Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Half-empty?

The bad news--my washing machine is currently sulking/on vacation/deceased.
The good news--I might be able to fix it.

The bad news--it flooded the laundry room.
The good news--it was on medium fill instead of high.

The bad news--it soaked the underlayment for the linoleum.
The good news--I am lobbying for tile instead of linoleum and buckled underlayment helps my cause.

The bad news--it happened right before my in-laws arrive for their first visit since 2001.
The good news--it happened on the last load of laundry.

The bad news--I see the laundromat in my future.
The good news--my dryer still works.


So...I have a fence that is currently held up by a rope, a large truck tire and a log to keep it from moving in the stiff winds that keep blowing through. I have a washer that is on life support. Can you say "deferred maintenance"?

I have a three-car garage that is filled with stuff when my husband's old office closed and I lost a guest room when he created a home office. The guest room I do have is now my hurling room (filled with things that have been hurled inside when the garage and other guest room were taken over by the alien invaders). Can you say "Mom is frustrated just a little"?

I have in-laws coming on semi-short notice and I have a school function in the evening and then soccer practice the next afternoon. I'm inviting them to see the Taiko drummers and Polynesian dancers performing at our Multicultural Night but they also have the option of going to Grammy's to see her new place and having dessert there. Can you say "Thank heavens they came primarily to see my sweetie and will understand that I have other responsibilities"?

I also have a nicely mown lawn and the yard is filled with Spring color. Our pink flowering dogwood is also near its peak. My sweetie helped vacuum and straighten (wise choice since it's his family).

All in all, it could be a lot worse. Of course, it could be a whole lot better. I'm undecided.

Friday, April 20, 2007

365 Days of Good Kharma


Just remembering...
  • the instant we saw her for the first time and just knew

  • the trip home in the dark with our puppy in her crate

  • when she was so tiny she could crawl underneath the passenger seat between the front and back
  • how she liked to lie by my feet and let the air conditioning blow on her while she tugged at my shoelaces

  • how her first tiny collar was still too big and had to be rubberbanded to hold the end down

  • watching her step on grass for the first time and try to figure out what it was

  • having her sleep on my tummy as I finally got some sleep on the sofa

  • sneaking her into bed one morning when she was tiny

  • how worried I was when she stopped eating and lost a quarter of her puppy weight

  • and coaxing her into eating by dropping pieces of toast smeared with peanut butter or "accidentally" letting Cheerios fall on the floor

  • how quickly she learned to sit and lie down

  • how it took ages for her to learn not to come upstairs

  • potty breaks on rainy Spring nights huddled under the incense cedar where it was always dry

  • those sweet pink paws and round baby tummy

  • watching her grow cinnamon-colored eyelashes

  • how she teethed on metal objects--shovels, trowels, picks--and left our shoes alone

  • the days of blogging with a sleepy puppy on my lap.

Lord grant us many more years with her.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sweet Spring

Thigh-deep in pondwater on Monday evening. 69 degrees (Clear out algae, scrub pond and retrieve rocks from the bottom, thoroughly terrorize fish that survived the winter.)

Fence waving like a flag in 60mph gusts on Tuesday afternoon. 50 degrees (Prop up with rope, old Bronco tire, 4x4s and firewood, hope dog is still backyard after school.)

Blizzard with whiteout conditions at Tuesday dusk. 30 degrees (Call Grammy and marvel.)

Snow showers and sunshine on Wednesday morning. 44 degrees (Take the kindergarten out to recess.)

Ya gotta love spring in northern Nevada. It defines the word "fickle" and makes us appreciate the relative calm of the other three seasons.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

An ounce of preparation...

Life isn't safe. Accidents happen. Tragedy happens. Sickness happens. Poop happens. I'm with the Boy Scouts and their motto "Be Prepared" though. You can buckle up, look both ways, wear clean underwear, take your vitamins, and not follow your friends when they jump off a cliff.

Is your children's school safe? You can, and should, ask hard questions of your school administrators. Find out their disaster plan. What would they do if there is a code red or a lockdown?

Then look at your child's classroom critically and ask if that plan is realistic. Can the teacher lock the door(s) from the inside? Can the view from the windows be blocked? Is there a place inside where the students can shelter? Could law enforcement reliably and easily ascertain which classrooms have a "situation" and which don't?

I know--scary stuff.

I don't want to be dooced, so I'm just making a suggestion that there might be room for improvement at a school near you.

There will never be a better time for it. Be proactive. Stand firm. Demand solutions. You might save a life.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Disappearing Acts

When Tess was a puppy, we couldn't find her one afternoon. The gate was closed, the garage door was down, she wasn't in the house and definitely not in the backyard where she was supposed to be. We found her in our neighbors' backyard, but couldn't figure out how she got there. Eventually we discovered that a fairly large dog can easily squeeze through a loose six-inch-wide fenceboard.

Kharma makes Tess look unmotivated.

First, she used a tipped-over garbage can to go over the fence to see her best friend, then actually climbed the fence at its lowest point when she heard Echo across the street. So we put up puppy barricades which are working perfectly (for the moment).

Stymied, she began using the defunct rabbit cage as a way over the fence. She was jumping up to the top of a four-foot cage and then just jumping over. It didn't get her any closer to Echo, but I guess she figured there was no harm in trying. I tried tipping the rabbit condo over and pulling it away from the fence, but our determined little girl managed to move a cage weighing sixty pounds closer to the fence. Let's just say that rabbit cage no longer exists except as a pile of old 2 by 4s and some hardware cloth.

I started looking for other things that Miss Creativity could use to climb and/or jump over the fence. I moved a milk can and rolled Erkie's tires out of the way, only to find that she could also move tires. She hides her ball under them and then moves them to get to her ball. She doesn't weigh more than thirty pounds tops and it's easier for her to move a tire than it is for me!

I put Kharma out for just a little while after dinner and couldn't find her an hour later. The rabbit cage had not reappeared. The barricades were still in place. She just wasn't in our yard.

I checked inside the house since I've found her many times lying leisurely in her bed wondering what all the fuss is about and why mom is calling her name so loudly. Still no pup.

Rechecked the entire yard, nothing. Rechecked the whole house, nothing. Loud calls of "Kharma, Kharma", nothing.

Eventually I caught a movement through the fence. She was in our neighbors' yard. She'd somehow used the tires, low as they were, to get high enough to claw her way over. I loosened a fence board and she scrambled through, relieved to be home.

Sigh. The tires are going on craigslist. The garbage enclosure is getting moved in front of the gate. We're moving benches away from the fence even if they are in the gated sideyard that she's never been in. I think we'll also make some test runs--have Echo's dad bring her over and see if the Kharma dog can figure out a way over the fence.

We are trying to be smarter than our dog.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tranquility Base

It's the favorite moment of my day.

I tell Kharma "time to go on a business trip" just before bedtime. I open the back door and step outside as I remind her "do your business".

She heads out into the darkness of our backyard and I can barely see her just a few yards away as she begins her doggy-search for the ideal patch of grass, the one with the perfect scent and just the right feel to it.

I look up. Stars. Orion is westward now and I've been watching him gradually travel toward the Sierra crest every night for many months. The Bear is incredibly clear as he points out the Pole Star. There is a breath of wind that gently stirs the new leaves and washes over my upturned face. I'm on Kharma time so there's no hurry.

Night after night on the back doorstep and the sky always has a tale to tell. The freshness of the air always reminds me that life is filled with beauty if I just stop to look around. I'm in the moment--not shivering with cold, not huddling to get out the wind, not avoiding the snowflakes--just enjoying, just being.

I think back a year. I was dogless and bereft. We'd been looking for almost four months and still had not seen the right pup. Now we are close to our one year anniversary with our perfect girly-girl. It's thanks to her that I have these nightly moments to cherish.

Kharma is just a pale ghost as she moves around the yard. Occasionally she will stretch and roll on the lawn luxuriously as if she too cannot get enough of the night. Finally she will trot toward me and we go in.

It's a good way to end the day.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th and other fables

Scariest quote of the day--from Mrs. Bug, the 3rd grade teacher next classroom over, to her class, "Follow me like a snake."

If there is one thing that I never ever ever want to follow me, it's a snake. Not a little one, not a harmless one, not a garter snake, not a rubber snake, not a 3rd grade snake (if it made it to 3rd grade then it's way smarter than any snake has a right to be).

When queried, Mrs. Bug made it clear that snakes were manageable but 3rd grade amoebas were to be avoided at all costs. Apparently amoebas clump, have no shape, and will drive our computer teacher insane.

In my class we subscribe to the train theory of children in lines--there's no cutting and the cars have to stay on the same track. The computer teacher likes our class.

Yes, trains can be noisy and disputes have broken out over who gets to be the caboose. Still, trains have not coiled around any teachers recently or used needle sharp teeth to sink poisonous venom into anyone's veins.

In other non-news, it is indeed Friday and, 13th or not, the weekend is upon us and life is good. Soccer, dog agility, garden ponds, garage cleanup, and new reading material from the Paperback Exchange are in our immediate future.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Siberia or Bust

It's enough to make you cry. Or cuss. Loudly and viciously.

Teenagers: boys, to be precise. Calm down, not all of them. I had two of the critters myself and they were polite, controlled, and (once I'd left all the parenting to my sweetie) a delight.

Still, after reading Jenn's take over at Breed'em and Weep about surly teenagers and thinking it a must-read, I received my own teenage encounter.

Simply put, two teenagers intentionally rammed my garbage cans and sent them flying.

I'm currently wondering why anyone who would be so impulsive, and stupid enough to do it in a cul-de-sac, in broad daylight, with an easily-identified personalized license plate should even have a drivers license.

It's possible that I could just continue to fume. Unfortunately for them, the garbage can was new, cost a small fortune, and now has an unusable wheel.

The nice me is letting the neighbors know what happened and the culprits can replace my trash can and apologize. If they choose not to cowboy up, then I'll file a report with RPD and they (and their parents) can deal with the crime report.

The evil me thinks that revenge is both fun and appropriate and plans to firmly plant a screwdriver in the sidewalls of all four Xterra tires.

But you didn't hear that from me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Guilty Confessions of the Panic Queen

Tiger lilies are a family tradition. My dad acquired some from the moist places in Tehama County and my family has been growing them every since.

We expect them to bloom riotously for the Fourth of July and throughout the worst of summer's heat. There's nothing more beautiful than their brilliant orange backlit by the sun or their leaves outlined by a morning dew.

We grew up picking the little black bulblets (not bigger than your smallest fingernail) off between the leaves even before they were ripe enough to germinate yet more little tigers. They were irresistable to any child and we weren't especially obedient anyway. Think of us as a force of nature used by tiger lilies to spread throughout the garden, because every fence and wall had its own row of tiger lilies by the time we finished picking and throwing them at each other.

We grew up and bought our own homes and watch our own children filch the bulblets now. I began with a bareroot tiger lily, but eventually propagated some little plants from the original Tehama stock and had enough to enjoy each summer.

Tiger lilies seem to like Oregon much better than Nevada I found when I visited my sister. Operating on the principal that you can never have enough tiger lilies and perhaps somewhat jealous of the bounty Pooh was able to grow, I went hog-wild on my visit last year and not only picked the biggest and best bulblets off her plants, but also scoured the ground underneath for any that had fallen off and might root and give her even more (obviously undeserved) lilies. I was able to get away with this by noting that I'd take some and then Grammy could use the rest for her brand-new and very bare garden.

When I returned home, I decided to jumpstart the bulbs before I planted them. So I tucked them into little plastic pouches after misting them well and settled back to watch them sprout. Sprout they did! Rapidly and well--little white hairroots extending out more quickly than I had expected.

Guilt set in quickly as the little roots began to create a tangled mass that I wasn't sure would live once I sent them out into my irregularly watered garden. I began to wish that I had just planted the bulblets and let nature germinate them instead. Grammy got the least tangled messes to put into her richly fertile new soil. I kept the remaining ugly remnants.

I began scratching out little shallow hollows for them near fences and behind tall plants, searching for the perfect mixture of sun and shade with regular moisture. All the best spots were taken and I still had more little plants that needed to find a home. So the not-so-perfect spaces, the ones with too much shade or not enough water, began to receive the homeless little bulbs. Still more tangled little webs of bulbs and rootlets were left. Finally anywhere that didn't already have something growing got a handful tenderly tucked away.

I watered and watched and watered and watched. Nothing. Not one teesy tiny leaf appeared anywhere in the yard. Week after week passed. Weeks stretched into months and the seasons changed. This was not good.

I've germinated seeds before and planted apparently healthy seedlings never to see them again. I was afraid I was experiencing a massive tiger lily die-off after being such a frenzied seed collector. My visions of tiger lilies in every nook and cranny of my yard took on an ominous hue. Month after month went by and still no trace of the buried evidence sprouted.

Fortunately, winter arrives each year and frost kills 99.5% of my garden down to bare soil. I'm allowed to happily forget my mistakes and my plans for springtime begin to evolve.

Spring is back though. The early birds--my crocus, baby daffodils and iris--have bloomed. Tulips and hyacinths have made their appearance. My herbaceous perennials, each marked only by one single stem that I leave during fall cleanup, are beginning to unfold in promise of future peonies or delphineums or phlox.

As I've cruised through the yard, I've begun to see little green pointed commas showing themselves in groups along fences and walls, in sunny and in shady areas. Good heavens! The tiger lily babies not only survived, they are flourishing everywhere. I'm finding them in places I don't even remember planting them.

Maybe I wasn't such a horrible gardener after all. Maybe tiger lilies are tougher than I gave them credit for. I think I was just lucky this time. I'm hoping for some great lily photos in about three months.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday


Part of the fun is wondering what flowers (if any) will be blooming and available to arrange in my favorite blue Roseville basket vase. Our daffodils and hyacinths peaked early and are now drying on their stalks, but the tulips, violas, sweet violets and grape hyacinths are all happy to donate their blooms along with the cherry blossoms. And anything looks wonderful in that particular vase...
I do miss the ranunculus and coral bells that would reliably bloom for Easter bouquets in California. But spring arrives a month earlier there. The Roseville basket would be stuffed with Dutch iris and azaleas, with sword fern poking through everywhere, when I was a kid. Going out in the morning, gathering flowers and then arranging them was the best part of Easter Sunday.
Better than a new Easter dress or large chocolate bunnies. Better than dyeing eggs or having an egg hunt. Better even than the harmonies of new Easter hymns that the children's choir would debut.
I'm totally grateful for the sunny days and mild temperatures we received for Easter weekend here, especially since I keep hearing about winter coats and wool tights being worn with Easter finery farther east. Brrrrr.
We've had our share of neighborhood Easter egg hunts that ended with families scurrying home to avoid the icy pellets driven by crisp winds and I'm not in any hurry to repeat those conditions. This weekend seemed like it should be early May instead of April, weatherwise!
Here's hoping that you had a wonderful holiday, filled with family, flowers and chocolate bunny ears!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pansy Pensees

No, it's not a new variety of pansy that's appearing in the nurseries right about now. That's Pansy "Pon-say", not "Pen-sees", for all you non-Francais speakers out there and it means Pansy Thoughts which is how the pansy got its name in the first place--from their thoughtful little faces. Just thought you'd want to know. I have tons of those fairly useless little thoughts just circulating around in my memory banks. For those purists out there, I do kinda sorta know how to get the accent on the first "e" and the little squiggle on the "c" in Francais, but in the interests of getting this posted in a timely manner I'm going to ignore the fact that I should really look up the "ask-key" codes. I've been photographing and enjoying my little Easter gifts from the kindergarten class and those photos are leading to some stream-of-consciousness writing with sentences tipping rapidly towards run-on land. So on to The Point.

The point just being that in the Language of Flowers (which fortunately do not need accents or squiggles and hence no guilt feelings about the ask-key codes) the pansies mean "thoughts of you". And aren't you glad you stuck around for that little gem?!

So...wishing your thoughts are positive and productive and sweet this day.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Wodney Wat

The teachers were laughing as hard as the kids (maybe harder) when our guest reader read us Hooway for Wodney the Wat. Have you guessed that Rodney has a little speech problem? Poor little wodent.

During wecess, Wodney gets to be Simon during Simon Says. My favorite part is when he tells the kids to Read the Sign. There's a Mean Girl new to his class, a bullying know-it-all who doesn't know-it-all about Wodney and, you guessed it! she begins attacking the weeds.

Wodney becomes the hero to his classmates as he gains some much-needed self confidence and learns that there is a silver lining to every cloud.

Little Miss Capybara is last seen obediently trotting away after he tells his peers that "Rodney says, Go Rest."

With Lynn Munsinger's illustrations and the absurdity of Amelia Bedelia and a happy ending, Helen Lester's little gem rates ***** kindergarten stars!

If you haven't checked out Jenn's latest and best post EVER--you absolutely have have have to click my link and go over to Breed'Em and Weep and read "ATTN: Teenage Boys"!!!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Giving Tree

We had a guest reader in afternoon kindergarten today. She brought one of the Shel Silverstein books, The Giving Tree. He is one of my favorite children's authors, but I always have mixed feelings about The Giving Tree.

It's a story about a tree who loves a little boy. The boy enjoys climbing her branches, eating her apples, and sleeping in her cool shade. The boy grows up, as boys will, and returns less and less often. So far it sounds a lot like Puff and Little Jackie Paper, right?

The boy is never happy on his return visits to his childhood friend and always seems to need something--he's a bit of a user.

The tree is always happy to help him, sharing her apples to for him to sell, her branches to use as lumber for his house, and even her trunk so he can build a boat to sail during his mid-life crisis. All she has left is an old stump--yet, even so, she is happy to have helped.

It winds up aptly enough with the boy too toothless to eat apples, too stiff to climb and too tired to go adventuring. At that point, all he needs is a place to sit and rest. Voila! The stump is gladly shared.

Is it just me? Did I totally lose the metaphor behind this? Is this supposed to be a sweet story about unselfish love and devotion? 'Cause I sure don't see it that way.

I have no problem with her sharing an renewable resource with him. Millions of us give to charity as well we should. Helping the less fortunate is nothing less than right and proper. Turning to a friend when we need a helping hand is fine.

The sacrifice of her branches for his house is incredibly generous. I don't know how many of us would make a sacrifice that would permanently impact our well-being. But doesn't it seem to make him a heartless user? Why doesn't he have some sentimental feelings towards the branches that cradled him during his youthful days of play? And the illustrations make it clear that he doesn't merely prune a few to construct his home; he takes them all, leaving behind a trunk that makes the slash-and-burn ethic of farmers in the rainforest look pretty harmless.

Besides, what's keeping him from going out and getting a job and earning the money for a house? Slacker.

Then Mr. Mid-life Crisis comes and actually accepts her trunk so he can look for happiness. She's left bereft. Hey, I can't even comment on this one; it's just beyond belief to me. My jaw just flaps in the breeze. At this point, it's obvious that he's not ever going to be happy anyway.

Okay... maybe that is the point. He takes, takes, takes and never once gives and is never happy. Whereas the tree is a giver and both happy and content. Rotten moral.

I think the tree undervalues herself. Doesn't she deserve some love? Is it right to make sacrifice after sacrifice? Can't she recognize the grown kid is a leech? Does that make her an enabler?

I'm going on record here--the boy could have used a little tough love as he grew. Something along the lines of the Whomping Willow would be overkill, but not by much.

I envision a story where the boy learned to work hard instead of whining, lived in a nice brick structure with his family and brought his children back to the tree to climb and play and nap after a nice snack of healthy fresh organic apples. Nature benefits, the boy matures, his children get to experience a part of his childhood, the world prospers: a full circle of appreciation and enjoyment.

I don't know. Maybe it's thoughts of Earth Day creeping up on me. Maybe it's just because it's my job to get my kindergartners ready for the challenges of first grade no matter how adorable they are. Who knows?

I'll take Where the Sidewalk Ends instead, anytime, anywhere.