Wednesday, May 6, 2015

State of Our Yard Address

Yesterday after school, the kids and I arrived home to find our front porch was the scene of a terrible crime.

At first glance, it appeared that the Command hook I'd attached to the siding for the purposes of hanging a Christmas decoration had finally given up the ghost.  I was really pretty impressed; that thing had endured major temperature fluctuations, including winter temps well below zero, along with wind, snow, and rain, when I really hadn't known if it would stick at all, as the pictures on the product package showed a pampered indoor life of holding up umbrellas and cleaning supplies.

All this to say, I was not surprised to find that six months later, the thing had finally given out.

Upon closer inspection, however, all was not well here.

I actually gasped when I saw this.  Let's just say my life is not abounding in drama and variety.

But look!

We have four survivors!

We'd all noticed increased avian activity on our front porch this spring, especially in the vicinity of the wreath hung by the front door, but I had assumed the birds were using the faux yellow berries to liven up their nests.  I'd never thought to look on top for a nest!  (Nor would I have been tall enough to see it up there- but I could have asked Derek to check.)

So here's my question:  Do we leave the nest where it is, perched atop the fallen wreath?  Do we try to position it in the tree a mere twenty feet away, in front of the porch?

These branches are the usual home of nests.

Or is it too late, all folly, folly, folly at this point- that mother bird is gone forever and her eggs are doomed?  (I am only passing on the language of our daughter, here; she became instantly invested in the fates of those probably dead baby birds.)

In other outdoor news, the last of my tulips are still going strong.

These are new this year, and when they first bloomed I couldn't figure out why the heck I'd planted them; they were a creamy yellowish color at first with the tiniest bit of purple, and not all that pretty, but the longer they bloom the more lovely their colors become.  I took these pics at least a week ago; now they're more purple with white streaks, and they're one of the longest lasting tulips I've had this year, right after my Royal Jubilee tulips:

Yes, I've shown you photos of these already this year, but they're still going strong weeks after first blooming, with the more orangey tulips becoming more pink every day.  

All the tulips were more successful than my crocus bulbs I planted last fall:

Do you see what I see?  Because what I see is ZERO BLOOMS.  The nice variegated leaves came up, but no flowers.  I'm wondering if this is related to my daffodil problem; I have right around a dozen narcissus plantings around our yard, and got one single sad daffodil this year.  I think our soil is too high in nitrogen, and need to figure out what to do about that, but I'm also going to move these crocuses to a sunnier location, because the level of angst I felt at ZERO CROCUS BLOOMS was just the tiniest bit outrageous.  

Thankfully my variegated Solomon's Seal didn't let me down this year:

I planted it two years ago as a Mother's Day gift to myself, and it began as a single, arching branch, and stayed that way all last year, too.  This year it's finally begun to naturalize and spread, even displaying these little white bell blooms.

Along with the columbine, it's providing some welcome height and variation to the bed of snow-on-the-mountain that surrounds our giant pine.  

And finally, lest I give you the idea that all is green and flourishing in an Iowa spring, here are the rain lily and Boston fern I carted out of the basement yesterday:

They're looking a little worse for wear, because Iowa winters are harsh, indoors or out.  I'm hoping the spring air will perform some kind of magical rejuvenating powers on them.  A 10-day forecast featuring rain every bloody day probably won't hurt, either.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bold Jumping Spiders and Bold Jumping Mothers

A couple days ago, Adelaide and I were the only ones home, and we spotted one of those small, thick-limbed black spiders creeping along the kitchen ceiling.

Ooooh.  I just did a little google search on the above vague spider description, and have spent the last 30 seconds looking at spider photos to try and identify it.  My guess is the Bold Jumping Spider (I did not make that name up, but I am thankful for my pre-squish ignorance, as there would have been significantly more squealing otherwise), but couldn't make it past the first search page as I felt too nauseated.

Even without knowing it was a BOLD JUMPING SPIDER (shuuuuudder), there was a little squealing because it was Adelaide and it was me and the smashed spider corpse descended threateningly on its thread after I had snuffed out its life force.

I managed to clean it up and throw it away with little fanfare and without doing that thing that where you pretend the dead bug or spider is still alive and advance quickly toward the cringing person next to you the way Derek always does, because I am not a monster.

Yesterday, however, there was another slightly larger spider of the same kind (you know, just a little spider whose very name says that it is BOLD and WILL JUMP ON YOU), this time on the living room ceiling.  Same thing, except it was just me and Caedmon in the house: Shoe, squeal, squish, shudder.

Right before I squished its filthy guts out, however, I whispered, "Sorry about your wife," because that it what I say before I commit arachnid homicide.  In my mind, I had killed Mrs. Bold Jumping Spider the day before, and now Mr. Bold Jumping Spider is just walking around, wondering where the heck Tina is, when along comes yours truly to make it a double homicide.

Objects may be closer than they appear *retch*

Then I looked up and saw Caedmon watching me, eyebrows up, smiling bemusedly as I whisper to the spider on the ceiling, which of course he was, because #1: Privacy is apparently against my kids' religion, and #2: If I am doing something even the tiniest bit strange, my kids will find a way to be there, because they like nothing better than to announce the things I do in the comfort of our home to the world at large- see #1.  I can only assume this penchant for mortifying me is a trait inherited from my mother; obviously a gene that skips a generation (because surely I never embarrassed my mother or my children, ahahaha!).  I began to glimpse shiny little glimmers of this realization when Adelaide was almost two years old and an inconveniently early talker, which was cute right up until we were in a public bathroom stall and she announced, "WHY IS THAT LADY MAKING THOSE SOUNDS?" and "I CAN SEE SOMEONE'S TOES!  LOOK, MOMMY, TOES!  REALLY DIRTY TOES!" and "GOODNESS GRACIOUS SAKES ALIVE, WHAT IS THAT SMELL?"  'Goodness gracious sakes alive' being her cry of choice at that age.

While she was making all these lovely proclamations at the top of her little voice, I was thinking that I surely hadn't been this embarrassed since my mom gave a very matter-of-fact and loooong talk about sex and its many colorful facets to me and 200 of my closest friends in seventh grade.  At school.  With no warning- probably because she worried I'd make like a squirrel and dart into oncoming traffic rather than sit there and listen to my mom unfurl her fancy school nurse visual aides because she is an over-achiever, which is great in 4-H, not great when you're praying to go deaf so you don't have to hear your mother say that word again in front of half the school.

What's that?  I've talked about this before?  Not to worry, I'll only be bringing it up for the rest of my natural life, because some things you just don't get over.

You know what I haven't mentioned before?  My mom dressing up as SNL character Mary Katherine Gallagher and once again humiliating me in front of a few hundred of my fellow high school students.  I had repressed that little gem right up until supper last night when Adelaide stage-whispered, "Superstar!" and my body went into an automatic fight-or-flight mode.

She did it with exactly this much panache, too.

My mother is not shy.  Unfortunately neither are two out of our three children, and even the quiet one is not to be trusted.  I suppose this means I need to refine my ability to embarrass others, just out of a sense of desperate self-preservation.  Good luck, children mine, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Savoring the Cheese

Our calendar for the next couple months is very full.  There are few days that don't have multiple somethings penciled in, to the extent that I've found myself thinking, Just have to get to June.  The month of June, I can breathe again.  I'm treating all this fullness, this busyness, like it's a grind, when in fact what I should be doing is appreciating it, what I should be doing is stopping to enjoy the cheese.  "Enjoy the cheese" because while I love roses and will stop to sniff at them every so often, it's more to check just how poorly my sniffer is sniffing on that particular day, whereas with cheese, my lovely, lovely cheese, I will lavish time upon it, taking for-ev-er to eat even a small amount.

This is saying something as I am a slow eater to begin with, due to several reasons I am aware of because my college roommate and I spent way more time than necessary dissecting the reasons for my sssllloooow rate of food consumption, because that's just what you do in college, I guess, but not to worry:  I'm not going to take you through the whole thing.  Bad enough I've forced Derek to listen to our detailed findings.

But with cheese?  It's even worse.  If I'm eating it plain, a hefty block in one hand and some fruit in the other (Ooooh, heaven.  Hello, saliva pooling in my mouth, even now), I will take as long as I please, thank you very much, because I am not a savage.  This is cheese, friends.  I was devoted to Madonna's Like A Prayer album as a kid, and continued to love that freak right up until she declared that she doesn't eat cheese.  Even as a child I recognized that some things are sacred, and certain delicious dairy products are one of them.  If there is a cheese gene, I have it and have passed it to Adelaide, who loved cheese so much as a baby that she would lose her ever-loving mind if the word was said within her range of hearing and we did not have an offering of cheese to throw at her from a safe distance (I am only barely exaggerating), to the extent that I started to call it queso in her presence, which worked for right around six days.  I recently made the mistake of letting her try some of the havarti cheese I was nibbling on whilst the children were eating the more homely colby jack (don't get me wrong, I love even peasant cheese), and she was so smitten that she now asks for it on a daily basis.  The asiago is currently hidden in the back of the cheese drawer (because of course we have a cheese drawer) in the fridge, away from her voracious eyes.

So for the next couple months I will stop and take time to enjoy the spring vocal concert and the havarti and the soccer games and the aged white cheddar.  And I will do so as slowly as I want.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Vernal View

So far it's been a mostly wet and chilly spring.  I can handle the wet- it's good for the flowers, drowns the larval Japanese beetles incubating in the soil, etc, but the cold?  I just want to be warm.

It's no doubt apparent that I feel the tiniest bit inclined to complain about this, especially when stuck indoors on these damp, windy, cold days, so I've been trying to focus on how encouraging the view out the windows is now compared to a few months back, when it was actually cold, not this 40- and 50- degrees I'm now referring to as "cold."

For example:  Here's the view out our kitchen window as of February 2nd of this year.

At first glance, this is a pretty scene to look upon whilst washing dishes or tearing ends of the aloe vera plant off for the kids' various scrapes and cuts (Band-aids are only allowed if I witness actual human blood seeping from our children; all other enquiries are directed toward the kitchen aloe vera plant, as they are allowed to smear as much aloe vera innards on any perceived hurts as they want), but there have been winters when the snow starts really accumulating in December and doesn't fully go away until April, and all that month-after-month unrelieved white makes me tear at my hair and grind my teeth.  Except not really, because the sound of teeth grinding against each other makes me feel ill.


And as much as I enjoy watching other people work when I don't have to...

...that winter view out our front storm door really can't beat this spring one:

Or this one, also taken through the front door:
Hello, Mr. Finch.  Our son is named for another Mr. Finch.  Different species, though.

The kitchen window view is also loads better:

Taken on a rare sunny day.  Click to embiggen to see Caedmon's joyful face.  It's worth it.

Click to embiggen to see Adelaide going all Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Note that our children are outside while I am in, because I am the biggest baby in the family about the cold.  Also note the tulips in the foreground.

All the wind and rain have been a little rough on some of my tulips, so I've rescued a few here and there from the indignity of lying helpless in the mud.  

I did brave the spring cold and wind and cold wind to watch this guy play soccer:

Atticus is the happy guy in the middle of the frame running and looking all-around joyful to be out in the cold and the wind.  Did I mention it was cold?  And that he refused to wear his jacket while on the field?

And here's Gulliver in Lilliput.  Or it could be soccer coach extraordinaire Derek amongst his players.  

If it looks like Derek/Gulliver is a little out of focus, it's because I was shivering.  Maybe this week's game will be warmer.  

Ah, sometimes my hopeless optimism amuses even me- I mean, this is still spring in Iowa.  Of course it will be cold.  Thankfully no one seems to mind but me.

Monday, April 20, 2015

List + Poll

  • It was warm here last week, which gave me an excuse to make orange cream popsicles.  Yet again I turned to the woman with whom I have a love/hate relationship: The Proverbs 31 Woman.  I'm kidding, of course; the Bible doesn't have popsicle recipes.  No, once again I'm talking about Martha Stewart.  I love this recipe because it's easy and quick and only has four ingredients.  This time I made it with fat-free plain Greek yogurt rather than the full-fat plain yogurt Martha demands, and there was no noticeable difference.  The kids and I love these, which, naturally, means it's time to mess with the recipe and screw that up for everyone; I bought frozen pineapple juice today, so we'll see how pineapple cream pops go over.  It sounds right around eight times more disgusting now that I'm typing it than it did when I was starving in the grocery store this morning.  Snack time, kiddies!

  • Our yard is tulip heaven right now:

  • Derek and I are in the midst of a dispute on how to pronounce a specific word, because one of us says it correctly and the other is wrong.  (This is what healthy marriages are built on, fyi.)  I have polled a panel of experts and results have been inconclusive; this is also known as me calling my sisters and spelling out the word for them to pronounce, then demanding their husbands do the same.  Three out of four pronounced it correctly (My Way), and one was sadly wrong (Derek's Way).  I felt no compunctions about calling either sister with this request, as it is nowhere near the strangest thing I have ever said to either one of them, and because I remember once going to Kelli's house and being told that I needed to be the deciding vote on the proper pronunciation of the word "pendulum," as Kelli said it one way and Aaron said it another.  (My sister and I both say "pen-djew-lum," Aaron says "pen-dew-lum."  I tell you this because I know you care.)  
Now here is your chance to cast your vote:  The word in question is "LAWYER."  I want a fair fight- ahem, discussion- so I'm not going to disclose which of us pronounces it which way.  I'm attempting to put a survey on the upper right, there, that will be up for one week, but if that doesn't work, leave your answer in the comments.  And may the best pronunciation win!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Bounty of Spring

This has been an odd week.  Not because of odd happenings, but because I've caught some kind of bug that has made my head an odd place in which to reside.

Normally when I'm sick, all of my emotions are flat.  I can't summon the motivation to care about much of anything, and all my senses are dulled.  We've all been there, right?

This week has been different.  I've had some kind of bug that several people in the area seem to be likewise suffering from- nothing major, just mild, persistent nausea, nagging headache along with aches and pains, and a general feeling of malaise and run-down-ness.

What makes this bug special is that, at least for me, it has included heightened emotions.  And no, I am not pregnant.  Just so we're clear.

Case in point:  Last night, while gathering ingredients for the supper I had in mind, I couldn't find the ground ginger.  I tore my spice cabinet apart and found THREE containers of thyme, but no ginger.  I even found a small pot of sage, which is completely useless to me, as I can't stand the smell or taste of sage.  But ginger?  None.

Is this worth crying over?  It almost was last night.  I really wanted beef noodle bowls.

Once I got over the devastating ginger-related loss (my life is so hard), I decided to make quiche.  I was refreshing my memory on how to make PW's pie crust, and her instructions included not the usual phrase involved in the making of pastries, "combine until it resembles coarse meal," but "gradually work... until it resembles a coarse meal. (Emphasis mine)"  Just the inclusion of that little article "a" filled my brain with images of a plate containing asparagus and maybe chicken telling me dirty jokes and inappropriate stories.

Naturally this filled me with such mirth I laughed until I was almost too weak to wield the pastry cutter.  I didn't think much of it- everyone laughs at the jokes their brain tells them, right?- until Caedmon came over, laid his little hand on my arm, and asked, "Are you okay, Mommy?"

It's possible I've come across as a trifle unbalanced this week.  Is it possible for a germ to generate symptoms of mild manic depression?

Episodes of feverish hilarity aside, there were plenty of high points this week.  My peach hyacinths bloomed:

The tulips are also beginning to open up:

I also finally got my lettuce in, the only cool season veggie I plant.  I turned the compost heap and it produced a prodigious amount of beautiful, black, hearty compost to nourish the garden with this year.  I went to my first garage sales of the season and came back with nice garments for Adelaide and Atticus both, including tennis shoes for Atticus for just a few bucks that should work for school in the fall.  I had no idea how such nice shoes could possibly have so little wear, as any shoes our six-year-old tromps around in look like they've been through a wood chipper after a mere three or four months of use.  The very nice lady who lived in the McMansion where the sale was located swooped in to explain, however, that she had bought them for her son, who refused to wear them because they weren't the exact right shade of blue.  I said a prayer of thanks for her kid's brattiness and its indirect benefit to our kid, who was pleased as punch with the shoes.

Germs, flowers, and garage sale finds:  It's finally starting to feel like spring!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sportsing, Soccer Edition

Atticus went to his first soccer practice tonight.  This is our family's virgin foray into organized sports, something that has prompted a few people I know to say things like, "Good for you," and "Ugh, people start their kids WAY too young in sports, aren't you SO GLAD you waited?" to which I smile and nod graciously, not mentioning anything about how the reality is I am a hermit crab who has done everything in her power to keep our children from playing sports that required my involvement up 'til now just because I didn't want to leave my shell.  Thankfully I married a giant enabler who signed up as assistant coach for our son's team, so I don't even have to leave the shell for practices!  I'm sure the fact that Derek is a talented soccer player (/football player/baseball player/basketball player/almost whatever other sport you can think of) and a gifted leader has nothing to do with it- no, as usual, it's all about me.  This will be news to Derek when he reads this.

Immediately upon finishing his after-school chores, Atticus donned his soccer garb, never mind that he had two hours before practice started.  Then he yet again attempted to grill me about what he could expect at a soccer practice, because he simply cannot wrap his brain around the thought of someone never playing any sports throughout the entirety of their childhood, which was me, except for a few ugly incidents in P.E.  (Dear School Physical Education Classes:  The inferno of my hatred for you has not diminished in the slightest over the years.  Thanks for the lasting emotional scars; the physical ones did eventually heal.  And remind me why boys and girls had to play dodge ball against each other in middle school?  Also:  Would it have killed you to have culled the girls with anger issues and put them in a separate class and/or The Hunger Games?  Hatefully Yours, The Girl with No Hand-Eye Coordination and Poor Depth Perception But a Reasonable Line of Questioning that Was Never Answered to her Satisfaction as to What She Was Supposed to be Learning From Softball Aside From Empathy for Every Other Person Also Picked Last Every Time, aka Me.)

I explained to him that I could talk his ears off about proper ballet technique and jazz choreography and all other manner of fun dance topics, but soccer?  No comprendo.  I hear tell there's balls involved.  I took care of his soccer, um, costume (Probably not the correct lingo.  Guess how much I care.)- thank you, last summer's garage sales!- and here ended my involvement, except for showing up at the games, which start next week.  I also had to explain yet again that I will have to physically attend the games to watch him, as they will not be televised.  This was a heavy blow about a month ago when he first discovered there would be no television crews, no cheerleaders, and no stadium seating- just a semi-muddy field.  It is entirely possible I have kept him in the shell over-long.

Matching sports-ers