

It might be a case of sibling rivalry, though. The butternut squash are setting fruit like they’re single-handedly fighting world hunger – and a few of them are getting big.



The vines themselves are also huge. Apparently this is a known thing about butternut squash – the vines don’t fool around. They go nuts. They try to take over every square inch of the whole garden.

But we learned our lesson last year. We’re keeping a very close eye on them, and pinching off the runners as they start encroaching on other beds.

I pulled in some potatoes this week; this is what I pulled out today.


They have much thinner skins than what I’m used to getting at the supermarket, and their texture is a lot creamier – probably because I’m digging these up before the plants are really done-done. Which is a bit of an art form and by the way, your hands get really dirty when you’re digging up potatoes. But it’s an awful lot of fun going after just one or two from the top – like a treasure hunt, or digging for fossils. Yeah, probably more like digging for fossils, because you have to be really gentle and brush the dirt away, looking for that flash of white or red…and then more brushing to see what you’ve found, get an idea how big it is and how much digging down you’re going to have to do to get at it.

I’ve found my hands work best for it, too. Just bare hands, feeling around in the dirt – my fingers can tell the difference between “just dirt” and “wait, I think that’s one of those potato-shoot-thingees.”

The brandywine tomatoes are starting to blush just a wee tiny bit.


The cherry tomatoes are hopping. (This is post-harvesting – there were about ten more little bright red nuggets of juiciness on there before I went picking.)


The yellow striped ones are still green.


I’m trying to be patient, really I am. I know how it will be, with one minute nothing but green tomatoes and the next holy crap, what am I supposed to do with 625 pounds of tomatoes each week?!

Especially with eight more beefsteak and six more “mystery but probably something large” tomatoes in the ground, plus the fifteen surviving roma bushes. I’m going to be up to my eyeballs in tomatoes all too soon…but man oh man, am I ever staring at the pot willing it to boil right now…

The assorted berries are starting to grow a little bit; they’re still awfully slow off the mark, though. I gave all of them a little berry-food today, and hopefully that and the warming weather will give them a firm shove in the “grow faster” direction.

Meanwhile…we harvested everything in the front boxes. And now they’re empty again.


The pak choi was ready and the lettuce really wasn’t quite, but we had two things that kind of hurried us along.

The first was the heat. Lettuce and heat don’t go together, and we’re charging into our three-digit phase fast.

And the other thing was…the cats. That’s right, the @*^&ing cats again. They discovered the boxes and wreaked some havoc in there – tore up a bunch of lettuce, turned one corner into a potty, nibbled and chewed and dug like crazy.

So we got what we could out of them, and tomorrow the husband is going to be installing some anti-cat wire frames just under the dirt. Hopefully they’ll really dislike walking on wires and quit messing with the boxes. And I’ll be planting some summer squash in there, which will make big old hairy bushes that aren’t a lot of fun to brush up against – between those two things, hopefully we’ll keep them out of those boxes.

OH! I didn’t take a picture of it…man I stink…but…one of my sweet potatoes suddenly decided that it would like to live after all! Three of them died outright, a fourth is still undecided, but this fifth one went, “Oh, wait…you know what? On second thought, I think I’m going to go ahead and just take off!”

It’s a small bush right now, beautiful and healthy and happy. And it made me feel happy, even though when I noticed it I had already been weeding / mulching / composting / leaf-mulching / mowing / fertilizing / yet more weeding for about four hours.

At that point, I would have said the only thing that would have made me feel happy was a triple margarita and a big old bowl of tortilla chips and salsa and possibly a professional gardener who could do all the hard, sweaty stuff while I sat in air conditioned comfort hollering instructions to him via walkie-talkie. (None of which I actually have, by the way. My life, she is sad…)

But turns out a suddenly lively sweet potato bush does a good job of cheering me up, too.

Today was one of those days where I had to make up for a fair amount of laziness on previous days – days when I’d stepped over weeds, ignored dead leaves, muttered “…later…” as I walked past something that needed trimming, propping, pruning or pulling.

It was a long day. A hard one.

But still deeply satisfying. A day that felt like it meant something.

Kind of like days spent playing with the kids, or working with animals – both hands fully on life.

Pretty good way to spend it, all things considered.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Feels like a Monday

..but at least I've been knitting. Eldest's sweater is clicking alone, one train ride at a time.

I had a good old-fashioned nightmare last night. I was chasing Captain Adventure around a parking structure. He thought we were having a grand game of Defy Mommy...I was terrified that he was going to be hit by a car.

And then he turned around, laughing at me as he ran backwards...right off the edge of the structure.

Woke up in a heart-pounding cold sweat and could NOT get back to sleep.

Ah, the joys of parenting are without number...and include Thursdays feeling like Mondays because even while peacefully asleep, they can make you crazy...

(sent from my Treo)