Sunday, May 31, 2015

Real Life Conversations with TLE: Fruitful edition

The backstory: T and I were talking about fruits, when the topic of kiwis came up.

T: Kiwi is a hybrid…’s a mix of a strawberry and a banana.

S: That does’t make any sense.

T: Yes it does…it’s like yellow and blue makes green.

S:  I am consulting the Internet on this one.

Kiwis come from a vine that first grew in China and they were once known as Chinese gooseberries.  There are many variations of the kiwi, though none are the result of a strawberry and banana hybridization.  Her knowledge of fruit taxonomy could use improvement,  but her ease with the language of bullshit is one of the many reasons I love her.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Heat + Sunlight + Rain = Peony Blooms!

This weekend, JT is working problems to study for his math final exam. I'm enjoying the garden and the results of one of my favorite equations.

That’s happy!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Real Life Conversations with a Teenager: Why Are You This Way? edition

The backstory: Though he is often a very pleasant companion, sometimes I’m reminded that living with a 15 year old is still a landmine, as was the case when JT and I discussed the 10th grade summer reading list.  It requires the students to read two books and then choose a third from a small list of classics that seems exceptionally appealing to boys (we’re talking All Quiet on the Western Front, A Farewell to Arms, David Copperfield).

Me:  It looks like a pretty good list.

JT:  The second list is short.

At this juncture, because his tone suggests that the short list is a grave injustice and I am aware that teachers often blow off the third summer reading book, I cheerfully encourage open rebellion.  I do this because he’s a teenager, a sect known for sometimes enjoying a flouting of the rules.  And because a short reading list of decent books seems just fine to me, a point I made when this conversation began.

Me:  So read something from the long list instead.

JT (in an exceptionally scornful tone that suggests he is being raised by a simpleton who understands very little about formal education):  We’re. supposed. to. read. from. THE. SHORT. LIST.

Me (now trying to figure out how this seemingly short throw-away conversation has turned into yet another example of how I don’t get it):  Got it.

A quiet descends.  But the boy might be just as mystified as I am by how this conversation played out because few minutes later, he crawls into his bed and calls, “Good night.  I love you, Mama. See you in the morning.”  As I have for years, I reply, “Not if I see you first.  I love you, son.”  And all was quiet on the Sassafras House front.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Exuberant Rhododendron

Once Mother Natures turns on the tap of Spring, the blooms and blossoms she generates are simply splendid.  Case in point: my front yard rhododendrons.  They had a bit of a tough winter, thanks to all the cold and snow.  But this Spring, they’ve come to celebrate the warmth.  They flank the front steps and are lovely.

Mother Nature gets to be garish and showy.  

With blooms like this, who can blame her?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Peony Days

A few years ago, T and JT gave me a peony for Mother’s Day.  I’ve always wanted a peony plant and it’s lovely to have one so enthusiastic about blooming.  On busy May mornings as I walk to the car for a long day, I stop to check out the plant.  Last week, the showy buds were getting ready.

This week, things are coming along quite nicely; there are peony flowers in my future.

That’s happy!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Garden Ready

I planted some zinnias seeds and tomato plants two weeks ago and this past Saturday the rest of my summer garden got planted.  The plant store on the Friday night of Memorial Day weekend was surprisingly quiet and I rolled my cart through the aisles filled with happy thoughts of the blooms and fresh produce in my future.  A nice collection of plants came home with me.

The backyard garden is now planted, awaiting sunlight and warm temperatures.  There is a lot of cleanup and weeding still to be done and I may put a few more seeds in the ground.  But zinnia seedlings are well on their way, tomato plants are in cages, and the growing season has begun.

The front yard got some trimming and the front porch got a few more pots of flowers.  Indoor plants have come outside for the summer.

Extra warm temperatures are forecast for this week.  Soon enough, I will be picking the things that I have grown. That is most happy.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Real Life Texts with KO: Infectious Disease edition

The backstory:  Not for the first time, my sister and I had an exchange about our favorite brand of underwear.

Me:  Today’s troubling news…Nordstrom undies are no longer called Shimera.  Now brand is just Nordstrom.  I cannot approve though I did enjoy the sale price on a color that wasn’t hideous. Half woot.

KO:  They can call them whatever they want as long as they don’t call them discontinued.  Maybe someone finally tipped them off that Shimera sounds like a disease?

My shimera has been under control for years, thank you.  The undies can be found here and seriously, they are worth every penny.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Since I switched jobs, I am on a 12-month contract.  Though there is still plenty of time off, I don’t have the three months of summer vacation that I enjoyed as a teacher.  That is not to say that summer is all work and no play.  In fact, summer days at a school without students is an easy pace.  Though my to-do list is rather long, I get a lot of things done a great deal more quickly.  

The work day is shorter, no work comes home for the evenings or weekends, and I take days (even weeks) off.  But the loss of 3 months of seemingly endless time that was summer vacation meant making a transition in my own thinking.  Rather than assume relaxation would just happen, I make intentional time for it.   The month of May is filled with the expectant spirit of a well-earned break in the offing.

Life outdoors and my cheerful front porch is the center of summer relaxation for me.  For my summer schedule, I’ve established a morning tradition of sitting on the front porch reading a book while I enjoy my first cup of coffee.  The porch becomes a sanctuary on summer mornings and in May I plant the flowers and clean the porch so that it is fresh and welcoming for the summer that lies ahead.

I enjoy getting the porch ready for summer and it provides two benefits in the busy month of May.  First, I get some time outside to plant flowers and otherwise embrace nature.  There will be plenty of that in the summer as well, but after a long winter and in the midst of the frenetic pace of the end of the school year, the time outside is a pleasure.  The second benefit of my summer preparation is a reminder to live in the moment.  May is beautiful around here and it’s good to stop and enjoy its blooms and blessings.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Real Life Conversations with JT: Common Sense edition

The backstory:  Growing up in California, my awareness of electric storms was pretty minimal.  As it turns out, it really doesn’t ever rain in California and it wasn’t until I moved to Tennessee that I learned the basic rules of thunder and lightening.  I next made my home in Nebraska, smack dab in the middle of tornado alley, and the rules of storms get meaning real quick in a place like that.  New Jersey has electrical storms, but not as often as Tennessee and Nebraska.  My prairie-born boy hasn’t been paying attention to the rules, as T and I learned on Saturday evening, when he came in from the outdoors and made an announcement.

JT:  There is a storm outside. 

Me:  It does look rather ominous.

JT and and T then looked out the windows at the darkening skies.  

JT:  I think that there was thunder or lightening.  Whichever one is silent; I saw that a few times.

Me:  Well, that’s the one that should bring you inside son, so good call on that.  

Then T explained to him that electric storms should bring a boy inside and tornado warnings should get him to the basement.  And T and I congratulated ourselves on keeping him alive this long.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Real Life Conversations at School: Laugh More Often edition

The backstory:  My 7th graders are creating American history-themed amusement parks as their final class project.  By necessity, this means discussions of their favorite amusement park rides.  Student G has even greater ambitions.

G:  You can rent all of Hurricane Harbor (a local water park) for yourself and I’d like to do that some day.

S:  For yourself?  Wouldn’t that be….(and here I pause to consider my word choice…..I’m thinking of lonely or overwhelming or quiet or something but G quickly filled the gap).

G:  Awesome?

At which point I burst into laughter and the startled class started laughing along with me.  When we caught our breath R said, “You’ve never laughed like that before.”  I think that I laugh like that all the time but now I’ve made a mental note: laugh more often with the 7th grade.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Harbingers and Heralds

If JT and I were plants, the seed catalog would note that we are cold hearty, heat intolerant, and moisture loving.  Nowhere is this more clear than when it comes time to sleep.  We both like to sleep in cool rooms.  In the winter, I set the furnace to 56 overnight and we sleep in beds heaped with soft sheets, warm blankets, and heavy down comforters.  The cold is why we enjoy the heavy bedding and JT is always happy to see his down comforter come out.  It’s the teenage equivalent of a blankie.

As weather warms, the time comes to pack away the down comforters and duvets and we convert to quilts.  This transition is something of a betrayal in JT’s mind, because he much prefers snuggling under heavy bedding.  The consolation for lighter bedding is sleeping with the windows open, something we both enjoy.

Waking to the sounds of chirping birds with the early sunrise and light of summer coming on is one of the best parts of Spring.  I love the longer days and sunlight which make me feel as if there is endless time to accomplish the many tasks at hand.  In the frenetic pace of May, the sound of birds in the morning is a peaceful and happy way to start the day.

And the quilts that JT isn’t so happy to see?  I remind him that those are the signal of a summer vacation that will begin in just a few weeks.  This year, after three seasons of athletic practice and the best effort he’s ever made at school, that quilt is a mark of a well-earned break tantalizingly close at hand.

That’s happy!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sign of Our Continuing Decline

T and I found these giant marshmallows at the grocery last week, under a sign that read For Today’s overeaters.”

Perhaps I over-exaggerate the sign, but you get the idea.  We think these can be used by Bigfoot to make delicious smores.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Real Life Conversations with T: Paterson edition

The backstory: T and I like to visit National Park sites and check out the historical displays.  This past weekend, we rolled on over to one of the newest National Parks, the Paterson Great Falls National Park in Paterson, New Jersey, established in 2011  When Paterson was first founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1792, it was the nation’s first planned industrial city.  Paterson would go on to become a prosperous town and early site of the 19th century American Industrial Revolution.  In Paterson, the Labor movement got its start, including an 1835 textile worker’s strike that reduced children’s workdays from 13 and 1/2 to 11 hours (!).  Industrial prosperity took the town through the 1940s; Paterson has long been a town of immigrant opportunity.  These days, Paterson is struggling with some substantial poverty and that’s clear throughout the site of the fledgling national park.  On our way out of town I saw a restaurant entitled, “Pappi’s Texas Weiner.”

Me:  Pappi’s Texas Weiner?  What is the deal with Texas Weiner places in New Jersey? (note: the phrase “Texas Weiner” is popular in the state for reasons wholly unknown to me).

Me (now ranting):  And “Pappi’s”?  There is no way I am eating in a place called Pappi’s.  It just sounds sketchy.

T:  I would have thought that the phrase Texas Weiner is the bigger problem.  Though Pappi’s does sound like there will be a molestation in the bathroom.

We opted for supper elsewhere and laughed about Pappi’s for the rest of the day.  We’re gonna get struck by lightening some day, and it’s a fate we richly deserve.  But at least we’ll be together when it happens.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother’s Day

We celebrated Mother’s Day early and last weekend found me admiring flowers and selecting some for my front porch, a tradition begun with T that I very much enjoy.

T sees to it that the day we choose to celebrate is special for me and I appreciate that.  Being able to share both the joys and burdens of motherhood with her makes my world both happier and easier to manage.  A trip to the flower store makes that even nicer.  Now my porch is shaping up for the summer, with impatiens and begonias in bright colors.

I have two hanging pots of double begonias.

Soon enough, I’ll be enjoying hours of leisurely reads on the front porch.  That’s happy!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Oh, Adolescence

There are some crazed honeybees just outside the Middle School doors and they lazily buzz about enjoying the nectar on the many blooms on campus.  Their arrival coincides with May 1, when the warm weather dress code begins and students are permitted to wear shorts to school.  These all seems to be signals that the freedom of summer vacation is in sight.  

When Spring’s glories arrive in that here-to-stay way, with warm days and sunlight to spare, Middle Schoolers rather lose their minds.  In a way, Nature’s changes at this time are reflective of what’s going on in the bodies and minds of these 11, 12, 13, and 14 year olds.  Cherry tree blooms explode, peony stalks grow an inch per day, dandelions pop up over night and that’s just how it feels to be 13.  For the children, these changes are both exhilarating and overwhelming, sometimes in the very same moment.

I remind myself of their reality as I wade into the breach each day.  Patience and good humor are my allies.  What these kids need at the intersection of childhood and adolescence is the permission to think big and still be children.  They need boundaries and structure, humor and affection, and the patience of adults who remember how hard it was to be a Middle Schooler.  I’ve the privilege to work with a principal who understands these things.  The kids know that we’ve got their back.  We know that with our support they will do good and maybe great things some day.  Each day, we work toward that promise.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Your Weekly Spring Bulbs: Week 8

We have reached the point in Spring where I’ve come to believe that the warmth and mild days are here to stay.  Each morning, a haze of green tree pollen covers the surface of my car and the front porch and the trees have transitioned to tiny green leaves.

The tulip bulbs in my last flower bed have reached their peak and have brought along one last daffodil for the ride.

Last weekend, I completed my first mow of the grass and as I passed this flowerbed it was clear that this week would bring the final burst of tulips.  The hostas are also well on their way to full bloom. Everywhere I look, something new is growing.  That's one of the reasons I find Spring so pleasing.

I’ve planted my first tomato plants and this weekend rows and rows of zinnias will be planted.  I’ve located the sprinkler so that I can begin to water the garden.  All of this is my way of saying that the weekly Spring bulb postings are now complete.  It’s time for some new plants to enjoy their day in the sun.  

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Mucho Flip Flops

At some point on Saturday morning, I realized that flip flop weather is here to stay.  For the next 6 months, my toes and I will be enjoying the outdoors.  This color is called "Fiesta" and it's my way of celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Just add tequila!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Trouble in the Pink Ghetto

I call the pink girl-luring toy aisles in stores the pink ghetto.  Though I understand the appeal of pink in the little girl universe, it bothers me that boys’ and girls’ toys are such a distinct and different world.  We market toys for boys that encourage action and engagement.  Girls toys are things and many of them objectify appearances; little action is required.

It’s been years since I had a little boy who loved to visit the toy aisle.  I can only fight so many battles and I am the mother of feminist boy, so I’ve done my part.  But our recent trip for a trash bin caused us to stroll by the pink ghetto, where a lone pink tricycle was in the aisle.  JT obliged me with a photo opportunity.

There may still be a little boy in my teenager.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Look at My Pretty Flowers

Postings for April were, ahem, a bit scant.  I plead the baseball season.  Specifically, daily baseball practice and the number of long baseball games in fields located all over central New Jersey.

These days, I spend a lot of my time just staying on top of where my kid is, where he should be, or where he needs to go next.  On top of that, there’s this full-time job that expects my time.  Not to mention bathrooms to clean, beds to make, laundry to wash……..well, you get the idea.

I did take a day to go to the city last weekend.  I saw two plays, which was a crazy way to spend an April day.  But the plays were amazing and I enjoyed the immersion in good stories.  I also made some pictures of flowers because flowers make all of life happier.  There was this floral stand near Broadway.

And this lovely pot of flowers, part of a collection in a public space on 51st.

That’s happy!

Friday, May 01, 2015

May 1: Peach Tree

Thirty days ago, Spring was still toying with my emotions and blooms on my peach tree were more of a hope than a reality.  But in the last week, hope has bloomed all over the place.  Here is the peach tree last week, wearing delicate pink blooms.

Just a week later, green leaves are replacing the delicate flowers.

The apple and pear trees are getting in on the act as well.

Each day of sunlight and warmth, Spring’s blooms inch forward.  My backyard trees will soon be a canopy of green.  

I especially enjoy this part of Spring.  Each day I wake up to a new bloom.  The expectant urgency of the days brings energy at a time in the school year when I need it most.