Wednesday, June 30, 2010

There's Gold in Them Hills

On Tuesday, our ship sailed into Skagway, Alaska, the gateway to the Yukon and Klondike gold territory.  In the late 19th century, prospectors were required to bring a ton of supplies into these hills before they could go looking for gold.  JT, C, and S were ready to travel.
 They were not willing to carry a ton of hardtack and jerky (not to mention eat such dreadful foods), so we opted to take the scenic railroad up the mountain pass. 
 The views were pretty spectacular, so though I didn't find gold, I'll settle for the pictures.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Road Ahead: Education Reform, part II

Last week, I outlined the first half of a set of ideas to improve education in the United States.  Today, I'm wrapping up those thoughts with the rest of my desired reforms.

More teaching, less administration.  Our resources must be used to put more teachers into more classrooms.  Principals can set the tone for a school and work to get resources where they are most needed, but the administrative overhead in public schools goes well beyond that.  We need less administration and those who remain  must also be regular classroom teachers.  If they teach, they will understand what students need.  And student needs must drive our eduction system. 

Teacher autonomy.  Most teachers are effective classroom planners and they value autonomy in getting the job done.  Successful learning requires flexible teachers who adapt their lessons to their students.  I know this first-hand.  On a year to year basis, I may focus on different elements of the subjects I teach.  That's not to say there is no goal; no endpoint.  In fact, all of my courses have objectives, but my school is flexible enough to permit me to map my course to student interests while working toward that goal.  This means greater engagement for everyone in my classroom.  We all win.

Eliminate tenure.  Though experience is valuable and should be rewarded, we must acknowledge that the "job for life" model of teaching in no longer useful.  Job security is important, of course, and elimination of tenure should not serve as a license for schools to get rid of experienced teachers.  But the current tenure system is not serving our students well and we must acknowledge that fact.

Let the state run the show.  I'm not always a fan of state government, but local control of our schools has proven a disaster, especially in terms of funding.  Local control means that local taxes are used to pay for the schools.  And where the tax base isn't up to the job, local schools (and the children enrolled in them) suffer mightily.  Our haphazard system of local control rewards well-off children while leaving the rest of our youth to muddle through. If the state collected the money and then doled it out to districts, we'd have much greater equality in the system.  And if the state is footing the bill, then they should set the standards.  Then we could quit pretending that the petty fiefdoms that we call school boards are a good idea. 

I am convinced that this is the recipe for educational success.  Innovative, successful programs like the Harlem's Children's Zone and KIPP are getting the job done.  But, for all their success, they are still rare bright lights.  I fear that we lack the national commitment to provide a system that will succeed for all of our children.   The price of this neglect is steep, and that it is paid by the most vulnerable among us is deeply shameful.   We can do better.


Perhaps eager to reprise last summer's water slide incident, my nephew C seemed particularly anxious to see me on the zip line in Alaska.

Not one to disappoint, I suited up.  C and JT came along for the ride.  Riding shotgun was my sister K, whom I believe hatched this plan in the first place.

We set off on a beautiful day.  The zip line equipment was the real deal. 
 The course featured 10 zip lines (11 if you count the bunny slide……the try-me bite slide, which seemed plenty adventuresome to K and me…..little did we know). 
Add in two swinging bridges. 
 And did I mention the final rappel down the tree?  Because, yeah, I wasn't scared enough.
We all survived.  In fact, we had a blast.  And the next time these boys dare to suggest that we don't do enough for them, I'll be dusting off these photos.  Because we are some bad ass mamas, people. 

World, take note.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Modern Air Travel

Largely due to the fact that I am my father's daughter, I arrived at the airport at 6 am for my 9 am flight last week.  As it turned out, that was a damned good idea.  Newark Airport was awash with the crazy and the lines were epically long.

In typical New Jersey fashion, many people sought to receive special treatment and while that sort of line avoidance was largely unsuccessful (the airport staff were not to be trifled with), it was vastly entertaining to watch so many of my fellow citizens claim to be special.

The 90 minutes in various security lines also provided ample opportunity to ponder the things people wear to the airport.  I'm not a girl who expects to make the style sheet in the local paper, so I'm in no position to judge.  But judge I shall. 

1.  Sure, it's warm outside.  And yes, it will stay warm.  But that doesn't mean you should wear a strapless halter dress.  You look foolish and I can't have been the only person whole-heartedly wishing for that tote bag to exercise the call of gravity and give us all a 7 am show.

2.  The floor-length maxi dress is cute, I guess.  But based on the number of times the sweeping hemline got caught in the wheels of your rather sizable carry-on bag, I think we should conclude that it's not ideal for travel.

3.  While I applaud those who left the belt behind (one less thing to remove at the endless security checkpoint), may I note for the record that you should still ensure that your behind is covered?  No bootie crack, please.

4.  Hey you in the incredibly-short shorts……When your legs stick to the vinyl seats in the waiting lounge it will feel like a giant bandaid is stripping skin from the back of your thighs.  I almost wish that I could see the expression on your face when this happens.

5. And now I turn my attention to shoes.  We'll all be forced to take our shoes off at the x-ray machine (and that's just ridiculous, but I digress) and easily removed shoes are handy.  But the platform flip flops?  Neither handy nor useful.  Spiked mule heels with bandaids?  Those can't be comfy.  Unwillingness to re-tie your shoes? You will be sorry when you get to the moving sidewalk.

Six hours later we arrived in lovely, sunny Seattle and I was suddenly awash in a city of people in cargo pants and sensible shoes. I think that New Jersey and Washington are still on the same planet, but I can't be sure.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

110% Organic

The supply list in the bathroom at the Marriot Hotel in Seattle:   quince lotion; barley body wash; quinoa shampoo; amaranth conditioner.
I wasn't sure if I should bathe and moisturize or enjoy an all-natural organic snack.

Or both?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Peculiar Brand of Fun

Our hotel retain its old stairwell and the boys seem to endlessly believe that walking up the stairs qualifies as "fun."

Friday, June 25, 2010

All Cousin, All the Time

The cousins arrived yesterday and that meant triple the fun.  We headed off for a baseball game at Safeco Field.  The day was beautiful even if the Mariners lost.
JT scored himself a foam finger.  He promptly used it to torture his cousins.  They endured his nonsense, though if they toss him to the wolves in Alaska it may be that he's earned that treatment.
We went to the Spaghetti Factory for supper (a fave from my own misspent youth) and then we visited the Space Needle. 
The view was really quite splendid.
We came back to the hotel at 9 and the announcement that some children were ready for sleep horrified JT.  Sleep?  When there are cousins to play with?  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Day in Seattle

We're in Seattle for a few days before we board the boat to Alaska.  The city was amazingly glorious on our first day.  We arrived at noon Seattle time and after a crazy early morning at Newark Airport, it was like we gained a whole new day.  We got some lunch and then spent the afternoon wandering around Pioneer Square and the Pike Place Market, enjoying the mild warmth and generally soaking up the atmosphere. 
The market was terrific, with fresh produce and flowers galore. 

 For supper, we ate some donuts for our appetizer.
And then we bought fresh cheese curds, homemade crackers, and Rainier cherries and retreated to our hotel to watch the College World Series and await the arrival of the cousins.

Tomorrow, we head to the ball park to watch the Mariners play the Cubs.  Reports as warranted.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Promiscuous Gardener

I can never say no to a plant and for this reason I am what you might call a promiscuous gardener.  Happily, I often end up with amazing plants as a result of this behavior.    But that just reinforces my easy ways.  If I had this problem with animals or children, some sort of state protective services would be called in and I would be gently separated from the beast in question, sternly warned to stop this nonsense, and then left to behave myself.

But there is no Plant Protective Services and I can't say no, which is how I ended up with over 150 canna bulbs this spring.  Cannas in bloom are lovely and I've long admired them.  So when the canna bulb offer was made by a fellow Little League parent I quickly said yes.  And when the bulbs arrived in greater number then I expected, I planted and planted and planted.  More than 50 of the bulbs made their way into my garden in various spots all over the yard.  The rest were distributed to fellow gardeners. 

These flowers will grow to be quite tall; the beds in which they were planted are already looking quite lovely.  I am eager for the spectacular display that will soon follow. 
The worst part, of course, is that my garden promiscuity is only furthered by experiences like this.  Plants in need of home, take note.  There is always a bit more space at Sassafras House.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Road Ahead: Education Reform, part I

For the last three months, I've been reading about education reform.  And let me just say that plenty of ink has been spilled on this topic.  Thinking about education in the first place got me thinking about my own approach to teaching, and I wrote about that a few months back.  Today's posting isn't about me in the classroom, it's about classrooms and our kids.

President Obama's Race to the Top proposal interests me, not because I think it's brilliant, but because at this point in the game I'm intrigued by any serious proposal that aims to shake things up.  It's not that all American schools are in trouble; far from it.  Our problem is that the poor kids in at-risk schools are suffering.  We have a 75% high school graduation rate in the United States, much of it due to the abysmal completion rate in our poorest schools.  In a nation like ours, with an unacknowledged but powerful class system shaping so many of our children's lives,  a good education can still create better life opportunities.  Our most needy children are most in need of a real education if they are to have any chance of getting ahead.

I write from my perspective as a teacher, not a teacher in a large system or government-run school, but rather a teacher at an independent school, one with the ability to be innovative and with the luxury of well-cared for children.  My job can be demanding, but I would be the first to acknowledge that my challenge is not the same as the challenge present in places like Camden, Newark, Los Angeles or Washington D.C.  But it is those children to whom we owe a real commitment.  And frankly, we need to spend some money to give them what they deserve.

I'm not convinced that teacher salaries are where we need to spend the money, by the way. Teachers should be well-compensated, of course, and by and large the last 40 years have seen to it that teacher's salaries and benefits place them squarely in the middle class.  For example, the average public school teacher in New Jersey makes $65,000 a year, plus benefits and a pension plan.  Those folks may not be living the dream, but they are doing okay.

But we must spend money on some very important things.  Today, I'll outline a couple of the ideas on my list.  Later on this week, I'll finish up.

Nutrition and social services for children.
  Hungry children from unstable family environments cannot learn.  What these children require is food, health services, stability, and security in the company of adults who care. Schools can provide breakfast and lunch, but that's just the beginning.  Schools need to open early and close late, providing after school enrichment, activities, and fun, and most of all the stability that children crave and deserve.  It will take more caring staff to make this happen.

Smaller classes.  The very best teachers I know are people who have a complete handle on their classrooms and their students.  They know how to challenge a child and move them forward; they teach with a focus on learning autonomy but with the sure knowledge that children benefit from guidance.  A teacher can do this most effectively with 15 - 18 students in her care.  Classrooms at that size allow for plenty of quality work to be assigned (and assessed to measure progress); they allow a teacher to develop assignments and activities that target the child's learning needs.  They ensure that a child has a meaningful relationship with his classroom teacher, a teacher who is neither over-worked nor under-valued.  The average class size in American schools today ranges from 22 to 30.  That's not good enough.

Don't scrimp on the "extras."  There is a growing amount of scholarship that demonstrates what good teachers already know: Learning across diverse disciplines is connected.  Children with regular gym class have better math scores.  Children who receive regular art instruction are better thinkers and writers.  Children in regular music classes learn to be adept problem-solvers.  Math and reading are essential, of course, but these skills don't develop without a full serving of learning in fields as diverse as science, history, foreign language, and so much more.  This learning must be in the hands of professionals who are committed to their subjects.  Among other things, that means that students are working with many caring adults who are teaching subjects they love.  It's a recipe for lifelong learning.

Subject Training.  My exposure to schools of education has convinced me that pedagogy is not nearly as useful as content.  There is simply no substitute for content and more is always better.  'Nuf said.

These ideas are a start, but they aren't the whole story.  Later this week, I'll outline the rest of my reform agenda.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Usually, Mother's Day has served as an opportunity for me to think about being a mama.  I originally sat down to write this post on Mother's Day.  But the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that these thoughts are a better fit for Father's Day. 

Families like mine are lost in the shuffle of days like this (and don't get me started on the meaning of Mother's Day when one is a single mom). Sometimes, I resent these manufactured events.  But a day like this reminds me that JT is a child with a unique view of the world of families.  He knows families of all sorts: families with a mom and a dad, families with two moms, and at least one family with two dads.  But the family he knows best is his own: a family of one boy and his struggling mama. 

Someday, when he becomes a father, JT's role model for being a parent in a family will be this household of mine.  Neither parenting nor household chores have a gender at our house and there is much to be valued by that arrangement.  For one thing, I'm the only adult here and so I wield both the hammer and the frying pan.  I'm raising a son who expects to clean the toilets and look after the trash bins.  He'll nurture the baby and wash the laundry.  I'm proud of that.

I've come to understand that the child of a single parent assumes responsibilities in a very different way from a child with two parents at home.  In my weaker moments, I worry about the losses in his life.  He won't grow up with an innate knowledge of how to make a partnership succeed.  I consider that a loss.  On the other hand, he has gained an expectation of self-sufficiency and an independence that is awfully valuable.  As he grows up, I am confident that my boy has what it takes to be resilient in the face of adversity.  These lessons will grow more meaningful over time, as he becomes an adult with familial responsibilities of his own.

In the meantime, this boy and I have all sorts of conversations I could never have imagined when I daydreamed about being a mama.  We talk about bodies and their parts.  We discuss weaponry and books.  We talk about the intricacies of baseball.  We laugh (and let's face it, bicker).  We do it all together, as a family should.  And I hope that my boy understands that love has neither a gender nor a boundary.  It simply is.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Garden Therapy

Like a poorly trained toddler, I often find transitions unpleasant.  I'm happy to be free of work obligations for the summer (especially the alarm clock), but also at a bit of cross-purposes with all this time suddenly on my hands.  I know that the remedy for the funk is to organize a bit of a schedule for my days.  Yesterday, I partook of the cure by taking to my garden.
 Planting happened around the 1st of May and I've already weeded the patch a half dozen times.  But as the summer heat grows nearer, it's time for my favorite method of weed control and moisture management: newspapers and mulch.  It took about three hours of weeding and mulch-spreading to finish half of the garden.  That half looks nice and tidy now.
 The rest of the job will wait until Monday morning, when I will have read the weekend's newspapers and can put them to work on the ground.  It's always satisfying to consign the week's news to the dirt.  I'm hopeful that I can find at least a few Joe Barton pictures for the next go-round.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Aspirational Reading

My friend Nichole, who lives in Nebraska and is doing her level-best to singlehandedly increase the population of Democrats in the state (no small chore, that), has decided that my household water problems are the result of my reading habits.

Her particular concern at the moment is the condition of my roof.  As she put it in a recent comment, "What's this I see in your profile about how you just finished a book about so-and-so living under a leaky roof?? Really?? Do you need to tempt the fates?? Maybe you should switch to those cheesy romance novels that don't involve any mention of a leaky roof."

Though I can't see picking up a cheesy romance novel habit at this late date in my life, I feel she may have a point.  Thanks to her concerns, I've set aside that book about the Dust Bowl that I was planning to read this summer.  I've decided instead to take up books that offer hopeful aspirations.  I'm re-reading a bunch of Miss Read's Fairacre novels, because they always make me happy and I could do worse than being a well-adjusted spinster prone to caustic asides.

I am on the look out for a book about a single mama who raised an amazingly well-adjusted kid who went on to a long, lucrative, injury-free major league career as a catcher.  While I'm at it, I'll look for some books about people who won the lottery.  That would be handy on a number of fronts (most notably when the roof goes).  I feel that I can safely continue to read my gardening and cooking books, but I'd like to get a social life and maybe - gasp - a date.  I'd figured that I might have to summon my courage and try to meet people.  But with Nichole's theory as my guiding principle,  I'll just be on the look-out for the appropriate book on that front. 

This might work out quite well, really.  Internet, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


It's been a bit warm of late, though not quite hot enough to warrant air conditioning.  So I brought out a fan to circulate the air in the living room.

Tiger promptly moved the ottoman in range of the fan, lay down on his back, and proceeded to enjoy the breeze.

Monday, June 14, 2010

All Water, All the Time

Permit me, if you will, a time line of my adventures with water in 2010.

In March, massive rains arrived in New Jersey.  My basement filled with water and my dining room ceiling sprung a leak.  The basement has since been drained and cleaned out; the dining room leak has been plugged.  The damaged ceiling still requires repair, and I might have gotten to the job sooner if it weren't for the month of April.

In April, the bathroom plumbing commenced to leak through the kitchen ceiling.  A quick repair stopped the immediate dripping.  And a bathroom remodel, including brand new plumbing and a whole lot of new tile, assured that it wouldn't happen again.  That project took us right into May.  The kitchen ceiling, now repaired, has now been added to my list of summer ceiling projects in need of paint.

I'd hoped that the arrival of June would bring some smooth sailing.  Instead, when I went downstairs this morning with a load of laundry in hand, I found some water.  Not a lot of water, mind you, but water nonetheless.  And water in a spot in the basement which had never had water before (which is saying something).  The wetness seemed to spread from the hot water heater.  And by the end of the day, Sassafras House was the proud owner of a new hot water heater. 

I do my best to lie low when it comes to the Universe.  But clearly there is some wet message that I have not yet heard.  I'll be spending the next few days sorting that issue out, if only to avoid whatever wet disaster July plans on splashing my way.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I grew up in California and though I took trips out of state, I don't really recall seeing lightening bugs as a child.  When I was 21, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee.   I quickly fell in love with the city and the many ways that it was different from my native state.  One evening that fall, I was at a party with other grad students.  While everyone else drank beer and discussed whatever it is that grad students discuss, I stood outside on the deck and watched the fireflies.  I recognized them as lightning bugs because I had seen them at Disneyland, in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  Everyone else had grown up with fireflies; they saw nothing exotic in the woods.  But I was transfixed. 

This week, the lightening bugs have been thick at dusk and JT and my mom and I have sat outside to watch them.  All these years later, I still think they are magical.  JT can't ever remember a time they weren't part of his world.  But, like me 21 years ago, my mom has been charmed by the sudden flashes of light in the dark hedges of the backyard.  It's been lovely.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Middle Schooler!

Today, my little boy finished the fourth grade and with it, his time at the Lower School.  He's been there for seven years.  When he started pre-school at the age of 3, I remember thinking that by the time he finished the 4th grade he'd be halfway to grown up.

Back then, such a milestone was unthinkable. I was just hoping he'd get through the day in one set of clothes.  His first backpack contained a Ninja Turtles lunch box and his green blankie for naps (naps he never did enjoy).  He proudly carried it himself when I walked him to class each morning.  Today, he spoke of those pre-K days, speaking into a microphone as more than 200 people listened.  He was poised and confident; well-spoken and just everything a mama could want.  His grandma and I were as proud as we could be.  We left school with a heavy binder and a backpack full of projects.  And he strode ahead of me as we left the building.
 Every corner of this school is familiar to him.  He feels at home here.  Protected and safe.  That is a blessing so enormous that I can hardly get my mind around it.  Eight years stand between this moment and graduation from this school in the 12th grade.  And today, as I mark the virtual half way point, I'm very aware of how quickly that time will pass.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Reading the Tea Leaves

It's primary day in New Jersey and a handful of other states.  There have been a number of these sorts of elections in the last few months.  Most of them are primaries; a handful of Congressional special elections have also been held.  Eager for evidence of how things might play out in the November 2010 midterm elections, the media has paid attention to most of these races. 

A consistent theme has been hard to find, but I think that there is one: anti-incumbency.  Many voters, frustrated by the endless list of American problems, have decided that the folks currently in office are to blame for our troubles.  And anti-incumbent waves like this, which don't come along all that often, can be dangerous for both parties.

The surprise Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts in January of 2010 was read by the mainstream media as evidence that the Tea Party branch of the GOP was ascendant.  But I believe that Brown's victory is better understood as the edge of anti-incumbent wave, one that has caught both parties in its fury.  Voters are looking to defy expectations.  In Utah, loyal GOPer Robert Bennet was seeking a third term in the Senate.  But he was cast aside by his party at their convention.  Newly-minted Democrat Arlen Specter, who joined the party after 2008, reasoning that he could not win re-election to his 5th term in the Senate as a member of the GOP, lost the Democratic primary and found that he just couldn't win re-election to the Senate.  It wasn't their party affiliation which cost Bennet and Specter their seats.  It was their insider status.

Today's races feature a handful of Tea Party candidates looking to replace party-favored candidates on the GOP line come November.  The Tea Party seems to mostly be partisan-driven and from the right, forcing mainstream GOP candidates to tack right in primaries.  But winning the general election requires a moderation that Tea Partiers might find hard to swing (consider, for example, the public relations disaster that Tea Party fave Rand Paul has proven to be in the Bluegrass State).  I'll be watching the Tea Party candidates in Nevada and South Carolina tonight.  In  Arkansas, incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln is hoping to avoid the specter of losing her party's nomination to Democrat Lt. Governor Bill Halter.  I suspect she's about to lose. 

There are other contests as well, as this handy Washington Monthly post notes.  It's likely to be an interesting evening, though the big meaning of it all won't be truly understood until November.  And this is politics, so November is a long time from now.

Update: I was wrong about Arkansas; Lincoln held on. The Tea Party candidate in Nevada, Sharron Angle, won the right to face Democrat Harry Reid in Nevada.  Two California Republican self-financed women, former CEOs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, earned the right to run for Governor and Senate, respectively.  It was an interesting evening.


Later this week, JT finishes the 4th grade.  The school has a ceremony for closing the Lower School and since 4th grade is the end of the Lower School line, it also serves as a celebration of the 4th graders.

It will be my 7th Lower School closing, so I know the drill.  Among other things, the kids dress up.  In most years, I've defined "dress up" as ironed shorts.  But this year, JT has his first tie and some rather snappy seersucker trousers to wear with his button-down shirt.  I'm admittedly biased, but he'll look pretty sharp.  And today, a big surprise will come his way, in the form of Grandma flying east to join us for the ceremony.

He has no idea that she's coming and I'm about to burst with the secret.  Safe travels, Grandma.  We'll see you soon!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Real Life Conversations with JT: Little Pitchers edition

The backstory:  We were driving through a fairly empty parking lot on Friday afternoon when I pulled a classic Nebraska move and just shot across the rows, ignoring every traffic law on the books.  JT, ever the law-abiding child, was horrified.

JT:  What are you doing?

Mama:  Driving Nebraska-style.

JT: We're not in Nebraska and this is illegal.

Mama:  We're not in Nebraska?  How can you be so sure?

JT:  If we were in Nebraska, everybody would be white.

I fell out laughing.  When people have asked for a New Jersey-Nebraska comparison, I have often noted that the lack of ethnic diversity in Nebraska was always unsettling.  Apparently the "little pitchers have big ears" parable of children still holds true.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Food Friday: Strawberry Sauce

As it turns out, New Jersey isn't called the Garden State for nothing.  The strawberry season is upon us and in the last few weeks, I have bought pint after pint of fresh, locally-grown berries.  We've enjoyed strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, and sliced berries.  And this week I remembered my recipe for strawberry sauce (my grandmother would have called this a compote).  I served it over vanilla ice cream but it would also be good on pancakes or French toast or served over a piece of poundcake, or how about all of the above?

The Recipe
2 pints of strawberries, hulled and sliced
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of sugar (if the berries aren't really fresh, you might want more….let your taste buds be the guide)
2 tablespoons corn starch

Set aside 1 cup of the sliced berries.
The rest go in a saucepan with the water, vanilla, sugar, and corn starch.
 Stir over medium heat, mixing well.  The goal is to bring this mix to a boil and then stir it for 1 minute, as it thickens.
 When it thickens, remove it from the heat; give it one more stir, and then add in the cup of sliced berries. 
Mix well and serve whenever you like.  Leftovers (if you have any), can be stored in the fridge.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Insert Your Own Caption

 Obviously, the word that first comes to mind: classy.  My family is classy.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Pretender

May has ended and June has just begun.  I'm wrapping up the school year and thinking about the summer ahead.  As I do every spring, I cycle through these days as they occurred four years ago.  Even though I can't be sure that there even was a moment when it all turned sour, I still look belatedly for the signs of the moment things changed.   I mark the lasts of those days and I foolishly ask myself what I could have done to prevent the disaster that would follow.

I don't know what this review of history will accomplish.  I know that I can't turn back time or patch things together.  And it seems silly to still mourn an ending while spring bursts around me.  The growing plants, the flowers, and the lovely  fresh green colors all seem so hopeful.  I want to grab hold of that promise.

But I can't quite seem to find it.  Four years ago, I took refuge in the idea that by now I would have worked through the pain and the sadness and come through to the other side: I am the Mama, hear me roar. I figured that by now I would have built a new life.  Not shiny and perfect.  But new to me; my version of imperfect perfection.  Instead, I have ....... honestly, most days I have no earthly idea what I have.  I have the laundry, the grass to cut, classes to teach, the floors to sweep and the bathrooms to clean.  I have supper to make.  A master calendar to get me to Little League games.  Homework to supervise. "Family" events to navigate.  At the end of the day, if I can stay awake long enough, I have a few pages of my book to read.  Then I swallow a benedryl and crash asleep.  A few hours later, I wake up to start it all again. 

I do know how incredibly lucky I am.  I'm grateful for the good things, especially my boy and my home.  But I feel that this life of daily events pales in comparison to my old hopes and dreams, false though they must have been.  I am tired of pretending that it's okay. Pretending to be strong.  Pretending that someday it will be better.  Pretending there is a future to be hopeful about.  I'm always pretending.  I'd very much like to start believing.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How 'bout them Apples?

The other night, JT and I headed out back to check the emerging apples on our trees.  There are more than 2 dozen apples on my young trees, enough for a pie with some lunchbox apples left over.
Word from my Dad gardening guru is that some of the apples on these branches should be trimmed.  The trees are just two years old and too heavy a crop could damage the branches.  The rule-of-thumb for a dwarf fruit tree this young is one piece of fruit every 6 inches.  So later this week, I'll remove some apples.  But that will still leave enough to harvest a pie. 

In other garden news, the primrose is suddenly quite lovely. 
JT and his 4 year old fan Miss G, had a turn in the sprinkler this weekend, a prelude of the days ahead.
 Within the week, I will be able to be in the garden every morning. I'm looking forward to weeding and mulching, pruning and clipping, and all the other ways that I care for the garden, feeding my soul as I grow beautiful things.