Thursday, August 31, 2006

Starting over

You know how sometimes, when you go to visit a certain friend, her plants try to eat you as you walk up the steps? Plants, brushing against your legs much too freely. Thinking naughty plant thoughts.

That's terrible! Plants, reaching out to grab you! Bees, zipping past your head, flying towards those delectable wildflowers! Hummingbirds divebombing your head (Only if you're lucky.). Eek!

Well, I'm here to tell you that all that has now changed.

"Oooooh! Tell us more!", you say.

Well, plant safety concerned friend, here is what the left side looked like on 8/21.

Notice the evil strawberry plants lurking right next to the bottom step. Evil. Lurking.

On 8/29, I pulled out all of the coneflower and brown eyed Susans and relocated 3 plants I wanted to keep.

I then weedwhacked the remaining weedy grass that was left, avoiding the clematis tanguica by the top front step and the lavender that I had moved in April, but didn't concern myelf with all of the weeds around it. What was I thinking?

Perhaps I was thinking, "How can I possibly make changing this out even more difficult than it already will be?"

That might have been it.

After not killing off the remaining strawberries and the previously mentioned items, I sprayed the heck out of the shortened weedy bits with RoundUp. Liquid Plant Doom. Now it's all slowly dying away, although I have a sinking feeling that I will have to respray certain sections again (Nothing stops the strawberry plants! Nothing! Undead plants! Aiee!).

Immediately after, with a tall cool drink in hand, I started thinking, "Well! Now that I can safely walk up on the left side of the stairs, it sure would be nice to be able to walk up on the right side of the stairs as well." I'm a stair hog, I guess. Dreaming the impossible dream and all that.

So, when faced with sunflowers taller than you are and more bees than you care to shake anything at, sticks included, what would you do?

Well, start cutting flowers off during the heat of the day while the bees are most active, of course!

My girlfriend-in-law suggested that I make bouquets before I just chop and chuck and so I did. When I was done cutting, I had to perform a little bob and weave with the pitchers of flowers in order to not bring bees into the house with me on the cut flowers. Feeling sorry for the birds who normally flock to the seedheads, I lopped off any heads that appeared to be full of seeds and tossed them into a separate container to save for later. Then I took a break for lunch. It was hot!

Later in the afternoon, I returned and began lopping away in earnest. A couple of hours later, well into dusk and the no bee timezone later, I was done.

No more sunflowers, rudbeckia, Mexican hat or weeds. Just a few plants that I still like that were struggling to keep up. This, by the way, is my unwatered garden section. It only gets what falls out of the sky and any over-spray from the sprinklers on the other side of the steps. Where we live, barely any water falls out of the sky, so it was pretty amazing to me how well these plants did.

And then I killed them!


That's OK, I have plans. Plans, I tell you! Plans that keep me up at night, plotting, imagining what these sections will looks like with different plants in them.

That is a lavender down at the very front of the picture, it will soon have a few more friends. The others left behind are some bright orange coreopsis, lamb's ears and a blanket flower. I may just leave them right where they are planted and then pop more plants in around them. They're already shaking in their roots, though. They saw what happened to the other plants. They all went into the giant trashcan, completely filling it, except for those few plants that were chopped into small pieces and will be used for compost.

Turns out you shouldn't use any part of the sunflower plant in compost because of its seed germination inhibitive properties. Not sunflower seed growing properties, mind you, just everything else. So out of all that plant material, only a tiny amount was used for compost. However, I feel that with the sheer amount of stuff I keep out of the waste stream normally, the occasional trashload can be set out without negatively affecting my karma. Composting karma.


Since it has cooled down a fair amount, it may be time to start dividing plants from the front yard and bringing plants around from the back yard and breaking out the seedlings in the basement. Whee! Plants! Planting plants!

After all of that work, removing plants, I'm just gonna go put more in?

Uh...yeah. It's all part of the plan!

This time, I promise they won't try and eat you.


The end of the day.

Originally emailed on 8/25/06. Updated note at the end.

We returned to pick up Caitlin at 2:30. I wanted to see how school would affect Caitlin.
Would it change her? Would her brain be filled with new knowledge? Hmm...doesn't look like it yet! She came over to us slower than I was expecting. I think she was tired. Turns out she hadn't eaten the fabulous lunch I'd sent her with, since she got distracted by the freedom of the playground. Oh well! We sat on the wall outside of the school and watched her eat and grilled her about her day. She made a paper bag puppet of a raccoon and told us she really enjoyed school. Then there was something weird about all the boys hitting her that the teacher says never happened. Don't know who to believe at the moment since Caitlin does like to make stuff up to gain sympathy. Conflicting parental needs! Punish mean boys! Punish daughter if lying! Ack! We opted for telling her to tell us the truth and to remember to 1) use her words if someone's not being nice then, 2) talk to the teacher and then 3) hit back.

Yes, I'm advocating violence in my child. Look, if Caitlin has actually first tried using her words (I don't like that, don't hit me, don't treat me this way) and it doesn't work, then it's time to escalate to the higher power in the room. If that doesn't work, and the perpetrator keeps hitting my kid, what am I supposed to do? Let her be bullied? Hell no! I'm perfectly fine with advocating self defense. I am NOT a pacifist. If you hit my kid, expect to be hit back, little mean kid!

Anyway, we'll have to see how that goes. Wish us luck!

Then it was time to go home...

and bake some congratulatory oatmeal chocolate chip cookies...

(You're hungry now, aren't you? Mmmm-mmm!)

and make some more cloth napkins (That's one, over there - pretty red, huh?). This time for the big folks. This time it didn't take 2.5 hours for two! Nuh-uh! I made 8 in about 2 hours 40 minutes - roughly 20 minutes apiece. I've got the hang of it now! Now we can stop using paper napkins and conserve! OK, you don't care, but dang it! I worked hard on those suckers. Aren't they pretty? Pat, pat, pat. Gooood Hatchet.

Tomorrow, curtains. Oh yes, leave me at home alone and I get all domesticated. See?!


Stop me before I start knitting! (Sorry Val, had to say it!)


Update: I made the giant mental leap that said, " is 5 days per week and I've only two napkins for Caitlin. I will need to make more napkins! I will need to buy more material! I will need to go shopping for material!" Then, I went shopping. Picked up the cutest cat related material for napkins, in a color that is somewhere between blue and purple and whipped out 4 more napkins in 10 minutes apiece! Yup, I've got the hang of this now! Now, my hems aren't perfectly straight or anything, but they will work just fine as napkins. Also, being in a kindhearted and sewing mood, I took some of the left over fabric (not quite big enough to be a napkin) and made a tiny blanket and pillow set for her Pediatrician Barbie.

Yes, yes I did.

After that, I pulled out the material to make the (supposedly) light blocking curtain for the window over the sofa. Worked on that until I reached the point where I could no longer make decisions (Should I hem it now or cut it now?), around 1am and then toddled off to bed. Finished up the curtain the next morning and felt all productive and stuff. Or, rather like this:

I've felt like that on many a morning! Only to have the bed suddenly become a black hole of warmth and softness and suck me back in.

At least until Caitlin wakes and demands breakfast.

There's something ridiculously satisfying about having made a dozen new napkins and a curtain (even if it doesn't fully block the light) all by myself. I'm certainly not skilled in the way of sewing, but boy golly! I can now sew a straight line! Well, mostly straight.


Yay me!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


In between dropping Caitlin off for her first day of school and picking her up at the end of the day there was another story. (Yes, I'm going to post the end of day pics here, too.)

We got a chance to meet with the "experienced moms" for a Q&A period. I wanted to know if they had a gifted and talented program, how soon they test for it and what were they going to do with my kid in the meantime (to keep her from being bored) since Caitlin is very advanced on reading. Now, when I say very advanced, I mean that she's really good at reading. She loves to read. She loves books. She gets in trouble in order to continue reading when she's supposed to be sleeping! She sneaks out of her room, goes into the bathroom, locks the door and reads with the night light. She sneaks out into the hallway to read by the living room light. She reads while we're driving. She wants to read instead of eating and is now trying to read while walking. My kid, she is a reader! Yes, it is genetic!

So, in our estimation, she appeared to be reading anywhere from the 3rd to the 5th grade level. This, in a 5 year old, is undeniably advanced. I didn't want her to be bored hanging with the kids that were still working on sounding out letters or working on "See Spot run." She will be disruptive. I know it. I know my child. I didn't expect the school officials to tell me that of course they were going to put her into the G&T program as soon as possible. I expected to be told that she'd need to be tested and that they would look after her. You know, be reassuring. I didn't expect to be blown off and essentially told "All of the children here are special!", meaning that none of the children are. I expected to be taken seriously. I was pissed when I wasn't and tried hard to not eviscerate the school official. I pointed out, as calmly as I could, that I appreciate that they probably hear this song all the time. However, this is me the individual telling you what I am concerned about and I expect an appropriate response. I left angry, but determined that I would work the issue out somehow.

Fortunately, later that day, the school official apologized to Eric (note: not to me) and said they would take care of Caitlin.

The new news is this: the school official came to me today and told me they did a little preliminary testing of Caitlin.

Oh, really? How interesting.

Would it be possible to switch her to the morning kindergarden class and the afternoon Kindercare class?

Absolutely, says I. Why?

Well, says the official with a funny tone in his voice, it looks like Caitlin is reading at the 3rd or 4th grade level and is "decoding" at the 5th to 6th grade level.

Ah hah, says I. What does this "decoding" mean?

This means she breaks down words into their component parts to understand and/or pronounce the word like a 5th or 6th grader.

Ahhh, says I. That's very interesting. We would be glad to switch to the morning classes. What, exactly, is the difference?

Well, the morning classes have access to the advanced reading circles/materials.

Sounds lovely. Sign us up!

Caitlin starts tomorrow.

And that feeling inside? That feeling tickling the cockles of my heart? That would be smug vindication. Ayup. Don't mess with me on the topic of my kid! How could I possibly be mistaken about how well my kid reads? See this picture?

This was taken last August (I think there are six in the bed with her). She loves books. A lot. Now we just need to see where that love takes us!


Caitlin goes to kindergarden

Originally emailed on 8/25/06.

Today is Caitlin's first day of school. A long time coming, but here it is. I feel kinda funny - not weepy, but sorta edgy like there's a test that I'm taking and am not certain how I'll do. You should have seen me trying to put her hair into pigtails this morning. I thought everything depended on it! Ack!

Caitlin is enrolled at our local elementary school, which is about 7/10ths of a mile from here, so we walked to school. It was overcast and cool, not the weather one would typically expect in late August, so it was a nice walk. Excitement was in the air. And yes, I AM going to deluge you with photos. How could I not?!

Caitlin goes to school. We bought her a ginormous purple knapsack. I pat myself on the back repeatedly that it wasn't either covered in Disney Princesses or something equally insipid. American girls are supposed to be physically drawn to pink and anyone wearing a crown, I guess. Caitlin saw the purple (plain) knapsack and wanted it even though there were other colors available. I was willing to buy her a Power Puffs pack if they'd had one, but nope! Dora was as close as they came.
We tried to talk her out of dress shoes, but she wasn't having it. Instead we compromised by tossing her sneakers into the capacious interior of the knapsack.

Caitlin shows off her brand spankin' new laptop lunchbox.

Here's what's inside:

Bet you wish your lunch looked as good! Mediterranean Chicken Pita, cheddar cheese, a small container of lowfat plain yogurt for dipping the pita in, sugar snap peas and homegrown cherry tomatoes and a lovely organic peach from Morton's Orchards. (Thanks Heather!) The set comes with a tiny fork, spoon and water bottle.

I even made Caitlin her very own napkin, because I'm like that and what else should I have been doing at 9:30pm last night? Two and a half hours for 2 napkins. Ugh! Did I mention that I'm ROTTEN with a sewing machine? We fought a LOT over making straight lines. Eric suggested it was because the machine wasn't strong enough to punch through several layers of cloth in the corners. I just think the machine hates me for my sewing ignorance.

Yes I am desperately hoping that Caitlin won't lose any of it. Why do you ask? Eek!

Here we are at the school (Realized later I should have taken the pictures in front of the school sign...oh well!) with Sue, who made the official Walk To School journey with us! Yay Sue!

A rare picture of the three of us. Taken by Sue. Thanks, Sue!

The 8am bell/tone went off and then it was time to line up to go off to K-care (sort of organized play time before school). Wow. How did we get here? How did she grow up so fast? She still looks so little!

And then, off she went, into the unknown, lugging her giant pack behind her.

That's my girl!

Strawberry Plants - a public service announcement

Do you like strawberries? I do, too! Fancy that! What's that, you say? You're thinking about putting some in to your garden as a groundcover? Well, strawberries could be a groundcover with the added bonus of fruit in the early summer. Yeah! Sounds great!

Back AWAY from the strawberry plants, my friend.

Strawberry plants are The Borg of garden plants. Oh yeah, they look cute and helpless, but once you put in one plant, it's all over. See, they aren't like other plants. Oh no... They replicate themselves around your garden in 2.5 seconds. They go CRAZY in a short period of time.

Go on, ask me how I know.

Some birds relocated strawberry seeds from the plants in my raised beds in the backyard, to the corner of my front yard. Cool! Thought I. Little did I know. So I left it alone, thinking:

  • Strawberry plants = yummy strawberry goodness

Nope. Instead:

  • Strawberry plants = MORE strawberry plants

In one summer they've gone from a 2' section to spreading out 10' in a 90 degree arc. They are a lovely groundcover. So tough that they're outcompeting the plants I grew lovingly from seed this spring. Remember those? All 484 of them grown from seed? (I love that I'm not even making that number up!) The strawberry plants are busy throwing out teeny tiny other strawberry plants. They're outcompeting BINDWEED.

I kid you not. The bindweed was languishing under all that strawberry.

One plantlet sends out another plantlet, it has a good look around at the perennials it landed right next to and it thinks, "I can take 'em!". Then it sends out 84 other plantlets and they have a plant orgy. So there you are, objecting to all of those plants who have the audacity to not produce even a single strawberry! OK, maybe the birds got them, but honestly! So I just spent the last 2 hours ripping out strawberry plants in that 90 degree arc. Except for those in the corner, by the sprinkler, because I promised my brother he could have them. He'd better hurry up, though. They've got designs on the rest of my garden.

Did you hear that?

They're growing back!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Hello world!

Shouldn't every first post be titled "Hello World"? Come on, am I the only one geeky enough to admit to taking Basic and being thrilled the first time Hello World printed across the screen?

OK. Maybe I am.

Well, you can blame this latest adventure of mine on my friends (I'm looking at YOU, Val and Misty!) and assorted family members who insisted that my emails and attendant photographs were far too good to just moulder away in just their inboxes. No, no! Share your bizarre sense of humor and writings with the world! Or at least ways send it somewhere that it won't take up as much space on their mailservers with my enormous jpegs.

OK, no one said that last part, but I can read subtext, you know! It will also give me a way to stop forgetting yet another person that I need to send the latest missive to, with the latest great picture of Caitlin, or my garden, or that cute little hummingbird.

Now, of course, my only question is this: how do I get my previously emailed notes onto the website?



Is this thing on?
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