Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thinning the Harvest

My dwarf fruit trees will have their first significant harvest next fall.  Together, the trees set on more than two dozen apples and one pear, just on target for trees their age.  But the limbs are yet young and some are vulnerable and so the responsible gardener must thin the apples, so that they grow at least six inches apart and don't weigh down the branches too much.  So a branch may start looking like this:
Once thinned, it looks like this:
These apples have a good shot at successfully maturing and have me dreaming of a small bowl of fried apples and a few lunch box snacks.  The thinned apples, nine in total, went to the compost heap where they will likely serve as a sumptuous feast for a few bunnies of my acquaintance.
In my book, that's a gardening win-win.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Backyard McGyver

JT has a pair of sunglasses that he keeps outside for use as the need arrises.  He's tucked them on a branch underneath a part of the grape vine that was experiencing too much shade to green up this spring.  Now he need never stare into the sunlight.
Pretty clever, that boy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Great Wall

I'm just not sure what to make of this picture. It turned up on a local Chinese takeout menu and must certainly be someone's attempt at creative photoshop 101.  I'm not buying it, though I do have a strange urge for Kung Pao chicken.  I'm alarmed.

Is this the final sign that the Chinese are now truly in charge of the U.S.?

Or could it be that the GOP leadership fools finally built that big wall to protect us from illegal immigration, albeit from the wrong country?

Hard to be sure what's going on here.  And no matter what it is, I am disturbed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Leaning Into Joy

One of the hazards of life for me has been the idea of uncertainty.  I'm not a pessimist, per se, but events of my past and my sadness about them conspired to encourage me to regard uncertainty more as potential danger than potential happiness.  I've worked hard on addressing that world view in the past two years.  Just putting living with less fear on my life list constituted progress because it meant I was able to openly acknowledge that specter's influence in my life.  A few months ago, I watched this Brene Brown TED talk and then used her words and ideas as a sort of talisman of personal bravery; of being whole-hearted.

I don't wish to live with fear as much as embrace the opportunity implicit in uncertainty.  I've used the regular features of my life as a way to take on that fear.  Planting a few different plants in the garden, picking up a book outside my usual interests, trying a new style of clothes, re-organizing a successful lesson to aspire for even greater success…….all relatively small acts that nonetheless felt like acts of bravery for me. 

It's amazing how far a little courage can take me.  It's lovely to see the prospect of uncertainly, associate it with potential good in my life, and then contemplate how far good can take me.  I still have doubts, of course.  That's human.  But I've gotten a lot more comfortable about the fact that I don't know how these chapters will end.  And these days I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Adolescence Calling

The backstory:  We headed over to VW yesterday to: 1. get our new license plates and 2. get someone there to program the radio so that we can listen to the ipod in the car.  I'd loaded the ipod with hundreds and hundreds of songs, some of which JT likes, all of which I like.  But it seems that some of those songs have the potential to bring him great social shame.

Mama:  Do you want to watch while we figure out the ipod?

JT:  No.

Mama:  Why not?  I could use another person to understand how this works.

JT:  Fine.  (whispering) But make sure you tell them this isn't my music.  It's yours and yours alone.

Oh, adolescence.  Keep your mitts off my baby.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oh Yes I Did

It's not just any friend to whom I can proclaim to the internet: your husband left his skivvies at my house.  But I am prepared to say that to N, whose husband C really did leave his skivvies behind.

Wait, y'all are thinking, "I thought she played for the other team." 

You can relax.  C and N came to visit our little corner of New Jersey and in the laundry madness, something got left behind.  I plan to mail them back.  But in the meantime, may I just say y'all should totally invite the Lincoln crew your way?  Tons of laughs, a reminder of the things I loved about the prairie, and two people who really love one another.  You can't ask for more than that.  Thanks for the visit.

Next time, we demand the whole dang family!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Game Changer

JT and I play all sorts of card games……Phase 10, Skip Bo, Monopoly Deal… matter the game, there is one truism: I get shellacked.  And on the way, he talks smack like nobody's business.  Last week, he proposed that we play Go Fish and I figured it would be yet another opportunity for him to administer a humiliating beat-down to his Mama.  Much to my surprise, it seems I've got some mad Go Fish skills.  And it's not just that I win the occasional game.  I'm winning far more than 50% of the time.  I could totally take this skill on the road and become some sort of Go Fish champion.

Naturally, he's taken to explaining to me (in the sort of patient voice used for toddlers and the simple-minded) that it's a game of random luck and that this run of victories does not represent some skills, as much as chance.  But whether it's luck or skill, I'll take it. And if you're planning to come over to my house, be prepared to get your booty kicked when I deal out the cards.  People, I'm a Go-Fish machine.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Little Pitchers Have Big Ears edition

The backstory:  My friends C and N are visiting from the prairie and we've been talking, laughing, and generally catching up.  JT is around because, duh, he lives here.  But it wasn't entirely clear to me how much he was listening until we dropped C and N at the train (they've headed to the city for the day) and JT and I had the following conversation.

JT:  I've learned some new words in the past few days.

Mama (wary):  Oh yeah?

JT:  Oh yeah....what's a douche bag?  I know it can't be good.

This, my friends, is some of the A+ parenting I bring to the table.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Captain Cool

We went to the beach yesterday.
 JT tried his hand at the waves.
Then he relaxed.
 When I looked at these pictures, all I could think was: where did my little boy go?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Household Style

My mother gave me this serving dish a few years ago; it came from her grandmother, and we don't know much about the origins of the bowl.  It's old-fashioned and I use it for serving appetizer-style foods: mixed nuts, crudites and dips.  Last night, I used it to serve a little antipasti:  salami, olives, brushetta, and mozzarella with our risotto and asparagus supper.  My friends C and N are with us this week and last night N and I agreed that a bowl like this is guaranteed to have treats.  No one ever brings this bowl to the table filled with 4 healthy snacks.  At best, you might set it out with veggies in two sections and dip in the other two.   That the dish has been on tables in my family for over 60 years is part of its charm.  I'll bet it has some stories to tell.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Out Sourcing

Meetings today (sweet Jesus) but I did learn something worth my time.  Thanks to Jaxter for this rewarding link.  Quality viewing, people.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Well Behaved

My new cat, seen below, never hurls on the floor, doesn't complain when the kibble bowl is only half-full, and hasn't scratched the leather chair.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Time

Blueberry season has arrived and that means a non-stop blueberry festival in my kitchen.  Yesterday, for the last day of school, we had blueberries and cream for breakfast. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

With A Whimper

JT finishes the 5th grade today.  All week long, he's been wrapping things up.  There's been no homework (a welcome change!).  It's been clear from his chatter at suppers this week that most of the school days were given over to celebrations and the like.  Gym class was free-play (a concept he heartily endorses).  Field Day, normally the reason that JT consents to attend school for the year, was a disappointment ("it was only two hours!" he complained).  Perhaps more important, my boy is literally exhausted from the self-esteem disaster that half of the year seemed to represent.

I keep trying to sort out how much of this difficulty is due to the arrival of the moody tween years and how much is due to the unbelievable speed of 5th grade math instruction, which often left JT fumbling to keep up.  The creativity that he enjoyed in history and English may, in the end, rescue him.  Much to my delight, he's excited about the summer reading books.  He's agreed to work on some math review.  I've planned some outdoor adventures to re-ignite his interest in the natural world.  Art continues to represent a respite for him, and an opportunity to love what he does.  So I will keep these blessings in mind as I watch today's closing ceremony.

When I re-read this list, I feel better about the year.  I remember that summer vacation and the hours of unscheduled time has the tendency to soften the rough edges of any school year.  JT has already started to daydream about our annual July camp trip.  He's excited about our summer adventure list.  Rest, relaxation, and laughter are in our immediate future. 

We'll take it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Career Planning edition

The backstory:  We had a couple of display poster boards on hand for a 5th grade project and while we worked out our design plan, JT got creative.
Mama:  What are you doing?

JT:  I've always wanted to see how it would feel to have a cubicle.

Mama:  And?

JT:  I'm not really the cubicle type.

So it would seem.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: In the News edition

The backstory: I listen to NPR news with a rather passionate devotion and JT, forced to consume the same media, generally tolerates my listening habits.  Every once in a while, however, he shows interest in an actual story.  Usually, it's a sports story that draws him in but his interests seem to be more varied of late, as the following conversation indicates.

JT:  Can I turn on the news when I go upstairs?

Mama:  Sure.  Why?

JT:  There's a story I want to hear.

Mama:  What is it about?

JT:  Drug cartels in El Salvador and Mexico.

Mama:  Drug cartels in El Salvador and Mexico?……Should I be concerned?

JT:  Shhhh, I'm listening to the story.

Maybe I should look more closely at his backyard activities.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


By tradition, the last day of school around here requires us all to dress up in our Sunday best for an event we call Honors Convocation.  I participated, of course.  I wore my fanciest toe ring.
 I clean up nice.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Overheard in the Hall

Student A: "Having rules for a dress-down day is like opening up a wound and pouring salt in it."

There is really nothing quite like the sense of injustice among teenagers.  Yet another reason to love my job.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Mama Car

I have a theory that cars are just the grown-up equivalent of lockers.  As of Wednesday evening, I've got a shiny new locker.  Rest assured we've already put it to work.
Naturally, I've started the process of decorating.
The new ride is still very much a mom car (because, ahem, duh) but it's quite zippy.  It will permit JT to ride up front, where he anticipates a whole new world view (and, I expect, entertains fantasies about joining the music management team).  I'm looking forward to setting aside my reliability anxieties and dreaming about some awesome road trips.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


Yesterday, we said good bye to our Saturn, the car I had taken to calling "the old jalopy."  At the age of seven (what is that in car years?), the car experienced a difficult spring.  As a consequence, so did we.   With nearly 100,000 miles on her meter, the time had come for us to part ways with the Saturn.

It's taken us through countless road trips, covering 15 states, with a little boy who needed a booster seat when I bought the car but who is now nearly taller than me (and no longer little).  We've gone to school in the fall, winter, and spring with bags full of books, homework, and projects galore.  It's been to the beach and camping and to its share of Halloween Trunk-or-Treats.  It's been to baseball games, soccer games, and running contests.  It's carried bikes, garden equipment, groceries, kittens who became cats, and all sorts of luggage.  We've sung hundreds of songs in this car.  It's made us laugh (what was the deal with that damned alarm?) and it's been there when life was very, very difficult.  Five years ago, there were many times when I cried as I drove this car and memories of better days flooded over me.  I hope that I've laughed just as often.  Before we said good bye, JT pretended to take it for a spin.
He's from New Jersey, so of course he rolled down the window and shouted at his imagined fellow drivers.
I'll post an update on the new ride (a VW Jetta SportWagen) tomorrow, with pictures.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

June 1st: Clematis Vine

It's hard for me to believe that the summer has already arrived (though the constant hum of the air conditioner certainly confirms it).  I did a lot of planting over the weekend, and the clematis vine blooms helped to keep me company.
In the next few weeks, my school obligations will wind down.  I'm looking forward to leisurely days and more time in the garden.  The clematis blooms are a lovely reminder of the beauty of a good book and a lazy summer day.