Monday, August 22, 2016

Veggie Tales

This summer, we grew a garden.

In fact, this garden was the first one of my adult life.  As a child, we had a large garden in our yard, and I loved helping my mom pull weeds and pick peas.  It seemed like that garden was full of every vegetable imaginable, and it was that vision that prompted me to try my hand at gardening myself.

Everything was pretty stacked against us.  With our yard already taken up by a full-sized wiffle ball field, oversized playset and one available back corner ear marked for a future shed, our only option for a garden was on the east side of our house where a gravel pad reminded us of the Airstream trailers we put to rest.  

So last spring, we did our best to dig away the rock and till the dirt.  Trying to eliminate all of the rock was about as futile as trying to keep Play-Doh colors separate with a two year-old at the table, but we removed enough to plant our seeds, and before I knew it, we had a garden full of green, and the promise of fresh food to come.

I don't know if the rock is to blame, or the dirt that often feels like more clay than soil, but not everything took.  We had a bumper crop of zucchini, four abundant tomato plants that are still cranking out super sweet cherry and grape tomatoes, more green beans than we could eat, and a pretty good turnout for those peas I remembered harvesting as a kid.  But the onions never grew to full size, the spinach got eaten by grubs from underground, the broccoli I planted for a fall harvest has only produced three tiny potential broccoli plants, and the pepper plants created only one pepper each. 

But the carrots, y'all.  

If there were a vegetable metaphor for a lackluster garden yield, these carrots would be it.  When I pulled all of them after a couple started to rot in the ground, I was so disappointed in these pathetic, dull orange nubs.  As with all of the other vegetables that never materialized, I felt frustrated not only that we didn't get to eat the food, but also that my kids didn't get to have the full gardening "experience".  That dirt-in-your-toes, damp earth smell, fresh-from-the-garden dinner experience.

But when I unloaded those carrots, it turned out to be quite an experience anyway.

"What?  These are our carrots?"

"Yeah, I know they're not the be--"

"These are AWESOME!"

"They're what?!"

"This one is super hairy, so none of the other carrots like him, because he's gross."

"And this one is running away because he doesn't want to get hairy too."

"This one grew a tail like a rat because he tattled on the hairy one."

"These guys are just bullies."

"This guy was so scared that he forgot to put on pants."

"And this one-- holy cow, Mom!  He forgot his pants, too, but you can see his--"

I guess the garden was fruitful after all.

...but maybe I'll skip the carrots in 2017.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Lately, the world has been a bit darker.  Colors have been duller, and music has lost its brilliance.

All because one week ago, I gave up soda.

That may be a bit dramatic, but there's truth there.  For over half of my life, I've been guzzling Dr. Pepper and more recently, Diet Dr. Pepper, in record numbers, and now thanks to some harebrained scheme to "get healthy" and "avoid brain cancer" I decided to end our relationship.

Photo credit here.
As silly as it sounds, I feel like a recovering addict.  I think about it every day.  I miss the carbonated bite and the caffeinated pick-me-up early in the morning.  Like, really early in the morning.  Sometimes straight out of bed.  So tingly and crisp.  So smooth and such a perfect pairing for eggs, or toast, or... or... a cup....

Sorry, I got a bit distracted there.  Since I quit, I've managed to replace nearly every drink I consume with water, which, aside from also being a liquid, has none of the qualities I loved about my beloved Diet Dr. Pepper.  

Photo credit here here.
I take that back.  I'm peeing constantly, so at least one thing has remained the same.

It's crazy to look back just three or four years ago and consider my family's diet at that time.  Constant bread, pasta, and sugar, sugar, sugar.  It was no wonder I found myself dramatically overweight and constantly hungry.  Now we're eating only real foods, nothing processed, low carbs, lots of vegetables and protein, and yet all I want is a Big Gulp from the nearest gas station.

One week down, the rest of my life to go.

I guess it's time to start drinking coffee.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

To Baby, Or Not to Baby?

Have you ever felt that, whatever stage in life you occupy, you are living at capacity?

I remember a time shortly after my husband and I had married and I was still working at the college we'd attended, when I found myself so hurried and stressed to run down the street over my lunch break in order to let our dog out to pee.  How had my life gotten so complicated?

Fast forward ten years, three kids, several cars, a new home, countless day care kids, and about a billion more responsibilities later, and you'll find me in bed, typing this post at midnight by the glow of the Olympics on late night TV.  I truly feel like I'm utilizing every moment and every scrap of energy in my reserves.

In moments like this, I find it hard to imagine voluntarily adding more tasks to my day, more work to my life.  And yet, my husband and I have been contemplating just that-- the decision of whether or not to close the door on having more children.


I think I have something of a mental aversion to permanently closing that door.  The idea of not creating another beautiful baby when one could exist seems like sacrilege.  On the other hand, sacrilege could also look like a VW Beetle-sized mountain of disposable diapers on our curb, a triple-dose of anti-anxiety meds and four boys with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.

Because you just KNOW I'd have another boy.

When I think logically, I know that the list of "Reasons Not to Have Another Baby" is much longer.  Babies are expensive.  Adler is finally reaching a point of more independence, which allows me the same.  And after finally finding a diet that keeps me in a weight range I can live with, I'm not enthused with the idea of hefting around thirty extra pounds and another year and a half of wearing ill-fitting nursing bras.

But when I try to think logically, my wires get crossed, because babies.

How can you compare sleep with snuggles?  How is it possible to objectively weigh time alone against soft baby skin?  Do I really have room in my life for another child?  How would I feel knowing I couldn't have another?  How many organs would I have to sell on the black market to pay for college for four kids?

How did YOU make this decision?  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Black Sheep

I talk a lot about Adler.  As a toddler, he is a constant source of entertainment (and blog fodder) while simultaneously reaching peak cuteness.  In fact, when you plot just about any two blog-worthy characteristics on a chart, you'll find that Adler is on the rise.

I shouldn't be surprised, though.  Parenting Adler is just one big déjà vu moment-- one that I went through with Cael, my first maniacal, spirited, spit-fire.  But Graham, sweet Graham-- is my black sheep.

It seems that in every measurable way (and several unmeasurable ones), Graham is just different.

Cael's hair is curly; Graham's is straight.
Cael excels in sports; Graham tries.
Cael is the stereotypical extrovert; Graham likes time to himself.

But a few days ago I discovered the core difference between my boys.  Cael is secure in who he is and spends no time worrying about such trivial things as emotions and personalities.  And Graham, sweet Graham-- finally said to me, "Mom, sometimes I feel like I just don't fit in with our family."

My heart nearly broke, but I held it together and said all of the things.

"You may be different, but you do fit in perfectly."
"Being sensitive and sweet is a good thing."
"If everyone was the same, the world would be so boring."

The truth is a little different, however.  If he was older, I could explain how I love that he is quiet and sensitive because I need him to be that way.  I need a little balance in this house full of noise and overconfidence.  I could tell him that even though I didn't get a daughter, in him I got the gentleness and sweetness of a girl.  The art.  The pretend.  The soft skin and morning snuggles.

So how do you tell someone that they need to lose a little of what you love most about them?

Graham is too sensitive.  His feelings hover right at the surface, and his gregarious brothers easily steamroll him.  He cries daily from barely scraped elbows and less than callous remarks.  I love who he is wholeheartedly, but for his own sake, he needs to toughen up.

I want to prepare him for the day I set him loose, and I don't want to spend that day in fear that one unkind word from a supposed friend will send him into a thumb-sucking tailspin.  That sort of meltdown is better handled at six than twenty-two.

Do you think people really change?  Should they?  Is there a kind way to tell a child that they need thicker skin?  Does anyone have any tips for removing Sharpie marker from matte wall paint?  I'd love some advice from my fellow parents out there.  My walls and my Graham, sweet Graham-- thank you.