Saturday, March 29, 2014

As You Can see, My Young Apprentice, Your Friends Have Failed. Now Witness the Firepower of This Fully Armed and Operational Battle Station!

In the midst of the Rebellion of our Backyard the rabbits and ground squirrels were slaughtering our garden plants, our grass, and our soil. Holes populated the barren dirt. Traps were proven obsolete. It seemed nothing to suppress the Rebellion. 

And then Drek built an owl house from scratch. We hoisted it high into our palm tree and hoped somewhere, sometime, an owl family would move into the house and rescue our yard from the war zone it had become. 

We waited and waited and waited. 

At last! We can hear baby owls inside the owl house! We catch glimpses of the parents around our house, and Drek even saw one devouring a mouse that had the misfortune of being stark white against a brown backdrop. We haven't actually seen any owls in the box, and we can't look inside because it is so high up, but owlets are very noisy, and we can hear them!

It seems the rabbit population has dropped and in the panic of avoiding the owls two ground squirrels have been caught in our traps. Finally! Once owlets grow up into hunters, we will crush the rebels and bring this war to an end! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I am a Pretend Guy That... Comes Around... And... Gets Run Over by a Lawnmower Blade!

April marks three years since we moved into this house. We bought it as a foreclosure and have slowly...oh so slowly...been fixing it up to make it look less abandoned. When we first moved in, our to-do list was several dozen pages. Somewhere on the first page was to get a front lawn. Right away we realized if we installed a lawn, we would have to take care of it. Mowing. Watering. Yuck. Also, sod is crazy expensive. So a front lawn was moved back a few pages. 

Three years later, we finally decided to tackle it. We decided we wanted grass! We decided we wanted mulch! We decided we wanted landscaping! Here are the results: 








And some more after:

We decided to divide the yard: A lawn area and a mulch/plant area. We also added parking by the road and put in railroad ties to discourage cars from driving on our very expensive grass. Grass that we now have to water. And mow. Yuck.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

If you’re enough lucky to be Irish... You’re lucky enough

Confession: We didn't have Lucky Charms for breakfast this morning. We're trying not to have sugar, so we had green smoothies and oatmeal. 

After breakfast we had to move fast! I had invited over thirty families to our second annual St Patrick's Day Irish Party for the Kids of the Ward Who Aren't in School at Ten in the Morning!  (The title could use a little work) 

We had more families than last year, but the best part was the treats! Everyone was asked to "bring a green, orange and/or white treat to share." Last year I did the fruit salad. This year we did green smoothies in rainbow cups: 

(Ash made the colored sugar herself! Dipping all those cups took an hour!) 

And quesadillas made from spinach tortillas and cut into shamrock shapes. I had the ranch for dipping in the middle contained by green and orange bell peppers.

Last year the majority of people brought carrots. A few served them on a platter, but I did get a few bags of baby carrots handed to me with a shrug "I just couldn't think of anything else that was healthy." 

This year we had some great ideas! Only one person brought carrots, and it was served with celery and cucumber!  We had a cabbage salad, a delicious white bean salad with carrots and cilantro, dried coconut snacks, popcorn, cutie oranges... all fantastic ideas! 

The decorations turned out well too, if I say so myself.  

The party was a huge success! I'm already planning next year's party!

After all that, dinner was just a family affair: asparagus, carrots, baked mashed potatoes and homemade soda bread:

Maybe next year we'll have Lucky Charms for dessert. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Banana. So Funny.

Slowly, so very slowly, we are fixing up the front yard of our house. Our most recent fix-up: banana trees!

They are trees that grow bananas! Bananas will grow on these trees! Real bananas! Edible bananas! Grow, my little banana harvest, grow!

Monday, March 10, 2014

We got the Loot, Didn't We? Then I Call It a Win. What's the Problem? Should I Start with the Part Where You're Stranded in the Middle of Nowhere or the Part Where You Have No Clothes?

I'm going to warn you right now: This story contains brief nudity. That was a spoiler, but I think it needed to be said.

We stayed in a one bedroom suite. The front room included a little kitchenette that had a microwave, a stove with two burners, a kitchen sink and a full size fridge. Halfway through our trip to Fredericksburg I discovered my hotel had a free "stock my fridge" service where you give them a shopping list by eight in the morning and by five in the afternoon the items would magically show up in your fridge/cupboard. Since I had to take the bus to the closest store, I was delighted.

 I handed my grocery list over to the appointed person by the appointed time, then gathered up my kids and went out for the day. I like to be gone when room service shows up, and I wanted to be gone when the delivery person came to deliver my groceries. We got back to the hotel at noon. I glanced in the fridge; our food and not yet arrived. Thinking they would show up soon and not wanting to be there when they did, we changed into our swimsuits and headed down to the hotel pool. After two hours it was time for Alexa's nap. Back in our room I was disappointed to see the groceries were still undelivered. I put the sign on the door that said to go away, realizing that I would probably have to pick up the groceries myself  from the front desk. But at least I wouldn't have to take a bus to get there! 

We showered all together, taking off our wet swimsuits and washing off the chlorine.  I left Ash in the bath and took Alexa to get her into some clothes. I sang to her as I carried her from the bathroom to the bed. The door to the front room was wide open and I walked right in front of it. . . yeah, you see where this is going. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, jumped behind the wall and maybe even let out a squeal. I looked out into the front room in time to see the delivery woman jumping out the front door in no less of a hurry. She may have also let out a squeal. She poked her head back in: "Sorry! I'm so sorry!" and the quickly disappeared.

After she left I rushed into the front room, carrying my naked baby in front of me as some sort or pathetic shield, and locked the door, wondering why I hadn't done that in the first place. I had a flash of anger. I put the sign on the door! Wasn't that enough? Don't they knock before coming in? And then I started to giggle. That poor women. Not only was she subjected to the pure view of my fluffiness. She also must have heard me singing. What an assault on her senses.

But my fridge was stocked! She had put the frozen groceries in the freezer, the milk in the fridge and even put the Cheerios in the cupboard.

I decided to leave her a big tip by way of apology. Just how much of a tip was standard for such a situation?

Half an hour later, just as Alexa was drifting off to sleep, the hotel phone rang.

"This is the the manager of the hotel. I just wanted to personally call and apologize for the...the incident."  She paused, not sure if she was being too discrete. "The incident that took place a half hour ago."

"My staff member realized you had the sign on the door, but she wanted to get the perishables but away and she didn't know anyone was home. She shouldn't have gone in, and I apologize, but she wanted to get those groceries in the freezer. She didn't realize you were home until... well, until the incident. I just wanted to apologize and let you know that all those groceries are on us today. There will be no charge for the groceries and I hope you accept out sincerest apologies."

Which ended the deliberations of how much I should tip. I didn't try the "stock my fridge" service again, but I did lock my door for the rest of the week whenever we were done with the pool.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

When Do I Ever Complain About You Practicing the Violin at Three in the Morning, or Your Mess, Your General Lack of Hygiene, or the Fact That You Steal My Clothes? Uh, We Have a Barter System...

During our stay in Fredericksburg we used public transportation to get us from the hotel to the historic sites we visited and back. Public buses contain such a variety of people: Some are really friendly and talkative, others have their headphones in, their head down, and their fingers furiously texting. We had two trips that were startling different experiences:

During one trip we sat in the seat in front of two young college girls. At first they talked about their classes, but very quickly they were distracted from their conversation by my baby, who kept smiling at them over my shoulder. In their same hushed tones they cooed at her, waved, and laughed when she waved back. They were apparently delighted by her attention and kept saying how cute she was. I don't think they knew I could hear them because suddenly things took a rather dark turn:

Coed 1  "That is seriously the cutest baby I have ever, ever seen."
Coed 2  "I know!"
Coed 1  "No, really. I want that baby. I want to keep it forever."
Coed 2  "At the next stop we could just grab her and jump off the bus and run away."
Coed 1  "We couldn't run too far. Maybe all the way to Mexico."
Coed 2  "I think Canada is closer."
Coed 1  "But the baby would get so cold."
Coed 2  "Not if we just kept cuddling her, she is so cute."
Coed 1  "They would let us across the border as soon as they saw her smile."
Coed 2  "She could charm us across any border."
Coed 1  "Seriously, though."

And then they went back to talking about their classes. I was very amused. When we got off the bus (at the same stop as luck would have it) I walked away feeling light and happy. My baby is ridiculously cute.

During the return trip on a different day we sat in front of two women who were somewhere between mid twenties and mid thirties. As soon as they sat down one of them made a noise and made a comment about a smell. A few seconds later she again brought up a smell, this time in a louder voice.

Immediately on the defensive, I covertly sniffed Alexa's diaper: clean. I leaned over and sniffed Ash's coat: smelled fine to me.

"Who does that? I mean, why would anybody smell like that?" She asked her friend. At that point I wondered if she was sensitive to perfume, and someone on the bus was wearing too much. But then the women made a comment about how such a bad smell was making her sick. A few seconds later she grabbed a bag from her friend and threw up. She was sitting right behind me. It was so gross.

She retched a few more times, then very loudly began to complain about the smell.

"Bus driver! Do you have disinfectant spray or something? You need to spray. I just threw up, it smells so bad. Someone smells so bad it made me sick. I just threw up, it's so bad. Why would anyone smell that bad?"

The bus driver didn't say anything, but handed back a trashcan and a bottle of  disinfectant spray. The women sprayed so much of it that it made me sick. Someone pulled the cable to indicate to the driver he needed to stop at the next stop, and less than a minute later the bus driver stopped and a man exited the bus. He was cheerful and polite to the bus driver, thanking him for the ride, but as he passed me in the aisle I caught a strong whiff of urine. As the bus drove away I watched him form the window: he was homeless. I don't even think he was at his stop.

"Who smells like that? Why would anybody smell so bad?" The women behind me muttered to her friend.

My heart dropped into my stomach. How could she be so cruel to someone so cheerful? He had to have heard her. I'm sure that was the reason he got off the bus. I wish I had figured out what was going on earlier. But even if I had, what could I have said or done?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

And Chambermaids Were Once Such a Liberal Breed. My Wife's a Chambermaid, Sir

We just got back from accompanying Drek on a two week business trip to Frederick, Virginia. It was a wonderful trip. It's always fun to travel, visit new places and new climates, but I'm not going to lie: the best part was that we were in a hotel and a maid cleaned our room almost every day.

It wasn't a vacation for Drek; on the contrary, he had to go into work early, stay late, work weekends and travel with two little kids instead of flying solo, but both of us agreed it was better than being separated for two weeks.

On the other hand, it was a great vacation for me! Teaching Ash to swim in the hotel pool, taking the kids across the street to the indoor playground, walking around the historic section and talking all the tours, spending all day every day focused on my kids instead of the laundry or vacuuming or grocery shopping.

I did make a critical mistake: Since I usually pack too many books on vacations, and since I usually don't have time to read books on vacations anyway, I decided to only pack two books (but they were thick books!). The first day we woke up in the hotel I realized there were none of the usual vacation distractions (i.e. family and friends) to keep me from reading. I also realized my book was so good I read it I couldn't put it down. I finished both books by day three. Day three of thirteen.

On day four we went to a bookstore and I spent  twenty dollars on a young adult novel. Don't get me wrong: I LOVE books. I love owning books. But I usually buy books from library sales or thrift stores. I usually buy classics or books that have already read, loved, and want my kids to love. Spending  twenty dollars on a new hardback young adult book just shows my desperation. I finished it on day five. I think I didn't like it just because I paid twenty dollars for it and it wasn't a  twenty dollar book. Had I checked it out from the library, I think I would have loved it.

On day six I tried to get a library card. For a while I thought it would actually work, but somewhere someone must have caught that my address was a hotel and stopped the paperwork. Shrug. It was worth a try.

On day seven I downloaded an audiobook to my phone. On day eight I signed up for a free trial on Netflix. Those two things were more than enough to keep me occupied during the kids' nap time. And the Walking Dead is a perfect thing to watch late at night when your kids are asleep and your husband is stuck at work until ten or eleven.

I make it sound like all I did was read, but it was only a few hours a day. We spent a lot of time outdoors, walking the historic streets, visiting really, really old graveyards and touring things like Mary Washington's house and Jefferson Davis's lodgings. I love that stuff! I planned to see more, but the last two days of the trip we were forced indoors. The snow had melted, the sun was shining and the skies were clear, but it was freezing. We had to run across the street to get to the indoor playground because even a few minutes in those temperatures made our skin ache from cold.

 I'm glad to be back home with my library and my summer weather, but I miss having maid. I really, really liked having a maid.