Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Don't Want to Do That

I'm going through some kind of weird knitting period where mostly . . . I don't want to. I'd been motivating myself to finish an EZ baby surprise sweater by telling myself that the store needed a sample so I could get more people to sign up for the class this summer--but then I remembered that they already have a sample of that particular sweater.

I was trying to remember how I got so much knitting done this time last year and in reviewing my blog entries from the time--well, it was because I was largely unemployed. This year I'm working 25 hrs (this week) at a "real" job and when I'm not at work, I'm working on the PAC, doing stuff with the kids, or doing something for church or whatever. Last night we had Family Home Evening and finished our gifts for Mother's Day. Now I have to find the time to get them all in the mail before, well, Mother's Day.

I really like my new job. I'll be glad when training is over, and sometimes I'm self-conscious of the fact that in a place with big personalities, I'm the quiet one. I worry I seem downright brooding next to the other personalities in the office. But I *really* like them, and I'm finding that even after 9 years of working at home, I'm already starting to thaw out a little. I don't know if that's the right term. It's just that I have never been brilliant at "chatting" and all the working at home didn't really refine those skills at all. Anyway, the folks there are not just nice, they're genuinely funny people and I -- I am in a good place to laugh right now.

Normally when I'm not working or cooking or doing all the kid-oriented things, I immediately grab my knitting, but lately--not so much. Again, I got to think about what I'm doing instead (because I'm sure not staring off into space) and why this week I'm feeling so . . . frustrated. I'm in the mood, honestly, for a good temper tantrum. Why is that?

And then I realized that what I've been doing is running out into the yard--either Gaye's or mine--and working on a lawn, garden, or lawn and garden related task. But since I hurt my ankle on Friday, I've had to really take it easy on that kind of thing. Today I felt better enough to mow a small portion of the front yard--just the area where the grass was tallest so that when Chris does the real mowing on Saturday, it won't be too tall to mow properly. Then I started shoveling some of that mulch under the nearest tree.

I couldn't finish the job. I had to admit after I had a smidge over half of the mulch under that tree that my ankle was done. So I came inside to check email and cook dinner and eventually it dawned on me that the reason I felt so grouchy was because of the ankle pain.

It is just not going to heal as quickly as I would like. Especially if I keep cheating and shoveling "just a little" mulch. So I sit down and tell myself to knit a little, but I don't want to. It's April, nearly May, and there is mulch to be placed, a third raised-bed frame to put into place and fill with soil, and the corn bed to plot out and plan. I'm counting down the weeks till I can transplant the peppers, tomatoes, and melons. I'm wondering just how "warm" the soil has to be before I can put out the birds and butterfly seeds. (I was just looking at the plastic "mulch" sheeting I bought a couple of seed orders ago and wondering what the best use of it was, and I think using it to warm the two dirt beds over at Gaye's is my best bet.)

Ironically, tonight we're having a hard frost and all my agricultural pins are holding plastic sheeting in place over the more tender veggies so they're not completely killed by the cold.

So. I'm pooped. I'm going to take my whining ankle to bed. I'm sure at some point my ankle will feel much better, the garden will be full of growing plants (and weeds) and it will be sticky hot and instead of weeding I will . . . suddenly remember how much I love to knit lace :)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Recital Video

Go to Chris' blog to see the recital pieces :)

Things Growing

First and foremost, the playground grew. We worked on it all day, although I gave out about two and a half hours before the last guys left. I twisted my ankle early in the day and when Chris called at 6:30 pm to remind me that we had overnight guests, I knew it was time to go home. It was bad enough last night and this morning that I actually caved and went and got it x-rayed.

This turned out to be an easy-peasy experience. We were in-and-out of the weekend clinic in 45-minutes. It's just a bad sprain and this magic gizmo REALLY helps. That and I'm supposed to take 800 mg of ibuprofin every 4 to 6 hours for three days, LOL.

We have flower buds on the cherry trees.

Here's one with the underside of a pollinator.

Last summer's wasp's nest has been renovated and rented out.

Most of the tomatoes and peppers have been transplanted into bigger pots, except for the Jalapenos. There are so many of them that I have to get more peat pots before I can do that.

a peony bud

onions and lettuce

It was an unbelievably exciting day even if I couldn't hardly do anything standing up. I could still take delivery of a LOT of mulch. My tarp is size "massive." I don't know, 10 ft x 12 ft? Something like that.


I may be limping along, but by next weekend I'll have spread all that mulch in the appropriate places in the front yard and another pile over at Gaye's house around the blueberry bushes and in her front flower bed. Whoo-hoo!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of Playgrounds and Peonies

First, for Gaye, the bedraggled looking creatures I planted in your front bed this morning will eventually spread out and look something like this:

You have something else growing on the left-hand side, and I wasn't sure what it was, so I planted fewer peonies there and let the other thing live. After watching both for a summer, you can pick which you want me to dig up for good.

Peonies grow into pretty bushes with shiny leaves and massive purple/pink flowers--and then the flowers die and they stay pretty bushes with shiny leaves until the last possible moment in fall. I wasn't enamored of them when we first moved here. I thought they were kind of . . . big. But they have grown on me and I appreciate the fact that they look wonderful all the freakin' time. Too much rain? They're happy. Too little rain? Still happy. First sign of spring? They're peeking out of the ground. Definitely fall? Still hanging in there.

This Friday is the big Build the Playground day at school and a lot of the organizing and phone calling is my job and it's been a heck of a week with big and small problems cropping up and me trying to squash them like bugs. So far so good though.

I still like my new job. It's a heck of a lot to learn though.

When I'm not working on the playground or workwork, then I'm working on my yard or Gaye's. I've been working more on Gaye's this week because I've been imagining that every time she looks out her kitchen window and sees the rocks strewn about and the unfinished boxes she sighs heavily and wonders why she ever agreed to let me do this. I don't think I'll get to the third box until Saturday afternoon, but I did get some of my peonies divided and into her bed and we'll see how that goes. I'm not a "dividing" whiz kid. Maybe you're supposed to trim them or something to get them to work on their roots? I just know they're impossible to actually kill, so the worst that can happen is that they don't look as good as they could for one summer and then next year they look magnificent. I finished raking my back yard to the point where we stop mowing and then did weed and feed for that portion of the back yard.

Gaye's yard needs more weed-killer. I've never seen some of the weeds she has on her lawn. They're more like alien life forms than dandelions. I'm starting from gentlest weed killer to most noxious so as to avoid using something stronger than we need. With a few exceptions (I can't even find a picture of this thing. It looks like a huge, fuzzy, silver/pale green star and it HURTS if you touch it) the weeds are clumped together in certain areas, so I don't need to do the whole lawn at this point. What I do need though is a working hose and we might need to call a plumber to get that :( The inspector apparently didn't notice the spigots leak *inside* the house. Weed Killer #3 is of the sort that fits on the end of your hose and sprays through that way.

Weed Killer #2 is a propane torch. I'm scheduling that one in for tomorrow afternoon. :::evil cackle:::

Alright. I'm off to eat lunch, shower the dirt off me, and go into the office. :::Hums happily:::

Monday, April 21, 2008

Twitter, Twitter, Ka-Boom!! Tweet, Tweet!

I have to admit that spring and summer weather in PA, except for that heavy heat that settles down, especially at night when you're trying to sleep, is pretty exciting. Once the first robins show up, pretty soon, the neighborhood is full of birds and they ALL have something to say. It's clearly a feathered meat-market--and the guy who moved into the old wasp nest outside our window did pretty well, scoring a wife in just a day or two. I worry the nest will fall apart for good before the eggs hatch and the chicks are raised, but for now, it's a good place to be.

When the sun isn't shining and the weather isn't being magnificent, there's a thunderstorm on the way, or overhead, or just passed. And I love a good thunderstorm (having never been struck by lightening or having had my roof ripped off or anything. These are not newsworthy storms. They're not even as impressive as the ones we saw in Minnesota--but those sometimes went too far and scared the jeebers out of me. These are kinder, gentler thunderstorms.)

OTOH, if I don't get one of the THREE clients who owe me checks to pay me soon, I'm gonna start wishing lightening strikes on someone . . . . I don't think I have any actual authority in that area, so they're safe anyway. But, I'm starting to WISH a little kaboom in their neighborhood. They're making it difficult to observe my naturally-law abiding nature.

I started my new job. It was only three hours of training, and maybe that's just as well. It's a LOT to learn. I felt a little overwhelmed at times just because, well, it's new! But I came home excited about it.

I then jumped into my jeans and ran over and got 2.5 hrs in the garden at Gaye's house. Only 5 blueberry bushes and one raised bed garden left to get into place. I do need more DIRT and I'm trying to figure out where to get that cheaply. You'd think dirt would easier to find.

After picking the kids up from school, I transplanted the tomato plants I knew I wanted to keep into bigger peat pots. Hopefully they won't need transplanting one more time before it's really time to put them in the garden. There are approximately 12 plants, of which I will only plant 9. It will soon be time to get tomato cages. I've used stakes for the past few years, but I am reluctant to use them for anything but kindling because of the disease problems from last year.

It's time for dinner now. I'm pretty worn out. I think tonight will be one of those nights when the object of the game is to not fall asleep before the kids do.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Been There, Done That

This week was a week like no other. It got off to a bang with a normal Sunday, which was notable mostly in that it was normal. We had a little time for breathing at the end of the day. That was nice.

Monday kicked my keester. I finished all our taxes and the news--the news is never good. It wasn't as horrific as some previous years, but it was still bad. Within minutes of finishing the state taxes, I got an email from Penn State telling me, again (because I've heard it before) that they're sure I'm a wonderful writer and editor, but there are lots of writers and editors out there and I'm simply the wrong kind. A textbook writer at a University is simply not "as qualified" as, oh, pretty much English major. Or so it would seem.

Feeling kicked around, I changed into play clothes and went over to Gaye's house to work in the garden. The bird and butterfly box wasn't going well. I had gotten my measurements astonishingly wrong and was, quite simply, digging a really large hole in the wrong place. Gurney's was having a sale on blueberry bushes. Gaye and I made an on-the-spot decision to get into the blueberry-growing business. Besides, I have a single, lonely blueberry bush that wasn't thriving in its perfect soil in a pot. It really wanted to be in the ground with plenty of access to that acidic clay. So I brought over the blueberry bush and plonked it in the center of the hole--mostly to have a place to put the dirt I was now digging out for the proper location of the box. But then I hit a rock. And suffice to say, that after digging out this rock for nearly an hour, I realized that I was simply NOT going to be able to dig out the rock. The rock was staying.

I went and got Gaye and we pondered the situation, and then reluctantly moved the box AGAIN--6 inches more to the west of the original position. At this point, the box is in place. It needs to be shored up in one spot by some of the many rocks that were dug out during the excavation, and in general, we need something to do with those rocks. We need the rest of the blueberry bushes to arrive, so we can fill in the big hole in the spot where the box didn't go, and so that the one bush we do have, doesn't look so lonely.

That said, I checked on the blueberry bush today and in spite of the fact that it was only transplanted 6 days ago, it's sporting all sorts of new growth. It almost screams, "Acidic clay!! Oh!! I'm so happy!!" It's primary rootball sits in nice organic potting soil, but in the pot it was holding way too much moisture, and with the extra moisture wicked away, I suspect it's also happier for that reason.

Anyway, I got ahead of myself because the re-digging of the box didn't happen until Tuesday. So back to Monday afternoon. I went and got the kids and then headed back home where I found an email from a law office I know.

This post is from May 27, 2007:
"Initially I was looking for temporary work, but then an opportunity for a part-time permanent position came up. It's not in education. I haven't done anything like it in years. The pay can't compare to freelancing--but it would be every week, rain or shine. I met and liked the other person in the office. I met and liked the person who would be my boss. If it doesn't come through, I don't know if I'll keep looking for something else. Freelance work, like it always does, has passed through it's difficult pause and there will soon be plenty of work again. But if offered the position, I believe I'll take it. The work would suit me, and getting a supplemental paycheck regularly would suit me, too. I would continue to freelance, but no more taking on two full-time contracts and one more part-time on the side."

There's a WHOLE lot more to the story that doesn't belong on the blog, but in this case, on Monday evening I got an email, and then a phone call, asking if I was still, possibly, maybe, interested in working there while freelancing on the side. And I said, "yes." And so, getting ahead of myself again, I went in on Wednesday and reinterviewed for the job. We'll get back to that.

I still wasn't done with Monday evening. I had a PAC meeting to go to. I went. I ran it. We had a busy conversation. I came home and crashed.

Tuesday I worked most of the day in Gaye's garden getting that box in place so that I could not think about the part-time job. In the afternoon I supervised piano practicing because the annual April recital was coming up and we needed to be ready. Chris was running a focus group for his work, so I led the 11-year-old scouts in a short lesson at the church and then they played football outside until the sun was gone.

Wednesday. Wednesday I dropped the kids off at school, ran over to Target for new pantyhose and a pair of spring shoes since the ones from last spring/summer were shot. I had about 3o minutes before the interview, so I went and got a drink because I was thirsty. And I SPILLED it on the polyester shirt I was wearing. I tried to dab it up, but it's the kind of top that immediately can't be fixed in that situation. I drove around for a few panicked moments and then felt I should go to the interview as is and look for a solution THERE.

Now, I really hit it off with my office mate/office manager there last year and we've exchanged a few emails since, so I showed her the blouse when I got there--still 10 minutes early. She lent me her white sweater. It was perfect. It completely covered the spots and I wouldn't be doing a reinactment of that Tide commercial from the Superbowl.

The interview went fine. I was offered the job. I accepted it. Friday morning we hammered out a schedule for next week. I'll be working around the schedule of the woman who has the job right now for a few weeks while she trains me. Then I can work during the hours the kids are in school.

So, anyway, the interview was Wednesday morning. I was useless for most of the rest of the day. I already knew I had the job and I was very happy. I wanted to find Gaye and tell her what had happened, but she was over at the Senior Crack House Senior Citizen Center. The State College Senior Citizen Center (SCSCC) turns out to be all kinds of fun, full of Mahjong, Scrabble, and regular trips to here and there. They serve a good, cheap lunch, and Gaye is swiftly making lots of friends. When she goes missing, I call there first. (She has since agreed to start carrying her cell phone again.) So I ran home, found out my phone had gone dead, made an appointment with Verizon to get it fixed on Friday (I wasn't in any hurry--for whatever reason, the DSL still worked), hopped out of interview clothing and into jeans, and went downtown. I found Gaye and she agreed to go to JoAnn's fabrics with me. I told her the whole story of the interview adventure. Next to the SCSCC is a goldsmith. I go in and get my rings cleaned. Oooh, shiney. It was a worthwhile whim.

We went to JoAnn's and found a Gentleman Ship's Captain costume to go with the pirate costumes and bought fabric and a lot of buttons for it. Max's play was on Friday and I knew that Thursday was my only shot at sewing it together.

We headed home, picked up the kids, went to piano lessons, had dinner, and I started to cut out fabric. Around this time I got an email reminding me that some dear friends were coming through town this weekend and were spending the night Friday night. I'd totally neglected to write it down. I confessed, but it was all good, and they still came Friday night.

Thursday. Now the week starts to get interesting. I enlist the help of a friend who can sew much better than I and with her help, I get everything done except a small part along one seam, the lace, and the buttons and button holes. I head over to the school and do Reader's Theater with the 2nd graders, take the twins home, and keep sewing. Chris drops off Max at group piano, then picks him up. I think I order pizza or something. It takes me FOREVER but I finally figure out button holes.

However, button holes is the last thing my machine has sewed properly. It hasn't worked since. It jams every which way. I'm at a loss. I start sewing on seven million buttons.

Friday morning. I keep an eye out for Verizon and keep sewing on buttons. I hate sewing buttons. I keep sewing on buttons. Verizon arrives and fixes the problem. It's on their end, so no charge to me. Yay! I talk to the law office and get the schedule for next week. I finish the costume, grab all the stuff for the play, run over to the school, leave the costumes with the woman in charge of the Extended-Day Extravaganza and check the boys out of school-----to get their hair cuts. It was the only time I could do it before the piano recital!! So I just did. We went to the barber, the downtown was crazy. There was a bomb scare of some sort (turned out later to be an experimental insulin pump thing that someone accidentally left somewhere it didn't belong. It had many wires and it looked scary I guess) so they'd emptied the downtown, including the SCSCC. Gaye and I got hold of each other and we picked her up after the hair cuts and took her home. From there we went over to the church where the recital would be so they could practice on the grand piano.

This turned out to be a huge hassle. I won't go into it, but in the end we did get into the building and each boy got to practice their piece at least once on the piano they'd actually be playing on the next day.

We ran back to the school and I left the boys with Chris who'd just arrived. I went to get Gaye and we came back and were treated to a very nice show on the part of the school and the kids. From there Max and Chris went to church to watch the Lip Synch contest and I took the twins and Grandma downtown and we got her car now that the bomb scare was over.

Then the twins and I went and watched the lip synch contest. WONDERFUL! Until Sarah called to say she was on her way. I grabbed the twins and went home and started cleaning. When Chris got there he helped me with the dishes. The place didn't look great, but it looked liveable by the time they got there.

We all wanted to talk and go to sleep simultaneously. Talking won. In the morning (it is now Saturday) we talked and ate and they left an hour and a half later than they meant to. Max and the twins and I got some groceries, dropped off Max at tennis, ran another errand, picked up Max, ran home, made the kids lunch, supervised showers and recital clothing, got us all off to the recital, picked up Gaye, and then . . .

the kids played. And they each did the best they could possibly do. And it was beautiful. By the end we (Chris and I) were each in tears, even though I prayed through most of Max's pieces that he wouldn't be too nervous. Maybe it worked for he was soooo . . . . great :) Just terrific.

This is Miss Irene with some of her students, including Max, far left. He has played with her for three years now.

Here are Ben and Milo with another tiny musician:

Chris is working on the video. There will be DVD's for the grandparents.

After that we went and celebrated at Meyer's Dairy with sundae's and then stopped off at a local farm on the way home to pick up 5 dozen eggs I'd ordered.

We had Quiche Lorraine and Veggie Quiche for dinner with the missionaries--I'd signed up to feed them many weeks before I completely understood the nature of this week.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow is church, followed by a short break, and then a special "Preparing for Priesthood" get together for Max and one of the other "almost a 12-yr-old" boys.

Which is followed by a week in which I start my new part-time job, do the usual piano lessons and stuff, have the kids off from school on Thursday because of parent-teacher conferences, and then on Friday I supervise the volunteers who will be constructing the new school playground (it's just my job just to keep the volunteers happy--and there). There's a Board of Trustees mtg which I will probably have to miss as Sarah and her gang are coming back through and we really want those few hours with them again.

And a week from today? It's easy peasy! Nothing on the schedule but tennis. Oh yeah, and I teach the Relief Society lesson the next day. Well, I'll get that in there somewhere . . . .

Let's make it my goal to keep it that way. Well, only so I can get some gardening done :) Also, hopefully the lawn mower will be fixed early this week because her lawn needs mowing. She gets so much more rain and sun than we do. She already needs a mowing! We'll still have a week or two before we get there.

Monday, April 14, 2008


On Chris' blog are some new pictures of the twins. http://pupdad.blogspot.com/

They desperately need haircuts, but I wanted photos of the boys in the vests that my Aunt Charlotte made them, the vest I made Milo from the yarn my grandmother bought me, and the sweater set I made for the twinks out of the yarn Prairie Silk.

With the exception of the plain blue vest, these sweaters are now up for "hand me down" as the twins have been growing at an alarming rate. To get these photos, I did some serious blocking. They are all about a 4T/5T.

I want them to go to Moms who don't mind hand washing, who will understand that all of these will need the occasional depilling, and who will love them for me in abstentia (sp?). They are all basically wool, and fine wool at that. (The Prairie silk obviously has a high silk content, too.)

I'm willing to split up the sets. You don't have to be a relative. Although for the vests, preference will go to relatives who show interest. (And if you're a relative, you don't have to have a kid or be pregnant yet if you just promise not to make sure the item gets USED when the child is the appropriate age.)

So. Please email me with your choices. These are somewhat high maintenance clothing items by today's standards, but they will last more than one child and they are WARM and so wonderful, they can even be worn to church.

A K i n P A AT v e r i (etc.) DOT net [take out spaces and make it a real email address.]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday and Gardening

A quick rundown of the day:

Got up, got the family going, took firstborn to sporting good's store. Bought him a new pair of shorts that fit, bringing his total of shorts that fit up to 1. It doesn't seem like he's growing exponentially, but I bought all his clothing last year big, so I know he is. We looked at tennis rackets, with no intention of buying, but trying to get a feel of what is out there so we can compare it to what they have at the Ralleyball lesson.

As it turns out, they have pretty much the same racquets at Ralleyball. I was impressed. These things weigh a fraction of the weight I remember as a kid.

I chased ball and even hucked a few. During the actual Rally's, I kept score. Apparently, I was also getting a really great sunburn, but there was a strong breeze through the whole morning and I had no clue. Next week I go slathered in sunscreen and I look for my straw hat. It's got to be around here somewhere. I didn't know we were at that point in the season yet.

We went home, changed into fresh clothes, picked up the rest of the family at Gaye's house, dropped off Max at the practice recital, and drove out to Tait's farm, which is my source for good vegetable seeds and sometimes, good vegetables.

I bought a six-pack of broccoli and some of the veggies I was looking for.

I went home and worked in the yard. Mostly, I raked. But in the process of raking up the side yard, I decided to add a bunch of the dried grass and leaves to the compost heap. And when I got back to the compost heap . . .

A few years ago I picked up a tumbler compost bin from freecycle. The tumbler part was in good shape, but the bottom was nearly rusted out. It's in pretty much the same condition. I couldn't ever seem to get it to really WORK though. My contents mixed up just fine, but they were composting as near as I could tell. After about 6 months, I gave up. It froze, it thawed, it froze, it thawed. And sometime this winter I decided that when it did thaw again, I would scrape out the contents, hose it down, and see if a scrap metal place might want it. So today as I was adding more "brown" to my compost pile, I decided the time had come to at least scrape out the contents. I had finished raking the front and side yard and when else was I going to do it? I went and got my pitchfork and began scraping.

And discovered to my astonishment the most pitch-black, fully composted, omigosh, you-could-really-grow-something-in-this . . . material. It's very compacted and there are a few signs of dried mildew, so I don't trust it in the vegetable garden. But I have a spot along the side of the front porch where I like to grow climbing, flowering things. I have two big things whose name has escaped me since ten days after I bought them. Last summer I had morning glories and I hope to have those again this year. And this year I'm also planting sweet peas. In the past, I've grown herbs there, too. But I find that mostly I don't use them. So instead I spread out the compost there, will plant the morning glories and sweet peas in them, and then after the plants are up, will pile mulch over the whole thing. There are bulbs there that look pretty all summer (I didn't plant those) and the compost will help them, too.

Then I uprighted the old composting barrel and that's as far as I got with that. I don't have the outside spigot turned on yet and I didn't want to deal with the hose today, so I left the hosing out of it for another day.

I checked the time. Still another hour till the birthday party the twins' were attending, so I worked on my vegetable gardens in the front yard. I planted the broccoli, with some queen anne's lace around them. I left the center section of the raised bed garden empty, just cleaning it out and making note of the onions that had survived the winter (which is all of them. Apparently that's what they do.) I think at this point I just wait till they grow a bit, use them for green onions, and then when we're past the last frost date, I'm planting some beans in that spot. In the last third of the box, I again saved most of the space for beans, but planted two rows of radishes just for the fun of it.

After the raised bed, there is a spot of thinning grass about 2 ft by 4 ft, and then another garden bed where I have heavily amended the soil, but it is not actually a garden box. Early in the summer last year, I let a twink plant some "chocolate mint" in the far corner of this spot and I filled the rest of it with beans. The beans struggled as they were besieged by beetles and it took me awhile to find an organic response that gave them any real respite. But the mint took hold.

A week ago I'd pulled all the mint out of the garden bed so I could use that spot for something else, and I sort of noticed that while this was easy enough in my garden where the soil is very loose and the roots pull up in long strings, at the spot where the roots entered the native PA clay soil--those roots weren't going anywhere.

Well, after planting the radishes today I took the rake and again raked up all the leaves I'd pulled out of the garden while cleaning it up and THAT is when I saw the dozens and dozens of tiny little flowering heads peeking up out of the lawn and I realized that the mint intended to replace the grass. All of it. I was immediately alarmed and impressed. I don't really LIKE our front lawn and I'm not sure I'm completely opposed to a lawn of mint--except that it looks AWFUL over the winter. Smells good when you rake it though.

I discussed the issue with Chris later and he immediately came up with a perfect solution. So now I'm happy and the mint that has spread so far . . . gets to stay.

Then in the smaller bed I planted lettuce, red onion sets, and yellow onion sets.

Except for the beans, nearly everything else is going in the beds over at Grandma Gaye's house. We'll come back to that.

So then I ran in, jumped in the shower, jumped into clean clothes, realized I'd picked up a fantastic sunburn over the course of the day, grabbed the twinkies and went to a very noisy birthday party. I knit through most of the party, which is something because I have not been knitting as much lately.

By the time I got home I plonked the twinkies in bed and finished putting some seeds in a seed-starting mix. These are the last of the seeds I'll start indoors. And it mostly constitutes what we'll be growing this year.

The biggest difference this year is that I'm growing many few varieties of tomatoes (and honestly, fewer plants) and I'm growing more beans and gobs of flowers. The flowers are mostly to attract butterflies and birds to Gaye's yard and because the previous owner succeeded in taking reasonably good care of the least landscaped yard I have ever seen. He must really like taking care of his grass. Gaye would like a little more color. I don't blame her.

There was this big, decaying stump in the back yard, so I built a box to go around it and after I finish getting it installed (it's a big digging job), I'll show it to you. Most of this box will be a random mix of wild flowers from a bag that promises to attract butterflies and birds, but we've got a few things planted on purpose, too.

So, 2008's garden:

Hot Peppers: Heavenly Jalapeno Hybrid, Paper Lanterns, Fatali, habaneros
Tomatoes: Mortgage Lifter, Amana Orange, Black Prince, Red German Strawberry, Granny Cantrell's German Pink, Tobolsk, and probably more volunteers from wherever the critters burried tomato seeds last fall.
Corn: I have two SU varieties and two SE varieties and after doing some fancy google-fu, it would seem this means that I *can* plant them at the same time. The SU's are Hybrid Honey & Cream and Hybrid Silver Queen. The SE's are Ruby Queen Hybrid (for which I achieved 0% germination last year, but goshdarnit, I'm going to try again) and the Sugar Pearl Hybrid
Strawberries: I totally forget. I ordered them from Gurney's and 50 plants will be arriving some time later this spring. Max and I will have like 48 hours to get them in the ground at that point.
Lettuce: Black Seeded Simpson and then whatever else I bought on a whim.
Squish: Waltham Butternut, Early Prolific Straightneck, Zucchini, Wyatt's Wonder Giant Pumpkins, New England Pie
Onions: Red and Yellow
Melons: Moon & Stars, muskmelon, Rocky Ford Muskmelon, Sugar Baby Watermelon
Beans: Sugar Sprint, Black Valentine, Trionfo Viletto (Purple Beans?), Scarlet Emperor Runner Bean
And some radishes

Ornamental Kale
Bronze Fennel
Asclepias, Silky Formula Mix (milkweed)
Red Cored Chantenay carrots (for Eastern Black Swallowtails)
"Butterfly and Bird Mix"
and there are daffodils and hyacinths already out in Gaye's yard and I expect the daffodils to be up in my yard soon, too. The Idon'tknowwhat's that I love so much around the base of the pear tree and the sour cherry tree are done looking dead and are sending up green shoots.

And I still have about 4 hours of work left to do on raking up the back yard before I can fertilize the lawn and I'm desperate to get the boxes into Gaye's yard so they're not just standing there on top of her lawn, but I will take deep breaths and trust that it will all get done because the next seven days are packed to the gills AND I have to mail off my taxes.

So there you have it.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I think what I was supposed to do today was rake the yard at my house in the morning and then go help out at Gaye's in the afternoon, but I got wrapped around the axle in the morning working on job applications and by the time I got back from spending the check I got for teaching those knitting classes back in February, I barely got a quarter of the front yard raked before it started to rain.

So I worked on laundry and dishes and picking up around the house and the next thing I knew it was time to go pick up the kids. I brought them back home and worked on more housework, and then it was dinner time and now suddenly it's 9pm. How does that happen?

Tomorrow Max and I have tennis from 10:30 till noon and then a make-up group piano lesson from 1 to 2pm. After that, I'm not sure. I need to keep on the laundry and the house cleaning before it gets away from me again, but I also need to make more progress raking--and at the same time, it's supposed to rain tomorrow.

I shouldn't worry. I don't have work for Monday and Tuesday and although the rest of the week gets progressively crazier--I don't have workwork then either. There should be enough time to finish Spring Cleaning at both houses and get the lawn raked and fertilized at my house and finish installing the flower box at Gaye's house.

That's what I keep telling myself anyway. What am I racing? I guess part of it is that I want to be ready to jump into a full-time job if it calls. Part of it is . . . I don't know really. It's spring and maybe I secretly believe that if I get all the vegetable beds ready and the lawns growing well that will make it late spring earlier. As I was pondering the fact that I was completely helpless to NOT buy another packet of corn seeds in the face of finding a variety I can never find anywhere else, in spite of the fact that it will mean some complicated timing on the part of corn planting because the four varieties of corn I have now can't be polinating within three weeks of each other (that's better than it sounds. It's two sets of SU corn and two sets of SE(?) corn. Each set can be planted at the same time, but the two sets can't be planted at the same time.

I lost total control of that sentence. My point is that I guess the gardener in me just can't be reasoned with sometimes. I find myself driving along, wondering if I should go ahead and put lime on the lawns this year. You have to do that sometimes with clay soil. I need to get the lawn mowers to the machine shop for sharpening and maintenance. I want to go ahead and put in some onions and I wonder how much longer before Tait farm will have broccoli. It'll probably be awhile yet.

But tomorrow is all about getting Max off to a good start in tennis and then if the weather cooperates, getting more raking done. Chris will head over to Gaye's and help her hand pictures and move a small dresser and mirror from her place to ours so Max's room can, maybe, be a little tidier.

Wish us luck in tennis.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Now, I know y'all know I can't spell my way out of a paper sack, but despite that, I do usually manage to catch the most glaring errors before hitting "publish." In the event I accidentally make a typo--such as hitting the U instead of the I (they're right next to each other on the keyboard)--resulting in a word that doesn't exist . . . it's okay to help me out in the comments.

I wanted to blog but now that I'm in front of the keyboard I'm feeling shy. So maybe I'll try to come at the topic from a different angle than I originally pictured. (Chris says, "You're going to try to sneak up on yourself?")

Since Chris started attending church with me, things have changed a lot for me spiritually. It started in some superficial ways. First of all, he's so much better than I am at learning names and relationships. He'll meet a guy and remember his name, match him up to his wife, know which kids are his, and even remember the name of most of the kids. I'm lucky if I remember that I met the guy before. It's not that I'm an idiot. I think it's half character-defect, half genuinely poor memory for names. What I mean by character defect is that ironically I happen to believe that NOT learning the names of the people you meet is basically revealing that at some level you don't care about them. And when I'm really stressed out and in survival mode, I guess that's fair. I can't deal with new people, so I don't. But when Chris started attending and he was learning names left and right, I felt pushed to keep up. I mean, I didn't want him talking about how great so-and-so was and how neat his son was and I didn't have a clue who Chris was talking about. Chris has is a good judge of character. I started coming out of my shell a bit and doing better at learning names.

And that led to me feeling closer to the ward and being less willing to miss the occasional meeting.

And that led to me hearing many more talks and Sunday School lessons and Relief Society lessons.

And that led to me making some changes at home. Finally having regular prayers at dinner. The occasional Family Home Evening. Subscribing to the Ensign and the Friend again.

Actually reading them.

Cracking the scriptures from time to time. Reading the lesson ahead of time more often. Participating a lot in the lessons. Bearing my testimony from time to time. I'd been paying tithing and sticking to the Word of Wisdom since before Chris started attending, but these things got easier.

I really LOVE my church, love my faith. I think being a Latter Day Saint rocks. But I also felt chronically behind and like I would NEVER catch up. I'd never be much GOOD at being LDS. And that feeling of being grateful for being welcomed back into the fold after . . . everything . . . I felt I would always feel in debt.

When Chris decided to get baptized, I didn't think I could feel much more grateful. It was like finding out that I was pregnant with twins again--God's mercy went so far beyond what I deserved.

Then at some point . . . maybe it was February? I missed the actual meeting. The Relief Society set the goal to read the Book of Mormon by October's General Conference meeting. I started three weeks after the kick-off date, but their pace was so reasonable, that by reading ten pages a day for about ten days I was caught up.

I've read the Book of Mormon cover to cover before. I did it before I got baptized and I did it again about a year later. Like, maybe, everyone, I struggled to understand it all. When President Hinkley issued the challenge to read the Book of Mormon a couple years ago, I didn't make it all the way through. I got close, but not all the way through.

But this time is sooo different. Maybe it's just that with Chris' support, I have a better connection with the Spirit and so . . . things make more sense. Maybe it's because it's my fifth time through this section of the book. Maybe it's because I'm older, wiser. Maybe it's because I only have to read a chapter or two a day and I'm finding it less of a problem to make the time to read carefully. Maybe it's because I don't let more than one day go by if I must miss a reading. Maybe it's a combination of all of those things.

But a few key points of doctrine are imbedding themselves in my heart this time in a way they haven't in the past. I am accepting Christ's atonement--with deep gratitude--but not resisting it the way I used to. I used to think, not consciously, but at some level, that maybe I could take back my sins upon myself and suffer for them myself so he wouldn't have to. But that's not the plan of salvation, and to do so is to not understand the nature of the atonement--and the importance of, well, all the details. His innocence, for example. It's my job to repent, but not to get stuck in any particular part of it, either. There's nothing edifying about getting stuck in feeling horrible about something.

It's not just that I'm enjoying the Book of Mormon and that I'm enjoying being able to keep up with the others reading it--I really look forward to that time to read each day. It's not as hard to remember to pray. I do so more reflexively.

Chris gets frustrated because his own spiritual progression--well, it's his. And he's a guy who learns things easily and masters new skills quickly and spiritual matters, they're just different. They're not like that.

But I feel like the distance he has gone--the questions he has asked and the basic things he has done to make sure we all get to church on time every Sunday--these have paid dividends for me that I don't take for granted. There is really something to the FACT that every step he takes on his journey moves us both forward. It's much more powerful than I ever expected. Not the superficial stuff (like me now knowing my own ward soooo much better) but the deep stuff. The places where fundamental change occur. And I'm grateful because I have wanted those changes, but I just couldn't get here without him.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Speaking Out Against Injustice

I had to do a bunch of Chair of the PAC type things this morning. I sang Happy Birthday to the school secretary, I hung up a sign encouraging people to get involved in the playground construction, I posted the proposed agenda for the April meeting, I gave the school secretary the April meeting notices to go home in backpacks . . .

Max and the twinks were playing in the gym with the other early kids initially, but as I went to the back door where half the parents pick up their kids later in the day (so I have to post all my signs twice) I noticed him hanging out in the hall, in a small space between his locker and the door. He was looking downcast and--well, a mom knows when all is not well.

I asked him what was wrong and he said that another student (one he considers a friend usually) called him a Spaz, which he thinks means the same as Retard. His feelings were deeply hurt and he was deeply discouraged by the fact that since (student name) had come to the class, she'd introduced all kinds of new put downs to the class. Before said student arrived, this small group of sheltered Charter School and post-homeschool kids hadn't known you could hurt each other with names like "gay, retard, faggot," and a few other choice putdowns I can no longer recall in this moment. He said, "I didn't expect to hear words like this until maybe 8th grade or high school!"

Max's teacher is out. She's very sick and apparently anemic, too. But his assistant teacher was there--a man who I can't quite figure out. But I'm pretty sure that at some point in his life, he's been called some of those names, too. (Haven't we all?)

He was right around the corner, so I led Max to the classroom and I said simply, "Say again to Mr. W what you said to me." And Max did, pretty much word-for-word. I emphasized that he (Max) needed to let go of the WHO brought the words in the classroom. If many students were using the words, then the words now belonged to the voice of the classroom. We three talked about how we might speak to the classroom about how hurtful these words are, how small the class is, how long they'll be together until graduation. There's only one class till graduation. There's no shuffling and getting away from another student. The class needs to choose as a group to speak to each other in non-hurtful ways.

And I also gently let Max know that he was going to probably have to develop a slightly thicker skin. "But not too thick," I said to him, giving him a hug. "No," said Mr. W, "We don't want to change the sweet kid you fundamentally are."

So hopefully Mr. W will host that conversation with the kids. And hopefully their hearts will soften and they will hear the words that he says and know in their hearts that they CAN be kinder to each other and that their own happiness lies in choosing positive ways to talk to each other.

Pray for his class. They really are a sweet group with a couple of kids who just entered the Charter school scene this year and arrived a little . . . hardened. Pray that they will have this conversation and that it will bring them closer and that it will help them appreciate Max more--not cause him greater grief.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Where to Start?

It was General Conference weekend and so Saturday I worked and worked and worked and listened to the talks on my computer. I was supposed to take Ben and Milo to a classmates' birthday party but totally lost track of time. Omigosh, I felt so awful. We got there in time to give him his presents but the boys--all of them, really, were crushed. A friend from church took the twins back to her place so they could play with her daughter for a couple of hours. I went home and had dinner with Chris and Max, went to get the twins, and then came home and worked again until 2am.

That's how it is with this job. You work and work and work and work and then . . . wait 6 to 8 weeks to get paid and then weather ANOTHER work slowdown.

So. The resumes are out. I am slogging my way through my certification paperwork so I can at least sub. I have some good leads and a few people in my corner to help me this time around. I have loved having the flexibility of my job the last 9 years and I was/am good at it. But I think I've come to the point with it where it's not worth it and I just want something more. I'm happier doing Reader's Theater on Thursday afternoons for nothing--and that's with second graders. I'm not notoriously at my best with the 3rd grade and under crowd.

After talking to the wrong people at Penn State, I happened to mention to the Vice-Principal at the charter school that I was hoping to pick up an ESL certificate and she referred me to the local Ed office. I can do this as continuing ed! That makes like $9,000 less. For about $1,000 I finish the course work for it. And I can do a bunch of it online.

This past week for me was a blur of kids activities and canning beans and working and job hunting and I'm expecting more of the same for the upcoming week--except that the weather is supposed to be better, so I'm hoping to get some yard work done.

Today was a very nice watching General Conference at Gaye's house and then having burritos for dinner and then . . . and then it was bedtime. And that is all I get to write tonight for now it is bedtime already for me, too.

So Much to Update

Well, I thought I'd have time for a quick update here before we head off to Gaye's house to watch the Sunday morning of General Conference, but I really don't have time, so I'll have to do that when I get back. I'm sort of writing this to hold myself accountable.