Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fun in the garden

Since we had nothing on the calendar today and since it wasn't going to be blisteringly hot, I decided that doing some weeding in the garden would be a good use of time. Weeding the small vegetable garden went quickly and uneventfully. Then came the long garden which runs along the drive. I had already done some cleaning out the first week we were here, but as time passed, I became more and more aware of exactly how overgrown it was. There was ornamental grass which had run amok everywhere. Other exciting discoveries included some poison ivy in a place where I wasn't expecting it. (I'm now waiting to see if I am reactive to it... so far so good, and it is now out of that garden bed.) I also think I found some small beginnings of an invasive vine, which my best guess is called a mile a minute vine. I think I have pulled all of it out as well. 

It wasn't all flora discoveries today, there was also some fauna. At one point, I was cutting back grass, pull away a huge handle to drop in my growing refuse pile, look down, and discover a chipmunk, just lying there. Now, you know as well as I do, that chipmunks do not just lie there when you discover them, they run. This one was not running. This one was not even breathing. It was dead, though it couldn't have been dead for very long because it looked perfect. Now, I don't know what you do when you discover an intact dead animal, but I message M. M. likes taxidermy and is actually quite good at it. I now have a dead chipmunk inside a plastic bag in my utility room freezer, waiting for M. to pick it up at some point. Because I am the cool mom.

We ran across live fauna as well. Later in the afternoon, as I'm continuing with my weeding, I go to grab some more weeds, and am startled by this not-so-little guy.

I will admit to letting out a little shriek, because he so startled me. Well, that and I very nearly grabbed him instead of the weed. Not five minutes later, K. comes running over with a small cooler that he shoves in my face saying, "Look what I caught!" Here, look what K. caught.

I very briefly considered catching the frog and throwing him in the cooler with the toad so we could have our own version of Frog and Toad are Friends. I'm kind of sad I didn't.

The last thing I want to show you are these white flowers, which my crowd-sourcing tells me are balloon flowers. Aren't they lovely?

You'll have to wait for tomorrow for some pictures of the much tidier garden. I was too intent of finishing up and getting into the shower at the end of the day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Project Zero... or inheriting other people's problems

This past weekend (why is it always on a weekend), L. happens to mention in passing that there is water dripping from the light fixture in the children's bathroom. What?! She was right. J. went poking around behind the knee wall on the third floor to look at the air conditioning unit, and discovered there was something wrong with the drain. So today, we got to meet a very nice HVAC guy, who came out and fixed it. It was no surprise when he said that all the heating and cooling systems were very old and ineffecient. I fear we are living on borrowed time in that department.

This wasn't exactly news, though. We were told at the inspection that these systems were old, and it was already on our radar. It costs money, but they are relatively easy to fix. The problem that we weren't expecting or anticipating was that we seem to be the source of every Japanese beetle in the country. At least it feels that way. I had noticed these beetles when we first moved in, and thought there seemed to be a lot of them, but secretly hoped they were benign. Then B. saw them and filled me in on how not fine they were. I encouraged the masses to collect them and feed them to Q., who does love them, and went on with my unpacking.

Then, this weekend, when out and about the property, we realized that we have so many Japanese beetles that they are completely decimating some of the fruit trees. I'm not sure one particularly large cherry tree is going to survive their onslaught. The worst moment was this morning, though, when I looked at a small apple tree, and every single apple was completely covered in Japanese beetles. It was pretty disgusting and infuriating all at the same time.

I rousted the children out of the house, gave them instructions, and started hauling buckets of warm, soapy water out to them. This seems to be about the only thing one can do to get rid of them. There were quite a few that ended up in the water, but it was both literally and figuratively a drop in the bucket. We discovered that you really need to get out there when the day is still cool and the sun not on them, because they are slower and stay put. The minute the sun warmed the air and shone on them, they were off. K. and L. have an alarm set for the morning, because they are happy to join my crusade of eradicating our property of this vile infestation. Thus, Project Zero, as in zero Japanese beetles.

We will also be put down a lot of milky spore on the grass come fall and then spring, to kill the grubs, but that isn't going to save the trees right now. I have a feeling that this was one of those things that the previous owners just didn't have it in them to tackle, and instead of killing the grubs when the beetles were first noticed, the population was allowed to flourish.

I can now see how we will spend the rest of our summer. Q. is valiantly doing his part, but one quail cannot possibly eat as many beetles as we have. Heck, I'm not even sure a whole covey of quail could eat as many beetles as we have.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Some things just aren't funny, even if you call them a joke

I discovered over the weekend that earlier in the summer, a person who doesn't really know my family or children well was talking to one of my children, and 'joked' [I use this term very loosely] that this child's parents must not have been very happy with them, since they went back and got another one.

Just sit with that for a moment.

It is a very, very good thing that I am just now registering this, because had I discovered this in the moment, I would have done a full-on Maya DiMeo. If you have seen an episode of Speechless, then you will get the reference. If you haven't... well... Amazon may still have the pilot for free. You should watch it.) Pretty much, it would not have been a pretty sight. J. has told me that sometimes I wield words more like a weapon than is necessary (those are the posts which do not get published), and a weapon is pretty much what I feel like using. People do not hurt my children and not hear from me.

And my main point would be, some things just are not funny, no matter how often a person insists that they are. There is nothing funny, ever, about implying that a person is somehow a disappointment to their parents; that they did not measure up in such a significant way that the parents felt the need to start over and try again. There is nothing funny about such a pathetic joke even to the most secure, biological child, because at our cores, aren't each of us just a little unsure about our place in the universe? Don't we all secretly feel as though we don't measure up in some way? That we must disappoint people because we are not perfect? Even if a person is unwilling to admit to these deep fears, I'm pretty sure they are there. Where else does competitive parenting come from? Sibling rivalry? Keeping up with the Joneses? We all battle our fears that we are not enough.

So if children who have not lost their first families are prone to these fears, how much more so a child who has had the very worst happen to them? The stories and fairy tales of losing parents are not just fables to these children. They are their reality. Some children have indeed lost parents to horrific and tragic circumstances. Some children have experienced being left behind by the people who were supposed to take care of them and love them the best. Some children have even experienced this devastating level of loss more than once.

These children battle the worries of not being good enough as a chronic state. You can tell a child a million times that they were not the cause of their first parents leaving them, but knowing it in your head and knowing it in your heart are two very different things. The insecurity is always there. The worry that maybe this home and these parents aren't all that permanent, either. What if someone better comes along? What if I mess up one too many times? What if I'm not pretty enough or smart enough or pleasant enough? What if I make these parents abandon me, too?

As a parent, I know that I love my children no matter their outward appearance, or their behavior, or their successes and failures. I tell my children this. A lot. But, the only thing that will convince their hearts is time and an outpouring of love, even when my child is trying to bring about what he or she sees as the inevitable sooner, just to get it over with. That's a lot of love in the face of a lot of pain. It is our usual existence.

So Ms. Funny Pants, tell me exactly how your little 'joke' is helping my child heal in anyway what so ever? To get your jollies, you have now pushed us back more than a few steps, by naming and making light of some very deep seated and real fears. Tell me exactly what is so very funny about making light of someone's pain? Tell me just where is the hilarity in confirming the erroneous assumption of my child's that they are somehow imperfect... undesirable... damaged.

You may call it a joke. I call it something else. Something that I won't write out because I may get a non-family friendly rating from Blogger. This is a problem these days, tendency of people needlessly cause someone else pain, and then adding to that pain by making light of it. "Oh, I was only joking!" Really, all that you are saying is that your emotional comfort is just so much more important than someone else's. Heaven forbid, that person actually say something along the lines of, "I'm so sorry. That was insensitive. I hadn't thought through how that might sound to someone else. Please forgive me." No one is perfect. I'm not expecting perfection, just humility; a willingness to put yourself in someone else's shoes, if even for a moment. It's not political correctness, it's just accepting one another's humanity as being as important as our own.

Oh, and before I'm done, let's just clear up another little item stuck in my craw. As the parent, I don't go shopping for children, hoping to find the best deal, or looking for better ones because I'm unhappy with the ones I have. My children are each precious and beloved. J. and I see each and every one of them as blessings bestowed upon us by a loving God. Blessings, I might add, whom He loves even more than I do, and who are each created in His image. Don't mess with them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Meet Olive

I know you were all thinking, "Boy, now that the move is over and everything is unpacked, things must be pretty dull in the Big Ugly Barn." Never fear. We don't really do dull around here, and always seem to have some little bit of craziness going on to keep all of you entertained. A. is responsible for this new little bit of excitement. She had been trolling Great Dane breeders for months, and eventually won over her father and me to getting one. Yesterday was the big pick-up day, so A. and P. drove to Indiana to bring home a puppy.

Meet Olive.

I'm kind of liking this way of having a puppy around. Olive is so cute and so little and so cuddly... and I don't have to do anything except enjoy her puppiness. A., on the other hand, was up the entire night because it seems that Olive is not yet terribly happy about her crate. J. and I slept very well.

Here are some more pictures from yesterday.

Considering her parents are both about 100 pounds, she is a tiny little thing.

This is the game we call, Pass the Puppy. Everyone loves Olive. Well, everyone except Nefertiti, but she isn't terribly thrilled about most people and animals. Poor Olive has already gotten her nose batted. Nefertiti is quite a big bigger than Olive... now.

We were even able to go out and see the show and not have to stay home to watch the puppy. The show was great, and we enjoyed it. Here are some pictures from afterwards. Some of the characters were posing with audience members afterwards.

TM noted that in our family, it would seem that only the Asian children enjoy having their picture taken; the white ones huddled far, far away to avoid the whole thing.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday bullets, July 21, 2017

Here we are at Friday again.

  • We've had quite a few thunderstorms pass through this week. Poor Kenzie is missing his basement and pantry. He seems to have decided the first floor bathroom is the safest place in the house during storms, so that's where he huddles and shivers. No amount of coaxing can get him to leave. This means that some people are forced to share the bathroom with him when nature calls, and some people are none too thrilled about that.
  • The 'broil' function on this rotten range we inherited does not seem to work. Does this surprise anyone? I'm not sure I will make it to the time we actually do the kitchen remodel with this [insert pejorative of choice here] piece of equipment. You truly cannot cook anything on it. I nearly ruined rice on it the other day. Rice is very, very difficult to ruin.
  • D. has become rather proficient on using the riding mower.
  • D. and TM informed me that if when we get horses, they are NOT mucking out the stalls. P. and I will have to take care of that. I guess it was a little hot and sticky in the stable next door yesterday as they were mucking out 20.
  • Oh my goodness. The stable where P. rode yesterday is more than a little swanky. It looks like a movie stable. You know, the kind I had convinced myself as a child only existed in movies because it was too unbearable to think someone, somewhere had a stable like that. I will admit to a rather strong bout of extreme envy there for a bit.
  • We still really like our new bed.
  • I think J. and I will be spending some significant time tomorrow hanging shelves, hooks, and pictures. I can tell you, J. is so excited he can barely contain himself.
  • Does anyone have any really good advice about getting rid of poison ivy? We have a couple of sections of yard that is full of the stuff. Do goats eat poison ivy? It might be worth getting a goat. 
  • Tonight some of us are going to a local community theater production of Beauty and the Beast. Most of us are going for fun, D. is doing reconnaissance to see if it is a theater he would like to audition for.
  • I've done pretty well finding a home for everything. Well, everything except the printer. I hate seeing electronics like that just sitting out, so am trying to find a more hidden spot for it. But a hidden spot where it is still accessible. This is not an easy task. But it is kind of a moot problem for the moment, since I still cannot find the cords that go with it. This is a little concerning since we have very few unpacked boxes these days.
  • I'm about to head for the grocery store, with Fridays becoming my shopping day. If anything has convinced me of the wisdom of doing weekly planning and shopping, this past month or so has. Our food costs have been out the roof, and it's not because there has been a significant change in food costs. It's been because I pared down the pantry a bit, so had to do some restocking, but more because I would only plan a meal or two at a time, and was always going to the store. This is a recipe for high grocery bills. I'm hoping to rein these back in with an actual schedule.
  • There is so much summer produce available now, I was thinking it might be fun to play a game in August. What would you think of seeing how many different fruits and vegetables we can eat in a month? I could keep track and also share some recipes if I happen to find good ones for some odder vegetables. I've seen 30 vegetables in 30 days challenges, but could we go higher? I have no idea what do you think? You know, if you hit that little 'comment' button on the bottom of the post, you could share your thoughts. Hint. Hint.
And with that, I really do need to go to the store. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Working towards automatic

My piano is now tuned. Even better, my new piano tuner was able to find and fix the squeak in the damper pedal. It had been annoying me for months. In theory, I could begin teaching again... if I had students. I have been diligent in passing out business cards and putting them on any bulletin boards I come across. It has been so long since I have been brand new in an area, I forget how many things we take for granted are dependent upon social capital. It just takes time. The piano tuner was one little step forward.

Another little step was getting P. riding again. She liked the trainer she rode with today, and the trainer was impressed with her skills, and had her jumping fences by the end of the lesson. (She has been jumping for quite some time, but I wasn't sure a new trainer would be having her do that right away.) It seems as though this could be a good fit.

But there are still so many other things that we realize we have to actually stop and figure out. Where do you take bags of donations? Where do you get your hair cut? Where is the nearest Secretary of State's office so we can get our driver's licenses and car registrations changed?

Life inside our house is feeling a little more automatic. Automatic meaning that we know where things are, we know which way to turn at the bottom or top of the stairs to get to the room we want, we don't have to think about which drawer the toothpaste is in. That kind of thing. It is life outside the house, and that would include the yard, which still feels not quite so hand-in-glove. We have to think about them. It can feel a little tiring.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tree climbers

Today L. and K. discovered that we have trees they can climb. There are dozens of trees in our yard, yet it has taken them nearly four weeks to feel comfortable enough to really start to explore. It's as if they didn't quite believe that all this land was really and truly ours, and that they could explore and play at will. 

So as I sipped coffee and ate my breakfast on the side porch, I had a little show of watching these two monkeys discover trees they could climb.

L. is in red at the top, and K. is in yellow coming up behind. They both went up and down multiple times. They are a little difficult to see, so here is a close-up.

I worked more in the room with no name, but am now at a point where I need more shelves before I can continue. J. stopped and got some shelves which can be mounted on the wall, so perhaps I will be back in business tomorrow. Tomorrow is also a big day, because I finally talked to a live person at one of the stables near us, and P. has a trial riding lesson tomorrow. It feels a bit like a riding audition. There are stables everywhere out here, but it seems finding a spot for lessons is trickier than I imagined it to be.
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