Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Fot!

Iain is learning to pronounce "sp." So far, it comes out as an "f" sound. As in:

"I wanna fell it!" he wants to spell something.
"This my fot!" That's his spot.
"I in you fot!" He's sitting in my spot in the bed, watching "ziggerzino" for the umpeenth time.

I remember, more than 25 years ago, sitting at the table with my elementary school principal. He had a toddler, and the little boy was at the head of that table, in his high chair. He babbled on endlessly, and honestly - we had no idea what he was saying. Yet his parents responded, answered questions, and generally seemed to comprehend his chatter.

Now we're the ones. He says, "I in you fot to watch episode! Actually." and we know just what that means: where he is, what he wants, that he's a bit conflicted about his selection.

Also: 9 degrees this morning. But I figure spring's just around the corner. Iain's snow boots arrived tonight, and using the Principle of Murphy's Law, we know that it will not snow again until he has outgrown them.

Bring on the bikinis!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snow Days

We finally got our "blizzard." It's not a blizzard, of course, but only 6 inches of snow, plus more snow tonight and a little more tomorrow.

If you're counting backward, yes. Yes. On the five days when I did not have to drive or go to work, it failed to snow. On the day before I return to work (and Iain to his school - perched atop a huge hill), it snowed. And snowed. And snowed.

Of course, Mr. Boy hardly cared. All the other kids on the street were sledding, snowboarding (on the neighbor's 4-foot yard), and generally making a ruckus. Our boy was all, "Oh. I have to put on my boots? Let's just stay inside and watch."

But it was a productive day anyway. I graded, I constructed some nifty new handouts for my students, I made chicken stock, and I even scooped off the driveway, sidewalks, and steps. Charles has a monstrous cold, so the idea of sending him out to shovel snow seemed mean.

And hey - burning calories means more dessert, right? Right.

Ultimately, everything's about dessert.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Saturday

Mommy, why don't I have any warm trousers?

Today we shamelessly used Thanksgiving and retailer desperation to our advantage.

We shopped. Both online and in an actual store (!). But here's the thing: it wasn't simply consumerism run amok. We shopped for things we need, that happen to be on sale because of the season.

For example: from The Children's Place (which is having a sale on fleece), we obtained for Iain 3 fleece sweaters, 2 pairs of fleece pants (on the weekend he likes to be totally cazh, y'all), and a pair of jeans with fleece lining.

Then we drove to Kid-to-Kid, where we got 3 fuzzy footie jammies and a fleece sweater with a bulldozer embroidered on it (!).

Next stop: Old Navy, where we got 2 pairs of trousers with fleece lining and one fleece hat (size XL, naturally).

Would pookie feel better with some fleece-lined jeans? Would he? How about a hat? It's black...your favorite...

Total, I don't think we spent $75. Whee! I love Christmas shoppers. They increase the sport while decreasing the price.

And next time Iain arrives at school just in time to build a snowman, he won't be the only kid out there freezing his hiney off.

P.S. I love the way that the 3 days after Thanksgiving include leftover apple pie. I think that's the best thing about the meal, for me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blizzard? Schmizzard!

Hey - is that sunshine on the kitchen counter? Sunshine? But I thought it was supposed to snow for 4 days! Or be a blizzard! Or something!!

Nope. Pathetic. No white-out conditions reached us. No particular snow accumulation, either. The 2-8 inches we hoped for turned into a scant 1 inch of dry, blowy snow. Meh.

On the plus side, Thanksgiving Day was gorgeously sunny. Blue skies, blazing light, and a sense of warmth. That is, so long as you stayed indoors. It was about 18 outside, but in our toasty cottage with its radiators and big windows, you could be forgiven for feeling like a bug in a rug.

Eventually, we gathered our things (one streusel-topped apple pie, one pan of roasted root veggies with sweet onions and thyme, two serving utensils, and one bag containing whipping cream, sugar, and cinnamon) and headed for V.'s house. There, it was Thanksgiving as conducted by people who LOVE vegetables. Not vegetarians, mind you. Vegetable lovers.

So there was a spinach gratin, a stuffing made with mushrooms, celery, wild rice and herbs, a bitter greens salad with sliced pears and candied pecans...oh and a big, bosomy turkey to help with all that vegetable goodness.

No sweet potatoes with marshmallows. No mashed white potatoes. No green beans in canned mushroom soup. Not that there's anything wrong with any of those dishes. But it was great to spend the meal with folk who never met a plant lifeform they didn't want to eat. Preferably with blue cheese and a nice Balsamic.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blizzard Warning!

Weather update: We all came home early because of a Blizzard Warning! due to kick in at 5 or so and last until tomorrow.

In theory we should have had four days of steady snow. Instead, it snowed, then stopped. It's been 40 and calm. So I guess we're going to get all that snow tonight - maybe as much as 8 inches. And we've got 40mph winds with gusts of 60 to get us all warmed up.

Except...warmed up might not be the best description. Today? 40. Tomorrow? 18. With lows Wednesday of -4.


Chilly, Willy.

[EDIT: 5:27 pm I can see the storm coming. What do I mean? I am looking west from our dining room windows, and though I can see snow blowing in the street light, the air is relatively clear. BUT, if I look across to my neighbor's garage, I can see a wall of white moving toward us. You can't see anything past her garage. The lights of 13th are circles of light in a swirl of white. So. Snow!

Here's what the Weather Underground has to say (emphasis mine):
A blizzard continues to develop across northern Utah. At 4pm....the leading edge has moved east along Interstate 80 nearing the Tooele Valley...and south along Interstate 15 to North Ogden. Along and behind this line...heavy snow and continued gusty winds will create whiteout conditions...deteriorating roadways...with temperatures falling 15 to 20 degrees in the matter of minutes. These conditions are forecast to reach downtown Salt Lake City around 530 PM.]

Glumpy, Ploppy, Sloppy Snow

We awoke Sunday to this. 2-4 inches of wet, heavy, drippy snow on everything. It's the kind of snow that bends the trees until they break (indeed, we lost a big branch along the street and our neighbors lost a HUGE section of their Buckeye tree. Iain got to watch a city truck use chainsaws and a whisper chipper to break down the mess.).

But lo! What sky is that - down the valley to the southeast?

Blue sky. This place is so great. It snowed, then we saw blue sky, then it was grey again. Today: blue sky with big fluffy clouds. Wednesday they're calling for more snow. But in the meantime, we enjoyed the glimpse of sunshine.

In other news, today I got a little High School Flashback.

I sat down in the hall, beside a student to whom I had to break some bad news about an assignment. She took it well.

But when I rose, what did I feel on my hiney? A cool breeze. Too cool. Moist, even.

Turns out that what I took for a stain on the carpet was actually a big puddle. Of what? Who knows. I sat on my chair for an hour, waiting while my body heat dried my butt. Because that's all I need: to parade down the hall with a wet rear end.

Joy. I'd like it, someday, if I could hold a little dignity in my hands. Just for a while.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Suck It, Whigs

I just love LOLPresidents. Seriously - how much fun can one have with presidential history? A lot! Just don't ask about Taft and that bathtub.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Yesterday afternoon, at the park. Toward the mountains, you could see a break in the clouds. But look the other way (west):

Ruh roh. That's not pretty. As it happened, we played for about 25 minutes, then just as we whisked Iain into the car the cold, soon freezing, rain started to come down.

By this morning, it was 4 inches of snow. This afternoon we're forecast to have 2-4 more, then 2 more tonight. Snow tomorrow. Snow Tuesday. Who knows where it will end?

Pics from this morning to come - stay tuned.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fruit Tree Installation

Ok, so first I soaked my little saplings in a bucket of water. The advice booklet from Stark's says to soak for 4-6 hours and no more than 24. Mine soaked for 4 hours, barely.

I don't own a wheelbarrow (hint, hint), so I use a big tub. It's a tub I once used to ship my stuff from Massachusetts to Georgia - in 1993. Seriously. Anyway, I dug a nice hole using my spiffy new shovel (which made disturbing crackly noises on every third or fourth bite), and tossed the soil into the bucket.

Then I amended the soil a bit (peat moss, some leftover potting soil that had a little sand and a little vermiculite in it) and refilled the hole. As you can see, I put in a stake (leftover from when Charles executed the ugly shrub by the front porch) for support from the wind and I planted the sapling toward the back of the hole.

I tamped down the soil (gently) to stabilize the pole, and to eliminate big air pockets around the sapling.

Did I mention the worms? Yeah. Every scoop out of the holes wriggled. It was great. I'm excited about this garden now, because if it's chock full o'worms, then it's fertile and aerated. Whee!

Anyway, back to planting. Having filled the hole and (gently) tamped it down, I then put a 5-gallon bucket of half-decomposed leaves on as mulch. I made sure they didn't touch the trunks, and kept them from flying away by placing the chunks of sod on top (upside-down) as weights. Those are the dark brown bits you can see on the leaves, below.

The idea is that I'm going to espalier both trees, so I planted both right up against the fence. There's maybe 6 inches there, which allows for a good deal of trunk expansion. So I'm going to train the branches out across the fence as they grow, thus preserving the space of the garden but letting the tree grow in 2 dimensions.

The apple tree is a semi-dwarf. It will get 15 feet tall. The pear is a dwarf, so its eventual height is likely only 10 feet. I put the apple on the side of the garden where, once fully grown, it can give us a little extra privacy. The pear sits in an area where there's already a large tree for privacy.

I really wondered what the soil of the backyard would be like. It's a new yard, built with a retaining wall only 1 or 2 years ago. So I had no idea what to expect. But the shovel slid in easily, the soil was black and rich, the worms plentiful. I've got great expectations, now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lunch Out

Ca. two weekends ago, this is Iain and The Mom out for lunch at Finn's. Dad's wielding the camera, while I keep a firm grip on He Who Squirms.

That Saturday, we walked down to school, retrieved my errant computer cord, then strolled over to Finn's for roast beef sandwiches, pancakes, eggs, and bacon. It was probably the last chance to eat outside this year.

The only fly in our ointment was that the walk back from Finn's requires several uphill blocks. You could have rolled me up that hill. But we took our time, watching the leaves fall and detouring through Westminster College.

They're Here!!

Big box! On porch! For MMMMMMEEEEE!!

Today, we received our two trees from Stark Brothers. One is a Fuji apple, the other a Korean pear. I looooove Korean pears (all Asian pears, really), and they tend to be kind of hard to find (and expensive) in the grocery.

But in Kentucky we frequented Evans Orchard, where one of the great success stories is the row of Asian pears (several varieties) they harvest every fall. It was a great option, especially since locals weren't yet aware of how great Asian pears can be. So we'd wander the rows, picking the pears alongside our Japanese co-transplants (mostly visitors working with Toyota in Georgetown).

What I learned: Asian pears grow well in a temperate-ish climate. Lexington was 6b on the USDA scale. We're 6a here in Salt Lake City. You know what that means. Time to plant a tree.

Stark Brothers has a gazillion options, but we have a small yard and we want to create a Japanese-themed garden. So we're starting with just two trees. Fujis are Charles' favorite apple, so that choice was easy.

I'll plant them along the fence, and espalier them so that they protrude only a little into our teensy space, but grow up and out, providing fruit, color, and green for our delectation.

Tomorrow: get a bucket, soak the bare-root saplings for 4 hours (meanwhile, I'll be touring the school where Iain will enroll next year), then plant them in a nice little hole, with rich soil and some dry leaves to hold water. Saturday it'll rain, so we're in great shape. The little trees can spend the fall growing roots, the winter chilling, and then emerge in spring ready to rock.

In two or three years...apple pie anyone?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Growing Up Can Be Fun

Iain trying on my clogs. He's taken to trying on our shoes, boots, and slippers pretty much every day.

This morning, in the car:
Me: "I love you, Iain."
Iain: "No!"
Me: "Yes, I do love you."
Iain: "That's very DANGEROUS!"

And right now, in Iain's room, he and Charles are rolling a golf ball back and forth across the floor to each other. Iain said, "We're playing ball!" Yes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

He's Wearing the Hat, at Least

So you know that Halloween costume? The fireman's jacket, fire extinguisher, bullhorn and hat? You know those? Iain wouldn't give them much play on Halloween.

And even now, the jacket might as well be chopped liver. He ain't wearin' that, and you can just drop dead if you suggest it.

But the hat...well, it might be ok.

At least, he'll wear it around the house now and then. Just so you know who's in charge of this firehouse.

"Where's my chili, woman?"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Win Some, Lose Some, Play Some

First the good. Today we had a behavioral breakthrough.

I was unloading and re-loading the dishwasher. Iain wanted to "help." So I sent him into his room to get the 2 sippy cups of water in there.

He came toddling out of his room, one sippy cup in hand, then remembered that he needed two. he turned around, got the other cup, and hurried back to hand them to me.


Obviously, we rewarded him with an M&M. It's like an allowance. In chocolate.

Now the bad.

Friday I packed Iain's lunch and (as usual) thought to myself, "This is all carbs! Bread, jam, fruit, juice - nothing but sugar!" So I cut up some carrots (which Charles points out are pretty sugary, for vegetables) and put them in with a tiny tub of ranch dressing.

No dice. He didn't touch them.

Tonight I was chopping carrots for our salad, and Iain said, "I have it."

"Would you like some carrots? That's fine. Did you like the carrots I sent in your lunch?"

"That's SUXTING!" [disgusting]

And with that he got down off his stool and stomped off, horrified by the very idea of carrot sticks.

I spent Friday evening and this morning at a debate tournament. It's the first high-school debating I've seen since I graduated in 1991. I debated in college, but that's totally different in a variety of ways (not least the 'celebrations' that occur on Friday nights).

Last night I foolishly agreed to judge the last round of Novice Congress. Ugh. And double ugh: I left that school at 8:45pm. With no supper.

This morning began again at 7:50, and ended around 1pm. Happily, I got to judge varsity Public Forum this morning, which was great fun. One competitor warned that if people are forced to argue against their faith, they could end up in "heck." I told him there was no such place, and perhaps he meant "Hades."

But later, after I failed to nap and stumbled into the kitchen to take care of the tons and tons of dishes we'd piled up over 36 hours, I realized what parents must love about debate. Get this:

Your teenager, source of misery and destruction, spends Friday night and all day Saturday (I cut out early, but I'm sure they were there until 5) at school. With teachers. Talking about history, politics, etc.

Then they come home, so rocked that they can barely wiggle a finger. No energy to rock out, sulk, or describe how out of touch Mom and Dad obviously are. They just want to eat, sleep, and zone out.

THIS IS GENIUS. No wonder debate parents are so happy and proud.

Oh, and we played "flip" today. "Flip" is a game wherein the beds are made with clean sheets and a certain young man giggles while I flip the top sheet over him 10,000 times. He said, "Do it again!" and I promised that we will, next week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Iain Giggling

Last night Charles and I heard something coming from Iain's room. It was loud.

We pushed open his door and asked him, "what's up?"

"I'm funny!"

Yeah, dude. You are.

He laughed for a solid 10 minutes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Garden Plan, Version 1

Ok, so my image-creation skills are crap. But just be patient, please.

Above, a basic (very basic) (kinda pathetic, really) chart of my four raised beds (!!!). As you can see, I've made a rudimentary plan for spring. Lots of lettuce, a number of herbs, spinach, snow and snap peas, carrots, and a small number of tomato and bell pepper plants.

I'll interplant with flowers (violets, marigolds, dahlias, lilies) and add garlic for pest avoidance, plus some nasturtium to boil out of the corners and look pretty.

Meanwhile, in a room next door, a certain Large Young Man is not asleep. He's in there talking. I went to the door and he said, "Mommy are you happy?" "Yes, I said. Are you?" and he said, "I'm hungry. Let's eat something."

I'm working on it, kid. Can you wait 'till June?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Madness Madness Madness

It's not that things are busy. They're always busy, right? It's just that things are sooo busy.

But that never stops Iain from playtime. Since our trip to Giraffes-R-Us, he's awash in dinosaurs, sharks, and farm animals (don't ask), so playtime brings a lot of "RAWWWRRR!" noises.

Meanwhile, I think winter has finally arrived. Finally. It was 50 degrees today, with a mix of rain and snow. Tomorrow: 38! And snow! Bring on the boots. I'm ready.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

What He Ate


Brekkie (8:30am): a bowl of cereal, a piece of toast with butter and jam, three clementine oranges, milk, water. He demanded another bowl of cereal, but we said no.

Snack (10:45am): a cup of apple sauce and a Nutri-Grain bar, with water.

Lunch (11:45am): a pancake, three pieces of bacon, three scrambled eggs, a strawberry, water.

[At naptime - 1:15pm - demanded more food. Was refused.]

Dinner (6pm): a bowl of buttered noodles, a bowl of yogurt, one kiwi, water.

I have absolutely no doubt that in a few minutes, he'll come to the gate (in his quiet, dark room where he's not sleeping) and demand "somefing to EAT! I Hungry!"

I observed, during bath time, that he is as long as our tub. Our old-fashioned, claw-foot tub. He's nearly as long as his toddler bed. Soon, he'll be as long as an alligator, or a python, or one of any number of other animals that eat mass quantities.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Night Music

Sung from the other room, where Iain is not in bed and not sleeping and not being quiet, in a growling tone:

"Ice cream pie, ice cream pie."
"Banana pie, banana pie."
"Alligator pie!"

Uh, ok.

Two minutes later:

"I Pooooooped! I POOOOOOPED!"
Me: "Did you?"
"Noooo, I din't."


"I Pooooped! I POOOOOOPED!"
"Oo! That wasn't so good."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Zoo Videos

Iain enjoys himself, despite a long wait to get started.

And now, a peacock.

Square Foot Gardening

Two summers ago, I wanted to garden. But Iain was weensy, and I needed a method that would be easy. We were also planning to go away for a long time (about 7 weeks) so I needed something I could ask my FIL to watch over.

Square Foot Gardening fit the bill. I ordered some supplies and built myself a 4x8 bed, into which I planted tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, peas, and chard. We departed, and the garden grew like crazy.

Seriously, like crazy.

The basic idea is that by planting pretty densely you avoid a lot of weeding. You also make for easier watering, fertilizing, and supervision. Finally, you can plant seeds deliberately - in other words don't just scatter the seeds and then thin them out. You poke a hole and plant a seed. Given the germination rates of modern seeds...it'll grow. That way, you buy fewer seeds, waste fewer plants, and harvest just as much as you want (but no more!).

My beds are 4x2 this year. I learned, two summers ago, that 4 feet across means reaching. This year the beds will be narrow so I can reach everything easily. Each contains 8 square feet, which means I can distribute the beds thusly:

Bed 1: Blue
  • 4 squares worth of carrots
  • 2 squares of spinach
  • One pea plant (snow) takes 2 end squares
Bed 2: Orange
  • 2 squares of Chard
  • 2 Bell peppers (one square each)
  • One pea plant (sugar snap) takes 2 end squares
Bed 3: Purple
  • Lettuce (spring) whole bed, one square per variety
  • 4 Tomatoes (summer) take 2 squares each
  • Lettuce (fall) whole bed, one square per variety
Bed 4: Green
  • Two blueberry bushes (already planted)
  • Tender greens that like some shade
  • Dahlias!
And in each, marigolds, lilies, and other flowers to please the eye and the bees.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Raised Beds: Check!

Ta Da! Raised beds. Primed, painted, painted again, and moved into place. There are sprinkler heads out there, and our sprinkler guru will run little spray heads up to the beds in spring. I can hardly wait.

But for now, lasagna gardening:

First, you put down a layer of cardboard or five layers of newspaper. They advise wetting it, but in the fall it seems to me that you can wait for rain. So I left mine alone.

Next, a layer of green stuff. In my case, it's grass clippings. We've been asking the lawn-mowing service to pile up the grass in a dark, quiet corner all summer. So there's a goodly pile up there, some of which has already composted. It's gorgeous, black soil. Other bits are still green. So I shoveled a bunch into each bed.

After that, you alternate layers of brown (in our case peat moss or dry leaves) with more green. The beds are about 3/4 full, and I plan to just toss a few buckets at a time into the beds until all the grass and leaves are used up. Then the winter can do its work, breaking down all that organic material into delicious, nutritious soil for my spring planting.

Mmmm...lettuce, peas, spinach, chard, and carrots. Those are the seeds I've got so far. All that's left is to wait.