Category Archives: Garden

Two in the Bush

Feast or famine. Either way, a bellyache.

Mike has gone from being terrifyingly unemployed to working so much that, well, it’s terrifying. I’m not sure humans are designed to pull off eighty-hour weeks. Certainly not when they’re over forty. Don’t get me wrong, the money is great. But we miss him. And his haggard face, when we do get a glimpse of it, makes me wish there was a bit more balance in his employment life. Like if he had a “regular” office job, maybe. You know, a nine to five. Word on the street is those are easy. But he doesn’t. And he won’t. And that’s probably, for him, at least, a good thing.

For us? Well, life must go on, and four-year-olds–too young to understand such subtleties–must be bodily entertained. Even on Sundays.

Since MJ’s so immersed in the bird thing right now, I decided to bring her back to the Arboretum. It’s been over a year since we went there; I knew she’d remember nothing. And I was right. Even when I tried to prompt her memory, she knew zilch.

“There are peacocks?” I reminded her. “We got attacked by a goose?”

A stare as blank as the great outdoors. This was fantastic. It would be like a whole new experience for her. The beauty of a pre-schooler’s mind: It’s re-writable, like a floppy disk.

Speaking of distant memories.

Anyway. Back we went. And it was, indeed, like a brand new outing. We may as well have been arriving on Pluto. With plumed denizens. And an atmosphere, of course.

Greeted, as always, by a flock of raucous and gorgeous peacocks, my daughter looked mind-blown.

“Mama look!” she shrieked. “Do you see them?”

“Wow, Yes!” I cried. (Silently adding: “My little sieve.”)

“And look, ducks!”

“I don’t believe it!”

“And turtles!”

“You must be kidding!”

Seriously, her delight was totally infectious. Who cares that I’d seen–and seen, and seen!–all of this previously. The day was bright and temperate, the crowds thin, and the place absolutely bursting with wildlife. The pond especially was a veritable cornucopia of fauna. In addition to the mallards (“Whoa! Iridescence!”) we saw coots, hawks, scrub jays, turtles in scads, Canada geese, a double-crested cormorant, and several lizards. Large fish (trout? Coi? I have no idea. We haven’t hit the piscatory obsession yet) virtually threw themselves at us for pretzel crumbs. Sunlight leaped and glanced prettily off of leaves, water, even my daughter’s plastic sunglasses.

Later, wandering the rose garden, we found a wide stretch of soft grass and lay down. It was a sweet spot–not too sunburny, not too cool. Dizzying peacefulness. “It’s so quiet,” MJ said finally. “All I can hear are birds’ songs.”

We listened. It was true.

“I wish Daddy was here.” Her tone was half mournful, half matter-of-fact.

“Me, too,” I replied.

Another long silence.

“I’m going to tell him I saw eight plus eight plus one peacocks today.”

“You definitely should.”

She rolled over and sat up. A wide smile sprang onto her face. “And that one was a juvenile!”

“Yes, indeed.”

“My favorite kind!”

Mine, too. Mine, too, my fledgling girl.

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Faire Weather Friend

I know. Lame. Three days since the festival, and nothing. It’s not that I’m being a jerk. I’m certainly not trying to keep anyone in suspense. I simply haven’t had a second. I went to work the day after. Worked at MJ’s school the day after that. Working now, in fact. But it’s my lunch break, and I have a few minutes to fill you in. Actually, it won’t take long, because I can sum up the entire outcome in one word:

Miracle.

But we didn’t think so at first. It poured all morning–poured!–in the hours before the Faire started. We had to set up in the rain. We threw up every pop-up tent any of us had, then rented another big one a half an hour before opening, spending extra money we were sure we wouldn’t make back. To say we were hopeless and discouraged is a massive understatement–I spent the whole early morning stomping around in a grouch so profound even the local mice knew  to stay away from me. But we soldiered on. At eleven AM we were ready.

And then, right at “doors open,” a cessation. Of the precipitation, that is. It went away, never to return that day.

In its place? People! Lots of them! Arriving in boots, slickers, and hats, prepared to participate even in a deluge. Which it turns out they didn’t have to. But God love them for being willing.

And suddenly, after days of panicking, cursing, crying, raging, preparing for the worst, knowing we wouldn’t be ready…we were. And it happened. Suddenly there was a band playing, and food being served, and kids crafting, and money–lots of it–being spent.

I won’t go into too much more detail. I couldn’t even if I wanted to, because I spent most of the event at the front table selling tickets and squealing “it’s not a disaster! It’s not a disaster!” to anyone who would listen. I didn’t even take any pictures. (Go to my friend’s blog for some). But I know fun when I see it, and happiness, and relief. And consumerism! And cookie eating! And booze drinking! And I saw all of those things writ large, in adorable pre-schooler scrawl, at our little event.

At the end of the day, as the Faire wrapped up, an explosion of deep golden sun shot through the late-afternoon clouds. Parents, drunk on homemade beer and relief, lounged at tables with legs stretched long. Kids, facepainted and nail-polished, swarmed the small stage, banging the abandoned drum set and yelling into the mics.

And I, surprised, exhausted, stunned, and happy, just laughed. 

Never again do I question that there is a God. Or that he has a twisted sense of humor. Still, I am beyond grateful. All the more so because my father won the iPad raffle. And guess who he gave it to?

Onwards to Christmas, with one more device to smooth the way!

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God Hates Me

And frankly, right now, the feeling is mutual.

Picture 5Ugh. Even Sons Of Anarchy aren’t dulling the panic. I’m going to bed. Where I will finally not have to contemplate the prospect of two months of work wasted when we get rained out on Saturday.

I’ve got nothing else. Pray for a miracle. I know I am.

Four for Four

Birthdays come but once a year. And it’s a damn good thing. Any more, and parents would be dropping like flies.

Or I would, anyway. MJ’s party was four days ago now, and I’m only just feeling human again. As for my pocketbook, well, it may need a bit more time to recover. Because you know what? It turns out that even a super casual, bagels-in-the-park,  cupcakes from Vons, no favor bags birthday party can be extraordinarily expensive. It might’ve been cheaper to rent a yacht. Who knew?

But it was worth it. I think. Myra-Jean seemed to enjoy it. Mostly.  I mean, let’s be honest–by the end of such a party pretty much any preschooler is in a stage five meltdown. What with the sugar, the attention, the pinata, the grownups goosing their cheeks–it’s enough to make even the most phlegmatic of four-year-olds blow a gasket. MJ, being no exception to this rule, spent the last half-hour of the party refusing to acknowledge departing guests and screaming “I just want to open my presents!!” I thought we were going to have to sedate her. Good times.

But then it was over–the invitees headed home, the cups and plates cleaned up, the smashed Jupiter pinata stuffed in the trash, the remaining cupcakes tossed. We headed up the hill to our house and ate takeout lunch with our family. Everyone was starved. One thing you forget to do at these things is eat.

As for MJ, she was all over the place. One minute she played with a new toy, the next she was sobbing over getting served the “wrong kind of chicken.” She said she’d enjoyed the party, but it was hard to tell. She was tired. She was mean. She was edgy. And this edginess lasted for the next three days.

It only seemed to lift yesterday–the actual day of her birthday. I’d had to work–a fact deemed unforgivable by my daughter–and it looked like the day could be a total debacle. Myra-Jean was furious when I left.

“You may never go!” she screamed. “Ever!”

The four birthday-themed postcards I’d left her notwithstanding, I felt like the worst parent alive.

But as the day went on, I heard that she cheered up. School was fun. The weather a bit cooler. In the afternoon she did some gardening with her father.

And then I was able to get off early to meet them for dinner! At our favorite restaurant!  We ate pho and crayoned pictures of Walter and Mina on small white pieces of scrap paper. MJ chewed french fries with fish sauce and seemed ecstatic to be up past her bedtime. After dinner, we went to ice cream; when we were done eating it I watched, grinning stupidly, as my husband and daughter danced to “American Pie” in the middle of the empty parlor’s floor.

There, in that moment, I found the joy of her fourth birthday. And, judging by their faces, I’d have to say Mike and MJ did as well. No pinatas, no space decorations, no craft table, no hats. Just a quiet dinner, a sweet dessert, and the hard slate floor of an empty shop.

Perhaps next year we’ll just skip straight to that.

To Done, 10/8/13

Today MJ was in school from 9:15 to 2:15. Here’s what I got done while she was gone:

  • Picked up all toys, clothes, and artwork from floor.
  • Straightened MJ’s “studio.” Put all beads, pipe cleaners, stickers, “treasures,” and stamps back in their designated bins, muttering under my breath the whole time.
  • Vacuumed whole house.
  • Mopped kitchen and utility room.
  • Cleaned both bathrooms.
  • Did three loads of laundry.
  • Wrote fundraising e-mail to committee of Winter Faire at MJ’s school.
  • Attempted–twice–to reach donation department at Home Depot. Want them to give two Christmas Trees for our Faire. Won’t get hopes up–they won’t even spring for voice mail.
  • Wrote e-mail to work, asking for days off so that I can attend important Halloween events with MJ. Worried I’ll be denied.
  • Attempted to play with cat. Desisted, due to lack of interest.
  • Washed kitchen rug.
  • Wiped windowsills.
  • Dusted living room.
  • Removed one more alphabet sticker from flat screen TV. At this rate it will be cleared of them completely by 2014.
  • Attempted to remove glue from coffee table. Failed.
  • Attempted to remove piece of construction paper pasted to bathroom sink. Failed.
  • Loaded dishwasher.
  • Wrote another fundraising e-mail.
  • Scanned and e-mailed banking forms for our life insurance company. We fell victim to fraud again (!!) last week, and have had to close our old checking account and open a new one. This has meant contacting everyone we do online billing with and giving them our new routing number, etc. Next time an innocent-looking teenager comes to our door selling newspaper subscriptions “for her school” and asks me for a voided check I plan on assaulting her with a stepping stool.
  • Made bed.
  • Brought in trash cans.
  • Ate lunch.
  • Wrote this.
  • Left for pickup.

Tomorrow, at least, I get to go back to work. Maybe I’ll even get a manicure on my lunch break. That’ll feel like a day off, indeed.

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To Do or Not To Do

Who says grownups don’t have homework? We’ve got a shitload. And there’s no blaming the dog if we don’t get it done.

I’ll speak for myself. I can’t catch up. If life were a graded class I’d be scrambling for a D.

These days, with work added in, I feel unbelievably swamped. Because everything now must be squeezed into the four days when I’m home. Or the parts of those days, that is, when MJ is not demanding my undivided attention to make up for my absence the rest of the time.

Which boils down to about, oh, forty minutes a day. Into which I try to squeeze the numberless quotidian duties of a modern mom, wife and homeowner. Plus:

The fundraising. It’s always on my mind. Always. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Or the committee chairmanship. How, I ask myself, will I raise thirty thousand dollars for my kid’s school? How? I lie in bed at night worrying. Plotting. Despairing. When I finally fall asleep, I dream about car washes, bake sales, ebay auctions, bank robberies. Only the latter is effective. Because it’s carried out by three-year-olds, with sticks for guns. Riding on bananas. Who’s gonna say no to that?

Then I wake up. And we’re still at zero.

Anyway. Then there’s this blog. I love it. But it’s an obligation, too. Self-imposed, but aren’t most of them?

Next: the garden. Jesus Christ, what a time suck. A while ago, in a fit of impatience and shortsightedness, I had Mike tear out the sprinkler system. Now everything has to be watered by hand. Every other day. Because it’s 150 degrees out there. Plants wilt easily. So do people. It’s a drag. And it takes seventeen hundred hours. I hate it. But I hate looking at bare dirt, too.

Next: the lunches. If we don’t pack those the night before, the morning is a disaster. Even under the best of circumstances our days begin frantically. God forbid we should add in one more task. Especially one involving mayonnaise.

Then there are the phone calls. To friends, family, insurance companies, tax assessors, veterinarians, doctors, handymen,  exterminators, board members, possible fundraising connections, old acquaintances whom I’ve been promising to call for years and haven’t and now they hate me.

And don’t forget the straightening. And straightening. And straightening. And dishwashing, laundry, bathroom cleaning, garbage emptying, sheet changing, doghair sweeping, toy picking up, dusting, organizing, mealmaking and melted-crayon-scraping.

Once all of the above is done (hah!) there’s the book club assignment. “Gone Girl,” at the moment. I like it. But I hate it more. Especially as it has to be done by Wednesday, and I still have 100 pages to go. Each of which will drip with venom, duplicity, and perfidy. Good for the outlook! Next book: “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

Speaking of positives. There is one homework assignment I love. It’s the postcards to Myra-Jean. These are crucial now. They are the sole reason she no longer bursts into tears when I tell her I’m going to work. They actually make her glad. Glad I’m going, so she can look for them. It’s that easy. Or so it seems. It probably isn’t. But it’s helping.

And guess what? I like drawing them. I do it the night before. It relaxes me. Crayons are a cooperative medium. Unlike life.

Anyway. I imagine her face as she finds them, her tapered finger pointing as she sounds out the letters “O-W-L,” her delight at the image of a favorite planet, her soft smile as Mike reads my words. This makes me happy. I need no dog here. Nothing to snatch away this highest and most pleasurable of tasks: the lightening of my daughter’s day. I love it.

And it makes me feel better about everything else that’s been left undone. At least I’ve got my priorities right.

That and thirty grand will get me a decent night’s sleep.

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