"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Praying Mantis Farmers

There's the egg case. Like a small, brown chunk of Styrofoam glued to the hedge. 
Praying Mantids have designated our yard a top destination.Lucky us! (the miniature scientists [and the big scientist] in residence, rejoice!)

 I think there's something really tangible and wonder cultivating about watching wild things up close and sometimes even having a part in caring for them. We found a couple of egg cases in our hedge and we brought one indoors and installed it on the kitchen counter in a mason jar. (Next to the mason jar containing a newt, and the one with a caterpillar in it and the one containing two worms that Nib insists are "best friends.") We waited and waited and we kept checking on it but nothing. I told the boys excitedly what it was at first and we faithfully inspected it but eventually I got nervous and started telling them that maybe it wouldn't hatch and there were no guarentees about these things, maybe it was an old one, maybe something was wrong...who knew, really. Amazing how doubt creeps in when much patience in required.

But then one morning returning from errands, Nib made it inside first and boomeranged right  back out yelling "Our ants are out! Our ants are out!" So exciting to go in and see the tiny, almost transparent mantids all over the inside of the jar, and the spiral of egg case sawdust hanging delicately down where they drilled their way out.

We took the jar outside and talked together about garden pest insects and how mantids can be like garden watchdogs, eating the voracious vegetable enemies. We talked to the babies and asked them if a good bunch of them would stay in our yard and keep up the tradition of keeping it a top eating and egg laying location. The boys watched the babies climbing the glass walls of the jar and skittering off down the rail of the stoop towards the flower garden. Such fun to raise, observe and appreciate in person these strange, impressive creatures. The boys thought it was wicked cool to find out that they have five eyes but only one ear and hear that they can turn their heads 180 degrees around. The world is an astounding place.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kids Capsule Wardrobe

Minimalism marches on! Today I made up capsule wardrobes for each of my children. I spent the whole day washing their things, pulling things out of storage, examining shirts for stains and pants for knee holes and stacking up things for Goodwill and neatly culling down the pile to keep. They are growing like crazy, a couple of them going up a size this spring plus the season is changing which necessitates a wardrobe swap.

I am keeping some things that the boys don't "need" right now and am saving them in storage as back-ups. Ahem....blue jeans anyone? (If you have or know boys and you haven't read it...go check out this hilarious meme.) Otherwise, I have weeded things down to a nice stash of useable but not overkill essentials for  every child. Bear in mind that I do a load of laundry every day and don't wait until "Wash Day" to do everything at once which allows for fewer than a weeks worth of certain things.

Here's what I kept:

  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1-2 pairs of other pants (khakis or cords)
  • 4-6 pairs of shorts
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 1-2 tank tops
  • 2-4 collared shirts
  • 1 flannel
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 3-4 pajama sets
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 7-10 pairs of underwear
  • 4 white undershirts
  • 2 pairs of shoes

Everything else went into storage in my backroom (labelled by size) or into the Goodwill pile (taking that out tomorrow for donation, yay!!!!) or to the cousin box to send off as hand-me-downs. 

Can I even explain to you lovely people the high I get from trimming down my belongings? Whew! I want to sell everything I own and give to the poor like crazy when I start culling down my stash. I can't believe how much my stuff owns me and how weighed down and oppressed I feel by all of it. I feel positively gleeful about having less, every, single, time. Goodwill loves me. 


Monday, May 19, 2014

Spring Apex

I am in major garden mode. The plants are in, all but the second sowings of certain things that wither with the heat and harvest fast. On to the mulching! The budget is tight but it is mulch season and plants wait for no man. I have been covertly hauling home the dumped grass clippings of my neighbors and I discovered that the stump that the city ground in the fall, in front of our house has become a giant pile of chips that aren't doing anyone any good, spilling off the curb into the road....so I've been shoveling them up and spreading them on the flower bed I am slowly making in the front of the house out of plant divisions and a few precious annuals. Feeling frugal and mighty and only occasionally a bit mopey and pinched. I can do this! Beauty no matter what!

The weather is warming slowly and the boys are having baths every night, the bath water turning a healthy shade of beige before the plug is pulled. There is no end to the laundry but the upside is that the line is always full of beautiful buntings waving in the wind. Love pulling into the driveway and seeing all the clothes snapping on the line.

I am having a mini-hibernation time, feeling overwhelmed by the end of all the school year stuff (programs and family nights and presentations galore!) and nervously teetering on the edge of swept under when I look at the lists of things we will be doing this summer. June approacheth. Whew! I want to be inspired and I know I will be, but sometimes the enormity of it all makes me catch my breath. In true introvert fashion I am hiding to get over it. If I don't answer your call, don't respond to your email or am a strange no-show for your event, please try to understand that sometimes a girl just pulls inward and know that I will get my feet under me again very soon.

Just in case any of this has to do with the ten pounds that crept onto my body or the lax hand I have been using with myself and sugar lately, I've battened down the hatches and am trying make a green juice a day this whole week. Equilibrium is nigh. I am also going to try to make extra effort to be outside, get sunshine, be active and get enough sleep. Amazing how much more possible the world looks when we have nurtured our bodies!

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Seed Box Murder

I have been trying to put plants into the garden, some starts from the nursery and some seeds (with varied success). I had an unfortunate mishap with my stash of seeds which kind of put a damper on my productivity. I was happily gardening, my seedbox open next to my raised beds and my favorite hand tools all arrayed around them,my fingers muddy and my mind a dusty haze of happiness. Suddenly, I had a Cinderella moment and realized I had gardened away more time than I thought and needed to run madly to pick up my boys from kid's club. I threw the youngest two into the car and cleaned my hands with 5,000,000 wet wipes at various stop lights as I zoomed through town and dusk fell. By the time we were home again, all that was on my mind was corralling all the boys into the house and cleaning and pajama-ing them up for bed, every thought of my interrupted gardening wiped from my mind.

Sadly, it rained that night....it rained cats and dogs. I went dashing out that morning and tore open a few of the sodden packets in the continuing drizzle, trying to shake the damp seeds into the proper places in beds, planting dejectedly and frantically until I had to go running back inside to make breakfast. There was a solid inch of water in the bottom of my seed box and the many remaining packets were floating in a mini lake.
The viburnum hedge between us and the neighbors.
I never cried, and I have been trying to let go of the disappointment and see it as a chance to have a clean slate. I did just tell myself that I was going to try to buy more of my starts instead of starting things from seed as they take more time and often I sacrifice actual plants for my idealism. Still, the loss is real and every time I am in the garden I am fighting a feeling of general discouragement and an air of defeat. I haven't felt brave enough to throw out the seeds yet. I'm just holding onto the mildewed collection for a bit and trying to convince myself to let it go. Maybe once I have all the beds full of real plants I will be able to call it a day and pitch them, or maybe just writing about them is enough moving on and later tonight I will bury them in a shallow grave in the compost pile and chalk one up for minimalism.

Our first black eye. Must be Spring.
In other news, spring is incredible. I can't ever quite believe it is this tremendous and never really believe it will come or be quite so pleasant and delicious and stunning as it really is. The layered scents of viburnum, lilac and iris is enough to make you delirious. The perfume is unbelievable round about dinner time when the yard is softly golden and the sun is streaming in our open dining room windows. Everything you could possibly eat goes with the scent of blooming flowers. I want to linger over every single supper even if the kids are squawking so loudly that A and I can hardly hear ourselves think, or someone has say, brought a toy bow to the table and is shooting other diners with it, or perhaps if someone has begun throwing the peas instead of eating them....hypothetically speaking, of course. Spring makes it all worth it. Dead seed collections, and insane boys, I can hack it all with a floral smelling salts to keep me lively.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Poetry Friday: A Poem For A Weed

Today a poem about dandelions. Its high dandelion season here at our house, all the roadsides and wilder lawns dotted with yellow and the air heavy with their sweet nectar scent.

 Weeds are in the eye of the beholder. I've never lived in a house with a manicured lawn so anything that flowered was allowed and maybe even encouraged. All things have their place, especially in a wilder kind of horticulture.

Dandelions are an exotic, invasive but they have taken hold in the hearts of all children. Who doesn't have heartwarming memories of playing with them as little tikes? I love watching my boys play with them and I wonder if my sisters think of me like I think of them when I see them start to bloom every spring.

So, Lockbox, Foxy, Song, and Doubleddog.....here's to the sisterhood! This one's for you.

Dandelion Season

As a girl I loved the scent of dandelions
A warm smell of sunshine in honey sauce.
Sniffing the blossoms was a kind of food
To my sisters and myself, a conjuror's dessert
We played that the milky sap was Elmer's 
Our fingers tacky from the bitter, gloss.
We tore open innumerable flowers,
Beads of white swelling from the stems
We would squat in the sand on the driveway
And squint our eyes fiercely at each other
Smearing the flowers across our cheeks,
Leaving pale yellow racing strips behind.
We braided the stems into crowns to wear
And learned that dandelion stems are variable
Sometimes stiff and no longer than your thumb
Sometimes long and willowy and braid-able on and on
Around the head until your crown grows fat.
One time I left my diadem on the dashboard
Of our car and found the next day that magically
It had turned into a delicate, brittle circlet
Of wishing puffs....


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Learning Art Failure

We are trapped indoors. There is a chill, dull rain pelting down and the wind is roaring over the top of our hill, dropping limbs, tipping over the rose trellis and driving all six of our poor hens to huddle damply in a clump in their coop. The boys aren't really trapped, truth be told...just me. I sit indoors and keep the washer and dryer going, towels at the ready, tea on tap while the boys play war in raging drizzle. Nothing like bone chilling cold, brisk wind and sideways rain to make you feel like playing survival, making knives out of sticks and living on a perpetual hunted march. I hang damp hoodies and jackets up, peel wet socks off and re-mop the muddy kitchen tile. We skipped math homework today. There was too much war. Its hard for me to interrupt their imaginative play, especially when they are all playing happily. We'll do double math tomorrow to make up for it. I promise.

Today we did manage to get some art time in. Wednesday is our art day. We are studying one artist at a time, learning a little art history (we just finished Matisse) and trying out the techniques of the greats. Today I painted a nature journal still-life of three bumblebees I found in the basement. I balanced Baby Pom on my lap and we spread watercolors and brushes and papers with dripping art all over the table. It makes me really happy to see how much the boys love to dabble in creating.

Dee is a perfectionist extreme and although excited to dabble and very pleased when something comes out the right way he really falls to sobbing pieces when he can't paint something the way he meant to. We all get that feeling. I am stumbling over teaching him to accept his flaws, love the process and figure out how to let go of the perfect result. I have some ideas: let him see me be artistically reckless and mess stuff up.

But his own inner criticism is so strong. I'm not sure how to soften his feelings, allow to be unhappy with his creation and be honest about his reaction but not be swept under by it. Raising boys is tricky. I want feelers so bad but I see the danger of allowing them to be ragers or pouty depressives whenever the spirit moves. Anyone have any tips about how to walk these mommy lines?

I keep drinking more tea and holding him when he cries and trying to understand and manage his angry. I do the same things for myself with just as reliable a result. Sometimes tea and a little self hug will do the trick and sometimes I cry and rage until I can't sleep at night. This is the real trick about parenthood, right? Teaching your children things that you can see they need to know....but you never really learned yourself. Physician heal thyself. The good news is that, at least some small percentage of the time, living childhood next to your kids for the second time does teach you things you never really got and gives you chances upon chances at things you never realized you totally missed the first time around. I love being a grown-up.