Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Plants! From seeds!

Last spring, we planted a lot of seeds. We planted peas, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, watermelon, cilantro, basil, dill, parsley, and strawberries. And flowers that I forget the name of. The strawberries and flowers I forget the name of were "grow kits" from the dollar section of Target. They did not grow, and I was not terribly stunned. Not much else grew either, to be perfectly honest. The tomato plants grew their first flower about a week and a half ago, but this is troubling, as we are currently in the midst of peak harvest for tomatoes. So I don't think they're going to make it. The peas seemed like they were doing great until they all just up and died for no reason we can discern. The peppers are hanging in there, but there is a difference between "hanging in there" and "actually producing something edible". The watermelon did not take to being transplanted, and the carrots never grew at all. No idea why.

We had better luck with the herbs. The cilantro didn't make it and the parsley did OK, but the basil and dill grew like crazy. So this means that I was able to walk out onto my porch, pick something, wash it, and EAT IT. Something that I GREW. FROM A SEED. Were you all aware of this phenomenon? Food comes from seeds? DELICIOUS FOOD. And even better, Annie revealed over Twitter that pesto is just oil and basil. I am ashamed to admit this as I sometimes claim to be a foodie, but I had never tried pesto and had always thought it was some mysterious concoction requiring pine nuts, but no! Oil! Basil! Done! So I made a bunch of pesto and if you add a little Asiago cheese to it right before you eat it it is unbelievably delicious. Pine nuts are completely unnecessary.

Compared to the list of things I planted, the list of things we harvested appears, to the untrained eye, to be feeble. And that's because you don't need to train your eye to see that it is clearly feeble. But this is only the second year we've attempted to grow food (Food! You can grow it! On your porch!), and I am pretty psyched at how easy the herbs were. And to be honest with you, I'm secretly relieved the tomato plants aren't producing. We are currently getting about fifteen tomatoes a week from the farm share. We cannot eat fifteen tomatoes a week; not, at least, if we are going to eat the rest of the fourteen tons of vegetables we are getting from the farm share. So if I had to preserve a bounteous harvest of our own on top of that, I might crack. (A fridge full of locally-grown organic vegetables silently rotting away is the hushed-up dark side of having a farm share.)

Jack also planted seeds this spring. First of all, he was actually the one to plant all the aforementioned vegetables if we're going to get technical about it. But he also planted sunflower seeds in April in school, and we transplanted them to the front yard when they got too big for the styrofoam cup.

Those came from teeny tiny seeds! SEEDS!

Good thing we moved them, wouldn't you say?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sadly, it was raining, sixty degrees, and dinner time, so she was denied

This afternoon, Nora saw me coming in from my run and gave me a big grin. Then she started shrieking and pointing, so I said, "Come over here if you want something." She took a few steps then dropped to her hands and knees to crawl the rest of the way. I got on the floor and held my arms out, because of course she wanted ME, she had missed ME while I was out. But she crawled right past me and came back with a sandal, which she handed to me and held out her little foot with a "Eh." So I put it on. Then I put on the other one.

"She wants her sandals on," I said, getting up off the floor.

"She wants them on because she likes to take them off," replied Andrew.

But we were both wrong, because we turned to see her at the back door, reaching up for the doorknob which she can just touch if she stretches.

She wanted to go outside to play.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I think of this every single time they give away the centerpieces

One of my oldest friends is getting married this fall. We’ve been friends since freshman year of high school, which was… twenty years ago and now I need to sit down. Yikes. At any rate, she came over today and the conversation naturally turned to wedding etiquette, as it does so often with anyone involved in planning a wedding. The combination of high school and wedding etiquette reminded me of an incident that happened about… hey! Twenty years ago!

This incident took place at the end-of-year high school choir* banquet, where “banquet” means “crappy food served in the school cafeteria.” The choir members and our long-suffering parents were scattered around the cafeteria in groups of eight to ten, just like at a wedding. There were probably a total of twelve or so tables. As the event was winding down, the choir director got on the microphone and said we were going to play a game. “One person at every table should take out a dollar,” he said.

“Oh, I’ve played this game before,” I thought. “We pass around the dollar, and then whoever is left holding it when the music stops wins the centerpiece.” I don’t actually recall any centerpieces, but my fourteen-year-old self seemed to think there was nothing amiss. A grumbling representative from every table took out a dollar bill.

“Pass it around till the music stops,” said the choir director, and hit “play” on the tape player. Or possibly the CD player; maybe we were fancy. The music stopped at last, and the person left holding the dollar was instructed to hold it up in the air while someone from the choir boosters went around the room.

Perhaps you think the choir booster gave each person holding the dollar a box of leftover “banquet” food. Or maybe you think the dollar-holder really did win the hypothetical centerpiece. Whatever scenario you’re imagining, it probably ends with the banquet attendee getting a prize of some kind, however weak and undesirable a prize it was. And so it is with astonishment equal to the astonishment of those in attendance that you will learn that the choir booster went around to every table and took the dollar. She TOOK the DOLLAR. The dollars were then “donated” to the choir booster fund while we choir members and our parents sat, too dumbfounded to protest.

Thus it was that the choir director and the choir boosters managed to raise twelve whole dollars while alienating their entire support group to the point that I, twenty years later, can still remember where in the cafeteria I was sitting when they stole our money.**

This was the only year they ran that particular fundraiser. Can’t imagine why.

*I was also in the band. Bass drum, then tuba, then drum major. I was on yearbook staff, too, and in school musicals. I’m not saying I was good in the school musicals, I’m just saying I was a huge nerd. But a happy one! I kind of wish I was rehearsing for a musical right now! I wonder if there’s a community theater around here…

**On the left side, about three tables back from the entrance.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sweet dreams!

Whenever we go to the library, I let Jack borrow five books, two DVDs, and two books on tape or CD. The audio books are a new thing because I only just figured out that we are allowed to borrow them. I thought they were like encyclopedias or something. I clearly did not think that all the way through or it would have occurred to me that it makes no sense not to allow people to borrow the audio books since one cannot listen to them in the library. What did I think they were for? Decoration?

But I digress. The point here is that when we go to the library, we borrow five books. Sometimes I choose them and sometimes Jack does. His technique is to grab whichever books he happens to lay eyes on; I try to be more discriminating. But life with two tiny people being what it is, I don’t usually have time to linger over the pages and I often make snap judgments based on the title and/or cover art. Sometimes this works out well, like with I Read Signs by Tana Hoban. Sometimes, not so much.

Take yesterday, for example. Last Saturday, we roasted marshmallows on the charcoal grill, and thus talked at length about fire. (Have I told you about last Saturday? The day started with Jack and Andrew setting up the tent in the backyard. Then a flipping hot air balloon showed up in the park half a block from our house, and we got to take a free ride in it. Next, Jack, Andrew and Nora went to a party with 40 million other kids and had a wonderful time. Meanwhile, I stayed home all by myself in the house for four hours nursing a minor illness, so things weren’t so bad here, either. Hey, did you know that if you stay home by yourself, you only have to clean the kitchen once in a while? Like, if you hang out on the computer for two hours and don’t go back into the kitchen, when you DO go back into the kitchen it will be in the same state you left it! I KNOW. Wait, where was I? Right. The party. So then they came home and Nora went to bed and the rest of us roasted marshmallows and then Jack and Andrew camped out. It was a good day, is what I’m saying.)

So ANYWAY. We roasted marshmallows and talked about fire and how it’s dangerous and only grown-ups can start one, etc. etc. Jack was quite fascinated, so when I found a book in the library called What Happens When Fire Burns? I thought it would be perfect! “How nice!” I thought. “A book explaining to children how fuel and oxygen are converted to carbon dioxide and water! What a lovely bedtime story!”

We read it last night.

The cover. Seems innocuous enough.

Ah, yes. Fire is friendly! Comforting! The screen keeps us safe, Jack!

But let’s not talk about the screen until we get to THIS page, which shows a fire without a screen. The screenless fire seems like it might not be so safe, actually. Hmmm.

Some people use fire to cook, just like we did with the marshmallows! Neat, huh?

Yes, never light a fire by yourself, Jack. It’s very dangerous. Always ask an adult. All sound advice.

Uhh… but we have smoke alarms! That keep us safe!

Look, firefighters! Aren’t firefighters wonderful?

Um, yeah, cars can, um, burn. Foam! Look, the firefighters use special foam! Isn't that cool?

And… trees can burn too. Um. Hey, did you know firefighters have special airplanes, too? That put out forest fires?

Jack, this page is boring. Let’s not read it.

Oh, dear Lord. Listen, Jack, we use fire to make electricity and it’s destroying the world. You might as well find out now.

But look, we can clean up after a fire! It only takes many, many years! It’s all OK. Eventually. After we’re all dead, probably. Oh, that house? THAT'S gone for good.

I mean, REALLY. I am not positive of the target audience for this book, but I certainly hope it is not meant for preschoolers, despite the very large print and simplified language and definitions. Go back and read that page on explosions. Really read it. Seriously? “What would happen if there was an earthquake?” Well, kids, the gas pipes would break and then catch fire and then explode. We’d all die. Good night!

Mr. Pickles is horrified.

Happily, there were no fire-based nightmares, but my goodness. We won’t be reading THAT again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

All I need now is a blind guy with glasses the exact same shape as mine

One morning about two weeks ago found me groping on the nightstand for my glasses. “Where are my glasses?” I asked Andrew. It is always Andrew’s job to find my glasses, because it is faster, somehow, to look for missing glasses by simply glancing around the room instead of by physically covering the same area with one’s nose two inches away from all of the likely horizontal surfaces.

“Aren’t they right… ohhhh, damn.” That’s right, the baby, loose in the bedroom for some reason, had them. And had broken them. Snapped the left arm clean off, she did. I had a moment of panic, but then I remembered I still had my last pair which are the same prescription. Sadly, I hate those glasses, and did not want to have to wear them any longer than absolutely necessary.

“Well, I’m sure I can go get them fixed on Saturday. They just need a new arm. I bet they’ll have the part,” I said. This, my friends, is what is called “foreshadowing.”

So on Saturday, I duly called the place where I bought my glasses last fall, just to double check that they were open. “We sure are!” the salesgirl said, chirpily. “Ten to three!” So around 2:00 I headed out to the store which was located in the next town over, about ten minutes away. “Was” is the operative word in that last sentence, though, because when I pulled up I found an empty store. Not “empty” like, “no people because it’s closed for the day,” no, this was “empty” like, “there were no people and there was also no merchandise because this store has closed for good.”

There was a note on the door, which I will paraphrase for you here:

“Attention, Dr. Maureen: We have closed this location, conveniently situated a short ten-minute drive from your house. We still have a store open in a town much farther away, though. It’s about a thirty-minute drive. There’s no way you can go there today, of course, because you told Andrew you would only be gone for twenty minutes, so you’re going to have to go next week with both kids in tow. That should be lots of fun, because kids LOVE going to the optician’s. It’s like going to a birthday party, except there’s no cake, no toys, and they’re not allowed to touch anything because it’s all very fragile and expensive. Oh, and we didn’t tell, so they’re still listing this address even though they’ve matched it up with our new phone number, so that’s what happened there. Just FYI.”


So I drove home in my stupid old glasses that I hate, and called the store back. “Um. You’re closed in the next town over from me,” I said to the chirpy girl.

“Oh, we closed that MONTHS ago!” she chirped. “In January!” She seemed quite stunned that I could be unaware of this, but I bought my glasses last year, and I am not in the habit of dropping into the optician’s just to say hi. So I missed it.

But it turned out not to matter, because when I explained the problem to her, she said that they would not have been able to do anything for me anyway. I had to talk to the owner, who wasn’t in that day, and yada yada yada, I loaded the kids into the car the following Wednesday to go get my lenses put into new-but-identical frames that were pity-priced at half off for me. And you won’t believe this, but as I was packing up the forty tons of stuff a baby requires to have at all times I caught Nora with my sunglasses. My prescription sunglasses. My three-hundred-dollar prescription sunglasses. And she was breaking them in the exact same way she had broken my regular glasses which was the entire reason for this whole stupid trip. I stopped her before they were destroyed, but man, I have to remember that she can reach the table now. Push things into the center! The center of the table only!

So I finally got there, but then I had to drive around aimlessly for thirty extra minutes because OF COURSE they both fell asleep seconds from the store. But the guy gave my my replacement frames and was able to fix the minor damage inflicted on my sunglasses, and then we got ice cream from the convenient store next door, so it all ended well. Right?

WRONG. The new glasses pinch! They pinch! I already went to a local optician to get them adjusted, and I hate doing that – going to an optician who didn’t SELL me the glasses and asking him to fix them for free. I realize it takes them two seconds, but I still feel like a jerk. And he fixed them, but then it turns out he didn’t because they still pinch. It’s a sort of low-grade background pinching that I don’t exactly notice, but then I take them off for a second and there’s this RELIEF, but it is brief because I inevitably have to put them back on. And now that I’m typing about the pinching, I’m becoming ever more aware of it, and OW.

And, oh, I can hear you all now. “So just wear the other ones, Dr. Maureen! THEY don’t pinch!” Ah, but I hate them. I hate hate hate them. And it is only 50% vanity; they are ugly, yes, but they also are a little too long so if I lean back on the couch, the couch sort of pushes them off my face. AND the plastic cover thingies on the end of the arms catch my hair when I take them off and I cannot begin to tell you how infuriating this is. I lived with that hair-catching problem for about three years, and I WOULD RATHER BE PINCHED.

Sigh. I think the problem is that I told the second optician they pinched at the end of the arm but actually the problem is at where the arm bends to hook over my ears. But I can’t go back to the guy who didn’t sell me the glasses AGAIN and have him fix them for free AGAIN. I’ve thought about going to the optometrist who gave me my last eye exam, but she also sells glasses, and I’ll feel all guilty then, too. I have decided that I will go to Target. Target gets plenty of my money, they can fix my glasses.

And so. I have no way to wrap this up. I guess I’ll just tell you that I’ll be sure to keep you posted regarding the pinching situation. I will let you know THE SECOND the problem is resolved. Or else I’ll forget and never mention it again. One of those two things.

*Bonus points to the first commenter who can identify both Seinfeld references in this post!