Sunday, January 31, 2010


Midterm exams cut into instructional time this this month.  So I only collected two notable comments.  But what I lack in quantity, I make up for in terms of quality.  The weather may be cold, but my students are still quick to the mark.  Both of these remarks made me laugh out loud. Snorting may have occurred.

From a history discussion of the brief independent republic period of the Lone Star state:
"Texas has a huge advantage over other states: you can buy beer and bullets at the same store."  

I'm not sure that I would call this an advantage, but I do know it to be true.

And in AP Government, as our discussion of the legal right to privacy wound down:
"We were promised sodomy after break."
I hasten to note, they were promised only an explanation of how some states' sodomy laws turned out to violate the Constitution.  And that day, when class ended and the next class (frosh boys) strolled in, I erased the chalkboard with a lightening fast speed.  It seemed for the best.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pretty Packages

A few weeks ago, my sister had a birthday.  I won't say how old she is (my computer doesn't have numbers that high anyway), but pictured below are the packages JT and I sent her.  I decided to treat her birthday present as the birthday version of a Christmas stocking and I was really quite pleased with how the project turned out.
I like wrapping gifts.  JT and I have already started a project to make tiny homemade Valentine matchbox packages to share with his classmates at school.  Basically, it's just an excuse to visit craft stores to admire the paper, ribbons,  and stickers; not to mention bring some of those things home to live with us.  I've a weakness for such things.  And having a few creative projects to work on will tide me over until I can get to work in the garden.

Friday, January 29, 2010

And I'm the Grown Up in the Room?

This morning I got to work and had a sudden (and frightening) concern: had I put on deodorant for the day?  I honestly can't remember if I did.  On the one hand, with temps forecast to be in the low 20s for the high, it's unlikely that I will work up a sweat and need the underarm protection.  On the other hand, my own over-developed sense of smell means that if there has been a deodorant fail in my personal grooming, I will know.  And I will be utterly creeped out by myself.

And it's not as if I don't have actual concerns to which I should attend.  It's only the third day of the new semester and I'm already behind in AP Government.  There are lessons to be organized and quizzes to be graded.  In sum, the deodorant issue (which I can't fix at this point) should really take a back seat to other priorities.

And yet.

I am consoling myself with the following thought: I don't remember putting on my underwear this morning, either.  But I've just checked and it seems that I did.   I'm going to have to hope for the best on the under-arm front.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aerial Assault

I've noted in the past that my boy wasn't much of a napper.  If you wanted JT to nap, then you had to be prepared to lie down with him; this method was also employed at night time when the long nap was on a Mama's agenda.

I have vivid memories of laying down in bed with him (yes, I was a co-sleeper.....and you can zip it with your objections because it worked just fine for me) with my eyes strategically closed, playing possum. When he was old enough to crawl, he'd move in on my eyes-closed face, nose-to-nose, with his large brown eyes open-wide.  In that moment, if you opened your eyes you'd see the bright shiny eyes of a very-awake baby.  And then the sleep boat was sunk, as he gleefully hoped for just one more story. Or song. Or midnight cocktail.  To be honest, the view of that nose-to-nose eyes-open look was pretty cute, as was the joyous baby laugh that followed my open eyes.

These days, JT is willing to get into bed and go to sleep and so my playing possum days have ended.  But he still likes the occasional nose-to-nose contact.  When he lines up his nose with mine and our eyes are so close, it's a view from the past; the same view that it was when he was just a babine.  And it's sweet, reminding me of a time that seems like so long ago.

Last week, as I was reading to JT, we got to a sad part of the story and my voice faltered. Quick as a wink, he turned in my direction and lined up his nose with mine.  And as the bright shiny brown eyes closed in, and I smiled he said, "The aerial assault is a success.  I repeat: aerial assault success."

One look at those dark, shiny eyes and I was charmed, of course.  I believe that was the intention.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Government in Action

Come June, the Sassafras Family is headed to Alaska and Canada.  Our brief out-of-country sojourn (hint: Canada is actually a foreign nation) requires that we bring passports.  JT and I had Monday off from school and so we set off that afternoon to secure the proper government papers.

When I arrived at the local post office, I was informed by Sam the Postal Worker that I would need to make an appointment to apply for a passport.  Since this fact had not been conveyed in my earlier phone call to the post office to inquire about the process, I was not amused.  But I can roll with the punches, so in my most courteous voice, I said to Sam, "Okay, then. I'd like to make an appointment for a passport, please."

He informed me that I would have to call a particular phone number in order to make an appointment and then he informed me that I couldn't apply for JT's passport at that moment anyway, because he'd need his parent's signatures in order to do so.  I said, "I am his mother."  And Sam said, "But he needs his father's signature also." 

Now at this point, the post office was empty but for me and JT, Sam (the helpful Postal Worker), another postal worker sitting behind the desk (let's call him Desk Jockey Bob), and a third postal worker, also at the counter (we'll call her Counter Sue).  I was still hopeful that they might help me out this very day.  So I told Sam, "He doesn't have a father."

And then Sam the Postal Worker said, "Why, I've never heard of such a thing," and in the silence that followed Sam's incredulity he had a long look at JT's Nebraska-issued birth certificate, searching in vain for an entry on the birth father line.  He looked at the birth certificate, he looked at me, he looked at JT, and then  he looked again at that empty line on the birth certificate and declared a second time, "Why, I've never heard of such a thing."

And so I patiently explained that JT's "father" was a sperm donor.  At which point Sam the Postal Worker slid the birth certificate and application back in my direction and brusquely announced, "That's none of my business.  You need to call for an appointment."

We retreated a few steps, I set my paperwork on the counter, pulled out  my cell phone, and called the number to schedule an appointment.  I could hear the phone ring just beyond the counter and then I watched as Desk Jockey Bob answered the phone.  "I'd like to make an appointment for a passport application, please," I told Bob.  He put me on hold for a few minutes and then came back on the line saying, "Okay.  When would you like to come in?"

I answered with my keen grasp of the obvious, "Well I'm here now.  Can I do it now?" 

"No," Bob the Desk Jockey explained, "we only do the appointments before 2 pm."

It was 2:30.

"You'll have to come in later this week," Bob said. 

Later this week, of course, JT and I expect to be at school until 3 pm.  I explained this to Bob.  He advised me to come in on Saturday.  Sensing that I was about to lose my cool, I told Bob that I would call back later for an appointment and I hung up my phone.  As I collected my paperwork and my fatherless-child, Counter Sue, the witness to this exercise in futility, told me, "In Town X, there is a walk-in passport office."  And then she told me exactly where the building was located.  I thanked her and left.

Less than 15 minutes later, JT and I were at the Town X passport office.  There, a friendly and very capable state of New Jersey bureaucrat named Cheryl collected my paperwork, looked at JT's birth certificate, briskly wrote N/A on the passport application line for father, took my checks (one for the federal government and one for the county.....passport processors make $25 for each application they file), and thanked me for my business.  I was out the door in 5 minutes.

Let's hope that the nameless federal bureaucrat who receives our paperwork is more in the model of Efficiency Cheryl and not Postal Worker Bob.  I worry.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In Which JT Deals Patriarchy a Blow

I was raised in a sports-viewing home and JT is suffering the same fate.  It started four years ago, when he was just 6 and became obsessed with the winter Olympics.  That year, he put on his sneakers and slid up and down the icy front side walk, pretending that Apollo Ono couldn't keep up with him.

Since then, we've marked the passage of time by the sports calendar.   January features football bowl games and playoffs and as those games wind down, the  basketball season cranks up.  March brings the madness and is followed by baseball's long summer season.  That yields to fall and football weekends.  And soon enough, it all starts again.

As it happens, I've long been a fan of women's basketball.  Though I got cut from the team in the 5th grade (true story), I still like to watch and when living in Nashville I taught myself how to shoot pretty reliably.  I've shared my enthusiasm for playing and watching with JT.  I've taken him to women's games at Rutgers University; we watch games on the television.  I'm a University of Tennessee fan and so is JT.  He remembers player names and stats with the relentless enthusiasm of a true fan.  He watches men's and women's basketball with equal enthusiasm, with no sense that the games or the players should be distinguished by gender.  I suppose this the is the result of growing up in the home of a feminist mama; to be honest, I've not given it much thought.  But last week I had cause to reflect.

Last Thursday evening, the UT Lady Vols were scheduled to play the University of Georgia.  Both teams were highly ranked and JT tuned in to watch the game.  But ESPN was showing men's games on both of their channels.  And as a simmering young man settled in to watch Indiana University play Seton Hall, he got worked up about the injustice of it all.

"UT is ranked #3," he exclaimed.  "And Georgia is #5.  Indiana and Seton Hall?  Whatever.  I have to watch this game instead of Pat Summit?  Ridiculous."  I expected that the ranting would wind down and I could return to grading exams while we watched the game that was available.

But I was wrong and the boy's indignation only grew.  Finally, I realized that it was time to explain the economics of sport and gender to JT.  So I broached a discussion about said issues.  I explained that the women's game isn't as popular as the men's game; that women's professional opportunities in sports aren't nearly the same as men's.  I even explained that some people think girls aren't as good as boys.  He greeted this news with fierce defense of the women's game and the smarts of girls.  "That's ridiculous, Mama," he announced.  "Girls can do anything boys can do."  And then he named a litany of the women he admired: Hillary Clinton, Candace Parker, Pat Summit, Vivian Stringer, the principal of his school and particularly feisty Junior basketball player also at our school.

They say that men become feminists when they become the father of a daughter.  I suppose that's often true.  But there's much to be said of little boys who are feminists from the outset, raised by hard-working, tough mamas who go out and do what needs to be done, in the process teaching their boys to respect the accomplishments of girls and women everywhere. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Smoothie Saturday

Of late, I have taken to posting a recipe on Friday.  Not every Friday, just some Fridays.  But yesterday I was buried in an avalanche of exams to grade and I've spent most of January buried under an avalanche of sinus infection (yes, that's gross, I realize, but facts are facts and you've been warned of that future posting).  The exams are graded, the infection seems to be in retreat (for good, I dearly hope) and so I am declaring today Smoothie Saturday.

For Christmas, I received a hand-held stick blender.  I envisioned making many blended soups sans the tense excitement of having to pour boiling hot soup from my soup pot to my blender.  And I did set to work on those soups (recipes in the the month ahead, I promise).  But I was also diverted by the prospect of easy-prep, easy-clean-up milkshakes.  So JT and I ran through gallons of ice cream stirring up yummy milk shakes. 

These were tasty but I wouldn't say they were healthy, per se, and the amount of time my new milkshake diet would require on the elliptical was prohibitive.  So last weekend I set to work on the creation of smoothies.  With my shiny new stick blender, a smoothie comes together easy-peasy.  And, lo, a smoothie can induce a certain young man to eat fruit.  It's a smoothie miracle.

Today's recipe is so basic that the cats can make it for themselves while I am away.  It will make two cups of smoothie, plenty for an afternoon treat or morning breakfast.  I have even successfully passed it off as dessert.

1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (I use Stonyfields organic, which can be bought by the bucket)
1/2 cup milk

My blender came with a handy 2 cup measuring cup and I use that for the smoothies.  You can use most anything, though I find a cylindrical shape is best.  Put the blueberries in first and then the yogurt and the milk.

Then blend.

It takes less than a minute and then you're in the pink (well, in this case, you're in the purple).

Your tummy and your nine year old will thank you.  One warning: you must brush your teeth after drinking it, otherwise tiny bits of dark blueberry will adhere to your teeth, giving your mouth the look of a smile filled with an expanse of partially rotting teeth.  JT finds this quite handy for playing pirate, but I feel it detracts from my appearance, sketchy though I often am.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mass Confusion

Yesterday's  victory for Massachusetts  Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown has folks wringing their hands, trying to make sense of the senseless.  In the months since Ted Kennedy died, leaving his seat vacant, the general view was that of course the Democrats would retain this seat and with it their 60 seat majority in the Senate.

But politics is never an "of course" business and the Martha Coakley campaign, not to mention the national Democrats aiding her effort, should have known better.  And that's water under the bridge as of today, now that Scott Brown is the Senator-elect for the state of Massachusetts.

Brown's admission to the Senate cloakroom will not give the GOP a majority in the Senate.  It will give them 41 seats to the Democrat's 59 seat majority, a number that looks like a minority to every 4th grader in America.  But the 4th graders among us (not to mention the rest of the nation) don't understand the nonsense that is the filibuster.

For the better part of the last year, the Republicans have been playing filibuster possum, threatening to filibuster nearly every  Democratic-sponsored initiative in the Senate.  The idea of a prospective filibuster is for the minority party to thrown down and stop business in the Senate, thus ensuring that the majority party will negotiate and that the minority party has a real effect on legislation.  Historically, the filibuster is an infrequently-used tactic.  But not these days, when the GOP threatens to filibuster everything in the Senate.  Moreover, the Republicans haven't just been playing filibuster bingo to ensure that a few of their ideas get included in the Democratic legislation.  They've been playing filibuster with one goal: total obstruction, inspired by their the hope that the Obama Administration will fail in it efforts to right the ship of state and move us out of this recession.

The mainstream media hasn't called their bluff.  And, frankly, neither has the Democratic leadership in the Senate.  And now Harry Reid and company are reaping the reward.  One can only hope that our dysfunctional Senate, dysfunctional at the whim of a Republican minority, will now attract the attention (and it too much to hope for ire?) of the news media and the nation.

It's one thing for Republicans to expect their ideas to be included in legislation. They do have 41 seats in the Senate and they do represent a lot of folks (although, ahem, a minority lot of folks).  But it is quite another to offer no ideas at all and then sit back and hold our Congress hostage at a time when our nation most needs action.  The GOP's win-at-all-cost strategy may succeed.  But our nation will lose.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Listening to NPR on Friday night as we drove home after going out for supper, JT and I heard some stories about the devastation in Haiti.  We talked about how awful and scary it must be to live in Haiti right now.  I explained that when an earthquake of this magnitude occurred in San Francisco in 1989 less than 75 people died.  I did this so that he would understand that what happened in Haiti wasn't just the bad luck of living someplace that is earthquake-prone but was much more about the bad luck that lands a nation into a circumstance and cycle of devastating poverty.

In some respects, understanding poverty is an awfully complicated task; more than the average Nobel Laureate can understand let alone a sassy 4th grader in New Jersey.  But JT is nearly 10 and that's plenty old enough to understand how lucky he is to have a comfortable home with a warm bed and a steady supply of food, love, and books.  That these are things he and I are able to consider essential and not luxuries is part of the lucky lives we lead.  All of us in the developed world should understand that.

And so Friday night, as we looked at the map of Haiti and at some pictures of the devastation, we talked about how lucky we are and we listened to some more NPR stories about the many organizations trying to bring relief and supplies to people in Haiti.  I showed him this website for Partners in Health, an organization that was already at work in Haiti, and to whom I had already donated money.  I wanted him to understand that we could do more than understand the tragedy.  In our own small way,  we could help.

And then JT did something that fair took my breath away. He pulled his wallet out of the drawer where he keeps it, emptied the contents of wrinkled bills and change onto the table and announced that he wanted to help.  "Give them all of my money, please, Mama," he said.  And that's exactly what we did.  We decided that JT's donation would go to the UNICEF fund for children in Haiti.

As I tucked him into bed on Friday night, I told him again how proud I am of his wisdom and very kind heart.  He sleepily nodded, and then folded his favorite blanket under his head; safe and warm, so very comfortable and so very, very lucky.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Doing My Part

The web abounds with information about reliable organizations collecting resources to help the people of Haiti.   But last night my friend N sent me a link to a petition that I hadn't seen before.  MoveOn is requesting that credit card companies forgo their share of the transaction fees generated when people use their credit card to make a donation to charitable organizations helping out the people of Haiti.  It will take less than a minute to sign the petition. The folks at MoveOn are organized and they are loud. If you just sign, they'll do the rest of the work.

Of course I signed.  And then added a short statement to be shared with credit card company CEOs. My statement reads: "I appreciate the ease that your card brings to my life.  I understand that you are in it to make money and most of the time, I'm okay with that. But making money off of other people's terrible destruction is not okay.  Surely your mama taught you that?  Do the right thing. Please."

The petition is here.  I hope that y'all will join me in signing it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Household Happiness: Button Bouquet

In the summer and fall, I always have fresh flowers in the house.  Most of these flowers are the product of my garden.  In fact, I love fresh flowers so much that last fall I planted nearly 50 bulbs in a corner of the side yard exclusively for bouquet cuttings come this spring.  I think of these flowers as a necessary indulgence and they make my home (and me) happy.

I miss the flowers when my garden supply dries up although festive Christmas decorations temporarily hold off the doldrums.  But come January and its sometimes bleak cold, I'm ready for a colorful replacement.  My button bouquet, an inexpensive Etsy purchase from A Little Bit Funky a few years back, is a way to chase away the winter funk.  This year, the bouquet sits on the dining room table with a clay bear figurine from a collection I've written about before.  It's a cheerful reminder that winter won't last forever.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


My local market is carrying the throwback edition of Pepsi.....the throwback in this case is a retreat to the good old days in the 1970s, when Pepsi was made with real sugar (instead of high fructose corn syrup).  Made with real sugar, throwback Pepsi is practically health food.  Naturally, I only drink it while behind the wheel of a throwback light blue Plymouth wagon like the one my mom drove back in the day.

With any luck, Coke will soon start marketing a throwback version of Coca Cola, one that reaches way back in the annals of time to an era when Coca Cola was made with sugar and cocaine.  Imagine how much more energy I'll have then.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Road Ahead

With the advent of a new decade, it seems like a good time to identify some political issues that may not be on our collective national radar at the moment, but should be. When I started thinking about this idea, five issues came to mind almost immediately.

1. Food Security
2. Healthcare Cost Containment
3. Water
4. Cynicism
5. The challenge of order versus liberty

I'll be writing about all of them in the weeks ahead. I offer them not necessarily in order of importance, or in lieu of other important issues, but as a collection of concerns and ideas that should matter to us, both as Americans and as citizens of the world.

First up: cynicism.

I have been teaching at the college and high school level for nearly 20 years; the last 8 of those years have been at the high school level.  One of the things I like about my job is the time I spend with young people.  I'm 42 years old and when I first began teaching I was working with college students who were basically a part of my own generation.  When I started teaching at my current school, I was 34 years old and now teaching teenagers, mostly young men and women in the range of 15 to 18 years old.  These students aren't really of my generation; in fact, increasingly I am old enough to be their mother (eeep!).  One of the things that has been most satisfying about working with young people has been their natural optimism about both their lives and the world that they live in. 

But in the past five years, I've seen some of that optimism be replaced with a more cynical world view.  At some level, I find that cynicism appealing.  I'm a cynic myself, and it's always nice to find community, even if that community is misery loving company. 

But I also worry about a group of young people, and privileged ones at that, who do not see a hopeful world ahead.  In the starkest terms, I fear that means we, the adults who run their world, have failed.  In more general terms, I worry that means that as a nation we are losing our belief that we can make the future better for all of us.

I blame the mainstream media, intent on presenting a world of conflict (these days, disagreement is always more news worthy than cooperation) and foolishness (talking to you, national media and the balloon boy story).  And I blame a set of leaders who do not seem to understand that winning elections isn't everything; that the long-term good of the nation might require some short-term innovation and cooperation and that old-fashioned virtue: working for a common good.  

I am officially breaking up with the mainstream television-based media.  I'll read the New York Times as long as it exists; I'll maintain the Newsweek subscription I've had since I was 14 years old.  I will continue to proselytize the virtues of National Public Radio by sharing relevant stories with my students. I will direct my student's attention to real issues and discuss real solutions to our national problems.   I intend to take my student's ideas and concerns seriously; to remind them that the political system belongs to us, the citizens of this nation and world.  I will remember that we the people are empowered to make change.  And then I will fervently hope that these bright young people will forgive us for the mess we've left them.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Real Life Conversations at School: Overheard edition

My school has students who range in age from preschool to the 12th grade.  The different age groups share the campus and its buildings easily; groups of students move among one another frequently.  In many instances, the students I teach have been at the school for years and I've had the opportunity to watch them grow up.  But it's more than that.  One of the things I enjoy most about my days here is that I can be in class with my teenage students while outside, as we're in our seats considering the boundaries of order and liberty (or whatever), we can hear the laughter and enthusiasm of much smaller children going about their day.  Those moments are a reminder that life is about more than exams and grades and college.  I always welcome them.

On Friday, there was an assembly for the upper school.   The assembly happened in the hour before lunch; the room where we met was excessively warm.  By the time the students were streaming outside to head to lunch, they had some energy to expend.   Outside was crisply cold and snow was falling.  As the upper schoolers briskly walked across the quad headed to lunch, middle schoolers were also crossing the area, headed from the music building back into the larger school building. 

The snow was really quite lovely and, in that moment, a lot of it was falling.  Earlier in the week, we had hoped for a snow day on Friday, but we'd received only a dusting overnight.  And this lush snow, falling at mid-day on a Friday, was not expected to last.  It wasn't going to earn us a snow day either.

Nevertheless, it was beautiful outside and we were (temporarily) free from responsibilities; a little enthusiasm for life was warranted.

Upper School Student X (shouted):  It's a Christmas miracle!

The response to this declaration was immediate, delivered in a perfect stoic tone by a middle schooler headed in the other direction.

Middle School Student Y:  Not much of a miracle.  We're still in school.

At this point, we all burst into laughter.  And I was especially cheered by the thought of this middle schooler, with a funny line and perfect timing, is soon to appear in an upper school classroom near me.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Tap, Tap, Tap

I used to believe that my home maintenance vigilance was a function of the fact that I live in an old home.  These days, I realize that a certain household wariness is simply part of the home ownership bargain.  In my neck of the woods, the most common problems are those related to precipitation, both indoors and out.

I've experienced basement flooding in the past and I'm always wary of excessive water.  I keep my outdoor gutters cleared of leaves; I keep watch for the prospects of ice.  When it rains, I check the basement.  On top of that, my home has old-fashioned radiators and a steam heat furnace.  Steam heat running through pipes has a tendency to clink and clank, and I always have an ear tuned to sounds that signal danger.  Last winter, after my furnace received a tune-up, I needed to bleed the upstairs radiators (to remove air trapped in the pipes) and then adjust the pressure.  I discovered this after I awoke one morning to the steady sound of dripping water from the radiator in my bedroom.  Standing water is never desirable in your home, especially on the second floor.

So it is that I keep an ear tuned to the sound of water.  Last week, we had a steady hard rain that resulted in a series of flood warnings.  I became more vigilant than ever.  And in my bedroom, as I read at night, I would sometimes hear a steady tap, tap, tap.

For nearly ten days that tap tormented me.  I checked every radiator upstairs.  I checked the gutters.  I walked around the house, looking at the roof and foundation for signs of impending disaster.  I did all of this multiple times.  Everything seemed fine.  But still the quiet tap continued.  And so my anxiety grew.

Finally, after days of this, I discovered the source of the quiet tapping.  I have some lights in my bedroom that run on the timer and the timer had gotten stuck. When I repaired that glitch, the tapping magically disappeared and my problem was solved. 

My sanity will likely return a bit more slowly.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Napping House

When JT was little, we owned a book called The Napping House.  It's a terrific story about a household where everyone (and everything) are asleep in a large, comfy bed until a mouse stirs, thus upsetting the apple cart until no one in the Napping House is sleeping.  In fact, they're all outdoors, awake and celebrating.

JT loved the book and when we'd reach the end, he'd chuckle heartily and demand that it be read again.  He especially liked the pages where everyone was awake, of course.  I used to secretly blame the book for the fact that no one in my house was of the napping type.  My baby, who reliably slept through the night at 3 months, never reliably napped.  He'd catch a few minutes of rest here and there but that baby wouldn't nap unless you lay down with him.  It was a sort of infant-induced forced nap march.

So most of JT's naps were Mama and JT naps.  I used to envy other mother's tales of folded laundry, book reading, and the general usefulness they would engage in while their baby napped.  That just didn't happen for me.  Even our joint naps were fairly short-lived; by the time he was 18 months old, JT was completely over daytime sleeping.

I mention this now not because of any residual bitterness (well, not much, anyway) but because last Tuesday, JT returned from a sleepover at a friend's house and had himself a big old nap. 

For the last few years, my boy has harbored a not-so-secret ambition to stay awake all night.  And Monday, at E's house, his goal was met.  He and E stayed up all night.  I could tell because JT looked like hell when I brought him home at 11 am, as if he'd been out with the boys and had tied on one-too-many of whatever it is 9 year olds imbibe (root beer, I think).

The idea of spending the day with a cranky, unwashed, poorly rested child was not appealling.  So I put him in a warm shower and then encouraged him to lie down on the living room sofa while we watched an episode of Glee.  Within 20 minutes, he was snoring away. 

90 minutes later, his feet emerged from his polar fleece nest and I figured that he was about to emerge. But, no, he was just stretching.  Finally, just after 3 pm, I woke him myself.  I would not say that it was a pleasant experience; he took some time to come alert and had a Rip Van Winkle aspect to his character. 

He is very proud of his all-nighter success and no doubt informed the entire 4th grade when he returned to school today.  I'm guessing that he'll be agitating for another all-nighter soon enough.  I plan to tell him that's what college is for.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Real Life Conversations with JT: New Decade Edition

The backstory:  As the end of the decade approached, JT and I heard a number of news stories about previous transitions to a new decade.  This led him to ask me where I had been in other -9 years. 

Mama:  In 1979, I was only 12 years old and I was living in California.  In 1989, I had graduated college and was living in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1999, I was living in Nebraska, waiting for you to be born.  And in 2009 I'm living in New Jersey with you.  I have no idea where I will be in 2019.  Where do you think you will be that year?

JT (in an exasperated tone):    Well, I'll be in college, OF COURSE.

So no matter where I am in 2019, I guess I'd better be working, so that I can pay Mr.  Smarty Pants' tuition.

Friday, January 01, 2010

January 1, 2010: Year of the Apple

For the past couple of years, the blog entry for the first of the month has featured a picture of something in my yard.  In 2008, that was the big tree in my backyard.  Last year, on the 1st day of the month, I took a photo of the hosta bed by my garage and garden.  It's the first of the month in a new year, and it's time for a new garden photo collection to get started. 

In the early spring of 2008, I arrived home one afternoon to find three Stark Brothers dwarf fruit trees on my front porch.  For as long as I can remember, my father has planted this style of fruit trees in his backyard.  And now he'd sent some to me; it was my turn.  JT and I planted the trees, pruned them, and then kept careful watch.

A dwarf tree is carefully grafted to ensure that the tree won't get much larger than 12 feet.  The tree will stay smaller, ensuring that it can be easily harvested and that gardeners won't be overwhelmed with produce.  A dwarf tree takes 2 to 3 years to reach full-production (regular size trees usually take 4 to 6 years to mature into full production capacity).  Typically, the dwarf apple harvest comes in late-August and early September.  I planted two apple trees with a pear tree in between; the pear will help with pollination of the apples.

My trees were a year old when they arrived, so I didn't anticipate any harvest in the fall of 2008.  Last fall, one of the apple trees yielded a tiny harvest of two apples.  This fall, I can expect a more fruitful yield.  And with that in mind, 2010 will be the year of the apple (with some gratuitous pear tree shots thrown in).

Seen here, the trees have only recently lost all of their leaves.  They look bare but  I know they are sturdy.  They've got some winter mulch protection around their base because it looks good, but they are plenty hardy.  I took this photo at twilight, my favorite time of the winter day, and I now think a daylight photo would have been much better.  Tune in on the 1st of each month this year to see how my apple farming efforts  are coming along.