Friday, May 30, 2014

The Terrific Two's

On the drive back up from Kansas, Derek noted how each trip south gets easier for us; we no longer have to pack mass amounts of diapers and wipes or the Pack 'n' Play or baby food or various other baby-related paraphernalia, and the children are aces at distracting themselves for 14 hours in the van, in part thanks to around 8 hours of that time being spent watching movies (ach, I cringed just writing that), but also because they've had plenty of practice distracting themselves after countless circuits on that stretch of highway.

Both my sisters are right in the middle of that phase, and let me just say that is so much easier to be the one that holds the baby and reads books to the two-year-old and then says, "Okay, great, see you in the morning!" than it is to be the parent that changes the diapers and nurses the baby and tries to keep their fussy child quiet in the middle of the night when sharing a house bursting with family.  I mean, I loved visiting family when our kids were teeny, but it was so incredibly stressful, after returning home from each and every trip I would vow never to leave my house again.  Then a few months would go by and I'd miss my loved ones and magically only remember the sweet, fuzzy memories from the most recent long-distance excursion, and off we'd go again.

So while my sisters are probably still working on filling in their sleep deficit and just getting back into the swing of blessed, blessed routine, I'm up north happily trilling, "When can we do it all again?!"  Because while two-year-olds get a bad rap, they are so much fun when you're not the one having to be the mean mommy.

This girl.  Oh, Vada.  I have a feeling your parents are going to say that a lot in the years to come.  Half the reason I check Facebook regularly is to see the photos Steph posts of Vada:  Vada got into Mommy's new lipstick.  Vada got into the giant tub of margarine.  Vada is curious and she's a climber, a dangerous combination for her mom and dad, hilarious for the rest of us.

Oh, Vada.
She's also, like, pathologically friendly, and I mean that in the absolute best way possible.  If you need a hug, Vada is your girl, and she won't just do a cursory little side-hug; she will plaster her roly little body to yours and rest her sweet head on your shoulder.  She also won't say no to a little back rub while she's there.  She only has to catch the most fleeting of glimpses of a camera and she's smiling and saying, "Cheeeese!"

And then there's Charlotte.  Just that sentence makes me laugh, because I have a feeling people used to say that about her mom when we were kids:  "And then there's Kelli."  Kelli once received a report card from school when she was in younger elementary school, and in the comments section the teacher noted, "Kelli is a unique child," which is teacher-speak for, "Dude, your kid's kinda weird."  Charlotte is evidently intent on following in her mother's footsteps, which delights me to no end.  Derek got a big kick out of calling out to Char as she'd walk by him, "Hey, Charlotte!"  "Want to come sit with me, Charlotte?"  "Charlotte?  Can you give your Uncle Derek a hug?" which would cause Char to give the kind of suspicious, unsure look usually reserved for oily men in white-paneled vans, which in turn led to endless laughter for all observing.  Charlotte's affection is to be earned, but I will say it gives you a ridiculous sense of pride when she graces you with a smile or actual physical contact.  She had a bit of an anxious night the first night we were there, and so her parents went out and got her an action figure of the Hulk, because they'd forgotten hers at home, which was rather foolish on their part as she loves the Hulk and believes that he protects her, because of course she does.

The Hulk can now add "Comforter to little girls" to his resume.

Adelaide managed to ingratiate herself to both Charlotte and Vada by playing countless games of Ring Around the Rosy.

You should really click to embiggen this one and see the look of pure Ring Around The Rosy-induced joy on Char's face.

Ring Around the Rosy and the Hulk:  The Keys to Charlotte's Heart.  (That sounds like the title to a really bad book.)

Of course, I know I'll blink and those two-year-old's will be teenagers and the babies won't let me hold them and snuffle at their delicious necks anymore.  There's mutterings in the ranks about turning the niece-faucet off, but I'm not worried.  I'm confident my sisters wouldn't do that to me.  Because, you know, it's all about me.

Surely they wouldn't deprive us of more of this.  Elliot's face.  My goodness.

Or this.

Seven grandkids in eight years.  Oy.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Baby Whisperer

I've decided one of the things I like best about babies is that they can't talk.

Our children talk all the time.  It feels like there is never a time one of them is not opening their mouths and letting a cataract of words spill from them.  (Although as I type this, Adelaide is sitting silently at the table, reading The Neverending Story and eating a bowl of oatmeal, and Cade is down for a quiet nap.  Atticus, on the other hand, is currently taking a not-so-quiet "rest time.")  And half of that time they're contradicting whatever it is that I'm saying.  Caedmon and Adelaide in particular appear to be vying for the crown of Tsar or Tsarina of All Knowledge; I could tell you that the sky is blue and Caedmon would say it's really more of a gray-blue, while Adelaide would inform me that it actually only appears blue to our eyes.  THE SKY IS BLUE, CHILDREN, ALRIGHT?  Sheesh.

Babies, on the other hand?  Especially sweet, squishable, lovable babies like my darling, darling nieces?  They can't contradict anything I say.  As far as they know, my opinion is their opinion, just the way it should be (I have no idea where our children get their contrary streak, fyi).

For instance, if you look closely in the above photo, you will see a handful of my face flesh in sweet Norah Mae's right little fist.  This is obviously because she loves me so much that she never wants to let me go.  See also the evident baby kiss she is planting on my eyebrow.  I can choose to disregard the fact that she is in a phase where she wants to gum everything in sight and go with my own interpretation, because she's not saying otherwise.

Or this one:

See how Norah is gazing soulfully into Adelaide's eyes?  It's obvious she's trying to communicate what her mouth cannot:  That she loves her oldest girl-cousin and is desperate to move to Iowa so she can be with her all the time.  I won't presume to narrate Adelaide's expression, as I'm sure whatever I say will be capital-W Wrong, and I really don't feel like hearing why for the next three days.

You could say that the look on our newest niece Elliot's face is one of shock and perhaps stunned fear, but I would posit that she is stunned- stunned that she's been alive for six weeks and is just now experiencing the joy to be had when being held by yours truly.  Oh, her parents will be hearing about this.

Here's Ellie again, lifting a hand to the heavens so that God would hear her plea never to be so cruelly separated from Adelaide again.

And here's Norah clearly telling us that although she is a smiley, cheerful baby in general, she always holds a little something back with the world at large; that extra affection is reserved for her Daddy.  Plain as day.

And here I can tell just by looking at her that Norah is utterly blissful at being ham-handedly loved by a five- and three-year old boy.

Now tell me:  How obvious is it that I'm going through some serious medical-grade Baby Withdrawal this week?  Because I feel like I'm being pretty subtle about it.

Tomorrow?  TWO YEAR OLDS.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fee Fi Fo Fum

Last week when I went to put in my garden, I discovered something peculiar.

I decided that these were not the Commander Hybrid Zucchini seeds their package advertised; no, surely seeds as blue and sparkly as these would grow into, if not a beanstalk reaching into the heavens, at least a glittery shrub or a tree that only produces bedazzled fruit.  So far the seedlings that are coming up look suspiciously ordinary, not a gem in sight.  (Note:  Do yourself a favor and DO NOT do a google image search for "bedazzled zucchini."  The internet is a strange place, y'all.)  Raise your hand if you suspect these are the kind of seeds God used to plant the Garden of Eden.  And yes, I realize he spoke it all into existence, but the image of God hoeing rows in a divinely tidy garden, pausing every so often to glance down in annoyance at the hem of his soiled robe- well, it really tickles me.  No worries, though, he'd just say "CLEAN" or something and the stains would evaporate.  They didn't have Oxiclean back then, you know.

What has happened to this post?  Hijacked yet again by God and gardens.

Does anyone have any legitimate knowledge about why these seeds look this way?  Not that my theories are completely implausible or anything.  You were so helpful yesterday- that mystery white flower is columbine!  (Thanks, Common Household Mom and Cassi Renee!)  I confirmed it today by going by the flower stand I bought them from, and sure enough, there they were.  I celebrated by picking up some Clementine Dark Purple and Clementine Blue varieties of columbine, because I thought the white looked awfully lonely, didn't you?

In other, scarcely related gardening news:  Hyacinth-wise, I had a terrible year.  The Midnight hyacinths came back for their third or maybe it's fourth year, but they looked as if they were doing so under protest.  Scraggly and wilted-looking from the first day they bloomed, I do believe it's time to yank them out.  I had five promising-looking shoots whose photo I'm pretty sure I optimistically posted about a month ago, but as it turns out, I didn't plant them in a sunny enough location; the iris and hostas around them grew up and over them enough to block their much-needed sunlight.  They never did flower, nor did all but one of the hyacinths I planted next to the steps of the front porch.  Again, not enough sunlight.  I might try to dig those up and put them somewhere else, see if they'll do anything next spring.

My lone flowering hyacinth of the year.  I did love its peach color.

The tulips and hyacinths by our front porch were so underwhelming this year I was anxious to get some color out there, so I got the big container done as soon as I was sure we were done with the evil flower-killer that is frost:

I was a little surprised at myself, adding those yellow Gerbera daisies; I generally find Gerberas to be fickle and high maintenance, and since I don't truck with divas, even the flowering variety, I usually avoid them except for maybe a sneer thrown their way when I'm in the nursery picking out my easy-going petunias and lantana (which I have yet to find this year).

Now I'm off to go plant the new columbine.  I'll be sure to talk to them about making new friends and not leaving anyone out, and warn them against those awkward ice breaker games everyone's forced to play when forming a new group.  (Hey, have I ever told you guys about the time I went to a Mom's group at my church in Connecticut, somehow got seated at a table with Rich Connecticut Women, but somehow couldn't find anything in common with them during the get-to-know-you game that consisted of the instructions "Find something everyone at your table has in common, and no cheating with things like blue eyes and nose jobs!"  I have no idea why we couldn't find any common ground, what with their suggestions consisting of things like, "Okay, who has at least four fireplaces in their house?  Well, what about just three?" and "We all went to Tuscany within the last year, right?"  Meanwhile I'm there like, "I live in a 600-square-foot condo and I know I'm in a church but I'm pretty sure even Jesus would have a hard time loving on all of you."  Good times.)  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Back-Home List

Last night we got back from a long weekend visit with my family, so rest assured, there will be an avalanche of adorable baby photos soon.  In the meantime, I do believe it's time for a list of

Reasons It Was Great To Return Home Yesterday

  • The house was clean(ish).  When we leave for an extended period of time, it's always my goal to leave our house in a state in which I would be happy to come home to.  And yesterday, it was.  The living room was picked up.  The kitchen was clean.  The bathrooms had been wiped down.  It felt amazing.  While this is always the standard to which I ascribe, almost inevitably when returning from a trip, we come home and it looks like I spent the two days before we left doing seven loads of laundry a day and packing clothes for four people and on-the-road lunch and snacks and drinks for five people and mowing so that it's not immediately noticeable that our house is deserted and cleaning out the van and packing presents and borrowed items for whomever we're visiting and supervising the kids' packing of toys and books for the drive and charging the portable DVD players and negotiating which DVD's may be brought on the trip ("But why can't I bring Happy Feet?"  "Because I hate it- Atticus, what is this workout video featuring a scantily clad Jillian Michaels doing in your DVD pile?"  "I want to watch it on the trip."  "No.  No way."  *shifty eyes from our 5-year-old who is evidently on an accelerated course for the hormone-drenched* "But... what if I want to do a workout in the van?"  "NO.").  Somehow, Thursday-of-last-week Kristy managed to do all that and execute a quick cleaning run-through of our house.  Thursday-of-last-week Kristy is my favorite.  I do wish she'd come back.

  • My garden.  Apparently, Iowa is gunning for rain forest status, as it has rained nearly every day since I stained the front porch.  This means that although I mowed last Thursday, when we returned home last night, it appeared as if we were trying to turn our property into a habitat conducive to snakes and ground-nesting birds.  On the upside, my garden has really taken off.  I planted most of it from seed last week, and last night I had to muffle my squeals as I hopped around the garden (it was muddy), looking at the gourds and onions and zucchini and broccoli seedlings that all pushed their way through the soil while I was gone.  The tomato plants are flowering, and the pepper plants look pretty dang close.  I also found some new flowers around our yard:

Pink Champagne Clematis

I lost the little card that came with this, so I have no idea what it is.  It's about a foot tall, and really lovely in person.

I also found some pale purple asters that are blooming, but any photos of I took of it washed out the flower and made it look white.  I tend to buy plants when they're small and have little to no blooms on them because a) it's loads cheaper, and b) it would appear that I believe smaller, younger plants are more likely survive transplanting than big, showy ones.  I'm not quite sure where I heard this; it's entirely possible I made it up myself but have adopted it as established wisdom.  Whichever, it seems to work for me.  As a result, I'm thrilled when these plants flower for the first time, as I've never seen their flowers before, I'm just going off of the photo on their tags.  

  • It's just good to be home.  I'm never ever leaving again.  Until Derek and I leave on our 10-year anniversary trip later this summer  (SO EXCITED.  YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOW.).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Poor Middle Child

Remember how, in my last post, I went on and on about poor Caedmon, our deprived youngest child (and by "deprived" I mean not deprived at all, as he currently gets more one-on-one parental time than any other kid in our family- although that's all about to change because summer break is almost here thank the good Lord)?  (And yes, I have been to Wal-Mart since that last post.  No, we still do not have any photos of Cade in this house.  I never finish anythi)

Well, forget everything I wrote in that post (that's actually a pretty good rule of thumb for everything I write, because it would appear that I live my life in the same way that I garden:  Try this and that and then something else and then something else else until one of those things finally works.  This means I am learning as I go, which means I am almost constantly screwing up, which is fine, except that I have a blog where I can chronicle those screw-ups without the benefit of hindsight or perspective.  So... yeah.  Take everything I say with a whole tumbler-full of salt, okay?  Super.).  (I'm beginning to think I have an addiction to parenthetical statements.  Some post soon I am going to force myself to not use a single parenthesis, which might mean I get through a post without veering so far off course that I have to go back and see where the heck I was going with this or that particular sentence in the first place.  Today is not that day.).

Okay, new rule for the rest of today, NO MORE PARENTHESES.  Where was I?  Oh, yes- you should be forgetting everything I said in the last post about pitying Caedmon, because I've decided Atticus, our middle child, is the one you should actually feel sorry for.

Saturday we went to visit Derek's parents' to celebrate his Dad's birthday.  We hiked, we gardened, we put up a bunch of fence, we ate delicious ice cream (I KNOW, OKAY, I KNOW- but I just have to tell you that I had cherry limeade soft serve ice cream, and it was so refreshing, so creamy, and while Becky and I were discussing the merits of this restaurant's ice cream, she mentioned that she thought the reason it was so good was because it "isn't too sweet, isn't cloying."  Cloying- does anyone else just love it to absolute pieces when someone uses the exact right word for the situation or feeling or ice cream you're currently experiencing?  Because I so, so do.  Okay, now I'm really done with parentheses.  Really.), then we packed up our dirty, tired, sugar-stuffed children into the car to head for home.

Atticus got stuck in the middle- something that rarely happens, as arriving at our destination with all offspring still in possession of all four of their limbs is one of our family's silly little rules- and about 30 minutes into the drive he fell asleep.

You know what it's like to fall asleep in the car, right?  You either do the horrible head-bobbing thing that cruelly half-wakes you up every 35 seconds, or you ever so slowly lean to the side, because like advanced trigonometry, gravity is hard.  (And if trig is easy for you, just don't even talk to me, okay?  We're not friends.)  Now, you would think, with three- and eight- years of stellar parenting in their respective pasts, Caedmon and Adelaide would do the loving, sweet, supportive thing and actually physically support their dear five-year-old brother as he attempted to rest his gigantic weary head against one of them.

Instead, I turned around just as Atticus began an unconscious lean against Caedmon, and witnessed Caedmon digging one of his elbows into Atticus's temple and angrily driving Atticus away from what was obviously space only for three-year-old's and over to Adelaide's side.

Post-brotherly shove.  Atticus didn't even wake up.

And was there any fond gentleness or mercy to be found in sisterly quarters?

Nay.  Not a crumb of compassion for her little brother.  She even stopped reading her book to avoid being touched, and that book is amazing (Fever 1793- read it, read it, read it).

I won't even talk about how I'm 80% sure that physical touch is Atticus's love language.  

Poor Atticus.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Poor Third Child

The other day I was dusting for the first time in probably a couple years- quick aside: it's not that my house hasn't been dusted in a couple years, okay?  Dusting is one of those chores I long ago delegated to the children, which means I should probably go over the house and dust it myself to get all the missed spots every few weeks, but I don't do that.  I go over it every couple years.  I refuse to be ashamed.

Anyway, I was dusting the piano, which was relatively dust-free (good job, children!  And take that, clean-freaks!), but also remarkably devoid of ornamentation.  Sure enough, an inspection behind it revealed three photo frames and one lantern that looked like they belonged in that obstacle course housing the Holy Grail in the last Indiana Jones movie (well, the last Indiana Jones movie that counts):

It was seriously like this, except minus the suspiciously adventurous professor/archaeologist.  I'm not trying to hate on Indiana Jones, I LOVE those movies, I'm just saying 95% of my professors were all way too smart to get themselves into the kind of messes Junior perennially finds himself in.  Oh, yeah, and image via

So, okay, perhaps our children could use another lesson in Dusting 101: How Not To Destroy The Items You're Supposed To Be Cleaning.  This is astonishing to exactly no one who has their young offspring "help" around the house.

After excavating these lost relics and re-establishing them to their rightful positions on the piano, I began to notice something.

We have no photos of Caedmon anywhere in our house.

There's a baby photo of Atticus on the piano, and another photo of him as a toddler on a bookshelf.  There's not one but two photos of Adelaide on the piano.  Anyone visiting our home would assume we have only two chilren.  Whoops.

This is not exactly unfamiliar territory.  I've made note in the past of the detail in which I filled out Adelaide's baby book, followed by the half-hearted attempt I made with Atticus's, and finally the empty shell of a baby book that belongs to Caedmon.  I remember the same problem plaguing my mom with my youngest sister, Steph.

It's not that we don't have any photos of Caedmon.  I have hundreds right here on this laptop, safe and sound where no one can ever see them.  Just yesterday morning Cade approached me while I was eating my breakfast and asked, "Can you take a picture of me?"  For one guilty moment I thought that he, too, had noticed the shameful void that existed in our house where photos of our sweet youngest boy should be.  But then when I said, "Of course,, uh, why do you want me to take a picture of you?" he responded "Because I like to look at my face."  There I go, ascribing meaning and guilt where none belongs.  And boy, he does like to look at himself.  I frequently find him dancing in the downstairs bathroom, watching himself in the full-length mirror there.  I do pull him away so he doesn't stare himself to death.

I should add that after I took a couple of photos of Caedmon, he asked for more specific photos that included me:  "Can you take a picture of you and me now?  Can you take a picture of me kissing you?  Can you take a picture of you kissing me?"  After I'd taken all those, he spent a long time staring at our images on the back of the camera and smiling.

Which only makes me feel guiltier.  Because that's what I do.  I swear, I'm finally going to take the whole five minutes and two dollars it takes to order some prints on and slap them in some picture frames I already have.  I really am.


Caedmon always closes his eyes when he does anything remotely close to hugging.  This is darling to watch, but not very conducive to getting decent photos.

This might be my favorite.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Flowers Stand Still. Children Do Not.

A couple weekends ago we drove an hour south and visited the charming town of Pella, Iowa, to patronise their annual tulip festival, Tulip Time.

Let me tell you what, Pella is a town that takes their tulips seriously.  The festival is always the first weekend in May, and you hear stories about the citizens dumping beer all over their tulips to speed their growth and wrapping them in fleece to slow their growth and spraying diluted Jack Daniel's to prolong their blooming time all in order to try and get the tulips' blooms to coincide with this one weekend.  I feel like I would fit right in with these people- I didn't see a single rabbit while we were there.  If they're feeding expensive alcohol to their flowers, I wonder what measures are taken against tulip predators?  Something positively delightful, I'm sure.

When we first entered the town, Adelaide exclaimed over all the tulips we were driving by and began saying things like, "We should live here, Mom!" and "This looks like the town for us!"  And that was just over the tulips in people's yards and in front of the Pella Windows plant.  It is exceedingly lovely, and not just the tulips- everything, even the restaurants and gas stations, feature quaint architecture, not a tacky strip mall in sight.  Derek's worked in city government long enough for all this to make him observe that Pella might be a beautiful town to visit, but all the city codes that are surely in place to create this unified look might make owning property within the city limits fraught with red tape.

How about some flowers?

Even with God-only-knows-what-all measures that were undertaken by the city of Pella, there were a ton of tulips that had yet to bloom; our spring has been a couple weeks behind schedule, so I was actually surprised at how many had opened.  There were a ton of people there for the festival, but evidently the city has a steady stream of visitors throughout May just for the flowers.

I think the rivers of tulips snaking their way through the town's parks may have been my favorite part.

Tulip Time also serves as a celebration of the town's Dutch heritage, which means there were all kinds of women walking around town dressed in traditional Dutch garb, pushing their adorable babies in tulip-laden prams:

I love the juxtaposition of the old-timey-wimey garb and her thoroughly modern haircut and sunglasses.

We also saw Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln milling around before the big parade:

I'm not entirely sure what role they were supposed to play in a Dutch festival in Iowa- I know he was raised in Illinois, and Mary was from Missouri, so... sheer proximity?  They were known tulip-lovers in their day?  Perhaps one of you could enlighten me.  I noticed she was all in black and I wondered which of their children she was mourning.  She looked way less depressed than the rumor-mongers would have you believe, but then depressed people are often good at faking it.  I bet Derek was thinking these exact same things standing right next to me.  I just bet.

Marching bands are always one of my favorite parts of any parade, but the Pella Middle School marching band was especially fun to watch clomping along in their red clogs.

I also finally got to try a Dutch letter:

Derek kindly holding a Dutch letter for me, all the while knowing it was going straight on this blog.  He's a keeper.  (Not a quidditch Keeper, I mean one to be kept.  Just so we're clear.)

Since moving to Iowa, I don't know how many times incredulous natives have asked me, "You've never been to Tulip Time?!" and "You've never had Dutch letters?!"  Or, if they're locals of our little Norwegian immigrant-settled town, "YOU'VE NEVER HAD KRINGLA?!"  Well, now I can claim knowledge of the first two.  For the record, the Dutch letter was delicious: thin layers of light pastry interspersed with almond paste.  I do wonder what the "S" stands for, though.

We also tried yet again to get a few family photos.  Our children are much less compliant than tulips when faced with a camera.

Click to embiggen and see that Cade would rather poke his own eye out than smile for a family photo.

The one time that day they were still.

The weather, the flowers, the town, our family: everything was delightful, and I can't wait to go back.  

Monday, May 12, 2014


I have two posts to write:  One a quick photo post of the tulips currently blooming in my yard, and one a probably not-so-quick photo post of our day at Tulip Time.  I will admit I've spent an absurd amount of time debating the order in which to post these; if I post the photos of Tulip Time first, then you're bound to be disappointed by the photos of my tulips the next day, because there aren't thousands of flowers and because there are no dutch pastries in sight anywhere, a fact that saddens me daily.  But if I do it the other way around, then if you're scrolling through past posts, you'll first see the post containing my own tulips, then the Tulip Time post.

Aren't you so glad I don't keep these thoughts and inner dilemmas to myself?  Isn't that the whole point of this blog anyway, me putting needless information out there about our family?  I still don't think Derek really gets this whole blog business in general- well, not so much our family blog, but more all the other little family blogs I read.  I love to hear all the details of other people's lives, in story or newsy format, which you just can't get on other forms of social media.  Oh, you have a new favorite carpet cleaner?  Do tell.  Your poor old cat is blind and deaf?  Show me pictures, tell me the story.  Your family has delightful Jewish celebrations that are completely and totally foreign to me?  Yes, please.  You're faithfully trying to grow, not kill, tomatoes for the umpteenth year in a row?  Please diligently chronicle your journey this summer.  I love all of this.  Derek doesn't get it.  He probably skimmed this paragraph.  (Come on back, Derek, I'm going to start talking about us again.)

To wrestle this post back on track, let's go ahead and look at the tulips in our own yard first, just so this post doesn't approach Rothfuss-type lengths.

Red and Pink Impression tulips.  This is the best bunch I have this year, as the tulips in closer proximity to both our front porch and back deck kind of got flattened by yours truly while power washing.  Whoops.  (Notice that since I did it it's "whoops," whereas if one of my family members had accidentally done the same, I'd be calling down brimstone over their guilty heads.)  

I take around five photos of these a day.  I just can't get enough of them.  They're one of the first things I see when I walk out our back door.  Perfect.

This is the Orange Impressions' second spring, and while their color was prettier than ever, their numbers were majorly diminished.  Clearly I'm going to have to plant more bulbs this fall to make up for their under-achievement.  Darn.

This is a mixture of bulbs I got from Earl May, and I've been so pleased with the variations in color and height.  The whites appear to bloom later, as there are more of them out there now.

This is the bunch I forgot about and were nearly decimated by rabbits.  I now remember thinking that perhaps yellow tulips weren't the best idea; between the yellow iris and the daffodils, isn't there enough of this color in our yard?  But I must admit, I have loved this group, as they add a beautiful splash of color in this back, often neglected corner of our yard, and makes for a lovely tableau out the window of our downstairs bathroom, should you ever decide to visit that portion of our house in the spring.

An odd red-swirled tulip amongst the other plain yellows.  

In other exciting news, the average last frost date is nigh!  We haven't had a frost in several days, but I'm holding off, just in case.  Probably.  Most likely.  I think.  Although I'm going to town tomorrow, and I have a feeling those tomato and pepper plants are going to be calling my name.  They do that, you know.  They really do.  I'M SERIOUS.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


A couple years ago I decided we needed to stain our front porch and back deck, for practical reasons like protection from rain and snow and to keep the wood from rotting, but mostly just because I thought it would look pretty.  Like all homeowners, however, we have a Home Upkeep List two miles long that is more or less constantly scrolling, so every time you take care of whatever's on top, something new gets added to the bottom.  Then there are line cutters, like burst pipes on Christmas Eve or bats who see you have no animals and decide they would make excellent pets for your family.

Outdoor staining has been knocked to the back of the line several times now, but this spring, we finally decided it was time.  I borrowed a power washer from some lovely friends, somehow started it, used it for right about three minutes before a mechanically-minded neighbor decided he just couldn't take it anymore and marched over to fiddle with something magic on the side of the machine, yelling to me over the noise something about too much gas or something.  I don't think his cigarette ever left his mouth, which Derek later pointed out was a teensy bit dangerous- something about gasoline and fires.  Still, the engine went from sputtering and providing a weak stream of water to roaring and blasting dirt every which way.  Step 1: Power washing front porch and back deck- complete.  (And yes, I know they tell you not to power wash but to instead use a soft-bristled baby toothbrush on your fragile, easily offended outdoor wood.  Or something.  Rules, shmules.)

Before I lost my mind

Next came the fun part: Staining the front deck!  I went out and got a gallon of stain (because surely a gallon would be more than enough, right?  I mean, our front porch isn't that big), then came home and waited for it to stop raining.  I set aside Monday afternoon for the job.  I was so excited.

8 o'clock Monday night found me still staining the railings of the porch.  Do you know how many spindles we have on there?  EIGHTY.  80 fancy spindles that each sucked in noxious liquid like a Hollywood starlet just getting out of her court-appointed rehab.  I felt like I was in that movie Groundhog Day, except instead of reliving the same day over and over I was reliving the same two minutes and Bill Murray was nowhere in sight for some much-needed comic relief.

Tuesday I got to finish the spindles, although not before some pretty specific fantasies about taking an axe to all 80 of them.  I was afraid if I did that, though, their resultant spindle-splinters would come to life and pour buckets of water all over me 'til I drowned (no, the fumes were not getting to me; I just watched The Sorceror's Apprentice so many times during my childhood that I have very strong feelings about axes and broomsticks).

Wednesday I finally got to do the floorboards.  Wednesday is also the day I began to lose my mind.  I chose a reddish-brownish-colored stain for the porch, and while it dried just about the color advertised, when it went on, it looked pretty red.  I began to wonder if passersby thought I was perhaps painting our front porch with blood.  I wondered if they argued amongst themselves, "It can't be blood, it's not bright enough," "Well, it's obviously not arterial blood, Charlie; she probably picked a couple gallons up from the blood bank in Ames."  Except instead of wondering these things in my head, it turns out I was muttering these imaginary conversations aloud as I was painting with not-blood, so perhaps our neighbors weren't discussing the paint so much as the painter.

Wednesday afternoon, though, I was finally done.

After: The deck is stained and my mind is gone

It took one more gallon of stain, two more days of work, and 99% more of my sanity than I had anticipated.  So just about right for a home improvement project.

Next up:  The back deck.

I am unable to look at this photo without whimpering.  Oy.