Come play in my world for awhile!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Recipe for adventure

I love a good recipe. I especially like unusual recipes that I haven't yet tried. Sometimes I experiment and create original recipes; that is what happened this weekend. I had the fortune of creating a brand-new recipe for adventure. Previously, I viewed an adventure as an exploration, or an opportunity to see something new. However, Webster's Dictionary offers several interpretations including:

1. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
2. to risk or hazard.

Apparently, an adventure is less about seeing something new, and more about putting yourself in harm's way; definition duly noted for future reference. I guess it's similar to the difference between a spring-form baking pan and an 8-inch round pan; same shapes but completely different functions.

1 cup last minute invitation to go camping
2 cups inadequate camping gear
1/2 cup campers experienced in fair-weather conditions
3 cups remnants of unsettled weather from hurricane Fay
2 Tbs. kids (x 4 -- does that make 8 Tbs.?)
1/4 cup canoe

Step 1: Receive last minute invitation to join friends for long weekend camping at Falls Lake. Remember, you live on Falls Lake. If something goes wrong you are 15 minutes from home so what could go wrong?! Inventory gear and note only have supplies for four as have never camped as family. Note questionable weather forecast. Proceed with packing. Mix ingredients well and set aside.

Step 2: Arrive at campground. Pitch tent in record time. Feel like veteran camper. Congratulate self. Notice husband inflating Aero Beds, and carrying foam mattresses to tent. Chastise husband for not embodying true spirit of camping. Insist you will sleep on ground. Mix ingredients. Add sunshine. Refrigerate 12 hours.

Step3: Watch as group carries canoes down steep embankment. Receive task of carrying giant tube. Discover only way to get down is to carry tube on head. Realize tube severely obstructs line of vision. Nearly wipe out and kill those carrying canoes (2 times). Offer silent prayer of thanksgiving when bottom is reached without bodily harm or personal humiliation. Load kids into canoe. Tie tube to canoe and load 5 more kids into tube for towing (we're over capacity). Paddle to island for swimming. Rest.

Step 4: Swim in lovely, warm, water. Have fun. Chat with grown-ups. Watch kids have time of lives. Chill.

Step 5: Listen as canoe races are discussed. Watch as teams are chosen. Observe absent-mindedly as three teams push off. Look proudly as husband takes lead. Note one canoe appears to have flipped. Give virtual eye roll to whomever thought race should head 150 yards off shore. Realize it is your hubby's canoe that flipped. Wonder which of the 16 kids was on the canoe. Hope they were the strong kids. Wonder at how long it takes to right canoe. Exhale when all are accounted for.

Step 6: Throw Frisbees and footballs. Swim more. Decide to return to camp. Agree to paddle the lounge raft back to shore. Realize you look like a redneck. Decide you don't care. Have a super-fun paddle. There are no known pictures of me actually on the raft, but this is roughly what I was paddling. Let your imagination take you home. Step 7: Trek back up embankment. Tandem-carry (heavy!) cooler of lemonade with friend's husband up steep hill. Walk like a drunken sailor because of exertion thereby dragging friend's husband through sharp bushes. Arrive at camp 10 steps behind kids. Watch in fascination as kids grab bikes and make beeline for showers. Begin to understand herd mentality. Scramble to catch up on foot. Realize you have two towels in hand -- leftovers from trek back from swimming. Be thankful as kids are already in shower. Marvel at other mommies who managed to grab their gear, shower, and return to camp. Note self -- still in swimsuit, definitely not showered. Mourn lack of cleanliness. Sigh.

Step 8: Return to camp. Eat dinner. Yum!!!

Step 9: Notice rain. Head for shelter under friend's camper. Assume if rain stops we'll be fine for night. Celebrate rain's end. Enjoy evening. Tell ghost stories. Observe fantastic show of thunder and lightning. Ignore comments of flash flood warning in effect. Make mental note; campground literally locked down at 9:00 pm. Decide at 8:45 to see it through. Hope for the best.

Step 10: Go to bed. Notice heat. Notice still air. Notice flicker and flash of lightning on tent walls. Fall into uneasy sleep. Curse sleep that is regularly disrupted by cacophonous booms of thunder. Awaken to gentle pitter-patter of rain. Briefly revel in the earthy smell of moisture and the sultry splat of fat, lazy raindrops. Jolt awake as first raindrop lands on foot. Curse as drip becomes regular. Reflect on high school studies of Vietnam War and Chinese water torture treatments. Try to shield children from drops. Notice rain is coming down in torrents. Wonder if we should build ark. Have epiphany. Husband is genius. Inflatable beds are only thing separating us from river flowing under tent and imminent sogginess. Realize inflatable mattresses can be used as floats if we truly wash away. Acknowledge that rain is dripping in everywhere. Hear first child cry. Realize she is soaked. Obtain clarity. Rain is coming harder. Comprehend there is no positive outcome. Abandon ship. Run to mommy's bus. Realize constant rain yields desperate need to urinate in children 8 and under. Drive to potty and run for it. Pee. Return to car through sheet of rain. Notice one twin is bleeding, other twin has fallen flat on face having tripped over cement parking block. Get in car. Try to calm crying and bleeding. Wait for half an hour for park ranger to come and let us out of park. Drive 10 minutes to house.

Step 11: Bake at 75 degrees and serve comfortably warm, but NOT hot. Shield from additional humidity to preserve freshness and mom's sanity.

Enjoy your adventure (even if it isn't super-risky!). It's a time consuming recipe, but it's sure fun to make!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Sigh. I hate to admit it, but I am bored. Really bored. The kids are back at school. Hubby is up in his office working. I, on the other hand, have accomplished nothing. Well, I have let the rabbit out twice to zip around on the screened porch, but I'm not really sure that counts as accomplishing anything. There is a long list of stuff that I could be doing such as running to Costco, cleaning some portion of the house, staining the four Adirondack chairs that are sitting in the garage, or even putting on makeup! You get the idea.

I think I have a problem. I am at my best when life is coming at me at warp speed. I like to think on my feet. I like tight timelines. I like that niggling feeling that a schedule is so tight that it just might not be do-able, and yet secretly knowing that I can make it happen. I think this is probably why I have a tendency to constantly over-book myself. It's definitely the way we ended up having four kids in the space of four years! My hypothesis is that, in the absence of real chaos, I create chaos. Take today for example. The kids will be home by 3:30, and Rachel has to get her hair cut before school pictures tomorrow. Instead of doing some pre-work on dinner I am blogging. Of course, I don't even know what we are going to have for dinner yet so I guess to do pre-work would be to put the proverbial carriage before the horse. Inevitably the kids will come home from school tired and hungry. They'll need help with their homework, and they'll have a full day's worth of stories to share. And in the midst of all this I'll rush around making dinner. It's a far cry from chaos, and yet I could choose to make it easier and yet I don't.

I'm not sure what label goes on this type of personality. Maybe it is just a flaw. The thing that makes me the most crazy is that I recognize what I am doing, but I don't choose to make a different/better choice. I am constantly yammering at my kids about the choices they make and how those choices shape our lives. Practice what you preach much, Mom?

I need something to keep me busy. Maybe a hobby. I already have a pet. Granted it's kind of a stupid pet - sorry, Super Bun - but it still counts. I thought I was pregnant last month, and that scared the snot out of me. Clearly more babies isn't the right option. Next week my volunteer schedule at the school kicks into gear. Hopefully that will help, because days like today drive me bananas. I had all the time in the world.... and I wasted it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Time Flies (aka the year in review)

I was late to jump onto the blog bandwagon. I regret that I didn't start when we found out about this move. It would have been fun to have chronicled the experience and look back on everything that has transpired. So, I thought I'd post some of the things that didn't get included:

Getting on the Plane
When I think of the move to North Carolina one of my most vivid memories is driving to the airport, and getting on the plane. Our best friends (and their kids) drove us. The kids were cranky. We tried to push a lifetime of fun into the last weeks that we were in California. It was amazing, but everyone was exhausted. I spent the entire trip telling the kids stories about my childhood pets (the gerbil that got sucked up the vacuum cleaner, the parakeet we found in a bush, the grey cheeked parrot that left a scar on my neck - I have some good pet stories.) to keep them from fussing and pestering each other. The trip seemed to take hours and yet, I can recall each minute with precise clarity.

Once our friends left us and we were boarding the plane the reality of the circumstances hit Rachel like a hammer. She did not want to get on the plane. I thought we were going to have to drag her. When we finally got her seated other passengers gave us odd looks as they passed. Rach was in a state. She had tears and boogers literally flowing from her and, of course, not a Kleenex in sight. And we're taxiing down the runway. Pat ended up lifting his shirt and stretching out his undershirt to get her cleaned up. I'll have to ask him if he changed out of that booger-y undershirt, or if he kept it on for the whole trip!

Ready for takeoff!

The First Day of School
When we arrived in NC our house wouldn't be ready for nearly three weeks. We were living in a hotel about 30 minutes from school. The weather was obscenely hot and humid. As we left for school it was already miserable to be outside. We cranked the a/c until we were frosty-cool, and headed for the school.

When we arrived at the school we herded the kids towards the entrance for the requisite picture. Pat removed the lens cap and snapped the first picture, but got a surprise when he checked the results. It was so stinking hot that the lens had fogged. Welcome to humidity!!
Humidity at it's finest!

The Poof!
The builder got us into our new home as quickly as he could. We were frantic to get out of that hotel room. It was a long three weeks. The main living areas were mostly finished, but there was still a lot of touch-up work being done. Additionally, we decided to finish the basement. Banging and hammering became the music of our life.

Work was proceeding as planned, and everyone learned to go about their business and mostly ignore the construction. The kids were at school and Pat was busily working in his office in the attic when I noticed what appeared to be thick, white, billowing smoke. As I stared, temporarily frozen in shock, the smoke alarm began to blare. I died a little inside. We were newly out of the %&*@!# hotel and now the house was going to burn down. I began running from room to room in search of the fire. Pat was simultaneously performing the same search upstairs. We met on the second floor landing, and then ran for the basement.

But when we got down there everyone else was calm. Sigh. It seems that in order to move plumbing encased in concrete you need a (wait for it...) concrete saw. A concrete saw needs to be used with water, or bad things happen. The person using the saw was, apparently, unaware of this. What we thought was smoke was actually a massive plume of concrete dust. This dust was so fine that it actually hung in the air like smoke. The good news was that the house didn't burn down. Yeah! The bad news was that the dust got everywhere. Even upstairs. Talk about a cleaning nightmare.

Basement construction begins. Pre-poof!

The Terrorist
Soon after we moved in a juvenile snake got into the garage and decided to make it home. We discovered him when my (then) 5 year old was putting on her shoes and said, "Mommy look at that cute little snake hiding in daddy's shoe." We were in a hurry and I was grumpy. I was giving her grief and telling her it was just a shoelace when I nudged the shoe in question only to find a snake. I shepherded the kids to the side, and summoned Pat. He tried to shoo it out of the garage but, instead, the snake hid in a crack behind a built-in shelf. Unsatisfactory. In an effort to please me Pat proceeded to nail a piece of wood over the crack where the snake entered. Trapped! I figured we might get a bad smell for awhile when the snake started to decompose, but considered that to be a fair price to be rid of the snake.

Pat left the next morning on a business trip and things pretty much deteriorated from there. From that point forward every time I went into the garage the little bugger either popped out of a shoe, or zipped right across my path. Going into the garage had become a nerve wracking experience. After having most of our shoes held hostage by the snake (you know I was not about to pick up any of the shoes that were in the garage to see if he was in there -- those shoes were dead to us), the final straw came when I drove my car into the garage and nearly put my foot on top of him as I was stepping out. The snake coiled himself and gave me a menacing hiss. I screamed like a bad actress in a cheesy horror flick. Of course, my four kids were in the car with me because there always has to be a witness when mom comes unglued. I explained the problem and sent them inside (via the opposite side of the car, of course) while I got rid of the snake. I wish I had the next 20 minutes on tape. Completely fed up with being terrorized by this snake continually popping out at me, I decided to reclaim my territory (and more importantly the shoes). I got a broom and valiantly tried to sweep him out of the garage. This did not work at all. I thought he would see the broom and go the opposite direction. Nope. He attacked the broom and did a lot of hissing. I kept sweeping, the snake kept hissing, and a lot of screaming, colorful language, and dancing around like a moron followed. Thank God the kids were in the house. This was not one of my finer moments.

Ultimately, I failed. The snake inserted himself into a seam between the concrete and a baseboard and refused to budge. I put the garage on lock down and waited for Pat to come home. I know when to throw in the towel. Pat arrived home to an unstable wife, and was barely afforded the luxury of changing out of his suit before being dispatched to snake hunting. Ultimately he was able to kill the snake, and it seems to have been a constant parade of reptiles, snakes, frogs, and insects ever since.

This construction shot of the garage shows the built-in where the snake initially hid.

As I sit writing this I keep thinking of more fun memories. I'll have to save them for the next anniversary edition. This has gotten entirely too long! Did anybody out there make it all the way to the end?!

Time Flies (aka the reflection post)

We have been gone for a year. It is quite surreal. I feel as though I have moved on, and yet I can picture my favorite places as vividly as if I was still there. It feels as though we have been gone forever, and yet it seems as though we just left. When I type my address at checkout (I am a huge online shopper) I no longer automatically begin to enter our old California address. Yet, conversely, when we were on vacation and I was asked where we are from I said California. Knowing that we have an anniversary upon us has made me reflective. Inevitably the comparisons between "then" and "now" push to the front of my mind. I think this move would have been easier if we weren't so happy where we were. But then I wonder if I haven't glossed over the old flaws. Nothing is ever perfect. I keep trying to find the California in North Carolina. Silly, I know. It's like trying to find a blueberry inside of a strawberry, but still I can't help but try. It isn't so much that one is better than the other, just different.

We have settled into a routine, and things are as calm as can possibly be expected. But I think I left my heart in San Francisco.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Forget Michael Phelps... Check Out Pat Belinski!

Michael Phelps may have won a record number of gold medals, but Pat has been in Beijing competing in multiple events. Check out his many stunning accomplishments via this link:

For those who know me, and not my husband, that is his face photoshopped in there. You can make one of your own, too. It's fairly funny.

The kids got a huge kick out of it. Abby and Emily did not understand at all. They said, "Wow! I didn't know Daddy could do all those things! He is good. And I didn't know he knew how to do all those hairstyles, either. Is he famous?" I didn't inquire as to whether they believed him to be famous for athletic achievement or his hairstyling talents. But I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they toyed absent-mindedly with the tips of their hair. They were wondering what cool styles their amazingly talented father could apply to their own hair. Endless possibilities...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pool Party!

Yesterday we hosted a pool party for all of the girls in Hannah's third grade class. Based on this picture I would say that it was more of a feeding frenzy. Pat was gracious enough to get in and entertain the girls. I think Pat should quit has day job, and become a professional entertainer of children.

The girls were entertaining themselves happily, but when they saw Pat suited up they started chanting for him to get in. The party lasted three hours, and Pat was in there the entire time.

Pat pretty much had them behaving like finely trained circus performers by the end of the day. My favorite "trick" was getting them lined up on the side of the pool and having them jump in holding hands. It was cute watching them try to work as a team to time the coordination of the jump.

Visually, the best stunt was probably getting them to go down the slide and land in the middle of the inner tube, but I prefer these jumping pictures.

Overall, it was a ton of fun. All the parents brought snacks, and the girls were very good about following the rules and being safe. I don't think I would do these types of get-togethers if I had boys. Too much energy. And I'm too much of a worry-wart.

The best thing about the party, though, is that my house is spotless! My approach to housecleaning is to attack chores on an as-needed basis. I don't vacuum on Mondays. I vacuum when it needs to be done, and if that means the kitchen gets hit daily and the bedrooms get bi-weekly attention, then I am fine with that. The consequence of this cleaning approach is that the house is rarely in a pristine state all at the same time. The exception is when we have people over.

Even though no one really came into the house I felt obliged to do the full treatment. Toilets, counters, floors, sinks everybody got put to work and everything got cleaned. In addition to being clean, there was not a speck of clutter anywhere. No magazines laying about, no backpacks by the door, nada! Perfection.

There was really no mess to clean up after the party, either. So I had a glass of wine, hung out with Pat, watched Michael Phelps make history, and savored the nirvana that is utter and complete cleanliness. It was just about the perfect Saturday night.

Is it weird that this makes me so happy?! Does it mean that I am old when a clean house and an evening plopped in front of the TV constitutes a great Saturday night?! These are rhetorical questions. Please, don't answer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Rabbit... Part II

Let's break down the pet situation.

The Cons:

1. We have had the rabbit for 6 days now and we still don't have a proper cage. I was going to buy a cage at PetSmart, and in the 11th hour decided that the one I found on-line looked more hospitable. So in spite of the fact that I knew we were going to get a rabbit on Saturday I decided to order a cage (that I knew would take at least a week for delivery) the day before. Well, the cage was delivered yesterday and when I went to assemble it this morning I discovered the tray where all the poop goes is broken. That is clearly a huge problem! The company is going to send us a new one, but it'll take another week. In the interim we have the rabbit behind a movable pet fence on the screened porch. It is mostly fine, but the rabbit is messy, messy, MESSY! She kicks her little heels up when she is scampering about and flings her little pooplets everywhere. This pet yard was meant to be used to take her out in the yard for exercise -- not as a permanent home!

2. Bunnies bite! And, apparently, they bite pretty hard. Hard enough to break the skin. Just ask Hannah. So far, we have had one ferocious chomp (in the bunny's defense we had just brought her home, and we were going to great lengths to give her a warm, human welcome. Probably it was not her idea of a good time, and she was telling us to back off!), and one nibble. The kids aren't overly concerned about the rabbit's occasional foray into carnivorous behavior, but the rabbit freaks me out now when she comes over to sniff my hand.

3. Bunnies also scratch to the point of drawing blood if their nails aren't properly trimmed. When we went to pick out the rabbit we were invited to hold a variety of bunnies to find a good personality match. Unfortunately, no rabbit really likes people until it has been tamed. The rabbits were pretty much in a state of hysteria.

If you don't know how to hold a rabbit solidly they can do cause serious damage to your skin. Case in point. I was holding a rabbit that we were considering purchasing against my chest and petting her. Suddenly, she starts going crazy (apparently they are afraid of heights -- and I stood up. Who knew?!). She wiggled down inside my v-neck shirt - still scratching like a champ - and I was completely at her mercy. The breeder had to remove the animal from the inside of my shirt.

At this point I am wondering why we are getting a rabbit. I have had a bunny down my shirt, I've been groped by a stranger, and I have claw marks all over my boobs. Fun stuff. Anyway, the breeder proceeded to explain that the nails are only sharp like that when they need clipping. She, of course, doesn't clip them so that she can demonstrate the proper trim procedure once you have chosen a bunny. Cripes. A warning would have been nice.

4. I really want this rascally wabbit (type-o, but I'm keeping it!) to be a good pet since we are likely to be saddled with it for quite some time. I feel the need to help tame the bunny while the kids are at school. Mostly I enjoy this. The other day I held her and pet her for the better part of two hours. I had the the bunny in a state of limp relaxation, but I guess she was too relaxed. She peed all over me, the towel that I had out on my lap (you know, because I was afraid she might scratch me or bite me), and another towel that was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obviously, getting bunny pee all over yourself is just gross. Having to do an extra load of laundry, well, that is just intolerable.

The Pros:

1. She is really cute. Nothing else to add.

2. We have a leash and we are going to try to train her to walk on the leash. That should add to the cuteness factor. Unfortunately, getting the leash on her is going to require an act of God. As a result, this point may need to be moved under the "Cons" heading, but we'll leave it here for the time being.

In Summary

We have a super-cute, furry ball of chaos. I want to love her, but, right now, I'm just the tiniest bit afraid of her.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

And Baby Makes Seven!

Please welcome the newest addition to the Belinski family! Cutie (aka Hunny Bunny or Bun) is a 12 week doe. Her breed is Netherland Dwarf and her coloring is described as a broken chestnut. She is the direct result of an ill-advised bribe that we offered my oldest as incentive to move to North Carolina. We managed to stall for a year, but this past weekend we finally had to pay up. Although I really did not want a pet, I have to admit she is awfully cute!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fun in the Garden

One of the nice things about moving into this new house is the landscaping. We went for a natural, as opposed to manicured look in the yard and garden areas.

In California we spent massive amounts of time in the yard. The yard was a wreck when we bought the house, and Pat and I spent hours upon hours tearing out bushes, reconfiguring landscaping, and wrestling with the sprinkler system. We derived a lot of pleasure from these efforts. When we moved last August the yard was still a work in progress, but it looked pretty darn good - if I don't say so myself.

The bad thing about our house in California was that I went overboard. Even before we knew we would sell the house the yard was becoming a headache. You see, I love plants and I adore puttering around in the yard. So I never thought twice about purchasing plants that were finicky or needed special care. After four years of reckless plant purchasing the yard was becoming a monster (with lots of pretty flowers)!

And now I find myself in North Carolina - essentially with a blank slate. I have been frequenting the garden stores and starting to fill in some gaps. So far I've brought home a blueberry bush and two peach trees plus a fair number of perennials. I am eyeing an area in the backyard behind the retaining wall as a potential vegetable garden. Somebody please stop me if it looks like I am getting out of control!

Here is what I currently have to work on in the front. To date I've added perennials to the large window box and added containers by the front door and on the small patio behind the Japanese Maple.

This is the widow box I just mentioned. It was tricky! The box was built to hold individual pots. Cute idea, but clay pots dry out super fast, and I didn't have any luck finding pots that were tall enough to look appealing in the box, and yet skinny enough to fit inside.

Thank goodness my dad was out to help me figure out a way to make it work, and hack into the irrigation system! I expected the geraniums and petunias would have been bigger by now. We were gone a lot, though, and they still need some occasional hand watering. I think they got a little fried in our absence, but they're rebounding nicely.

I've been working more in the back yard. I love the planter boxes that we built in by the pool. We put some boxwoods in for height, and then I put wave petunias, geraniums, false heather, gerbera daisies, and flat leafed something-or-other (that's the Latin name) around the perimeter. I also added the two rectangular pots on the raised wall. These pots are supposed to deter the kids from jumping. We have two waterfalls that come off that raised wall, and we built in seats underneath. It is a fun idea, but if you jump on top of those seats from the wall it won't be good...

Here is a close-up of the newest addition. I have "Piglet" Pennisteum (anything called piglet is welcome in my garden!) and diascia in the pots. The piglet grass will stay small and weather through the winter. The diascia, well, I have my fingers crossed that it will winter through. I'm trying to avoid buying a truckload of new annuals every Spring.

I just did this pot of lantana. It will be gorgeous in about two weeks when everything begins to weep over the side. I had just set the pot out when a butterfly landed. So I grabbed my camera, and as I finished the picture a hummingbird zoomed right up to me. It was literally two feet from my face. So I got a picture of him, too. Can you spot him?!

And this is my grand finale. When I went to set out the pot of lantana (the one with the butterfly and the hummingbird) this little guy was sitting out on the porch. I think it is a luna moth, but I didn't have time to google it. There are a lot of bugs and animals in this state. Trust me. I won't even tell you what was in my shoe the other day, but it was a reptile. And I didn't find him until I was sitting in the car, with my shoes on my lap (I was running late, okay. I was going to put them on at the traffic light to save some time) getting ready to back out of the garage. Thanks God I found it before I actually put the car in reverse, or this would have been a much more entertaining post! Anyway, I'm getting tired of embarrassing posts about encounters with wildlife. I'll let you fill in the blanks...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's the Great Pumpkin... Sponsored by Coke (of course!)

After Halloween our pumpkins perched happily on our porch grinning fiendishly at passersby. As the days drew on they almost appeared to melt; shifting and shrinking until our pumpkins' smiles started to curl in so that they resembled little old men without their dentures. They also began to develop a strong odor. At this point I would usually toss the pumpkins in the trash.

Last year we were dealing with a marauding herd of deer who were using our garden as their personal salad bar. So I told the kids to take the pumpkins and smash them in the woods. First off, smashing pumpkins is fun. How many times does your mom tell you to take something and destroy it? Especially something messy like a pumpkin! The second thought was that the deer might come and munch on the pumpkin if it was broken and easily accessible, and that it might distract them from the other plants growing in our yard. I had a tiny seed (a pun!) of hope that the pumpkin would rot into the ground and surprise us with pumpkins the following year. It was a very small seed of hope. You see, soon after we smashed the pumpkins the bulldozers and heavy equipment came to begin the grading process for our pool. The pumpkins disappeared, and I held out little hope that the seeds would survive the soil compaction that inevitably results from heavy machinery.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered a pumpkin seed had weathered all of the chaos in the yard, and actually managed to sprout! I nurtured it with hand watering and fertilizer for a few weeks, and the sprout became a plant. But again, I was not optimistic about the pumpkin's long term prospects. There is no irrigation where the pumpkin is growing, and we were leaving soon for Montana. And Canada. And it was surely going to be really hot while we were away.

When we returned I took stock of my fruit trees and flowers, and I was stunned to see this gorgeous healthy plant that had flourished in our absence. In light of the fact that the pumpkin has survived my children, heavy machinery, and high heat I decided to protect it and see if it can grow to maturity. I've given it another shot of fertilizer, and even installed a little umbrella to protect it from the wilting afternoon sun. I water it religiously! We have five little pumpkins to date, and one that looks like it could become BIG, or at least medium-sized!

There are still quite a few blooms on the plant. I am debating whether to pick these blooms so that the plant's energy will be funneled into the existing fruit, or let them all grow and achieve quantity over quality. I'm leaning towards the quantity approach at this point. This way if something happens to the first pumpkins we'll have spares!

Here's a shot of the girls at the pumpkin patch last year. One of those pumpkins is the parent of the plant growing in my yard!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Yesterday afternoon our neighborhood activity center put together a trip to see Team USA play against Team Canada in an exhibition baseball game. This is the last stop before both teams head to Beijing for the Olympics. I am a bit ambivalent about spectator sports (unless, of course, my kids are the ones playing!) so I wasn't all that enthusiastic. But I was very pleasantly surprised.

First, and foremost, we had a shaded patio with a lovely breeze where we could sit and watch the game. I mention this because it has been hot here. Make that ridiculously hot. Sweat 'til your shirt is visibly wet hot. One of the things I have discovered about myself is that I don't do this humid heat. You can find me in the pool, hiding in an air conditioned building, or outdoors before 11:00 a.m. and after 7:00 p.m. Roasting like a peanut in the sun while watching grown men hit a ball and run around in the grass falls into none of those categories, so this trip was more about the kids and the hubby. Thank goodness for the kids and hubby, then, or I would have missed out!

As I was saying, we had a perfect spot to watch the game in the sense that we had shade and breeze. We had a great vantage point for viewing the game as well. Since this was a community event, and there was a substantial group in attendance, a catered dinner had been arranged as well as some additional activities for the kids. Now this is my type of sporting event. I don't have to make dinner, I don't have to clean up after dinner, there are lots of grown-ups to converse with, the kids are happy, and you can catch bits of the game in between everything else. Fabulous!

Upon arrival the kids got working on "Go USA!" posters. They cheered the team on and waved their poster board around, and eventually got their picture up on the Jumbo-tron. This was a great diversion for Abby and Emily. Rachel and Hannah have the understanding of baseball combined with a modicum of self-control and patience. They can easily sit through a game. Abby and Emily don't quite understand the all of strategy and nuance and they get antsy, so this was a fun diversion.

At the end of the game the kids got to run the bases. Abby took this seriously, and rounded the bases at top speed. This was the high-point of the day for her -- even though she was slowed down by her flip-flops.

Rachel and Hannah ran the bases as well. They looked like twins in their dresses. Don't ever tell them that, though. We all changed right before the game, and we were running late. They were mortified when they came down and discovered that they had on the same dress, but there was no time to change.

But none of these events was the highlight of my evening. The game was almost over when my husband said, "Hey Kath, there is a giant cricket-thing stuck under the table, and he looks like he is about to crawl right up your skirt." The table surface is comprised of criss-crossed pieces of metal and you can see through to the floor. I calmly looked where my husband was pointing and saw a giant, green, praying mantis - and he really did look as though he was headed straight up my skirt.

Which leads us to the real highlight of the evening -- I didn't scream!

This guy was a solid 7 inchels long. He looked much, much bigger in real life. Honestly :) Score one more for the local wildlife!

First Day of School!

Actually, we are into the second week of school, but who's counting?

Okay, so I know this isn't actually a particularly flattering picture, but it really sums up the first day of school for me. It doesn't matter if the kids lay the clothes out the night before, carefully label the new school supplies and place them neatly in individual bags to carry to their teachers, purchase lunch foods for the entire week, and have the car loaded and ready to roll. The first day of school always has that crazy mixture of anticipation, fear of the unknown, unbridled energy, and chaos! Even when you are a mommy. That first morning everyone was doing their thing and everything was proceeding ahead of schedule, and yet I still made that face!

As I reflect back to last week I can't help but contrast the experience with last year's. We had just arrived in Raleigh. We were living in a hotel that was almost half an hour from the school. We were still on West Coast time. And we didn't know a soul. Ugh. I think that was probably the worst day of my life. You can gather bushels of information on the Internet about communities and schools, but when push comes to shove, there is no substitute for knowing the school and the teachers and the administrators.

What a difference a year makes!

It is hard to see in the picture (you can just make out the bracelet on Rachel's arm) but they are wearing their special bracelets. As each of the girls started kindergarten I gave them a charm bracelet. Each year I add another charm (or two) to the bracelet. Each of the charms represents something special about their personality. Since things were so nutty last year I deferred Abby and Emily's bracelet until this year. The bracelets were extra special this year.

Everybody is loaded into the bus, and ready to roll!