Parenting Dilemma #432

Imma cook sumfin yummy for you.

Kids don’t come with manuals, and situations for which there are no set rules pop up with some frequency. As a favor to you, I am here to give you a leg up on your own parenting by sharing some potential dilemmas. This provides you an opportunity to discuss with your co-parent/mother/therapist ways in which you might handle the same incidents should they ever happen to you. Thank me later. Believe me, you will want to.

Situation #432- Unsolicited Sharing.

Smallest son approaches you with finger outstretched. On said finger, you find the bounty of his most recent (oh, dear Lord, you hope!) nostril-mining expedition. And he is offering to share it with you. Do you:

a) Scream loudly, remove the prize with a tissue and bathe both child and yourself in Listerine

b) Admonish your child to never, ever, ever pick his nose again, that’s disgusting!

c) Recognize that your child is very, very generously offering you a treat he was planning to eat himself and thank him, while quietly removing offending nugget with a tissue.

d)) Pretend you don’t understand what he is saying and offer some fun-bubbles and a good hand-wash

e) Crawl under the bed and hide, hoping beyond hope that he doesn’t wipe it on the new curtains

There is only one wrong choice, and the very thought of it gives me the screaming willies. I couldn’t bring myself to even offer it as an option. So what do you do? Don’t even bother to check Dr.Spock or the Baby Whisperer, because they have neglected to cover this particular situation. Discuss and get back to me.

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The Flavors of Fall

I usually don’t post on weekends, but my blogging buddy tweeted yesterday that she went apple picking, and another pal posted on Facebook that honeycrisp apples (which I suspect were the delicacy responsible for the fall of  The Very First Lady, and may actually have been worth the consequences) have hit stores, and I am inspired! One of my favorite fall traditions is making apple butter in my slow-cooker, and the time is ripe.

Let me dissuade you of the illusion that I have always been steeped in traditional homemaking skills. I grew up watching my great-grandmother pick, cook and can her own fruits and vegetables and create beautiful quilts, and my grandmother sewed many of my dresses and was a skillful knitter,  but in my opinion, those skills were for old people. And since my mother was a single-parent who worked 45-50 hours a week, all that domesticity skipped a generation.

When I got married, I didn’t even know how to cook. Hamburger helper and canned green beans constituted fine-dining in those early days. I could scramble and egg and bake cookies, but those dishes do not exactly make for a balanced diet. Over time, I have branched out, and I am happy to say that I am now an adventurous cook, and definitely not a bad one.

Now I am a stay-at-home mom (and arguably rather old),  I am beginning to appreciate those skills possessed by the matriarchs as a lost art. One by one, I am trying to revive them. Since I am but a slow knitter, and I can’t sew a straight line, cooking is currently the skill at which I am most successful. Enter apple butter.

Here’s my confession. I love eating the stuff. And it makes a great gift for family members. At least the ones who know I actually like them and won’t look at the jar and wonder if I’m trying to do them in. Actually, I’m not above messing with anyone’s head, but I hate to waste food, so I stick to the people I like. What I love most about apple butter, though, is not the taste or the mind games. I love the way it makes my house smell. Like cinnamon and the spices. The fragrance of fall. It’s  simply incredible. Unless you burn it, but I’m not going there.

I do things a little differently than my Nanny. She stirred apples on the stove-top for hours on end, until they were a delicious, caramelized mush. But face it. She raised her kids during the Great Depression. They didn’t have access to the many and various ways to do bodily harm that my kids do. I use my crock pot.

I do bow to tradition in one way. I don’t use those gadgets that will peel/slice/core an apple for you in 30 seconds. My apples are peeled and sliced by hand. It takes an hour or two, but here’s the cool part. My daughter joins me. The time that we spend together here is magic, time we spend actually talking. She is now fourteen, and I find myself greedy for these interludes of conversation and laughter. She may eventually become suspicious and wonder why we are making 6 batches of the stuff, when we normally make only two. I hope she doesn’t catch on for awhile.

So here it is, the recipe you’ve all been waiting for. Or skipped all the other drivel to get to:

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

4 1/2 – 5lbs of apples (no exact measure, but you want so many apples that the top doesn’t quite fit on the cooker) peeled, cored, and sliced thin

4 C sugar (you knew it was going to be good, right?!)

3 tsp cinnamon

1/4  tsp cloves

Combine sugar and spices. Pour apples in large bowl and pour sugar mixture over it. Mix it all up.

Dump in slow-cooker and cook on high for an hour

Decrease heat to low and cook for 9-11 hours, stirring occasionally

Uncover and cook for another hour

Whisk until smooth (I sometimes use an electric hand mixer, but really hot stuff will go flying)

Can in half-pint jars immediately (I’ll post instructions in another blog, if anyone is interested

Baby Got a Zoo-boo

Taken on a zoo-boo free day.

Tuesday was zoo day. Technically, zoo was slated for Monday, but Squish preferred to curl up in my clean laundry instead. Every time I asked him if he was ready, he’d reply “I can’t go. I fleeping.” In reality, he was pooping, which took zoo off the agenda and put potty in its stead. So we went on Tuesday.

I was totally with it. Laundry and dishes and writing were done, dog was bathed, Squish’s morning dump was taken care of in the proper receptacle, and it was only 9:30. On the way to the zoo, we even squeezed in a quick trip to Target so we didn’t have to try to do it on the way home. That was wiser than I knew.

All Squish talked about was visiting the the sandbox in the zoo’s playground, so as soon as we sun-screened, we wandered in that direction, visiting all the animals in between. The zoo has a new otter that just finished quarantine, so we got to watch from a distance as she was introduced to her new playmate. We made our obligatory visit to reptiles, and then sandbox, here we come!

As we walked down the hill, Squish suddenly remembered how  much he liked the barn loft exhibit and visiting the owls. He dashed ahead of me and went to open the door, catching his toe. He winced but said he was okay. We spent a few minutes talking to the owls and exploring. As we were leaving, I saw him do the tell-tale crotch grab. As the restrooms were right on our way to the sandbox, he agreed to make a pit-stop. It was as we were climbing the stairs to the restroom that I first noticed his toe. Or rather, realized I couldn’t actually see his toe for all the blood. Did I mention he was wearing sandals when he pulled the door open on it?

I’m not a squeamish person. I used to work for a veterinarian. I once watched him perform a spay on a dog with pyometra, watched him pull out the swollen uterus hand-over-hand like he was hauling out a python. Totally cool. But the sight of blood coming from my precious little baby can make me see stars. The challenge before me was to treat his wound without vomiting on his little head.

Not wanting the little guy to panic, we went inside the restroom (by great fortune, the one restroom in the zoo that offers paper towels instead of hand dryers), and I dampened a towel.

“Wat dat for, Mommy?”

“Um, I, uh, I just need to clean off your shoe.”

“Why? Oh. Mommy? IS DAT KETCHUP?”

“Hee-hee, um, does it look like ketchup, sweetie? Ha-ha. Is that ketchup, precious? That can be ketchup if you want”

MOMMY, IS DAT KETCHUP?”

“Well, no, sweetie. That’s a little blood.”

MOMMY? IS I BWEEDING?!”

“You are a little. You have a little boo-boo. I just need to clean-”

NO!!! NO CWEAN! NO CWEAN!

At this point, small child panicking at the sight of his own blood became small child hysterical at the prospect of having his boo-boo touched. I managed to convince him to at least let me clean his shoe. Once he figured out I was leaving the toe alone, he was highly cooperative and cheerful again.

So now what? Shoe is clean, child is happy, toe looks like hamburger. Do we abruptly end this visit? I’ve already been chump-of-the-week dragging his unsuspecting little self off to get a flu shot. I can’t end what was supposed to be a fun trip to the zoo with a visit to the ER. That would just seem so wrong.

I decided we’d go visit the goats in the petting zoo and figure it out from there. Little guy refused to be carried and seemed to have no trouble ambulating on his own two feet, so that was a good sign. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the contact yard, his shoe was full of blood again. Awesome. I took him back to the bathroom to clean his shoe and got to break the fun news that he was not going to get to visit the sandbox. When he asked the inevitable “Why?” Mommy got to teach him a new word. Biohazard.

The keeper in the contact yard looked at his bloodied foot and asked if I wanted her to call the Rangers. They are the ones who are certified in first aid. She asked Mr. Squish “Would you like someone to bring you a band-aid?” I wish she hadn’t. My kids are weird, and this particular child finds band-aids about as appealing as being set fire to. Or put down for a nap.

“NO BAND-AID! NO! NO! NO!” More awesome. I do have moments of blinding genius, and I offered the kid his very first ride on the carousel, a treat that made this particular zoo visit a lot better, but will make all subsequent visits a complete nightmare. But times were desperate. We did it. And he rode the alligator.

He did agree that we could go home afterward. He even agreed that we could clean his foot when we got there. He changed his tune right about the time we were pulled in the driveway. But I had to do it. His entire foot was crusted with dried blood, and it had to come off before my husband got home. If there is anyone more squeamish about baby blood than a mommy, it is a daddy person.

It is amazing to me how difficult it is to wrestle a small child who does not want his boo-boo tended. I was merciful and used peroxide. I can’t remember what current boo-boo cleaning protocol is anymore, but I rationalized that even if peroxide is bad, it’s a whole lot better than letting goat doo-doo stay on an open wound. I didn’t try to touch it, but I squeezed the stuff over his foot. He finally quit struggling and watched the “magic bubbles” kill his germs. But still no band-aid.

I offered him a sock to wear, thinking he’d refuse. Instead, he seemed remarkably excited about the idea. And now he won’t take it off. I thought he might actually take a bath with it. My fear was that my husband would get a good look at the injury, pass out, hit his head on the sink and die, leaving me with three children to raise on my own. Maybe socks are good.I’m thinking I might let him wear it (yes, singular. He only wants to wear one) for the next three or four weeks. Until all signs of trauma are gone. Mommy’s heart can’t take it.

 

***Update*** Squish asked me to “cwean wif magik bubbas” this morning and giggled while the peroxide did its work. I love that kid.

Every Single Time

Every time, I promise myself this time will be different. I will be strong. I will not forget who I am.I will not give in to the anger or swear under my breath. I will not dissolve into a puddle of hatred and self-recrimination.  And every time, I am wrong. Wal-mart just has that effect on me.

Yes. I shop at Wal-mart. Don’t judge. No, go ahead. I judge myself all the time. But my choices at this point are to get a real job and put Squish in daycare or shop where my current budget allows. Rock, meet Hard Place. But I digress. We do buy our milk, eggs, and most of our soy products from a store where we can buy organic. We do what we can, right? RIGHT?

I hate going grocery shopping so much that I only go every two weeks. Planning out my menus for two weeks is a bit of a pain, but it limits the pummeling on my poor psyche gets to twice a month. I dread the trip. I should say I go no more than every two weeks. I will put it off for as long as possible, until we are eating pancakes and black beans every night (not together. That would be gross.). When it gets to the point where sweet husband is asking what I’m serving for dinner with trepidation in his voice, I know I can’t avoid it any longer. And yesterday, it was time.

I decided shopping would be less painful if it didn’t take an important part of my day (i.e. nap time). The plan was to make out the list at breakfast and go straight after dumping kids at school. Determined not to let the prospect of shopping ruin the morning, I plastered a sunny (psychotic?) smile on my face and asked the family what kind of things they’d like to see on the menu for the next two weeks. If I include them in the process, they are less likely to complain about what I am serving, right? RIGHT? Whatever. I might as well have asked them what kind of tires to put on the dishwasher for all the interest they showed. Sweet husband dutifully took pen in hand while I walked the 9 year old to school and made a few additions. A very few. He suggested that we have pancakes two nights. I give up.

But I was not going to let this trip turn me into a dried up, bitter shrew. That’s what having teenagers is for. This trip was for sustenance. Nothing more. So I packed up Squish, and we went. I cheerfully headed to the general merchandise section for the non-foods on my list. I found soap quickly enough, though the aisle was so narrow I had to leave my cart where it was. No problem. Next on the list? Deodorant. Piece of cake. I found it with no trouble. Except there was not a single brand for me. Not one. Do other people’s husbands not stink after their morning 5 mile run? My husband is secure in his masculinity, but I am pretty sure that if I brought home something that made him smell like flowers, he’d have something to say about it. No problem. I picked one that is unscented. What’s that, pumpkin? No. Mommy is only talking to herself. She is being so silly! No, those aren’t words Mommy wants you to use. This is FUN!

I managed to find my knitting needles in the proper size with little trouble, and I found the sandwich containers on sale (score!). Selling my soul for 25 cents off is what it is all about. Then I needed to find doorknob covers to keep Squish out of trouble at home. I located the baby section pretty easily. But the aisles are no longer marked. Nor do they make any sense. You may find diapers and bottles in pretty much the same spot. I certainly didn’t mind walking up, down and sideways through every aisle. Twice. It was actually fun! It was! So fun!

How I managed to contain my excitement and get over to the grocery side, I will never know. We had a fantastic time looking for our pretzels. I know those silly managers stock them in four different places just to make our trip exciting. Like a treasure hunt! X marks the spot. Where I lost my mind. Something snapped, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I began loudly talking to “myself” about the morons who created this ever-lovin’ floor plan, about the aisles that are so narrow that two people can’t pass, about the fact that the store has only carried the light variety of string cheese for MONTHS! If I want to be fat, I will jolly well be fat! Fat and jolly!

I shoved my cart to the check out and did my best to maintain pleasant small-talk with the cashier.  It wasn’t his fault. I grabbed up my groceries and headed to the car. And it was raining. Perfect. And once I got home, I was going to have to unload the stupid things on my own. Awesome. But I bought a lot of stuff. Plenty, really. I bet I can stretch these groceries out for at least three weeks. I think I’ll make some beans.

 

 

The Real Differences Between Boys and Girls #1: Food

Feed me!

The point in  my life where I knew the most about rearing children was shortly before I actually had any of my own. I used to believe there are no differences between boys and girls besides the stance they adopt when they pee. How kids are raised has far more impact on them than a silly chromosome, right? It was all nurture trumps nature over here. And then the kids arrived.

Now I’m not saying that there are genetically defined gender roles that children will inevitably fall into. But they are different. Different but equally strange. One big difference between my daughter and her brothers is how much they eat.

My daughter was our first, and we made a few mistakes with her. She was unbelievably tiny, and we experienced a few dramatic incidents at the doctor’s office regarding her size, or lack thereof, including a mad rush to the local children’s hospital because it appeared that my three year old had actually lost five pounds. It took us a $100 co-pay to learn that the doctor’s scales were incorrectly calibrated. But there was no denying she was scrawny.

She ate, of course. But never enough to satisfy us. Meal times were a barely tolerated interlude between far more interesting activities.  Food became less sustenance and more opportunity for artistic expression. Yogurt and sweet potatoes were for painting a high-chair tray. Cheerios were for creating designs. And she was picky. At the age of 10, she asked to go vegetarian. At the time I wondered if her decision had less to do with personal conviction and more to do with eliminating an entire food group, but I let her.

When the second baby entered the picture, I figured mealtimes would be the same desperate uphill battle against eminent starvation. Boy, was I in for a surprise. I’ve definitely been in a power-struggle or two with the boys over trying a taste of the green bean, and we’ve experienced some strange aversions (french fries and biscuits come to mind). But the biggest stress with my toddler boys is knowing when to say when.

Growth spurts are something of an event in our house these days. With my daughter, a growth spurt meant she took a bite out of everything on her plate and maybe finished most of an entree. With the boys, we have taken to tossing the food in their general direction so we don’t lose a hand. Safety first, you know.

My second child is a “grazer.” He takes in small amounts of food all day long. All day long. We are blessed with a school that allows students to bring a snack in the morning, otherwise he might actually consume his pencils, erasers, and possibly his seatmate. From the time he was two, babysitters have had the same parting comment. “He didn’t stop eating.” But even he can’t hold a candle to Squish.

You think I’m kidding. Squish is coming to the final phase of a growth spurt as we speak. This one has lasted over a week. For breakfast, he can eat two bowls of cereal with milk, a bowl of oatmeal, and a banana. As soon as he has polished that off, it’s snack time. A peanut butter sandwich and some bunny crackers should hold him over until lunch time, which may consist of string cheese, grapes, milk, and some peanut butter crackers. At one memorable meal, Squish consumed a bread stick, some carrots and dressing, and four servings of lasagna. Four. As in, as much as the rest of his entire family put together. And he didn’t just ask for more. He begged. With real tears. As we watched him consume that final serving in some alarm, our bank statement flashed before our eyes, and we had to ask ourselves the obvious question.  If he continues to eat like this, can we even afford to keep him?

And here’s the fun part. That particular meal may have been solely responsible for launching him into the 6th percentile. Yes, the sixth. For the unenlightened, children are weighed and measured at each well-visit, and the results are compared those of other kids the same age (the percentiles are actually based on 1000 male bottle-fed babies in the 1950’s, but that’s neither here nor there).The bigger they are, the higher their “percentile.” Squish the smallest critter I have spawned. As tiny as my daughter was, she operated somewhere around the 15th  until she was in middle school.

Fast-forward a few years on my daughter. She is 14 and an incredibly adventurous eater. She actually likes food now, and her new favorite is barbecue tofu. But she still doesn’t eat much. On occasion, she can put away four slices of pizza, but her brothers can do that now! Both of them. I am a little scared for what our teen years hold, and I think feeding these boys will involve some creativity on our part if we’re not going to go broke doing it. I wonder if a family has ever been black-listed from an all-you-can-eat buffet.

 

Going Organic Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health

Not a bunny cracker.

My kids have always loved goldfish crackers. From the moment the little cheesy bits first crossed their lips, they could sink a pond of fishies in nothing flat. I didn’t know how good I had it.

Squishy is, shall we say, an unenthusiastic participant in the whole eating process. At the age of one year, he should be taking in a considerable amount of calories through solid food. Yeah, not so much. Why bother to waste time eating during the day when he can simply make up for the caloric deficit by nursing all night long? We finally reached an uneasy truce in our food war. He agreed to sit in his chair 3 times a day and play with the food I offered him, and I agreed to quit shoving spinach at him. He would eat and I could sleep.

We decided recently to start adding some organic items to our shopping list, slowly replacing unhealthy stuff as our budget allowed. One of my first purchases was a box of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies. BIG mistake. They are not like normal food. I learned this when I opened the box and could not quit eating the things. Then I offered them to Squishy. Second big mistake. Now it is all out the window.

At first, we thought it was cute the way he held out his little hand for a cracker, then stuffed it into his other hand and asked for another. Or how he yelled at us if we approached his chair and pretended to eat one. We’re not laughing anymore.

From the moment he first held one in his hands, Squishy has been a different kid. At a year old, his speech is basically unintelligible. That does not mean, however, that he does not communicate. On the contrary. He can make his wishes known in uncertain terms. When he is hungry, he pulls a certain purple box out of the recycle bin and parades around the living room. If I don’t take the hint, he tries to climb into the cabinet to get the goods himself. If I sit him in his chair and offer him anything but a bunny cracker, I can expect to have it dropped unceremoniously on the floor.

He is holding me hostage, this child of mine, threatening to slowly allow himself to starve to death if I don’t produce a crunchy little cheesy lagomorph (it’s a word. Look it up). And there’s not much I can do. Trying to communicate with him is like conversing with the Tasmanian Devil, but a lot less gets accomplished. I am at my wits end once again trying to get this little critter to EAT. All the things he once let pass his lips no longer meet with quality control.

I got a call from a lawyer this morning. Apparently Squishy is willing to reopen meal-time negotiations. It may be cheaper in the long run to just give him the stupid bunnies.

Things That I Probably Should Care About But Don’t

On the wrong feet, of course. But I did get him to put some pants on. I call that a win.

1) Small son eating cereal with the ladle that came with his pizza kitchen

2) Both sons arguing over who gets to wear my bra. I should care that they won’t share.

3) The cat just drank out of the pot where I am soaking my beans. Bad cat. Whatever.

4) Squish is stealing tic-tacs from my purse.

5) 9 year old has taken to wearing his school clothes to bed, shoes included. Makes for a quick getaway in the morning. That 30 seconds he’d have spent tying his shoes is time saved.

6) Smallest wants to wear his galoshes everywhere.

7) Squish just announced “I Nakeeeee!” having removed everything BUT the boots.

8 ) There are finger marks in the frosting on my older son’s birthday cupcakes. Oh, well. I think I have time to make more.

9) Squish wants said cupcakes for breakfast. Come to think of it, I do, too. See you tomorrow.

Dancing With Danger

It's a copperhead. It has nothing to do with the story, but it's the most dangerous thing I have a picture of besides my toddler.

As I approach middle age (and I am not telling you how close the target is), I am feeling the need to add some excitement back into my life. Not just excitement. I’m talking about a dose of terror that leaves me feeling lucky to be alive. Not bungee jumping. Too tame. Or sky-diving. Too cliche. Or refusing to file my tax return. Too stupid. No, when I want to achieve that living-life-on-the-edge experience, I leave for school five minutes later. Because I am an adrenaline junkie.

We live in what is known as The Zone of Parental Responsibility. Sounds fancy. Sounds all Dr. Spock, like this neighborhood is chock full of folks who tend to their children and make sure they behave. What it really means is that the school bus won’t come and get ’em. So we walk. And we love it.

We time our departure not so that we beat the bell. More so that we beat the crazies. Five minutes means the difference between a leisurely walk to school with my beloved child and dying in the road like an animal. Today, I say bring it.

Our neighborhood has no sidewalks, but it’s not usually an issue. There is very little traffic around our house, as we are about a half-mile above the school, and we’re in an area that few people can find and even fewer need to. In the evening, I can walk for a mile without being passed by a single car.  But on mornings when we leave a few minutes late, we find ourselves in  a live-action version of Frogger, one life left, no bonus.

As we walk down our hill, the game begins. There’s an intersection that is quiet for 23 hours of the day. But for one hour, all heck breaks loose. The road that we are on has the right of way, but during this magic hour, the stop signs on the two side roads are magically rendered invisible. I have walked this route 180 times in the last year, and I have yet to see a vehicle actually stop. Some pay lip-service to the law and roll slowly through, but most never actually hit their brakes. Car coming? Hit the accelerator! Pedestrian in the road? Eh, just drive around them. And they do. I have seen cars run the stop sign as my son and I were in the intersection and actually weave around and cut in front of us so that we have to stop so we don’t walk right into their moving vehicle.

Once we get past the Intersection of Death, the road dips significantly and narrows, and there’s a drop-off on either side. Two vehicles can pass each other, if they are both driving a reasonable speed and are willing to yield the right of way. There’s the rub. At 7:25 in the morning, this stretch of road is a speed-demon’s yield-free zone. More than once, we’ve had to make a dive for the bushes because the same soccer mom who nearly runs us down every day hits her accelerator in panicked tardiness and barrels down the center of the road. We know it’s her. We’ve memorized not only the make and model of her mini-van, but her license plate, as well.

If we can make it past Death Valley and up the hill, there are yards and driveways where we can claim brief sanctuary as all the general contractors in their enormous trucks zoom by to dump their kids, and we’re in good shape. Until we get to the school.

On a regular day, all is quiet on the road in front of the school. There may be a car or two unloading their offspring, but we can stroll through the crosswalk unharmed. Fast-forward five minutes, and we’re not so lucky. We can’t even see the sidewalk on the other side for the line of cars. Guaranteed, someone will be parked in the crosswalk. This individual will almost always have such darkly tinted windows that the driver cannot be seen, or they will be balancing a cup of Starbucks daily brew, a cigarette, or a cellphone as they reach back to unstrap their kid in anticipation of shoving them out the door. I guarantee they don’t notice me.

I now have a strict policy to not step into the crosswalk until I can see the whites of their eyes. Too many times, I have claimed right of way and nearly been squashed as Distracted Parent drives on while watching their kid over their right shoulder. Even making eye contact is no guarantee that they have actually seen me. Just last week, I crossed the street in front of a grandma parked in the crosswalk. She had made a little wave, which I assumed was an acknowledgement. You know what happens when you assume? You make an ass of you, and a grease spot on the road of me. She had apparently been waving in response to some conversation on the cell-phone she had dropped in the floor. She reached down to get it and started forward at the same time, just as I was walking in front of her. Judging by the look on her face as she hit the brake, that split second took about 200 years off her life. And she blames me.

Once I drop off my son, there is little traffic. Most parents drive up from the other direction, so I don’t even see them. I find the return walk a little sedate and rather boring, and I long for a bit of action. But never you fear. It’s just a few short hours until afternoon pick up.

 

Will I Ever Learn?

Symmetry in nature is beautiful

The days are getting shorter, the kids are off to school, and we all know what that means. I’m screwed. Let the record show that I don’t do this every year. It usually takes about 2 years to completely forget past mistakes and make them anew with reckless abandon. And I think I outdid myself this time.

I love plants. I used to work in a greenhouse in college. I did everything from cloning African violets to cloning carrots (yes, somewhere out there is a giant carrot dragging its mutated self around the globe searching for its creator. It’s ALIIIIIVE!). I love watching the new shoots pop up through the soil, fighting the odds in its struggle for life. I take as much pride in my aloe’s offspring as if I had spawned it with my very own rhizomes. I love surrounding myself with a jungle of green. And that’s my problem. Where does the jungle go in the winter? I only have one window.

Okay, I have more that one window. I don’t live in a subterranean cave, after all. But I also have several cats. And a small kid. So let me amend that statement to “I only have one window that gets enough light for a plant to survive and is out of reach of four-legged diners and wild two-legged diggers.” So I’m screwed.

Last year, I remembered. I remembered the drought and twice-a-day waterings. I remembered not being able to see the top of my kitchen table from October until May. I remembered the heartbreaking parting as I had to send my largest ficus to my husband’s office because there was no way to keep our burgeoning bi-ped out of it. Instead of our forest of tomato plants (which are annual and die before it’s time to bring the plants in, thank you very much) and cuttings of every house plant I have ever owned, I contented myself with planting one tomato and repotting my ferns. I did make a few cuttings of my ficus to grow as Christmas gifts. But that was it.

At the end of last year, I had my fern, my son’s alligator plant and a few of its incredibly homely offspring (but a baby plant is a baby plant and must be nurtured, right?!), and the cuttings of the ficus. At Christmas, I repotted them for their new homes. Unfortunately, the ones that were supposed to travel to the in-laws got left behind. But their tiny pots fit on my sill. I wasn’t too crowded as I did my dishes, and there were only 4 plants to  move off of the kitchen table when it was time to eat.

I blame our university’s garden story-time for the loss of my ever-lovin’ mind. We went to our first story time of the season, and instead of a coloring station, the children got to plant a seed to take home. Squish was fascinated by the bean. He insisted on watering it and checking its progress every day. The day it sprouted was a day of celebration. And then it hit me. What do we DO with it? It can’t live a full life in its little cup. Do we let it die an unnatural death in front of our son, or do we buy some soil and give the stupid thing a chance at achieving its potential? Do I have to tell you what we did?

Once the bean was planted, we (okay, there was no “we.” It was all me) decided it could use some companions. Having no idea what kind of bean we had planted, I was unsure if it was a self-pollinator or not, so we planted some sugar peas in the same pot. We started them in a plastic jar so that the kids (okay, me again) could watch their root development. I called them Venomous Tentacula in honor of the upcoming HP movie, which amused me more than anyone else. They grew with frightening speed. I measured 2 inches of root growth in just under 3 hours. Good thing they’re sensitive to temperature or these things would take over the planet!

Then my husband became an accomplice to my stupidity. He brought home a book on herb gardening. Suddenly I had my heart set on growing my own bay laurel, and we set about on a city-wide search. The plant was elusive, but we managed to secure one. I’ll never have to buy dried bay leaves again! Who knew it needed a 12 inch pot? And it’s a tender perennial, so it needs to winter inside.

Same with the rosemary.

And then my daughter bought some mint. Won’t fresh mint tea be tasty this winter?

And then there’s the thyme. And the oregano.

And those ficus babies have been re-potted. They doubled in size  and are ready for their new homes.  Except for the one I’d really like to keep.

The fern is now so big that it won’t fit in its little nook by the microwave this winter.

And the burro-tail won’t fit on the sill because its new pot is too wide.

I might be easier if we just move.

Do Me a Solid

This has absolutely nothing to do with my post, but I like this picture.

Some people use horoscopes to predict their day. Others check to see what kind of stuff they have in their schedule to get a sense of how things are going to go. For me, it’s much more simple than star charts and Franklin planners. My day hinges on poop.

Not my own, let’s be clear. Although at my age, who can deny that a good one can be a very satisfying start to the day. No, it’s more serious than that because it is totally out of my control.I am, of course, referring to Mr. Squish.

My day is always better if I can get my work done early in the day. Once I hit “save,” I am free, and it’s a glorious feeling. My ideal schedule is to get my work finished, take Squish somewhere fun to play, come home for lunch, and start on my second project while he takes a nap. Sounds easy, right? And it totally can be, but it’s all up to Squish.

I cannot work when he is running around. I find myself stopping every 5.3 seconds to pull him off the couch/cat/counter, and it’s hard to concentrate. If I can get him to sit still for 30 minutes, I get on a roll, the creative juices can flow, and I can at least get enough traction that I can finish my work after I spring him. And that means Bob the Builder. I know. I am a terrible parent. I let my kid watch a bit of TV. <insert judgement of my parenting here>

But here’s the rub. In our house, there is no access to the wonders of a claymation construction worker until tiny person produces a poop.  And not just any poop. It has to at least appear to be the day’s work. Can we do it? Yes, we can!

Our rule is not as weird as it sounds. My young toilet-trainee had lots of accidents while watching his show because he found Bob too riveting to answer the call of nature. Since the institution of the poop-for-Bob policy, Squish has had 2 accidents. It works, and we’re sticking with it until it doesn’t anymore. May that day never come.

The tricky part is getting it done. Most days, he’s like clock-work. He gets up, he asks to potty, he poops out a present, and my work can begin. But then there are the days where he doesn’t want to, where he isn’t, um, moved by the spirit. Those days are special. He offers a non-committal shrug and says “It not workin’ today.” Those days go something like this:

“Do you want to go poop?”

“Naw. I fine.”

“Go play for a few minutes while Mommy does her workies.”

“Mommy, my scooper is broken!” (accompanied by dramatic wailing)

“Baby, that’s a puzzle. It’s supposed to come apart. Let Mommy finish this really fast”

“Is my room clean? I cleaning my room.”

“Squish, that’s the closet. Get out of there! Do you need to go poop? Poop for Bob?”

“No. No poop today. Dis Daddy’s coffee?”

“Don’t drink that!”

“I hungwy. Need brekfuss.”

“Sweetie, you just ate. Are you sure you don’t need to poop? Watch some Bob?”

“No, I fine. I gonna feed Feebee.”

“I already fed the dog, pumpkin. Give me that. She can’t eat all of those!”

“I frow dis away. Dis trash.”

“Baby, that’s my checkbook. Get out of my purse, and get that out of the trash!”

And on it goes until:

a) Squish gives up and produces a dook, or

b) I give up on my deadline and take Squish somewhere to burn off some energy so that maybe he’ll actually take a nap.

Today we were lucky. It’s only 9am, and it’s all taken care of on both ends. We’re going to pack up and go to the zoo to celebrate. It’s been a productive day. For both of us.