SPRING is here at last

Finally!  We had a record-breaking high today of 93 degrees, and the leaves are definitely STARTING to unfold.  Still a ton of bare branches, but plenty of pollen and more and more bright spots of green and patches of flowers.  Spring is here at last.  Felt like an interminably long winter this year.

My son and I planted seeds in old cardboard egg cartons we’d been saving for a couple of months.  Hubbie and Boo and I made two beautiful raised bed planters to replace part of our ugly lawn.  We’ve now got those done, chicken wire stapled below to keep out critters, good organic soil inside each 3 x 3 x 1 foot wooden box, and a plan to sow some seeds directly outside and others to be transplanted in another month when they’re ready.  Carrots, tomatoes, green beans, zuchini, yellow crookneck squash, pumpkins, rhubarb, and we’re thinking of trying to grow potatoes, too.  I have some cucumber seeds, but that may be beyond me.  I’m not sure about buying and instaling a frame for them to climb on at a 30 degree angle.  Bad enough to have to stake tomatoes and tie beans!  Whew — so much to learn!

Honestly, I’m no gardener.  I’m expecting this not to work out very well.  I guess that’s why we belong to a local CSA farm.  So we won’t starve….  But I thought we could learn a bit of gardening, too.  So today, when my son and I were working on the garden out front, three neighbor kids we hardly know came over and asked if they could help.  Of course, we said yes, and thus ensued about an hour of teaching the kids how to ge the bed ready and plant carrot seeds.  About a week or so and we should start seeing sprouts.  I told them to check back then.  And then 70 days to maturity.  I said they could have some of the carrots.  Cute kids.  Made me feel really neighborly, teaching the  children about where food comes from!

I’ll try to take some pictures and post next time.  For  now, just wanted to let y’all know that we’ve got winter on the run at last in New England.  Even though there’s a danger of hard frost for another six weeks, heck, when we start getting LEAVES, winter’s through!  I’ll just hold back those tomatoes for a bit….


Tuesday, 11:22 p.m., week two

So far I am not yet really behind in my teaching/grading for the spring term.  That is an improvement over last semester when I was behind before I began and never caught up until Christmas Eve.  Ah, but this term is different.  I have found the answer this week number two.

In my husband’s words, texted to me the other day after I had been up til 2 a.m. but had a splendid day teaching (go figure), “You found the answer.  Never sleep!”

So here I sit in with my laptop, having just updated my on-line poetry course materials, sent that class an email, checked the Discussion Board (how could there already be almost three hundred posts?)  And I am trying to decide whether to tackle updating my lesson plan on Dryden’s literary criticism or go to bed.

And then… a noise, a clanking.  Hmm.  Pause.

Again a little quieter.  Oh, my son has knocked something over in his room as he sleeps, something harmless.  Typing begins again.  Hmmm.  Should I tackle Dryden or can I wing it at ten a.m. after … how much sleep will I get if I go to bed now?  Maybe I should get up at 4:30 again tomorrow.  Worked today…

Then … a different sound.

My son is singing in his sleep.

I’ll let him serenade me and turn off the light.


kids fundraiser

Before the holidays (when I was too busy to post), my son’s school held a fundraiser to help support the Village Empowerment Project.  For those of you who have read this blog for a while, you will recall that I have written extensively about traveling to Peru in January of 2008 as a part of this group that works in remote villages in the Andes, installing solar-powered systems for emergency communication, medical devices, and water treatment.  Click here to read a sample entry from the trip if you want: Hog in a Fog.

Anyway, this fall my son’s teacher asked if they could do another fundraiser this year for the project even though I was not going down to Peru this time.  Of course, the answer was YES!  Last year the kids pledged to do chores to pay back money the parents loaned them to donate.  The cash bought soccer balls and volleyballs for village kids.

This year we tried something a little more ambitious.  The medical clinic in a small village, Chipre, located at about 10,000 feet elevation, had asked the project to install a vaccination refrigerator. The clinic serves several other even more remote villages, and vaccinating would mean saved lives.  The special fridges cost about $425, plus we have to buy the other parts of the system (circuit breaker, control box, etc.), though the photovoltaic panels are donated.  The goal for fundraising was $600.

Two classes participated.  The class next door to my son’s choose to create art and calendars and sell these.  Here are some samples:


They also came up with their slogan: “Pay the Price, Save a Life, Please.”  They were pretty into the whole thing, and had dozens of framed pieces for sale.  Some pretty aggressive marketing, too!  I was accosted several times by kids trying to get me to buy “to help the kids of Peru” even though I was one of the organizers. 🙂

My son’s class created textile-related pieces, including handmade fleece quilts that they raffled off (sorry, no full pictures of these–but you can catch a glimpse in the last picture below), homemade fleece hats and scarves, and yarn friendship bracelets they created while listening to lessons in the afternoons.  They must have braided over two hundred bracelets and necklaces before the sale!


The outcome…?  Well, they exceeded their goal, actually!  The kids were elated.  Chipre would have their vaccine fridge, and their hard work would help save lives.


I think today is the day that the fridge is being installed in that mountain village high in the Andes.  Good job, kids!

On bravery

BRAVE (adjective):  “having or showing courage, especially when facing difficulty, danger, or pain”

Bubby is a brave boy. I need to remember that and not worry so much.

I admit that the fact that he still cries easily at eleven years old and is very sensitive emotionally sometimes makes me worry that he is wimpy.  I shudder to think of where I got this highly gendered notion of appropriate behavior.  I guess for all my feminism, I am, after all, still a product of my time and place.  I try hard not to let that influence too much how I respond to my son.

But the thing is…he is really so incredibly brave. He feels a lot.  He gets anxious and worries too much, and he can really exercise that imagination of his to come up with all sorts of potential disasters.  But time and again he’s shown himself to be stunningly brave.

For example, last night. He lost his first molar.  Big deal, right?  Well, when was the last time YOU lost a tooth?  It hurts, and when you’re eleven and a sensitive kinda kid, it’s a little scary, too.

“I think something’s WRONG, Mom.  This isn’t normal.”  He went on to describe the perfectly normal sensations of losing a stubbord molar that is half out and half in, digging into the tender flesh of the gum line.

He had tried several approaches to getting it out, but nothing had worked.  Finally, I said to pull it down as far as you can and then twist it.  He repeated the instructions aloud, and then he just reached in his mouth and did it.  I watched him closely as he began to twist the tooth and his face became distorted with pain. He kept twisting and then SNAP it was out.

Nobody likes to see her kid writhing in anguish.  But I tell ya, it was an amazing thing to me to observe him push right through it, tears in his eyes, pale skin but not letting go.  Where did he get that strength?  How can he be so brave when he is so fearful?

I admire his pluck.

And now he can see…

So we picked up my son’s glasses Friday night, and at first he was elated.  “I can SEE!” He kept sliding the glasses up and down the bridge of his nose. “I can’t read that sign.  Now I CAN.  Now I can’t see that …. Now I can.”

Next thing he said was, “Hey, did you guys [speaking to the store lady] know that the bottom of your door there is really smudged?”  I swallowed a big ole LOL at that one.  The lady looked mortified.

All the way through the mall and back out to the car, I heard all about what he could see.  “Hey, I can read that store name over there.  Those clothes are 70% off.” And once outside a big whoop and a “Whoa, I can see the berries on that TREE!!! The bare branches are beautiful against the sky.  They’re so detailed.”

He was positively gleeful and read the road signs to me all the way home, including the one that said do not pass.  “MOM, it said do not pass!  What are you doing?!”

“Honey, that means do not swing out of your lane in order to pass cars in front of you.  I’m not crossing the solid line at all.”

“Oh, I thought it meant do not pass the sign….”

Then we arrived at home, and in the driveway it was, “I can see Maggie through the window.  Ah, man, she’s so cute!”

Oh, yes, I was all smiles.  WHO wouldn’t be?  He was such a cutie-pie, so grateful for the gift of sight, so appreciative that he had glasses (instead of whining about it).  Then we walked in the house.

“Hey, Mom, the carpet is filthy!”

Hmmm.  I guess it’s good he can see that now.  No amount of my nagging seems to get through to him about not tracking mud in the house, so perhaps 20/20 vision will help.  No excuses anymore.

Anyway, he looks so much more grownup in the glasses.  He doesn’t want his picture taken at this point, but maybe I’ll photograph the specs alone….  The thing is that he looks very intelligent and mature in this pair, though not overly so.  They are kids’ glasses to be sure, bought in the kids’ section at the store.  But they are pretty stylish and unique, in an understated way.  He’s got good taste.

Looking at him this afternoon as he explained his latest achievement in Spore (his video game that he saved for four months to buy), I kept being blown away by how time has flitted away.  I can see that he is gaining in confidence and independence with every passing day. And I’m so glad that he is doing well.  Just seems like it went by awfully fast….

Why my son is sad… :-)

“I’m sad, Mommy.” (Yes, he still calls me mommy though he has now turned eleven.  For a while he wanted to change to mom and I said fine, but it was too hard for him to make the shift, I guess.)

“I’m sad, Mommy. I’m going to have to wear glasses and have braces and… be BALD!”

Sweet little guy.  “Not all at the same time, honey.”  Yeh, like that helped.

Bubby is myopic, it turns out.  We bought his glasses on Tuesday night and will pick them up Friday after school.  It will be an adjustment.  They are nice glasses, dark blue rims with open bottom, Ray Bans, featherweight lenses.  But it will be strange to see him with glasses on all the time.  I suppose we will all get used to it.

The braces, well that’s not until next year, says the orthodontist.  Have to correct an overbite.  No big deal.  He has told me that he wants orange braces.  Hmmm.  That sounds pretty gross.  And it’ll clash with the blue glasses, won’t it?

As for the baldness, we were chatting along one day and me an my big mouth — I mentioned that baldness is actually passed down through the mother’s father.  My dad hasn’t had much hair since he was…hmmm…when did he start losing it, exactly.  Ah, well, bald is beautiful.

My son has the loveliest face and beautiful blue eyes, and he is tall and strong and has a killer smile.  I know he has nothing to worry about.  But he has become a tweener and suddenly these things matter. On the other hand…

Yesterday he told me he was “really excited” about getting his glasses.  He’s sure a trooper!

Bags, everyone! Bags!

I was shopping at Trader Joe’s the other day and was very excited to see that they have started selling organic, humanely-raised chicken. After what I’ve been reading about feed lot meat, ugh. Anyway, I was very happy to see this. Then at the checkout counter, the guy asked me if I’d found everything I wanted, and I said, “I wish you carried grass-fed beef.”

Presto, he gets this guy to look it up for me in their system, and it turns out there are two marinated tri-tip varieties they had right there in the fridge case that fit the bill. Yippee. Meat I can eat without all the bad health effects of beef and the guilt about contributing to global warming and other nasties. I bought the carne asada type. Yummo. Taco Tuesday coming soon!

Then when I was leaving, I noticed this sign:

I don’t know if you can see the details very well on your screen, but it’s a picture of an adorable little reusable bag crying from inside a locked car. Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!! I want to go into the store with you…. Or, now that I think about it, maybe it’s a bag that’s tryign to get into your car as you drive away. Hmmm. Well, either way, it’s kinda cute, and er well kinda disturbing.

Okay, so at the time I thought it was adorable. What a NICE way to remind people to stop polluting by using all those plastic or paper bags. Very polite little reminder.

So, I’m sure there’s some awful thing Trader Joe’s has done that I just don’t know about and all that. But for now, ignorance is bliss. And until our CSA meat share starts in December, when I get to purchase the ideal — pasture-fed, organic, and local meat — well, I’ll gladly go to Trader Joe’s. Two outta three ain’t bad.

The local farmer’s market has few veggies left these days. The weather’s turning. I need to pick some apples next weekend and make applesauce and all that. But mostly the growing season in my neck of the woods (New England, USA) is almost over. I tried really hard the last two months to buy the local stuff and preserve it, but there’s no way this year that I gathered enough to last us until spring crops come in. I did, however make a dent in our food-related energy consumption. Next year I’ll do better with more lead time and having figured out what we should have done differently this year.

Meanwhile, I started using my reusable bags everywhere I go, so I’m doing my bit. At Target the other day, the checkout clerk looked at me like I was crazy when I refused — politely — his plastic bag. They’re not just for groceries anymore, folks! Seems like it’s somehow okay now for yout to bring a bag into the grocery store, but eeghads not a REGULAR store, heaven forbid.

Well, anyway, if you want some good sources for buying reusable bags, check these out:

Fair Indigo (a fair trade on-line store) sells beautiful bags — these are quite lovely as well as foldable and reusable

ReusableBags.com sells all kinds of bags as well as other items (lunch boxes, etc.)