Friday, May 30, 2008

Rubber Duckies in the Bird Bath

Just that kind of day (and a pleasant contrast to yesterday morning).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And It's Not Even 7:00AM

Every few months, my husband goes on a pretty nasty schedule at work. It means I am functionally a single parent for that time, taking care of all the pick up, drop off, cooking, house stuff, school stuff, games, other needs, and so on. He's on that schedule now. None of us likes it, and the kids are adept at choosing these times (intentionally or not) to push my buttons.

When my husband left the house about 6:00 this morning, S-having crawled in with us about 4:00AM- roused enough to give him a kiss and hug. Just after he left, S declared that she wanted her daddy to get her some juice (in a sippy cup, a morning ritual). I explained that Daddy had left for work and she needed to sleep some more anyway. Total four year old meltdown ensued. I was mostly able to calm her down but then needed to come downstairs to get C on the bus. Further sleep did not happen.

The meltdown has continued, however. A few minutes ago, I took her juice up. She became quite angry and made clear she wanted Daddy, not me, to bring her juice. She even came downstairs with the juice, put it in the fridge, declared again that she wanted Daddy, not me to bring her juice, and she would not drink my juice. Then continued the meltdown. Well, now.

She is currently up in her room cooling off.

Meanwhile, C is trying to get out the door. For some reason, he decided today was the day to ask for his allowance (they have to ask for it to get it), and I asked if he had any change for a $20. C goes up stairs and then comes back down in a huff declaring "someone" has "stolen" some money from him in a very accusatory tone. He's sure it's M who has done this, and he wants me to do something about it now. Thing is, M is alseep. But not for long.

I had a brief discussion with C about being careful about throwing around accusations, taking the opportunity to look for the money later and - couldn't help myself - noted that if he kept his things picked up and organized in his room, "losing" money might be less likely to happen.

C went upstairs with a flashlight to look for his money, taking his nasty attitude with him and waking up his brother along the way. Nasty words between the two of them echo down the stairs, and I have to ask each of them to back off and chill out. By this time, of course, C is almost late for the bus and we need to rush him out the door.

As I watch for C to get on the bus from the window, cut back to S. M can't resist teasing her, and does. M tries to play innocent, but there's S's awful 'leave me alone!' voice emanating from her room, not helping the intended cool-off time. Here's where I just about lose my shit. I have had enough.

Somehow I managed to pull back, get back to my cup of coffee and land here. Blogging as therapy, indeed.

It's going to be a long day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


My oldest nephew (21) is spending the summer in our area. He has a well-regarded internship with an organization in the immediate suburbs of our city (as opposed to my outer suburb). When the boys learned that he was coming, they were thrilled. They wanted to know how much he'd be around, and so on. As the internship is fairly intense, I tried to temper their expectations.

M has an event at school today. It's the 2nd grade special friend luncheon. As soon as the information went out, he asked if his beloved cousin could be his special friend. I wasn't sure when Big C would actually arrive, and given the demands of the internship was pretty sure it wouldn't work out, so I tried to lower M's expectations. He did make me promise that I would at least ask. Then we filled out the lunch form with me as the special friend (he wasn't pleased about that - to him I'm Mom, which is nothing special at all).

But I asked, and last week Big C said that yes, his schedule would work out so that he could be at the luncheon. Awesome kid, that Big C.

I decided not to tell M (or C or S) and make it a surprise.

Big C arrived in on our coast late Monday (my sister/his mom pulling some stunts at the last minute, sadly). I picked him up late yesterday afternoon on my way home from work (amid serious thunderstorms) and we drove down to our town. Great to see him.

The looks on the kids' faces when they realized Big C was here - and especially M's when I told him that Big C would attend his luncheon - was priceless. Truly. Big, big grins.

Since then, it's been a Big C love-fest. The kids spent the rest of yesterday competing with each other for Big C's attention. It was really sweet to watch. The dog loves him, too. I'm really glad to have him around.

Big C goes back up to the other suburb later today and we'll see him again next week. But if last night is any indication, it's going to be a good summer, for all of us.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Thanks to eba, I witnessed this guy's fourth career grand slam this afternoon. Put that together with the playoff game I saw last October, and I've witnessed two of his four career grand slams.

Just as exciting was witnessing Pantheist Mom's boyfriend's grand slam.

Thanks, eba. That was fun. And I even made it to pick up C, M and S on time!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

No Matching Mailboxes!

In early 2001, when my husband was being heavily courted by an organization in Nashville, Tennessee, the very nice people at this place flew the family to Nashville for a long weekend to wine and dine us in an effort to convince us – well, me – that we really, really wanted to move to Nashville. They put us up in a nice hotel, arranged guides and babysitters so we could see the area, look at real estate, go to dinner, and so on. It was a very nice weekend even if I was not convinced in the end.

On one of the days out with the real estate agent, she was driving us through neighborhoods that were perfectly nice, but something about them just felt off to me, something beyond it being Nashville (no offense to Nashville, really, I’m just not a Southerner, and it’s better for all of us that I realized that). About the fifteenth subdivision of the tour, I realized that in every neighborhood/subdivision, the homes all had matching mailboxes. I also realized that I felt that if I moved into one of these neighborhoods – perfectly nice, I’m sure – that I might as well move to Stepford. Matching and being alike according to regulations did not appeal to me at all. Too much matching with the neighbors makes me twitch.

I verbalized this to the agent, and thankfully she had a good sense of humor. She promptly drove us to some neighborhoods without matching mailboxes and I felt much better. For the rest of the day, it was a running joke, and a joke that continued into our house search where we live now.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was averse to matching mailboxes. Over the years I’ve painted custom mailboxes for housewarming gifts. When one we know earned master’s degree in architecture, I created a mailbox based on a Frank Lloyd Wright design. Another had the resident’s monogram in a clean, distinctive font. I don’t make them kitschy, but I try to make them fun. Just one of my things. I like designs that are graphic and contemporary. I can’t find any online links to painted mailboxes I like, but it’s NOT anything this.

When we moved into our current house, our mailbox on the rickety post of four mailboxes that serves our little neighborhood needed to be replaced. All the other mailboxes were black, so of course that would not do for me (I can be so annoying like that, I know). I bought a white mailbox and stenciled our name and house number on it in purple and blue. Just enough to stand out and be a little different without being gaudy.

Over the years we neighbors would say we should do something about the mailbox post, but never did. It was still perfectly functional, so until it fell over from a snowplow we’d just leave it. We said nothing about the mailboxes themselves. We were all individuals and could do what we wanted with the actual mailboxes. Then one set of neighbors moved across town to a larger house.

Enter the new neighbors.

Two summers ago we went camping in Quebec for vacation in late August. When we arrived home on the middle of a Thursday afternoon, the first thing we noticed as we pulled into our little road was a new mailbox post with four matching black mailboxes.

The twitching started.

Once we unloaded, I called one neighbor and asked what had happened to our mailboxes to have them replaced? Did a car hit them?

No, she replied, the new neighbor just did it one day, without mentioning it to anyone.

The twitching got worse.

To be fair, the mailboxes – and the new decorative road sign – look nice. They do. It’s just the matchy-matchy nature and the presumptiveness of it all that is irking me. It’s what they want, ergo they will do it without a thought to others. I’m sure they think they are doing us some great favor, but they aren’t. The most established neighbors, the ones who have been here 34 years now, are put off by it and think it’s just a little too much.

And yes, I know this is just so small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I know.

Anyway, after the new mailboxes went in, we joked for several weeks wondering how long until I could replace the boring black matching mailbox with something with color. Could I create a stencil and go out some evening and spray paint a design?

I knew, though, that I could do nothing without creating a major neighborhood issue, and I didn’t want to do that. A few weeks later, the boys retrieved my old white mailbox from that neighbor’s garage and now it sits in my garage, lonely.

I never did even mention the new mailboxes to those neighbors. I did make a point of asking them and the other neighbors if it would be okay with them if I put in some plantings at the entrance of the road, consciously treating them like I would want to be treated, hoping they would get the clue (of course not).

Meanwhile, every time I retrieve my mail from that matching mailbox, I twitch a little.

Required (Baseball) Reading

The Twins had Batgirl, we have Basegirl. Go visit and read what she has to say. She's fun and snarky and appropriately adoring toward the right players. Go ahead. I'll wait for you to come back.

So, I was saying...the no-hitter last night. Wow.

We saw this lefty one-hit the Royals a couple of summers ago. Before the diagnosis.

Very cool.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who's Bringing the Milk?

MORRIS, Ill. --Police say a trailer loaded with 14 tons of double-stuffed Oreos has overturned, spilling the cookies still in their plastic sleeves into the median and roadway.

Illinois State Police Sgt. Brian Mahoney says the truck's driver was traveling from Chicago to Morris on Interstate 80 around 4 a.m. Monday when he fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into the median.

"The boxes came out of the trailer and boxes were ripped open," he said.

The crash about 50 miles southwest of Chicago remains under investigation.

Mahoney says no charges have been filed but both lanes of traffic remain closed while authorities remove the cookies.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Not Going There

I think every town has one: someone for whom complaining and making conflict is a way of life. Not quite a curmudgeon, but someone more toxic than that. Rarely are that person’s issues about that which they attack.

We have one, of course. Probably several really, but one in particular picks a “cause” or a focus and spends years and legal dollars (her own and the town’s) trying to go for the jugular. It’s like a train wreck in slow motion, but the wrecking never seems to stop.

Previously this woman was out to get the chief of police. While I wouldn’t say our chief is exactly a prize, I wouldn’t say he deserved the level of attack. But then she moved on.

Right now this woman’s target is the schools. Her initial target was a very specific issue, but she’s expanded her ire and accusations to claim a conspiracy by teachers, individual school administration, the district and even the school committee. She may have some valid points in there somewhere, but the level of her dialogue and demands has degenerated so much that it’s hard to want to cede even those points. Basically, if it doesn’t happen exactly the way she wants it to happen (and without the input of experts in the field), it’s a conspiracy worthy of legal tirades.

Several months ago, the town newspaper launched a new Web site. The new site included user forums. The person jumped on the opportunity to continue her tirades in real time.

The tone of these posts were nasty to say the least. Any one who didn’t agree with her was “obviously” in cahoots with the schools. She had a few supporters who helped her along in her attacks of any one who dared disagree. There was name calling and there were threats. The forum moderator let most of it happen, lest he be included in the name calling and threats. She also revealed enough information that one could do a Google search on certain terms and learn the complete story. (The schools, of course, have remained quiet on all the issues during all the attacks because they are bound by confidentiality laws.)

A bit over a month ago, a dissenter to her views noted that forum had been relatively quiet for a few days. This toxic person responded (within minutes – she must have a crackberry so she can launch her tirades anytime, anywhere) with an ominous, “Just you wait till you see what I have coming next; it’s the calm before the storm.” The next day she posted a tirade with some legal information, details of how much the schools have been force to spend in legal fees to deal with her (a very large number - six figures - she appears to be proud of, while there are cutbacks in services for the kids to cover these fees), and nasty comments about the school committee.

Then a beautiful thing happened: nobody responded. Not one.

A week later she tried again with another tirade. Once again, no one has responded.

In fact, the particular forum has been silent. It may be some kind of stand-off, but I prefer to think of it as the rational majority in town taking the high road and not stooping to her level. I can envision her stewing.

This person’s son has just a year left in the schools. Perhaps then she’ll lay off her destructive attacks and move on to something else. But then again, we must be careful what we wish for – you never know what or who that something else might be.


In other news, the neighbors have shown once again that they have no idea how to live in a neighborhood. The husband has decided unilaterally to replace our decorative road sign. Not a word to the other neighbors. It’s not on his property. Killing a lovely clematis vine along the way. Sure the sign will look nice (though I lament the loss of the clematis), but just checking in with the neighbors would have been appropriate. It think the word is courtesy. Perhaps that page is missing in their dictionary. Ugh.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pests, Swans, Mother’s Day

The after a little Web research, examination of the sick birch tree in the yard, and watching one of the remaining live branches start to wither almost before our eyes (truly – fine Friday, not so fine on Saturday), we have recognized that we have a bad infestation of bronze birch borer.


The tree has to come down. We need to burn the wood, and soon. Guess we’ll be having some late spring fires in the next bit of time.

While yes, this does mean, I have a place for one of the lovely coral bark Japanese maples I’ve fallen in love with, I’d rather it not be for this reason.

When we cleared the front yard three years ago, I saved this and the other two recently downed birch trees from the bulldozer. I thought the trio at the end of the house was a nice visual framing element. Unfortunately, our clear cutting of the surrounding trees contributed to the circumstance that let the borers to infest so badly. Dang it.


We have many ponds, from small to large, in town. Some are supply ponds for the cranberry bogs while some just are.

In one pond near the highway, a pair of swans has set up housekeeping. Their large nest, fairly near the road (kind of them) is well cared for. Seven baby swans hatched last week – Wednesday, I think. The cygnets are fluffy and light gray and cute as a button.

Last week, while they were just emerging from their shells, they had quite an audience and the police station kept an officer on guard near the nest so be sure they wouldn’t be harassed. (Hey, it’s a small town. At least the officers were doing something!)

After getting S to school this morning, I stopped off and took a couple of pictures. I’ll upload them later. The parents were doing a wonderful job of guarding the babes from curious humans. I didn’t dare get too close. It was an adorable scene.


Mother’s Day was lovely for me. I hope yours was, too. Per my request, the boys cleaned out and vacuumed my car and my husband took it to be washed. We had a nice brunch and spent the afternoon working in the yard. I also asked for a bicker-free day from the boys, and almost got it.

The vegetable garden is mostly in place. We built a trellis for peas and plants probably hundreds of seeds, both in the vegetable garden and around. I planted probably a hundred sunflower seeds of various types in various places. They are always good for a late summer smile. I have much to do in terms of gardening and yard work, but overall things look good. The creeping phlox looks especially nice now that it’s in full bloom.

While putting in one of the tree that we picked up on Friday, we noticed a hairy woodpecker up in the tree. As long as we didn’t make too much noise, it kept pecking away. The tree it was on needs to come down at some point – it’s one of two old dead oak trees along that edge of the property, and the bark is peeling off is sheets (but plenty of bugs underneath). Unfortunately, it’s also one of the few remaining trees serving as any kind of a screen to the neighbor on that side (the wife over there doesn’t like the clearing we did in the first place – too much light, she says…one of the local real estate agents says we upped the value of their house, however, because there is more light on their property now.). If we could be sure the tree wouldn’t move in a big wind, we’d leave it. But of course we can’t be sure, and were it to fall, it would fall on said neighbor’s house, and since the tree is on our property line, we’d be liable for any damage. Great. Time for some neighborly diplomacy, I suppose.

Friday, May 09, 2008

It's Love

We made a road trip today to the southeastern part of the state to a well-regarded plant nursery. We were looking for some specific items for the yard, at a better price than what we've seen in the local nurseries. Plus, it's in a part of the state we just adore. Long winding roads lined with ancient rock walls amid rolling farmland sloping down to a river. It's gorgeous, even on a rainy day like today

Anyway, in an effort not to go overboard, we agreed in advance on what we were looking for and agreed that it all must fit in my car. No deliveries. (Even with that, we did have one fairly humorous miscommunication, but whatever.)

We picked out some red-twig dogwood of a variety called "Ivory Halo." The unique part is the variegated leaves. Then we went over to the trees where we picked out Japanese flowering dogwood, "Milky Way." Lovely.

While I was waiting for the cart to pick up the tree, I looked across the way and saw an interesting and very beautiful specimen. It was a coral bark Japanese maple, and it was so, so, so beautiful. I was instantly smitten, even at it's high price (out of our budget).

I spent fair chunk of time this afternoon, looking out at the yard, wondering where a good spot might be for such a tree. Where it could stand out, but not be in the way of other things we've already put in, things like that. I think I have the place for it, but sadly, it's because our last remaining birch tree seems to be dying, and quickly (the whole tree bloomed this spring, but only the two lowest branches leaved), leaving us with hole.

Now to justify the cost.

At any rate, it was a beautiful tree, and I'm in love with it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Something for a Smile

S has a new name for this guy.

Magglio Donut.

Even More Lost

Last week I wrote about feeling lost regarding the church we attend.

Today I opened a letter from the church announcing the Director of Christian Education is leaving, effective in about a month.

This is not good.

S grew up in this church. She has been in this role at the church for 10 years and put in place some phenomenal programs, helping build the Sunday School to the second largest in the diocese.

For her to go, like this, is a sign of much deeper turmoil.

It Runs in the Family

Dear Neighbor's Mother,

When I saw you at the bus stop this morning ready to put your young grandson on the bus, I was fairly surprised to see you parked on the phlox and juniper at the side of the road. I assumed you didn't realize that you had parked on intentionally installed plant life, your tires crushing about to bloom white blossoms, and wouldn't have if you had realized.

I considered that if I had accidentally parked on plantings, I would want to know. Then I mentioned it.

I do not believe mentioned it in a way that was anything other than an observation of fact. I was careful about making sure my voice had a light tone.

Your response, however, makes me wonder. You looked straight at me and said in a very even tone, "Oh well." And that was it.

Did you park on the plants on purpose? I don't know. I guess it doesn't really matter now, as what is done is done, and they are only plants. But it was a curious exchange.

You know, even though I was the one to purchase and plant all those plants last spring, our entire neighborhood benefits from an attractive bit of landscaping at the entrance to our little road, your daughter and grandchildren included. I'm willing to wager you even enjoy an nice looking entrance to your daughter's neighborhood.

Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. But, truly, if I had accidentally parked on plants, I would want to know. It was a far different situation from the fall when I watched your grandson pick the buds off the hydrangeas right in front of his mother, thus ensuring no hydrangeas this summer. That was more a parenting issue I didn't want to get into. Perhaps I should have said something then but not today? I don't know.

At least now I know where your daughter and grandchildren get their lovely manners.



Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An Email from Mom

My relationship with my mother is nothing if not complicated. I love her, but we don't often mesh. She's been highly critical over the years, often about really insignificant things. Some All Most of those criticisms have stuck with me.

In 1993, I think, she visited my husband and me when we lived in a small town in Connecticut. At the time we lived on the second floor of an old farm house with a crazy landlady and her Great Dane below (I should write about them sometime). I cleaned like crazy before she came, but there was only so much I could do to make the place look good. It was an old house, in the country, there was my landlady's impact on the building and honestly, it needed some serious upgrades - which is part of why it was remotely affordable for us (my husband was still in school and to say that things were tight financially is an understatement). At any rate, I did the best I could, and it looked pretty decent I thought.

It was September when she visited, and we had been harvesting the last of our garden crops. I planned some yummy meals with our fresh tomatoes and herbs - or so I thought. One evening, after setting out a bowl of pasta with sauteed fresh vegetables, grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts, she looked closely at the bowl, turned to me and said, "Are we only having noodles?" I was kind of surprised, but responded, "There's salad, too." She waited a beat, the I heard her groan audibly.

Oh dear.

The next morning, my mother went out for an early walk around the conservation land across the road from us. When she came back in, she was holding something between her finger and her thumb. She said to me, "Look what I found on the landing just now," and set this thing down on my kitchen counter.

She continued, "It's roach egg sac." Another beat goes by as I look at her, then, "It must be really hard to keep this place clean," and she turned and walked away to the small guest room to get ready for the rest of the day.

I looked closely at this little object, feeling horrified and mortified, and not a small bit belittled.

It was a black bean from the garden.

I did not then and have never pointed that out to my mom. There was no point - she had some other agenda, and it was not my cleaning skills. But the moment has stayed with me. How could it not?

I instantly thought back to that moment this morning. I emailed my mother yesterday and asked if there is anything in particular she would like for Mother's Day and her birthday, which is few days later. She replied this morning, making a suggestion for a gift certificate to the ballet.

Her email continued, telling me about some painting she is having done at her house. As part of that topic, she wrote, "Some furniture has not been moved since moving in here nearly 25 years ago--finding lots of dust! "


The temptation to say something snarky in reply is strong, but I won't. Though she doesn't know it, keeping my mouth shut, not the gift certificate, is her real Mother's Day gift.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Mittens in May

Last night was C's first baseball game of the season (Monday's game was rained out). This morning was our first coffee selling.

It's not SO cold out, but it is overcast, threatening rain, and generally raw. Mittens, hats, and yes, winter coats were all out in force last night and this morning. They were not unneeded.

After being out all morning, I'm still chilled and am now under covers up stairs. I was thinking it was time to swap seasonal clothing and take the down comforter off the bed, but perhaps not quite yet.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I'll Take Compliments Anywhere I Can

The new office is nice. It's a small company, and everyone is very hard working. With my part-time schedule and so much to do, I've been pretty well hunkered down.

Today I met another recently hired employee who went to the same small college that I did. Our introducer said to me while making the introduction, "I don't know when you were there, but L also worked at the college for a few years after graduating, so perhaps you overlapped."

Acutally, I was several years out and married when this young woman was entering high school. C was born while she was still in high school. So, um, no.

But it was an awfully nice thought.

A Pathetic Attempt at a Little Pity

After being swept by these guys, of all teams, our home town boys have played a couple of very exciting nights of baseball. Against these guys. One more game in the series is scheduled for tonight.

Two nights in a row of excellent pitching and low-scoring games that came down to two outs and men on base in the bottom of the ninth.

Two nights in a row of the right hits at the right time for walk-off wins. Hero #1 this week was Youk (and the look on his face priceless - good thing they didn't have audio on him at the time), and hero #2 was The Captain. Will there be a hero #3?

An hour ago, my husband called me with news that a colleague had offered two tickets to tonight's game, and decent seats at that, at face value. Did we want them?

Did we want them? Did we? Did we?


But can we make it work? That's quite another question.

For almost ten minutes on the phone we schemed and brainstormed. How could we make this happen? Which parent would go? Which child? Can we realistically get them from their things 35 miles from here and make it back into town in time for a kid swap? What about school tomorrow? Who has tests? What will the tiredness fallout be on previously scheduled activities for tomorrow afternoon and evening? Are we crazy? (Wait. Don't answer that last question.)

In the end, we realized that we could not make it happen in a reasonable manner. With great sadness and heaviness of heart, we released the tickets so that they could be offered to another colleague.