Sunday, August 2, 2015

Is the Easter Bunny real? Who left the basket next to the mailbox on Easter?

"Who's egg did you hatch from, Momma? Who hatched Papa?"

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My Right Toe

The photo looks crooked, but we live on a many angled slope. I tried to 'fix' the photo. When I adjusted the angle down to the right, the u-posts and mullein were then crooked.

Is it really July 25? It can't be.

The week began with taking Monday off to visit my in-laws. Good fun was had until I dropped the metal, weighted base of an outdoor umbrella on my right foot's big toe. The nail turned blue immediately. Blood oozed from beneath the nail. Funny, I had thought to myself that I ought to put some shoes on before moving the umbrella.

I held my act together until my sister-in-law asked me if I was ok and would I like her to bandage it. My face crumpled and tears rolled. I nodded.

She returned with gauze and tape and wrapped my bloody foot. "I'm ok with other people's blood, but my own..." she said. I was surprised and how gently but confidently she worked.

I hobbled. I stumped up and down our steps. The toe throbbed, but fear of stubbing it was even worse. That night, I rummaged in the cluttered fridge. It was packed with garden vegetables and leftovers from guests. The cheese drawer had broken eariler in the day, making the jam up even worse. Suddenly, a jar of homemade pickles fell out of the fridge and smashed. Jared was putting Beren to bed. "AH!" "Are you ok, Rachel?" "Yes," I said sullenly.

On Tuesday, Mountain Kitten joined me as I weeded a garden. He attacked my leg and threw himself down at my feet, as is his routine. This is an annoying game, and on this day he landed on my right toe. "ARGH!" I came inside to brood. I grumpily put food away. A piece of corn rolled out of the impossibly packed fridge. Guess what toe it hit.


"WHAT?!?" Beren exclaimed and ran to my side.

"Nothing. The corn hit my toe," I said. I wanted to be alone.

"Can I get you a pair of shoes?" asked Jared

"No, I just want my toe in the open!" I said.

I stubbornly went to Kung fu class later in the day. "You're late!" My classmates exclaimed. "Look at how I'm walking!" I avoided the jumping and hopping warm ups. I did everything else. Excepting a 180 degree heel kick maneuver, I was ok. Participating in class was easier than walking.  

Three days later I was rummaging through a pile of nursery supplies buried in weeds. I felt a sharp stab in the back of my left calf. "AH!" My Mom, who was working with me, and Beren came running. "Are you ok?" she exclaimed. "I got stung."

I'd been stung the month prior, and every little stab or pinch I'd felt while outside had me paranoid. A couple remedies and a Benadryl later, I was ok, but a little brooding.

In the evening, I convinced Beren and Jared to race me to the bathtub. "Last one in the tub is a spotted egg!" I shouted. "You're a spotted egg!" Beren shouted back. He ran up the steps and banged the bathroom door shut. As Jared approached, Beren giggled frantically and hopped up and down. I knew what was going to happen. He landed on my right toe.

Today it seemed I spent the whole morning and into the afternoon rendering 10 apples and two massive yellow squashes no one wanted to eat into something edible. Was it worth it? 

The squash chocolate chip cookies are good, we all agree. The applesauce is just ok. The dried apple slices are good. And the squash bread tastes fine. 

Now, I have to figure out what to do with the 6 massive cucumbers, provided they're not bitter. I  watched kids race decorated zucchinis on wheels at the Zucchini 500 today at the Easton Farmer's Market. Perhaps wheels can be mounted to cucumbers, too.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hurry and the Monarch

 Monarch (Danaus plexippus) on our corn (Zea mays). We'll be tending our milkweed, as we tend our corn.

"There's so many of them. Why are there so many of them?" Beren asks pointing to a painting of migrating monarch butterflies. His finger traces over an increasingly blurry haze of orange as the monarchs continue their flight into the distance. "They're going so far."

We were reading Hurry and the Monarch, a children's story about a monarch butterfly and a tortoise. At about page four, my voice cracked. I paused but could not regain composure. I whispered a few sentences and allowed time for us to linger over the illustrations.

I considered a possible extinction during my child's lifetime. Extinction of, a once very common, very iconic insect. It's likely there will be many extinctions during his lifetime.

"Momma, what if a dead animal decides it doesn't want to be dead?" Beren recently asked. I thought over my response. "Once something is dead it doesn't breathe anymore. It doesn't play anymore. It doesn't walk anymore. That's it." Beren looked at me, and that's where we left it.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Itsy Bitsy Spider

The thing about living on a mountainside is that the echo is incredible. I've been listening to about two hours worth of fireworks displays. I couldn't find any of the fireworks displays listed online so we could attend. Could they be really far away?

"We always miss out on the fireworks," Jared comments. "It's just as well, Beren really needed to get to sleep," he adds.

Therefore, putting a child to bed before nightfall with surround sound fireworks is not easy. He charged down the steps twice after "being put to bed".

I intercepted him once, giving him a flashlight (my idea) and the task of putting his stuffed animals to bed (Jared's idea). The second time, I followed him again back upstairs, but this time I stayed.

"Would you like to hear a story about when you were little?" Beren affirms an asks for a silly story. I tell him about when he'd eat raw kale in the garden as a toddler. He bend at the waist and graze like a goat.

Fireworks pop. We hear gunfire. Pow, pow. Pow, pow. Pow, pow. "What's that?" Beren asks. "Gunfire. It makes me feel a little scared," I say. Beren is silent. "Sometimes people shoot guns on holidays when there are fireworks."

I sing Itsy Bitsy Spider, which is perfectly in my range. I like singing it for that reason. After one round, Beren requests, "Momma, sing one where the spider doesn't come down." Fair enough, who wants to end the day on a bad note, even if the spider does climb up again?

I begin to sing, and Beren prompts me. "The spider goes for a ride on Milka's (my in-law's cat) back." I weave the suggestion in. He makes other suggestions and each one is woven in, until the spider and Milka become very tired. "Milka closes both eyes," Beren says. I add that to the song. Beren and I like a Margaret Wise Brown poem in which a mother cat advises her wandering kitten to sleep with one eye open.

I lose the melody a bit, but holding my notes. I ease down Beren's bunk bed ladder, and offer him a drink. He gladly gulps some.

I make my way into the hall. As I descend the stairs, Beren says, "Everything in this house is asleep."

Once downstairs, I plop on the couch next to Jared. "Every thing is asleep, but not a single person," I say. And we hear not another sound from Beren's room.

Monday, June 22, 2015

(all of us)

 Climbing the lilac

First day of camp. A little nervous (all of us).

One of the teachers is a friend of Beren's. He's been drawn to her, the times they've met each other. Rightfully so, she's smart, kind, thoughtful, and quiet.

Recently, Jared searched for words to describe someone he had just met. "Quiet," he said. "But not meek." "Reserved?" I asked. "No..." We batted a few adjectives around. Nothing really fit. I hadn't met her anyway.

There are few words for quiet people that cover the range of types of quiet. Even fewer words lack a slightly negative connotation.

"HI! HOW ARE YOU?" a very nice, loud person might address my (quiet) son (or me as a kid). No answer. "OH. I GUESS YOU'RE SHY." I guess you're not, very nice, loud person.

I trailed Jared and Beren around the classroom. "Look interested. Check out some stuff here," Jared coached me. I must have looked stricken. I'd been tearful just a few moments before.

A friendly and kind teacher addressed Beren, and he leaned back into my legs. She talked to him for a few minutes. He was silent.

We made our way to a table where several children were shaping play dough. "Would you like some?" Beren's teacher-friend asked. His hands became busy.

I drifted to the entryway, and Jared stayed awhile at the table. One of the teachers said, "The first day can be tough..." She continued with kind, thoughtful words, and I wondered if she was addressing my feelings or Beren's. "Soon he'll run through the door to be here." I guess I looked ok.

We left the building. "Maybe I'll go back and look," Jared said. He came back shortly. "I didn't look. If Beren would have seen me..."

Beren had a fine time. When we picked him up, he was purposefully stacking blocks back in place with other children as clean up music played. "He had a good day. Got along well with other children. He's very helpful."

A couple years ago we tried out a school situation for Beren. It didn't work. Luckily, we recognized that quickly and had other options. Lately, we've seen signs that he'd be ready for something like this, and we felt ready, too. Tearful (me, not Beren), but ready (all of us).

Summer is so sweet. So many changes. So much exuberant growth. I want to hang on to that little kid forever. Forever and ever.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dirt Burt

When my brother and I were kids, my Mom would call us Dirt Burt if we got filthy. I'd get dirty a lot. Lots of laundry from Mom, no doubt. Jared and I crack up about Dirt Burt. It's such a great name.

"I don't know how you continue to do the laundry with everything else going on," says Jared.

This blog is at least partially about "getting the laundry done", or so says my header. Well, a few  laundry items to air out:

I found a pile of my field work clothes from Monday in a wet heap in the corner of the kitchen.  "I just did darks," I said to Jared. "Don't worry, you can wash them with my field clothes."

Every Wednesday Jared ventures into trackless wilderness with another botanist. Yesterday, I could smell him from across the porch. "How about you take a shower before dinner?" I say. I grab his soaked swamp sneakers from him and offer to put them by the dehumidifier. "You better wash your hands after that," he says. Poison ivy, ticks, chiggers.

Yep, chiggers. Ever get nasty, itchy, big, oozy bites along the belt line, sock tops, underwear elastic, backback straps? That's chiggers. Not fleas, not mosquitoes. Though I fear Lyme disease et al., chigger bites are the worst.

Today is Thursday. I did the laundry despite the misty weather, and the need to use the dryer. Those Monday field clothes had to be washed. Another full load of darks.

Lots of layers today. It was chilly. Beren went outside, and I tossed a flannel short over his t-shirt. In no time, we was at the pond, shoeless. "Isn't it a little cold to get wet?" No answer. "OK, up to your ankles is fine." Moments later he lands on his bottom, "Ugh!" he says. Soaked up to his chest. Out comes the clothes horse.

In winter I think, "It's winter, lots of bulky clothes means lots of laundry. In spring, it will be easier. No coats, mittens..." The clothes horse comes out, and should stay out, but I battle it. The morning load of mittens and socks. The afternoon load of mittens and boot liners. The evening load of mittens and socks. If it's snowing or we've been playing, any remaining hook, chair or knob is occupied with a hat, scarf, jacket.

In spring I think, "It's spring, we're all excited to be outside all the time, and there's lots of mud. And laundry. Summer will..." In spring there are lots of jackets - leaky raincoats, bulky fleeces, trim denim vests. Wet socks, hats. Wet sandbox sand stuck to everything. Countless layers for cool mornings, another set for warm afternoons, and another set of warm layers for the evening because the morning layers haven't dried yet.

Summer as bad as winter, perhaps worse. The the body odor-rich layers, sandy sandbox layers, sandy beach layers, sun screen sticky layers, tick layers, chigger layers. Swamp sneakers, filthy backpack, wet butt, sweaty drawers, dewy morning slippers, and so on.

Autumn, well, who the h*ll wants to think about that month when summer's almost here?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New place, new people

Admitting that you're lonely is mostly unacceptable. Loneliness as a phenomenon is fine to discuss, but individual loneliness - not ok.

We're a social species. If you're lonely, you're probably doing something wrong. People congregate, conjugate.

There are people everywhere. In central Jersey, there's hardly a lonely spot. I could be deep in the woods, and then hear a car go by, a dog bark, or a mower start up. Not so deep in the woods.

A car driving by isn't a friend, though. Finding friends in a new place isn't always easy, even with an ice-breaking kid by my side. "Hi, I'm Rachel. That's my son. How old is your son? Mine's..."

Our new (old 1830s) house is truly home. We've scratched the hardwood floors we refinished over a year ago. A couple pieces of framed artwork have been hung up. I can walk in the basement barefoot. For better or for worse, the house smells like us. We've made it ours.

But, no friends. Not local ones anyway.

And then suddenly, there are people everywhere. Neighbors, locals, familiar and friendly faces at the hardware store and the playground, too.