Friday, September 29, 2006

The Birds and the Bees

You know, I thought I'd have more time for this discussion to come up, but nope. The Beebs was a lot more interested than I thought she'd be in the book, A Child is Born, that I had out to peruse. I should have known that my daughter would have automatically inherited my curiosity. As soon as she saw it in the pile of books, she picked it up and started flipping through it.

In the middle of a gaming session.

My friend K noticed and pointed it out, just in case I wanted to monitor her reactions to the final few pages. The photographs are real, brilliant and show everything you'd ever want to know about what happens during development and birth. So there Caitlin was, poring over images of women giving birth, with assorted infants crowning, head out, body out. It led for a very interesting conversation for the past hour.

Amazingly enough I got to skip over how the sperm got to the egg, but I did explain that the sperm comes from the man, the egg from the woman, and they get together to form the baby. Talking about zygotes and blastulas is a little beyond her at the moment. The pictures of the initial stages of development are awesome though, and helped to explain how we don't look like anything remotely human at all until much later. Generally around 8 weeks is when the fetus starts looking human. From her great age of 5 years old, Caitlin was fascinated. We even talked a little about artificial insemination.

She did get a little upset when I mentioned cesarean sections, worrying about the blood and how it would hurt. I gently let her know that the doctors take care of it (me) and give you drugs so you don't feel a thing. I told her all about daddy, Aunt J and Grammy all being right there waiting for her to be born. She's now very excited about getting to see her future sibling's ultra-sound and listen to the heart beat, when the time comes (No, nothing to see here. Move along.). I'm so glad that she's excited, I can't hardly explain it.

What can I tell you? She's a helluva girl.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blob vs Baby

The post otherwise known as I'm Pro-Choice and Here's Why.

So here's the thing: with all the furor going around about different states attempting to make abortions illegal and refusing to dispense Emergency Contraception and the latest attempts to avoid dispensing contraception entirely, I felt it was time to say a little something. When the religious right attempts to take away all means of avoiding pregnancy legally, they are ensuring that abortions will happen illegally. It doesn't take brilliant analysis to know that if women don't want a child, they will do whatever it takes to not have that child. Including damaging or killing themselves in the process. Tom Paine has an article about Reproductive Regression that I found interesting.

It is an awesome responsibility to bring a child into the world. It is a fearsome amount of work. You have to give up a large part of your own life and it isn't something that should be forced on anyone.

Think about that.

If you follow what the RR say they want, they are suggesting that no one has recreational sex. Ever. Imagine that, if you will: the only time you would have sex would be when you were planning on having a child, after being duly married. One might also wonder if recreational sex would be out of the question once you were pregnant as well....Moving backwards from there, they would like to ensure that everyone be a virgin when they got married. Or at least the women. For some reason, it still appears to be acceptable that the men can have pre-marital sex, but the women must remain untouched. Here's a quick question: who are the men supposed to be having sex with if not some portion of the women that are out there? How many of those RR folks do you think were virgins when they got married? How many of them stuck to pro-creational sex only?

Hmm...sounds like pots calling kettles black and all that.

The latest argument seems to be about birth control causing abortions. Let's try and set the record straight here, shall we? The Pill does not cause abortions. It prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs in the first place (it basically tricks your body into thinking that you are already pregnant.). Secondly, it thickens the cervical mucus so that sperm have a harder time entering the uterus. So, in this way fertilization cannot take place and thus there is no "baby" that is being aborted here.

Emergency contraception is just that: another method of avoiding fertilization, although in this case it is after having had unprotected sex (or sex that started out protected, but perhaps the condom broke). It is not the same as the abortion pill RU-486. EC is essentially a major dose of daily oral contraceptives. If the egg has already been fertilized, EC will not work. Again, no fertilization occurs, no "baby" being aborted here.

So why are the RR getting all worked up over these two things? They are busy lying to the public about how each works. They are busy lying to the public about what they want and are willing to lie to continue getting their way politically.

It is not up to anyone other than the woman to decide if and when to get pregnant. Yes, she should work with her significant other to come to an agreement, but that doesn't mean her body is his property. This is the day of modern medicine. You can avoid getting pregnant as long as you like (if you are conscientiously taking BC and/or other precautions), assuming that both people involved are interested in avoiding unplanned pregnancies. Let me be clear here: it should not be the sole reponsibility of the woman to avoid pregnancy. If a man doesn't want to father a child, he should be certain of it by doing his part to avoid fertilization. To me, that means wearing a condom or gasp! getting a vasectomy (If he never, ever wants a child.), in addition to the woman taking responsibility for herself.

"But wait! Accidents happen!" You yell angrily from the sidelines.

Absolutely. They are the reason EC and abortions should be available and legal.

If we can all agree that raising a child takes as much work as it does (heaps), is expensive (argh), is tiring (extremely), nerve wracking (frequently) and an emotional roller coaster (hell yeah!), then why would you want to do that to your sister, daughter, mother, aunt, cousin, friend, complete stranger? Being pregnant is more than just 9 months. It's a lifelong commitment - and I don't mean because you're raising a child. It has permanent affects - many negative - on a woman's body. It's not the bed of roses that others would tell you it is. Women still die from pregnancy and childbirth related complications. In the US, that number seems to range between ~12 to 17 per 100,000 births. That may seem like a small number to you but when you are the pregnant one, how are you supposed to know that it isn't going to be you?

Let's be frank: people are going to have sex. It feels good, they like it, they're gonna do it. Not everyone is cut out to be a parent and they shouldn't have to become one just because a small but loud group says they should. Considering how hard it is to raise a child that you want, imagine how much harder it would be to raise a child you don't want! When you get angry and resentful normally, imagine that person getting a little angrier, a little more resentful. Do you spank your child? Will they? How far a step do you think it is between going from an unwanted child to a dead or abused child? I would propose that it is not a big step at all.

I guess it all boils down to this:

If you want it, it's a baby. If you don't want it, it's a blob of cells.

It has the potential to be a child, just as a seed (also a fertilized embryo) has the potential to be a plant. No one has to plant all of the seeds in the packet. Most people don't need or want 4000 poppies. No one should risk getting pregnant every time they have sex. It is not a plant until it comes up out of the ground and has sprouted. It is not a baby until it is viable outside of the mother. No embryo has more value than that of a living, breathing, thinking, fully realized, walking and talking woman.

I say this from the perspective of someone who has had a child: a child that I wanted. I had an emergency c-section - we both could have died. My younger sister almost did. It's not always fun - Caitlin takes a lot of work, but I love her and I'm glad she's here.

Isn't that what you want for everyone? The hope that if you want a child, you can have a child and that you will love that child, even when they drive you crazy.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Politically speaking

In case you've been wondering, Where are the political rants?, I just wanted to let you know that right now, I'm not up to it.

I'm feeling overwhelmed by what's currently going on in the world. So much so that I can't bear to read about it, much less write about it. For now, you'll just have to forgive the lack of blistering commentary from my small corner of the web. When I either a) see actual change happening or b) come out from under the cloud of political despair, then I'll talk about it. In the mean time, think on this:

Is time like money? No one has an infinite amount of either and how you spend it defines you as a person. What, in this life, is worth spending time on? How do you define yourself?

Currently, my present incarnation is a gardener, a sometime photographer, mother and wife. Not necessarily in that order, although the gardening is consuming a lot of my time (and money!) right now.

Blogged to Death

Just ran across this SixChix comic. Enjoy!

And this one from Off the Mark:

Yes, I am feeling a little self-referential, thank you!

Oh and here's a blogging sound track! Thanks, Dan!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Spinach Anyone?

We've probably all heard about the Spinach Scare of '06, but have you heard the other part of the story? The part where they talk about where the e-coli actually came from and that it's probably not what the media was talking about the most.

The recent tragic outbreak of E. coli contamination in spinach that has killed one person and poisoned at least 146 others, is being mistakenly blamed, by some in the media, on organic farming practices--specifically the use of animal manure in making fertilizer compost on organic farms. While no conclusive source of the current E.coli outbreak has yet been determined, mountains of E.coli-tainted manure on conventional factory farm feedlots and rainfall-induced agricultural runoff are the likely culprits. Despite this fact, a number of apologists for industrial agriculture continue to attack organic food in the press as "unsafe." (To read OCA's position paper and other in-depth articles on the E.coli crisis go to OCA's daily news page

Help spread the truth--
Follow this link to send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in support of organics:

Follow the link, see where it takes you. Spread the truth. Truth smells better than fertilizer any day of the week!

Monday, September 25, 2006


I am such a procrastinator!

Do you know what makes me procrastinate? Fear. Yup. Everytime there's something I don't want to do, fear is generally behind it.

Today, for instance, I didn't want to clean, so I made myself a chai. Chai takes 30 minutes, so I gave myself 30 minutes to clean. Vacuumed the floor and scooba'd it. BTW, Dan found a Scooba theme song for us:

I felt better.

I didn't want to draw up the plan for the backyard remodel, so I ran the laundry.

I felt better.

I finally collected everything I needed to draw up the planting diagram, but needed to take a bunch of measurements. After that was done, I started drawing it out. Pencils, giant eraser, graph paper, compass, ruler: the Works! It took all afternoon. It went into the evening.

I'm almost done with it, but I feel better.

Then I didn't want to make Caitlin's lunch, so instead I wrote in my gardening journal. I outlined all of the massive amount of work I need to get done before a hard freeze comes. Now I have a plan that I will start work on tomorrow.

I felt better.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the amount of work I need to do (Move all backyard plants to front yard [including a TREE], rework sprinkler system, dig 18,000 holes in front yard, order soil amendments, till them into backyard, plant new plants, create a sandbed frame, order sand, move sand into bed, etc., etc., etc.) and I wind up doing nothing but reading: blogs, books, cereal boxes - it doesn't matter!

All of this, though, is a cover for what I'm really avoiding. Editing the wedding pictures. This happens every time. I shoot the wedding. I think That wasn't so bad. Then I spend the next several days tearing myself apart mentally over what I should have done. Just like all my law school pals, without ever seeing the fruit of my labor, I'm convinced it's going to be horrible because I forgot this thing, didn't do that thing, forgot this other rule of thumb, etc. I'm terrified to look at the pictures because I know they didn't all turn out. I'm prepared to hate them all. Misty will never forgive me. So instead of editing photos, I'm putting up the Lunch Box pictures and blogging.

The crazy thing is that once I get into the editing groove, everything works out just fine. No one needs 377 perfect photos of their wedding day. (No, really!) A number that large is too overwhelming. How do you choose? Once I start, the panic will slide away and I'll like around half of the photos and I'll tweak them until I'm happy with them. No one but me will ever see the shots that should have been great, but my hand shook and now they're blurry.

BTW, you have no idea how frustrating that is to me. I'm not an adrenaline junky - I hate getting the shakes, but the wedding photography? Terrifying. You have one chance to get the shot. The kiss, the ring exchanges, the toast, etc. Some folks might be willing to do those as poses (you'd definitely get a better shot that way) after the ceremony is over, but I'm trying to capture The Moment. And The Moment only comes around once. After that, you're just faking it.

Anyway, I'm done procrastinating. It's time to go face the music.

I'm sure I'll feel better.

When I'm done with these photos, I'll go back and edit the Italy 10th anniversary pictures and post them here. That's another thing I was procrastinating on.

What makes you procrastinate?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's over

Whew! Wedding went fine. Very, very small and relatively informal. Did a bunch of formals outside, while the wedding was held inside (Too cold outside at 6:30pm at night. Brr!) in a pretty well lit room.

I still had to use a lot of flash and a high ISO speed, so I'm hoping that the pics don't turn out too grainy.

Y'all might even get a sneak preview while Misty and Lee are in The Bahamas. First, however, I need to make some space on my completely full 162 GB drive. Deleting random blurry photos here and there ain't gonna do it. Looks like it's time to back up and delete the other weddings off my disc. Eek! part was when Marlena burst into tears of happiness once they were pronounced Man and Wife. Very sweet. I wonder if I got that on film? Hmmm..... Oh, and then Misty's dad made everyone cry when he told us what a great guy Lee is and how he's overcome a lot in his own personal life and will be a fabulous dad to Marlena and the Blob and a fantastic husband to Misty and a man that Bob will be glad to call his son-in-law. Me? I'm still mad at Lee about the damned New Jersey thing, but I grudgingly admit to liking him still. I'd like him better if they moved back!

Anyway, very nice, short, emotional ceremony. Great dinner for all at the Royal Peacock, where they plied us with Chai. Yummy chai, at that.

The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome and the guests were charming. All is well.

Good night!

Panic Panic Panic

Wedding in T minus 2 hours.

Panic. Panic. Panic.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Time to Freak Out

Oh my goddess! I have to photograph Misty's wedding tomorrow night.

Commence freaking out.

That is all.

[Screaming is heard in the distance]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Photographing Caitlin

I was at a party a couple of days ago and mentioned The Blog Thing to my friends. Strangely enough, they are excited to see what I'm writing.

Hi, gang!

One friend they asked if I was putting pictures of Caitlin on the web and I responded with Yes. Let's take a sec and talk about that.

I am trying, somewhat, to remain anonymous on The Blog. No last names, you won't see me refer to my actual name and no locations are given other than Colorado. The only folks that can blow that would be those that know me. However, I consider you a discreet lot. (That's a hint, there, that is!) These actions should make me a little harder to find by the creepy stalker types. Oh, and the fact that I'm completely unknown in the blogging world, no one (other than friends and family) is reading this (at the moment), thus no creepy people are likely to show up either.

So what are the issues surrounding putting pictures of The Beebs up on the web?

Well, there's the possibility of creepy stalker types coming to try to grab her. I, in my normal state, wander around paranoid as hell that someone is going to try to grab her. She is ridiculously beautiful, you know she is, so my anxiety is already high on that score. She doesn't play alone in the front yard and when she's in the front because I'm gardening, I don't let her out of my sight. She can't even go to the end of our block where I can't see her without my getting a tightness in my chest and holler for her to come back. I constantly keep an eye on her.

Doesn't make for the most zen gardening sessions, either.

However, as we know via research, the greatest danger to The Beebs is not strangers, but people she knows. According to the Prevent Abuse Now site's Child Abuse Research and Statistics, about 95% of victims know their abusers. There is that remaining 5% that are assaulted by strangers, but let me assure you, should anyone wish to harm my child they will not survive it when I find them. And I will.

There's also the possibility of creepy people ogling her pictures for disgusting uses. I won't go into detail here, just so I can avoid showing up on a weird Google search. You know exactly what I mean. These folks will find pictures of children everywhere to have disgusting thoughts about. As it is, we don't stay closeted in the house all day, every day, either. We do go out in public, where the great unwashed masses can see me and my daughter in public, in real life. There are likely to be creepy scary people that have disgusting thoughts then and I cannot stop them. I can't stop people on the internet and I cannot stop random strangers that see us in person, therefore I do not consider it a reason to panic. I cannot live my life fearing all of the unknowns of the stranger/male gaze. Those people exist, I agree. So long as they do not approach us we will all be fine.

What would my alternatives be? To never go into public again with my child? That's unrealistic. Wear a burqa? Absolutely not.

The Religious Right is already working madly to remove women from public view. I will not give in to them and their song of fear and even my own paranoia about men coming to take my daughter. Those are the contents of my worst nightmares and have been ever since she was born. However, it doesn't mean those nightmares will come true and I cannot teach her to be afraid.

My job is to teach her to be strong. To be self reliant. To know her true value. To be able to defend herself. To kick ass and take names. To fight back.

Besides, to limit myself and my self expression on this blog (such as it is), to keep from posting pictures of one of the largest parts of my life? How could I do that? She would become That Which Can't Be Named. Completely and utterly bizarre. This is not a one topic blog, like a political blog. This is my space to talk about completely random things. One of the biggest "things" in my life is Caitlin. And Eric. And gardening. And my cats. And (especially) photography. I can't help but photograph her, write about her and share those thoughts and pictures with you.

I love Caitlin more than I can ever possibly express to you and I need to share that. To share the stories of What She's Done Lately, the good and the bad. I always have. This place is just the next logical outlet.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Trust in me. I will not let such harm come to my child.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tickling the Ivories

What do you do when you want to have a second kid but you don't have the money for the crazy expensive maternity insurance?

You go back to school, that's what you do!

"What?! No way!" you say in astonishment.

Absolutely, my friend. Here's the story:

Misty, being brilliant, suggested that I go back to school and get University insurance. Being a large organization, they will have group coverage which will, of course, cover maternity insurance. Wow! I thought. This is a brilliant plan! Let's do some research.

I set the Head Hatchet Researcher into gear (some of you know him as Eric). He looked it up and yup, there it was! Turns out you only need to take a minimum of ONE CREDIT HOUR at the local university to qualify for medical insurance. Since I'm past the due date for fall semester, I'll have to wait until the spring to sign up for school. I would expect to be pregnant by then, so will they cover me if I walk in already knocked up? Yup. What if the baby is born in the summer? Then you would also need to sign up to take another class in the fall so that the insurance would cover the summer period.

What interesting classes are there for a Hatchet Woman? Well, nothing related to plants, unfortunately. Italian? Ooh! A 5 credit hour class. $1500. Ugh. Can't afford that. Photography? Manual camera. Chemicals. I'm living in the 21st century and love my digital camera, thank you very much. What about...


Piano I. Two hours a week. A new skill. A skill I have long wanted and that I can teach to the Beebs. Something useful and non-stressful. Music! Music to my ears!

So you've heard it here first, Hatchet Fans. If you want major medical coverage for less than an arm and a leg, go back to school. Become educated and insured all at the same time!


Hummingbird siting!

Apparently we have some slowpokes around here, so I was a bit too quick with my last siting story on the 7th. I saw one on the 12th and again today, just for a moment. It looked for some nectar in the cardinal vine on the deck and then took off for the trees.

Right after that, the wind kicked up like mad and all the birds hunkered down for awhile.

Guess I need to go make some more nectar and put the feeder back out!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Scoping things out

I have the weirdest choking sensation going on in my throat.

It's been bothering me for about a week now. The feeling that there's something stuck back there. A vitamin? A piece of a nut? What?! I have no idea and I can't see a darned thing (neither can my personal stand-in physician, Eric) and it's driving me batty. So I went to the doctor to see if something was going on because my paranoia flared up and started whispering horrors in my head.

What if you're getting strep? Don't give it to the family!
What if it's cancer?
What if something really is stuck back there?

I don't feel sick. No fever, no pain, no enlarged lymph nodes, just a weird food-stuck-in-back-of-throat feeling. So I went to get poked at, looked at funny and be told by my regular doc that they couldn't see a thing. Then they referred me to an eye, ear, nose and throat dude. I'm not a hypochondriac (No, really!) and I've waited a week for this thing to stop. It totally feels like there's something back there that just needs to be swallowed. Kind of the same way that my neck just feels like it needs to be cracked right before I get a migraine. It always feels like if I could only crack my neck, the imminent migraine sensation would go away.

Never works, though.

So I go to the specialist and he takes a look and then decides that in order to see better he has to scope my throat.

"Ooh! A scope? How does this work?" You say delightedly.

Well, my friend, let me tell you.

They spray a combination decongestant/anesthetic up your nose. You have to inhale while they do it. Mine? Tasted like cinnamon. Burned the edges of my nostrils, too. Ow! Right after the taste faded, the coughing started. Bleah! Then the edges of my mouth started to go numb. You know when you go to the dentist and they numb your mouth and you feel like you're sitting there with your lower lip in your lap, talking like Mushmouth from the Fat Albert show? Yeah, it felt like that. Only my lip was only down to about my jawline. After the anesthetic was working the doctor came back and took me off to the throne room to be scoped.

No, I didn't make that one up. There's this big blue chair that looked rather throne-like, dominating the center of the room, that the doc called The Throne and had me sit in. It's surrounded by all manner of heavy, unrecognizable equipment that they weren't going to put up my nose. Just the scope, thanks. The doctor warned my that it would be a weird sensation - not really painful, just extremely weird and sneeze inducing - and then he put the scope in. At first, it was no problem. I even commented on what a strange job it would be to look up people's noses with a scope and he said that he liked it. As a matter of fact, he felt privileged to do so.

Uh...OK! I'll just sit here, then.

Then he went in deeper and that's when it all got weird/painful. Imagine, if you will, what it would feel like to have someone trying to make you sneeze. There's that weird tickly, almost but-not-quite pain sensation and a burning need to grab a tissue. Your eyes water. Then, zip!, he pulls the scope out and it's all over.

I'm happy to announce that there are no foreign objects in the back of my throat. No food, no vitamins, no stray Calico Critter toys, or anything else small and easily swallowed. Instead, it looks like I may have a bit of inflammation and possibly a swollen uvula.

Uvula is a funny word, isn't it? And it's a funny part of your anatomy, too. The kind you can ignore until something goes wrong with it. I may be having this sensation because my uvula is now sitting on the back of my tongue. I may have uvulitis:
At times, the mucous membrane around the uvula may swell, causing the uvula to expand 3-5 times its normal size. When the uvula touches the throat or tongue, it can cause sensations like gagging or choking, even though there is no foreign matter present. This can cause problems breathing, talking, and eating.

Isn't Wikipedia cool?

To treat the sensation I was given the choice between a) wait it out, b) take steroids for a week or c) take anti-acid reflux medication for 2 weeks. I've decided to wait it out and see what happens. Maybe it's the giant pre-natal vitamins I'm taking?


I'll explain that in a different post. Read on, my intrepid friends!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Caitlin's First Jog-a-thon

Caitlin's school had a fundraiser today in the form of a jog-a-thon.

Whaaaat?! You say. They expect mere children to run around for hours on end to earn filthy lucre for a public school?

Indeed, they do!

The Child, as you know, has an aversion to exercise and perceived competition. This made the jog-a-thon just ripe for breaking down into a sobbing heap! But wait! Let me set the stage:

Mid-morning on a nice, warm, cloudless day. Temperatures breaking into the 80s again, after acting like Seattle for a week. It was lovely! Caitlin and her classmates are all gathered in a pile on the grass getting the low down on how jog-a-thons work. Dozens of proud parents, some dressed to jog, are lined up on the sides ready to cheer their little athletes on. The track is 220 yards in length and is an oval shape lined with half dome shaped cones. The kids are expected to run, jog or walk around the outside of the cones for 20 minutes. Friends, neighbors and family members are expected to cough up dough for the kids who run. The kids all have white index cards which will receive one hole punch for each lap they make around the track.

Eight laps equal a mile.

Never having done this before, I line up with the parents and Caitlin with the kids. They set off running! Caitlin is in the pack, running/jogging around with them. She makes it through the first lap and gets her card punched. I cheer for her like the proud suburban mom I am (Don't call me a soccer mom! Them's fightin' words!). She heads off for her second lap.

This time, it seems to take longer before I see her coming. There are a pile of kids and she's small compared to the 3rd graders out there, so it's hard to tell where she is in the pack. I look some more and find her - the one moving slowest of all on the outside looking like she's about to cry any second. Her whole body is in the dejected pose and she barely hanging on to her card. I get closer and call out to her, thinking she was just missing me cheering her on. Nope. Once she sees me she drops to the ground and starts crying.

Poor bunny!

She's hot, she's tired, she doesn't want to run anymore! I explain to her, very nicely mind you, that she's not in a race and that she doesn't have to keep up with anyone else. There's no "winning" this jog-a-thon. It's all the kids, working together, to earn money for the school and that she isn't trying to beat anyone or win anything. This helps some, but she's still distraught. I then offer (as I'd planned to originally) to run or walk with her. She immediately grabs my hand and is willing to walk on to claim her second punch. She was 40' away from it when she stopped.

After receiving the punch I asked her if she was ready for a 3rd lap. After the 3rd lap, they are allowed to drink water, so I thought that surely she could make it that far.

She did.

She made it five more times around the track. One mile.


Never once did I badger her, either. I asked her each time if she wanted to try one more or stop for water and each time, after a little water, she was ready to keep on going. She was even disappointed when they called time and we had to stop! She received a 9th punch for good sportsmanship, along with everyone else that hadn't completed the final lap when the whistle sounded.

So there you have it: Caitlin's first fundraiser ended better than it started and I was very, very proud of her for finishing so well.


Friends and family members:

Consider yourselves hit up for cash. If you're willing to give, keep in mind that it will go to Caitlin's school and you will have a direct impact on helping her get ed-u-ma-cated. Any amount you feel comfortable giving would be gratefully accepted. We have until October 13th to send in the money. Let me know if you're interested! Caitlin would be psyched and if the school makes their target, all the kids get a congratulatory root beer float.

Here are a few gratuitously cute Caitlin pics from July to encourage you.
Cute, huh?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lunch - a gateway crafting drug

I bought the coolest lunchbox for Caitlin in August. You've seen it's contents, and recently I figured out how to display text for the contents when you mouse over the picture (Go on, try it!). It's the bento box system from Laptop Lunches that I found in a link from Valerie to Vegan Lunch Box, who had fabulous pictures of what her son was eating for lunch. In August, knowing that school was coming up, I looked up the lunchbox again and decided to buy it. Considering that we recycle and compost, why should I add to the waste stream by sending Caitlin with disposable lunch items? Sixty seven pounds of trash per child per year is nothing to sneeze at!

The lunch box led to napkin making.

The napkin making led to curtain sewing. Which turned into a dead end, thankfully. Whew! Who knows where I might have stopped on my crusade to sew straight lines?! (In case you were wondering, I was already baking so the cookies, cakes and breads are not part of the latest crafting craze at Chez Hatchet.)

Sometime before school started, I had read about love notes for kids, tucked away in their lunchboxes. I thought this was the sweetest thing, so I started doing it on Caitlin's first day of school. Later that day she told me all about finding the note and really liked it. She still likes getting them and notices if I miss a day. She can usually tell you what it said at the end of the day, too. So each day, I've written her something sweet, which is very helpful considering that we often part so unhappily.

I was banging around on Vegan Lunch Box again today (Way too much reliance on nuts for me to make use of many of her ideas - Caitlin's allergic!) and noticed a link to free lunch notes, so I went and had a look. Yes, they're almost too sweet, but darn it! I like them! So I'm going to be adding a few in to her lunch. Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with original lunchbox content 5 days a week?! Pretty tough! Besides, she'll probably like the drawings and will be able to read them easier than my handwriting - even my block printing can be tough to read when you're 5!

So there you have it.

Recycling > composting > unprocessed lunches > zippy lunchboxes > napkins > sappy love notes.

It's all a plot, I tell you! A plot to domesticate me! I won't have it!

So tell me: What's your dirty little crafting secret?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Flowered Path Less Traveled

I know you've all been waiting with bated breath for this moment, but it's finally here! I am finished with the strip garden on the left side of the stairs!

The original, visitor-eating left strip on 8/17:

To this, stripped down version, on 8/31 (Note the Borg Strawberry plants in front.):

To this, half-way through planting on 9/8 (Notice the pile of strawberry plants still in front? This is after I'd already ripped out the first bunch and threw them away!):

Finally, it looks like this, as of 9/12 (Work stopped for a few days due to seemingly incessant rain.):

This bed now includes 4 alyssum 'Basket of Gold', 5 phlox subulata, 2 heather 'Mrs. Maxwell', 10 Russian stonecrop sedum, 3 coreopsis, 2 new (one from seed and one from the backyard) and 1 relocated lavender, 3 blue flax, 5 'Johnson's Blue' geraniums, 5 wild Sweet William and the clematis tanguica at the top of the stairs that needs a trellis to grow on. That's 41 plants and a bunch of mulch and no strawberry plants. Those are in a box at the end of my driveway with a sign that reads: "FREE strawberry plants! Have some!"

Technically, I'm not done done done until I get the weeds out from under the clematis. However, I'm calling this good enough so that I can get more plants relocated from the backyard to the front. I can weed whenever I feel the need (har har har!) and it would photograph the same way! So now there are new plants on either side, none of which should make it higher than 2' tall. Except for the climbers, of course.

This oughtta keep the bees below your knees!

Come on in! The stairs are fine!

Caitlin Says...

While playing with Pediatrician Barbie (who has twins) and Single Mom Midge (who has a singleton), Barbie and Midge were having a conversation that was overheard:

Barbie: "Isn't it funny how babies come out of where you pee?"
Midge: "It is!"

Honey, you don't know the half of it!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Would you like some whine with that?

Our scene opens: early morning in Colorado. The house awakens.

The whining begins.

Whining topics: tooth brushing, having to move faster brushing teeth, eating breakfast, having to move faster eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing hair, putting on shoes, having to move faster putting on shoes.

Time in the world of the Child is infinite. Unfortunately, where I live, time is finite. When 7:30 am rolls around, we need to be out of the house and walking up the hill. We need to leave whether or not the Child has finished all of her early morning tasks at her glacial speed. The walk, for which we allow 30 minutes (it only takes 20 on a good day), stretches out in time the way that awful things happen in slow motion in movies.

We make it onto the first block away from our house. As in, two houses down and the complaints start rolling in.

"I'm tired!"
"I'm cold!"
"I don't wanna go to school!"
"It's too far!"

It's the same distance it is every day. Some days she runs ahead of me, up the hill, and is happy and singing. I really like those days. On these days, days where the whining starts early and keeps on going (rather like the Duracell bunny), until tears start and the sharp voiced Mommy Voice of Doom has to be broken out, I really don't like the walk. I allow 30 minutes for a 20 minute walk because we have to stop 5 times and talk the Cranky Child into continuing up the hill. We have told her:
  1. School is required by law until age 16. If we don't take you, mommy and daddy will get in trouble with the law.
  2. She really likes being in school, once she's there.
  3. All of her new friends are at school.
  4. There's recess. Three times a day.
  5. It doesn't matter that she doesn't want to go to school. She has to go. Just as daddy has to go to work, when he'd really rather stay home and play, the Child has to go to school.

We try to be logical. We try to be sympathetic. I end up using the Mommy Voice of Doom. The one that talks in short, sharp, easily understood sentences. Small words, spoken with dead seriousness and with as little emotion as I can. Inside, I seethe with anger and try to stuff it down.

Her bedtime is getting earlier and earlier. We'll be waking her up earlier tomorrow, too, to give her yet more time to brush her teeth with glacial slowness. I suspect she will fill the extra time with yet more stalling techniques.

Tomorrow, we'll try again.

Happy Birthday, Ed!

September 11th means a lot of things to a lot of people, however, I remember that it is also a day on which people were born, some have gotten married or had children.

Somehow, it's more significant to me to remember those folks, who might feel shuffled to the back of the bus. So this one's for you, Ed!

Happy Birthday!

Thanks for coming out to Caitlin's 5th birthday party with the Val and the boys. It meant a lot to us here at Chez Hatchet.

Extreme close-up photo by Val. (I usually have to stand on a chair.)

Ed and the boys check out the hammock together.



Squeakes! Contemplating the fabulousness that is Valerie.

We love you all! *smooch*

P.S. Yes, I admit it. I did double check Val's blog to make sure I got the boy's names right! I'm not that good!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Introducing the Hatchet Miracle Weight Loss Program!

That's right - you've heard it here first!

The brand spanking new Woman with a Hatchet's Miracle Weight Loss Program. Listen to what our satisfied clients have to say about it:

"I lost 4 pounds in 2 weeks! Without dieting!"*

You too, can have fabulous results! There's no secret, no crazy dieting (Unlike the Protein Sparing Modified Fast - ask me how I know about that one!) and no waiting. You can start your program today!

We call our program Power Gardening. Here's how it works...
  1. Walk your child to school and rack up ~5 miles per day, 5 days a week!
  2. Upon returning home from drop off, garden like mad for 4 to 6 hours per day, 5 days a week!
  3. As always, proper diet is an essential part of losing weight. Drop down to only one dessert a day!
  4. Watch those calories and try not to eat as many doughnuts or drink as many mugs of chai as you have hands!

That's it! That's all there is to it. Wake up early, walk walk walk, garden garden garden, walk walk walk and eat a little less of all those things you like to eat anyway.

This Public Service Announcement brought to you by: Woman with a Hatchet. Maker of bigger and better gardens everywhere!

* Your results may vary. Climatic conditions and school holidays may also affect your results.

---End Advertisement--

That's right, baby! I'm wearin' mah skinny jeans now!


Friday, September 08, 2006

Being smart enough to come in from the rain


It's raining here. In Colorado. Water is falling from the sky.

No, really! I kid you not! It has been raining on and off all day. I was out gardening (of course) and had to stop because it started to rain on me. I stuck it out through the very light drizzle part, since I had plants in hand that needed to get put back in the ground. However, when I could actually feel raindrops hitting my back, I had to call it quits.

Later, I returned in the afternoon to finish putting in that last plant. It had been waiting since noon but since it's so overcast, cool and rainy I didn't have to worry about it drying out, even with its roots exposed.

What is it about rainy days that make me so sleepy and sort of sad? The Beebs is sleeping upstairs, tired out from a day filled with three recesses.

I am not joking: three.

You can see how you'd need a nap to recuperate!

Well, I guess I'll just have to go and make some garden drawings, since I can't move that poppy mallow I had my eye on. Due to the rain.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The End of Hummer

You know, it seems like I had just noticed they were there and now they are all gone. Headed off to Costa Rica to spend the winter sipping nectar from exotic species of plants and playing in the jungle.


My hummingbirds, of course!

I think I saw the last one of the season yesterday on the backyard feeder. So in honor of their disappearance (What do you mean it's Fall?!), here are my notes, written 7/25 and 8/10, with pics.

First, the backstory (There's always a backstory) from 7/25:

I've been adding hummingbird attracting flowers for the last few years and yet nary a sight of one. The whole thing started years ago when I was working for Large Corporation (6 years ago?). One day, when I was really really sad, Eric took me into the backyard to give me some "green therapy". Looking at plants always makes me feel better. Suddenly, there was a hummingbird! Sipping nectar from one of my flowers! Then, zip! it was gone. I've never seen one since then.

Until yesterday [7/25].

The sight of the first one made me go crazy planting hummingbird attracting flowers, but I never actually SAW anymore until yesterday around 8:45am in my front yard. Yeehaw! Of course, it was mostly out of the corner of my eye - it zipped past me near the stairs, over to the cherry tree and the scarlet gilia (tubular shaped, red flowers) and then was gone. Desire to plant yet more red flowers: increased 10x!

Then this morning, Caitlin was eating her cereal around 9am and said, "There's a hummingbird." I have to admit that I didn't believe her at first, but Eric looked and confirmed a hummer on my cardinal flower vine on the back deck! It stayed there long enough for me to sprint over and see it. Yay!

I immediately started water boiling to make a sugar solution to go into the hummingbird feeder. Hah!

Now I'm just waiting for it to cool down and then I'll put it outside and see if my little friend returns!

Yayyyyyy! Hummingbirds!

Next year, yet more cardinal vines on the back deck! Yet more spying out the front window looking for hummingbirds.

That was all it took for me to turn the front yard into a hummingbird wonderland. Agastaches everywhere. On 8/10, I took pictures, at Eric's suggestion. You'd think I'd have just done it on my own, but I was just enjoying seeing them and didn't think about capturing them on film. Once I did it, I was really glad that I did. Now I have something to remember during the long winter, while waiting for April 15th - the date that hummers are expected to hit Colorado again in the spring. You can bet that next year I will have my feeders out on April 15th and will be waiting and watching for my hummers to return. Of course, I'll have planted a lot more plants between now and then!
Here's my note from 8/10, with pictures.

I'm sorry! Did you just say, "Show me some blurry hummingbird pics!"?


I thought you did! Here you go!

Here's the story with these pics: The first set were all taken on 8/9, in the front yard. Not 10 minutes after having installed this new, improved feeder (with bee guards) a hummer came to check it out and have a sip.

I think this is a female broad-tailed. Anyone have a better idea?

Zoomed in:

Feeding. That's homemade sugar water, from the kitchens of Chez Hatchet.

There are two of them, at the very least [Later I saw three together at one time fighting off yellow jackets from the backyard feeder. Family group?]. I never see more than 2 at one time and it usually involves one of the two being chased off. Normally from a feeder, this time from scarlet gilia. The gilia (which gets TALL when you water it regularly) is a big hit! Is that a Rufous? It seems very brown underneath.

Checking out my agastaches. The orange-pink flower to the left. The agastaches and Texas sage are BIG with the hummers.

Dive bomber. This is what a hummer headed STRAIGHT FOR YOU looks like. Gotta love a shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second to stop those wings!

By the way, these are all heavily cropped photos. Even with my monster 200mm lens, these are tiny birds, too far away. The difference looks like this:

Or this. Check out those feet! So cute!

This set is all from my backyard feeder, taken this evening. Irridescent green back. Check.

Acrobatic. Check.

Tiny feet. Check.

Is this a female or a juvenile male? Question mark.

S/he played peek-a-boo with me. I'd take a picture and she'd pop up and look at me, in between sips. Sip. Peek. Click. Sip. Peek. Click.

Then she flew up, two feet from my face, to check me out and then zipped away. Coolness!

Goodbye tiny birds! See you next year! Don't forget to tell the rest of your friends! We'll have remodeled the yard for ya, when you get back. Don't forget to write!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Petition Drive!

I get a lot of different requests for petition signing in my inbox and I often sign them. If it's related to women's issues or healthcare or the environment, I'm a sure thing. Today's petition has made me angry.

It's commonsense that people should have ready access to their doctor-prescribed medication.

The anti-choice movement doesn't think so. They believe pharmacists should have the right to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions on "personal, moral or religious grounds." As a result, pharmacists around the country are refusing to fill their customer's birth control prescriptions and states such as Washington and Mississippi are supporting them.

Go to and sign the petition.
What is up with pharmacists these days? What gives them the right to place their morals as having a higher imperative than my doctor prescribed medications? They are not my priest. They are not my doctor. They are no one to me other than the person I am looking at to provide a service. If they can't handle providing the service of filling the damned prescriptions, then they should get out of the pharmacy business. It's like deliberately joining the military and refusing to wield a weapon. Does it make sense to do such a thing if you're going to refuse to meet the needs of half the planet's population? Where do they get off? And why don't we hear about them refusing to fill Viagra prescriptions?


So go to and sign the petition that is
...calling on Congress to support the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act to ensure that every woman in every state can get her prescription for birth control filled, whether or not an individual pharmacist has an objection.

That is, if you believe that you and your doctor know what is best for you instead of the person that's supposed to just fill the prescription and stay the hell outta your business!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On healthcare and second children

Just so you know, we're now the face of the healthcare crisis in the US.

Whee! Aren't we lucky?

As you may know, we've been tossing around the idea of having a second child, since the first one has turned out pretty well. Except for the whining, that is. We thought and thought and thought about it and decided: Yeah, we should do this thing. The question then became: When? We held off while Eric was in law school, because it was stressful enough without the sleeplessness a new infant provides and then we held off while we waited for Eric to get a job.

I was hoping to share the second pregnancy woes with Misty, but she decided to jump the gun, get knocked up sooner than I expected and move to NJ.

Yeah, I know: Ew! (Just the NJ part, Misty! I'm excited for you and li'l Oliver!)

"Oh, but, hasn't Eric put out his own shingle," you ask? Why yes, yes he has. So where's the getting on with the bun in the oven action?

Well...there's the small issue of health insurance. See, neither of us are employed by The Man and so we don't get to share in The Man's healthcare insurance rates. Instead, we have catastrophic insurance coverage only which a) costs us a lot upfront in the medical offices, but the monthly rates are low and b) doesn't cover maternity needs. Eric has been doing research on the issue and has discovered that insurance companies really don't want to have to pay out on maternity insurance. Since it's a special "extra" insurance, they know that when you ask to purchase it, you must be planning on getting pregnant. Which, in turn, means that they are going to have to actually (Gasp!) pay out! So the cost is exhorbitant and doesn't kick in for a year after you have the insurance.

Upon hearing all of this, I started to cry.

I guess that really tells you that I'm not as ambivalent about having a second kid as I thought I was. I guess I really do want another -- crazy as that seems.

Eric then had to talk me down off my "We can't afford to have another kid because of health insurance?!" bender. He assured me that we don't have to wait a year before getting pregnant, but that we'd have to have the insurance for a year. So technically, we could start "trying" in 3 months. You see, I know that while my doctors don't consider me to be of "advanced maternal age", I am not excited about the prospect of finding out exactly when that kicks in. A year from now? Two? Damn!

After all, this is going to be a knowingly expensive pregnancy. I am planning on having a planned c-section this time. I figure, I already have the scar and I'm not willing to go through the trauma of a "normal" delivery again only to have an emergency c-section when my body doesn't cooperate. Again. So, one c-section and at least 2 ultrasounds. I want to know that the next and last baby I'm carrying is healthy. Call me paranoid (I am, thank you.), but I want to know that everything is alright.

Well, there it is. We'd like to have a second child. Caitlin really wants a sibling. Now we just need to get there.

Wish us luck!

Caitlin Says...

As we were walking home from school today, Caitlin asked me why the dinosaurs went extinct.

"Well, " says I. "Some scientists think a huge meteor hit the Earth and changed the climate so much that it killed them off. Other scientists think there was a huge earthquake or volcanic eruption that also changed the climate and killed them off. What do you think?"

"I think, " speaketh the babe, "that they all went to Mars."


"They all went to Mars. On a spaceship. A big dinosaur spaceship." Pause. "With beds."

"In case they got tired on the trip there?"

"Yeah. And they had suits on with strings on that let them go outside in space."

"You mean spacesuits? With tethers that attached them to the ship?"


Imagining dinosaurs performing EVAs.

"Do you think longnecks would have really, really big helmets?" Caitlin asks.

"Well, if I was to guess, I'd think they'd have a small helmet that just covered their head, but a really loooong neck section of their suit." She agrees to this technical suggestion's validity. "What about triceratops? Do you think their horns would be exposed to space or would they be inside the helmet?"

"Oh, they'd be in space. The helmet would seal around their horns."

We continued home, the long downhill tread and then ate some fresh banana bread. A good day, overall.

So there you have it. The dinosaurs, seeing that the climate was getting bad (due to meteor, volcano and/or earthquake), headed out to Mars in their giant dinosaur spaceships. They had beds and spacesuits and liked to go on spacewalks. They were crafty, those dinosaurs!

What do you think happened to them?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Return of the Shrub of Doom

You know, when you start gardening for 8 hours straight, with a one hour break for lunch, you've quite possibly moved from having a hobby to having an obsession.

I think I crossed that path long ago. However, it's become really obvious to everyone else in the neighborhood, too.

Today, while I was outside installing some Russian stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum ellacombianun), a neighbor dropped by and said nice things to me. One thing he said was this: "You have to be the hardest working gardener in our town!" He shook his head in amazement and walked on.

There's something about praise from a stranger. It's unlooked for and very sweet. Heartfelt compliments, from perfect strangers that are moved by the sheer amount of work involved in putting together this garden, are a heady thing. I've never, in all the years we've lived here, spoken to as many people as I have this year since working on the garden in May. They stop by while walking their dogs and/or children. They stop while driving. One even came directly to the door and chatted with Eric for awhile. I've even seen folks walking or driving by slowing down to take a good look at what is going on in the front yard. Some of our neighbors have told us that they look forward to seeing what else I'm going to do, each year.

All of these years, I've had the worst internal conversations with our neighbors in my head. Whaaat? Don't you have biting comments from the voice inside that tells you everything you're doing is wrong?

Must just be me, then!

That voice, all these years has been my version of The Voice of the Neighborhood. And it was a grumpy, complaining voice.

"What's she doing now?"

"Is she ever going to weed that stuff?"

"Why do we have such people living in our neighborhood?"

"Get some lawn!"

I worried for years, inside, about what the neighbors were thinking whenever they looked at my yard. Without a doubt, the most unkempt yard in the 'hood. No lawn. Wildflowers. Weeds. And a truckload of mulch, dotted with random plants. I thought they must have despaired of ever being able to sell their houses with such an unconventional house on the corner of the development. However, after last May and especially this year, that voice has changed considerably.

Now, I know what they are thinking. They are thinking they like what I'm doing. That I'm adding something to the neighborhood. That, yes, I'm different, but I'm doing something that they can share in, too. It's a heady feeling. It moves me to keep on digging and planting until I finish my vision of a my garden that keeps me from sleeping at night.

Oh, but what about the Shrub of Doom? Well...let me tell you.

Remember how I was working on the Sunflower Replacing Garden? Every garden has to have a name, but The Right Hand Strip just doesn't sound very special, does it? Sunflower Replacing Garden is the best I can do at the moment.

Well, the SRG has been moving along very quickly.

From this, on 8/17...

To this on 8/31.

After I'd ripped out the trashcan filling piles of sunflowers and other doomed wildflowers.

On 9/2, I woke up at 5:30am because I just couldn't sleep anymore. I needed to draw up my plan for what would go in the SRG. I worked on it (With graph paper, compass, triangle and colored pencils, even!) until breakfast time and then I got to work around 11am.

Remember how I said their leaves were trembling in fear? They were right to be afraid. I pulled them all out except for the lavender in the corner.

They were all jealous of the lavender. "What makes that one so special?" They grouse alot, those plants.

I considered rototilling around all of the plants, but discarded that idea because it's insane. Instead, I "lifted" (Don't I sound like I know what I'm doing?) all of the plants, save for the lavender, and moved them all out of the way. Then I rototilled the heck out of the very hard clay soil (watered it the night before to soften it) and then raked it smooth. I then added in 3 bags of compost (still not enough compost in my compost bin to cover a 3.5' x 20'10" section), raked that in to the soil and smoothed it out again. Then, it was time for lunch. Whew!

Prepared soil.

Here it is, by the end of the day on 9/2. Perhaps it doesn't look like much at first. Look closer.

There are 3 phlox subulata, 3 yellow coreopsis (original to the site), 6 salvia 'Blue Hill', 4 Keys of Heaven, 1 (purchased) Mrs. Maxwell heather, 3 goldenrod (from seed this spring), 3 pink yarrow (from seed last spring), 3 'Johnson's Blue' geraniums, 2 lavenders (the original received a friend), 6 blue flax (original) and a honeysuckle. It's been so long since that honeysuckle has bloomed that I have no idea what it will look like. Yellow? Magnifica? I don't know.

I finished at 7:30pm, knowing that there was still more that needed to go in tomorrow, 9/3.

It was a garden mostly made up of plants from the backyard, where they were languishing in the shade. What used to be a full sun garden in back has become a part sun garden. Not enough to keep these plants happy, thus the relocation to the front yard. All the other plants in back are jealous.

Today I woke up at 1:30am (since I still couldn't sleep) and drew the plans for the left strip garden. The left hand side of the stairs. The side with RoundUp sprayed on it. Yeah, I've got a plan for that one, too. No, it's not identical to this one. That would have been too simple, wouldn't it? Besides, I have a pattern to continue on the left.

Aching and tired, I started work around 11:30am or so today and finished around 3:30pm. I installed all of the ground covers that will help to fill in the SRG.

Six more phlox subulata, 6 purple ice plants (grown from seed this summer), and 11 Russian stonecrop (from seed this spring).

And then, the mulch.

Remember that parts of The Shrub of Doom made it to our town's shrub collection center? Well, they shredded all that they'd received and made it available to the public for free as mulch. Free mulch?! Ooh! That's the way we spent early Saturday morning: shoveling mulch into six huge black plastic leaf bags and tossing them into the trunk. It was about 12' tall and unknowably wide. We didn't even make a dent in it by the time we were done.

The Shrub of Doom has returned home again, along with thousands of its other doomed buddies, in the form of mulch.

I like it lots better this way! Now, it's useful.

Three days and sixty five plants later, I have a new garden. I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like next year!

And so are the neighbors.

The Shrub of Doom

Originally emailed 8/15/06. With updates!

As many of you know, we "lovingly" referred to the beastly shrub that squatted on the corner of our property as The Shrub of Doom. It was huge and evil. It gave me raised welts if I tried to prune it back and it never looked like anything other than a giant green hulking beast of a shrub. It was planted by the original owners as a way to keep the folks headed for the bus stop from crossing the corner of their property and killing their lawn. Well, I've gotta tell you, it worked. There's no WAY anyone would have tried to walk on that thing once it was established.

We've left it alone since we had lots of other things to occupy our time with, gardening-wise. Especially since flowers are way more interesting than dealing with evil shrubs. Last year, someone from the city code enforcement came by and asked me to cut it down to 18" so that folks would have better visibility going around the corner. Given this directive, I WHACKED the living heck outta that thing. A little anger management, you might say. Scalped, the shrub looked nastier than ever.

This year, after the giant planting was over in May, I started thinking about how nice things would be with the Shrub of Doom (hereafter known as SOD) removed. During one of Caitlin's gymnastics classes I even drew up a plan for what I would replace it with. Lovely little bits: caryopteris, sage, lavender, yarrow, goldenrod, shasta daisies, columbine, clematis and more. I convinced Eric to help me and starting on July 11th, I started trimming the beast back. I was only able to take a small amount off and stuff it into our trash container.

Look at the SIZE of that thing! Eight feet wide, 13 feet long.

As big as a car.

Scalped look was niiiiice! This, by the way, was AFTER I had trimmed the very front section where it met the sidewalk. There was so MUCH of it that my tiny trimming made nary a dent.

A car with a bald spot.

A few weeks later, K & J graciously offered to take some of the limbs off to the recycling center in their town, where it would be turned into mulch. I eagerly took them up on their offer and Eric and I went a-choppin'. I didn't take a picture of that state, sorry! It looked pretty bad when we were done with that first cut. Then on August 5th, I convinced Eric to wake up REALLY early and whack more off the shrub and then tote it off to our town's shrub recycling center. In case you were wondering why we didn't do this before, our center is only open the first weekend of the month, and we kept missing it. We stuffed his car full of shrub bits. It took him two trips, but all of the major branches were GONE!

And his car had that lovely pine scent. No tiny cardboard tree required!

The Shrub of Doom was DOOMED!

On 8/12, we went out early in the morning with mattock, shovel and loppers in hand and cut the stumps down a bit. Turns out there were TWO of that shrub! Oh, and the neighbors, watching all of this going on would slow down and stare. Lots of folks gave us the thumbs up sign. Many stopped and cheered us on and expressed their utter hatred of that shrub. We weren't certain how to take that at first - were they mad we took so long to get rid of it or did they just hate the damned shrub? Anyway, lots of positive reinforcement from random neighbors that we don't know by name. BTW, you wouldn't BELIEVE the sheer amount of trash, broken bricks, concrete and asphalt we found while digging! It was horrible! Bags and bags of trash that collected under the shrub for years. There was trash from when they built the HOUSE, in 1988. Bleah!

The beginning of the real work.

On 8/13, after feeling frustrated with pure manual labor using the mattock, Eric went out and bought a chainsaw. Unfortunately, the chainsaw was too wimpy to handle the SOD. On the box it came in, it was referred to as the "Log Master". Clearly they were mistaken. It became know to us as the "Twig Master"! Not tough enough for the job at hand. Eric returned it in disgust. When asked if he had used it, he replied in disgust, "Of course. That's how I know it doesn't work!"

They took it back.

The Twig Master in Use

Notice the Mantis (red mini rototiller) in the corner of the picture? That little bugger was worth every cent I spent on it way back when. I used it to dig way down around the stumps, exposing and lopping off roots as I went. It's great! Every gardener should have one! They are kinda rough on in-ground sprinklers, though, so be warned (Why yes I HAVE chopped up several sprinkler lines, why do you ask?)!

So...Eric switched back to the mattock. A bit of anger management later and pa-pa-pa-POW! The first stump was history!

Eric Triumphant

Then, it was time to take on the second stump. Feeling confident, Eric set to with a will. Ka-CHOP! And the second one bit the dust.

The End of the Shrub of Doom

On 8/14, Eric put in the sprinkler system and I spread the soil back out again.

I immediately ripped a hole in the brand new sprinkler system with the Mantis.

Eric fixed it right away. Chastened, I went back to moving soil with a metal rake. Waah!

Today, I tossed down 5 bags of compost (No, I didn't have enough in my compost bin to cover it - sniffle!) and raked it in. Then I collected my plants, some of which have been waiting since May to go into the ground, getting bigger and leggier by the day. Those 2" peat pots were outgrown months ago! I put in one caryopteris, 6 goldenrod, 3 lavender, 3 salvia nemorosa, 3 shasta daisies, 7 yarrow, and 12 blue columbine. After 3 hours of this, I was pretty toasted. Later in the afternoon I tossed down 5 bags of mulch, seeds for red butterfly weed, yellow-orange coreopsis and red Danebrog poppy and then watered it all in.

I have plans to add yet more plants, some scrounged from my pots like Russian stonecrop, and lots from the garden: winecups, phlox subulata, clematis (spring, summer and fall blooming), blue fescue grasses and whatever else strikes my fancy in September or October. It's too hot to try to transplant too many things right now. I don't want to have to water 3 times a day or to lose anything tough to replace. So there it is: the Shrub of Doom replaced by a nifty new insta-garden! I had lots more people stop by and cheer me on today, too. I lost count after about 8 people. Heh! I warned them that I was putting plants in, but that they wouldn't reach the gargantuan size of the SOD.

Oh, you know that sign? The one that says Saddleback? I am SO tempted to remove it and put our last name on it with a cat silhouette in its place. So tempted....

She of the green thumb and red back is now dreaming of more gardening....

Update: Neighbors continue to drop by while I'm out gardening and thank me for tearing out the shrub. Never was there a plant more vilified than this one. Just today one man told me that we had really improved the look of the neighborhood by taking it out and thanked us for our hard work. Hah! The shrub - from it's grave it has introduced me to my neighbors.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Scooba: How Do I Love Thee?

I love thee to the depth and breadth of the living room.
I love thee to the farthest reaches of the kitchen and dining rooms.
I love thee for how clean you leave my floors, though the water
is greatly black.
I love thee with a passion set aside for useful things.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
when the Roomba stopped working.
I love thee with all the time I have gained
by no longer having to mop, thus enabling my multi-tasking.
And so long as your battery lasts, I will love thee still!

It's always a mistake to nickname your cat "Pooper"

Originally emailed 7/26 - now with updates!

I'd say it's a mistake to name or nickname any animal anything that has anything remotely to do with bodily functions, but most especially elimination. You're just asking Karma to bite you in the ass.

As you all know, Pixel has been crotchety ever since we got the new kittens.

The Culprit

Some of you have had personal experience cleaning up after him (We're REALLY sorry!) when he has pooped or peed on the floor RIGHT NEXT TO the cat boxes. You probably hated it. We hate it. We tried all sorts of things.

  1. Checked with the vet: is he sick? Several hundred dollars later for testing... Nope. Perfectly healthy except for the lumps and being 16. Other than that, no sign of any infections.
  2. Maybe just one cat box that's cleaned daily isn't enough? $20 in plastic storage boxes later... We tried adding two more cat boxes. Nope. Now MORE cat boxes to pee NEXT to.
  3. Twice daily cleaning. Any difference? Nope. Random days WITHOUT peeing. No consistency.
  4. New cat litter? Sometimes in it, mostly next to it.
  5. Cleaned the floor with enzyme solution. Cleaned the floor with bleach. Cleaned the boxes with OxyClean. Cleaned the boxes with bleach. Randomly peeing/not peeing or pooping/not pooping. Still no pattern.
  6. Bought the expensive cat attracting litter additive (smells like catnip and something else). Nope. The kittens LOVE it, though. The scratching, it is incessant. Perhaps they love it too much!
  7. Tried adding a cat box in OUR bathroom. Proximity problem? Nope. Peed right next to that one too. Now I have to clean my tile up, too!
  8. Bought the really expensive cat pheromone thingy. And the pheremone spray. No response.
  9. Tried spraying the really horrible smelling bad cat stuff around. Still nothing, except now MY nose was offended. Choking and coughing ensued.

So we figured it must be the kittens. They must be chasing him or cornering him, or he THINKS they're about to so he pees/poops and runs. He isn't leaving unhappy presents throughout the house or anything - just RIGHT NEXT TO the cat boxes. Now we're desperate and have decided it's time for a crash course in retraining. We locked him into Caitlin's bathroom for2-3 days with a cat box, his food, water, a mat to lay on, a toy and a scratching post. We visited often throughout the day.

Not one single accident.

Yup. It's the kittens.

They look innocent, don't they? (Kaboom on left, Domino on right.)

Now we've moved him into the exercise room where it's a much bigger space and (hopefully) more comfortable. He's always excited to see us and purrs and purrs and purrs. Dedicated Pixel time. No kittens.

Not one single accident.

Now, it would be cruel to leave him locked away in that room for the rest of his life, so we've decided to install a magnetically locking cat door (it's in the mail to us right now) with a collar "key" that will unlock the door. This should keep the kittens out completely. The plan is to train him to go in and out of the cat door using treats and attention. We will leave his food, water and cat box in there. The other cats will not be allowed in. We're HOPING that he can learn that THIS is his safe place and where he is expected to use the cat box. We're hoping we can give him access to the rest of the house once he proves willing to go in and out of the cat door and that he won't try to go in the basement again.

This is our hope.

If that doesn't work, then we're gonna start locking him up in there every night, letting him out only after he's eaten his breakfast and putting him away every night with his dinner. We'll also be taking up the kitten's food once Caitlin is done with her breakfast, so they will need to learn to eat FASTER!

I'm hoping it doesn't come to that. Otherwise we could be looking at another 10 years of solitary confinement! Aieee!

Wish us luck!

P.S. In case you're wondering what took us so long, previously it was "just" poop, which is irritating, but VERY easy to clean up. Lately, it seems to be both ALL THE TIME. That got old REALLY fast.

Update to the story:

Well, we taught him to go in and out of the door. No poop/pee occured for the first few days and then suddenly, it started up again. Both in his new room and in the basement. Whaaaaat?! In one location isn't enough for you? Aargh!

So I talked to the vet again while I had Domino in for a well visit. She said that we were extremely dedicated owners, she's never seen the like. Kudos to us. Then she suggested anti-anxiety meds. For my cat. Clearly, says she, he's not happy with the other cats and this pattern will continue. Try the drugs for a month and see how it goes.

Well, I'm here to tell you that a) my kitty is on meds and b) it's working. For awhile we were still locking him up at night, since that's when he was at his worst. Now we've tried letting him roam free - after taking up the kitten food. As soon as we put his food down in his room in the morning, he immediately walks downstairs and lurks near the kitten food. He expects that since it's early, I won't notice him sneaking bites. Sometimes he's right, but mostly he just gets yelled at and skulks off to wait for me to get distracted again.

So there you have it - we've traded pooping and peeing next to the cat boxes for a hole in our door and drugs. I've had him for 16 years (longer than I've been with Eric), so I can't justify kicking him to the curb over this. I may be able to imagine it, but not actually do it.

Three cheers for modern medicine and magnetic kitty doors! Huzzah!
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