31 July 2010

Smoothdie Morning

It was a rough morning - I woke up nice and early and trekked over to my garden plot, only to find my green zebra tomato plant completely dead.  It had only been a few days since I had last visited, but I was still racked with tomato killer guilt.  Until I noticed that there was standing water at the root level.  Too much rain is drowning my tomatoes, and I'm sure harboring perfect conditions for tomato fungi.  Great.

Grumpily, I drove by a house we are potentially dreaming about possibly purchasing (we're that sure, you can see) - the main draw is a HUGE yard which would be transformed into an urban farm, courtesy yours truly.  Only to find that the "For Sale" sign was completely gone.  Again, it had only been a few days since I last visited - there was no "Sale Pending" or even "SOLD" sign.  It was all gone.

You just can't do that to a body - first, kill off the colorful tomatoes and then whisk away the dream house.  It was all too much for a morning's work.

I purposely listened to every sad love song I could find on the radio in the remainder of my ride home.

I trudged up the stairs in my muddy galoshes and kick open our front door (it has been sticking) to be greeted by the sound of a crying baby, upset at Nathan for not being able to lactate.  Dejectedly, I flopped down on the bed and held my cranky baby.

Olivia asked "What's wrong, mama?"

I didn't want to talk about it.

So I did the only thing any one would do when faced with such a bleak day.  I made smoothdies with my daughters.  And took pictures of it.

07 July 2010

The After-Bath

Since on a roll with these terrible puns:

 Olivia in her appropriated butterfly towel 
(which used to be Elsie's, officially,
but was commandeered by her older sister).
You can't make her like monsters or make her dislike pink.

 Elsie in her sister's cast-away Monster towel,
which she affectionately calls "Kitty, Miao"
probably due to the two orange horns on top (not pictured)
which could resemble ears...
I like the teeth, especially.


Well, not really, but I thought it was a clever title, this being a "post" and all...

I currently have three sleeping babies in my house.  Two are from my own stock and the third is a dear friend's child.  Sleeping babies = down time.  Hence the deluge of posts.

I have been catching up on Facebook with friends from grade school (wow!), when I attended dear E.J. Brown magnet school in Dayton.  I entered in the highest grade available in the charter year (3rd grade) and they expanded with our class.  My 4th grade year was cut in half by a drive-by shooting which targeted our house for my parents' vocal anti-drug activities in the neighborhood, and so I spent part of that year in Vandalia, where I would eventually attend High School.  I returned to E.J. Brown in 5th grade, only to find my senior status supplanted by an older class of new kids (much resented by me, thank you very much).

It's interesting to "catch up" with someone you haven't seen in YEARS - primarily those formative years that involve fleshing out of viewpoints, brain development, and girls + boys.  The last time I spoke with many of these folks, things like crushes still carried the hazard of cooties.  I remember learning for fun, and having friends whom I loved as only a child can.

My memories of these friends carry snippets:
  • My first real art teacher, Mrs. Debevec, who had long braided hair and wore jangly bracelets and taught us how to make beads rolled out of paper,
  • A joint birthday party with Joanna Miller at SkateWorld, complete with party favor bags decorated in puffy paints,
  • The school-wide lip-sync contest created by Justin McClelland which offered such enticing prizes as Doritos and Pepsi (which may be why I prefer Pepsi to Coke...)
  • Field Day and winning the hula hoop contest,
  • Learning about "cute" boys when Chris Brandewie showed up to school with his photo in a local department store ad and all the girls giggled,
  • Uttering my first swear word (a really bad one), completely by accident, instantly regretting it, but being more mortified that my favorite teacher would find out,
  • Trick-or-treating with Gina and Didi Cordero in their neighborhood, where one of the "rich" houses gave out entire candy bars,
  • OM ("Odyssey of the Mind") with Drew Domer-Shank and making up terrible plays about unearthing Roman coins, which we unabashedly performed at Sinclair Community College,
  • Arriving late to school and finding all my classmates gone (I had missed the field trip), but finding a haven in one of my old classrooms, with a loving teacher who let me read books all day.
All of these reflections hold sweet memories for me, without the awkwardness of high school.  When learning was about discovery, not tests, and friendship was about inclusiveness, rather than exclusiveness.

Interestingly, I am entering that phase again with my oldest daughter, Olivia.  She is excitedly looking forward to the wonder of school this coming fall.  Not yet ready for full-blown kindergarten, she already loves school, and will be entering the 3-6 year program at our local Montessori school.

When asked by these friends what I'm up to, I must admit that, on the outside, it seems not like much.  I'm learning about plants and stars and insects and squirrels - all the things that a little child is exploring.  It doesn't fit well on a resume, but to me is much more valuable than any degree - I am teaching a little soul about the wonder that is creation.  And am hearkening back to the days when I still held that unbridled joy.  It is a beautiful time to reflect upon, and I trust my contact with these dear friends will open those portions of their memories that help them revive their joy, too.

P.S.  I was eating a toasted English muffin while I wrote this, so that title is justified after all...

The Delicious Jungle

I have to admit, dear reader - I'm a two-timer.  I'm cheating on my community garden plot with a second community garden plot.  It's difficult to balance time between the two - if I neglect one for too long, it becomes droopy.  But I've managed it thus far pretty well.  At least that's what I thought...

My primary garden is the community plot we've rented through the city of Evanston.  We were on the waiting list for TWO YEARS before a new garden manager took over and started splitting plots up, so to make more room for the waiters.  Like us.  So it's no wonder that this one is my favorite!  We've taken it from a bed of weeds, to delicious jungle, stalked by pink tomatoes, purple carrots and white eggplants.  Yum!

My secondary garden is actually my first - while waiting with no seeming hope in sight for a space to open up at the Evanston gardens, I learned of a friend who was opening up her yard to the Baha'i community to use as a community garden.  I jumped at the chance, but it was several months before we were able to plant, and by then I had already begun working with the Evanston garden.  So my energy was already taxed by working in my other garden, and I was probably the most lackluster participant.  I suppose I just didn't want to share!

Our second garden plot is shared with a friend, and the entire garden is community property of all who plant there.  Our little plot is divided into four 4'x4' sections, and we have planted a random assortment of whatever seeds we had available - one "flower" section has larkspur, zinnias, nasturtium, and borage.  A second plot holds rows of carrots, parsley, and onions (which never took).  The third section is planted with more carrots, spinach, dill, and radishes.  The fourth (and my favorite) is reserved for several watermelon plants, which grew from seeds I saved from last year.  We shall see if it bears any fruit!

This morning, I woke up early and decided to sneak out of my house before anyone else was stirring.  My first inclination was to go to my primary garden, and finish a few odds and ends before I leave town this weekend, but I thought back to that first love of mine, and how sadly neglected it must feel compared to those nearby plots, whose gardeners planted new seeds or seedlings instead of 7 year-old leftovers, and who benefited from regular weeding and watering.  So I pointed my nose south and drove over to that garden, to see what portion of the relationship I could patch up.

I entered through the gate as quietly as possible (it only being 5:30 AM), and made my way through our host's lovely backyard to the community area.  The neighboring plots looked like the Garden of Eden, and the "blue ribbon" plot, which was thoughtfully and industriously laid out by another family was a cornucopia of vegetable excitement.  Blushing, I turned my gaze to our corner plot.

 It wasn't so bad as I had thought.  The flower section was healthily growing, with lots of tall zinnias and larkspur vying for light.  The borage was pouting in a row in the corner, and the nasturtium was valiantly trying to grow beyond those taller and more bossy plants.  I weeded a bit there, but left the flowers mostly to work things out themselves.

The carrot/onion/parsley section was rather pathetic looking.  The carrots needed some thinning, and were rather saggy.  The parsley was trying it's best, but was clearly needing some help, and there were two valiant onions who had sprung from the old seed we had planted.  Hooray!  I thinned the carrots and cleared the lambs quarters (tasty weeds that they are).  Then I planted purple beans (because they are so gratifying to watch grow) where the onions should have been, and added some parsley seeds to complete the sparse rows.

The radishes had completely taken over the third section.  We had planted them for the girls (Olivia, Elsie, and our friend's daughter, Kaia) to watch grow, because they are quick to sprout and quick to come to fruition, but we had neglected them, and they had gone insane by sending up huge leaves (akin to beets), and leaving mostly paltry roots below (they had needed thinning a long time ago).  The leaves had overshadowed the carrots and dill, so they had to go.  I went at it with a vengeance, and was pleased to see that, although long deprived of sun from their ravenous radish neighbors, the dill and carrots were growing as best they could.  A little thinning and a good pep talk later, they looked somewhat better.  The spinach had one plant which had survived the radish onslaught, and so I weeded around it, and added several neighboring rows of spinach for company.

The watermelon plants were elegantly spreading their vines in their private bed.  I admired how pretty they were, and weeded a bit, but such a plant is mostly happy with its own praise.

Upon leaving, and hoping to arrive home in time to sneak in a shower before those other people in my house woke up, I reflected a bit on my garden.  I suppose it is alright to have two loves - as long as they are treated equally.  I was generally disappointed at the fruits from this garden thus far, but then reminded myself that the garden was not to blame - a negligent gardener was the real culprit.  Next year, I will try something different - I will plan a little better and make sure that I have a full and wonderful set of gardens, if possible.  This year I would chalk up to experience, and I will eat my humble pie this year with relish (made from the neighbor's cucumbers).

But all was not lost.  To assuage my hurt pride, I had planted two pie pumpkin mounds.  Although the neighboring plots were verdant with squashes and tomatoes and beans and kale, I soothed my wounded ego by assuring myself that, come fall, my plot would be the most popular.

06 July 2010


I am hurriedly typing this, as soon we are taking Olivia to her second week of "Wildflower camp" here in Evanston, at the Ecology Center, where she will be learning about "Hide 'n' Seek Animals" - i.e. how animals hide in nature.

The girls are currently in our front room dancing to our new favorite song from the World Cup 2010 by K'naan.

This past weekend, we hosted a dear friend, Jessica Gaines, who was in the city for a teacher training session.  She got to sleep on, as Olivia calls it, our "couch bed," which is essentially a glorified futon from IKEA.  We kept the bed down to play on - it is not only a couch and a bed, but also a tent and a stage and a trampoline and an ocean, among other things - but Olivia kept referring to it as "Kutuh's bed" (a little note of explanation - when Olivia was little, pronouncing "Jessica" was out of the question, so "Kutuh," which is pronounced "cut-uh," was the result.  And, like most nicknames, it stuck).

Anyhow, Olivia spent yesterday morning writing out "bed name tags," using post-it notes to denote where people slept.  After placing "Nat," "Liz," and "Elsie" on our big bed, she put "Ranbom* Baer," "Flower Baer," and "Olivia" on her little bed.  Then, finding a seventh blank note, she said:

"I will make one for Kutuh, in case she comes again to visit."

So now, Jessica's nickname, which I only recently learned is actually spelled "C-a-t-a" if you happen to be four, is proudly stuck up in pink post-it note glory on our lovely tan wall for all to see! :)

*her "w" was upside-down, and looked like an "m."

05 July 2010

Pony Party

Marketer's Dream:
Perfectly Popular Product is a smash hit with generation of little girls.  Product moves to the background as little girls grow up and into other products.  Sad marketers, sad product bide their time and watch as big girls grow up more and become mommies.  Mommies with babies, and then children.  Children who are little girls.  Happy marketers re-launch Perfectly Popular Product with a "new look" to fit in with the new times, and product is consumed completely by new little girls with mothers full of nostalgia.  Ecstatic marketers twirl and spin in a field full of light and showers of dollar bills.


Olivia is four and loves horses.  We can't afford a real one (where would it sleep?), but we CAN afford My Little Ponies.  You can even comb and braid their ridiculously long manes.  Which is just what we did.  The old and the new:

Pony Party!!