Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pond: Phase 2, with Bonus Limping

In retrospect, helping to lift and place the rocks around the pond's edge two days after spraining/breaking my foot probably didn't do it any favors. At least, that's what I infer from the fact that it swelled up like a dead toad after two hours of working. I should have taken a picture of my feet that day because on the left was a normal, though naturally large-ish (size 11, shut up.) foot. On the right was what appeared to be one of those elephant leg trashcans, made all the more ridiculous from the petal pink nail polish on its toes. There was not a strappy sandal on this earth that would have prettied up that monster.

And, YES, I have a doctor's appointment today at 2:15. Violet's comment yesterday scared me into going to have it checked out. So help me God, if I wind up paying the equivalent of a really cute pair of shoes only to hear that it's "sprained" and I "should stay off of it and keep it elevated", I'm going to go all sniper-on-a-clock-tower. And that's going to be damn inconvenient because I don't even know where there's a clock tower in Maine.

Pond progress: liner set, pond filled, and working on rock border.
Tom fidgeted and fussed with rock arrangements all afternoon on Father's Day to create a waterfall. All those hours with Legos and Lincoln Logs as a little boy finally paid off.

I'm much happier with the new pond shape in terms of it not looking so much like a Jacuzzi, but I have a new concern. Because of choosing to site the pond on uneven ground (Jenn: not big on planning or forethought), we had to add dirt to the low side to level the edges. Some physics crap about water seeking it's own level or something. (I tuned out when Tom was explaining that part and wandered off to check Facebook when he actually brought out a plank of wood with a level duct-taped to it and began systematically checking every angle).

Now I feel like it resembles a tiny volcano filled inexplicably with water. Something about it just screams "Add baking soda and vinegar and red food coloring!" to me.

Picture (with disclaimer):Next up: Phase 3. Plants! Fish! Less volcano-y!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

At What Price Pond?

Allergy Update: We figured out the cause of Bear's frightening allergic reaction that resulted in a hasty ER trip. There were only two items we'd eaten for dinner that evening that were new foods for her. One was a chicken marinade, and the other was packaged naan (an Indian flatbread).

I was equally certain that I'd checked out both of the labels before buying them, but obviously something had been wonky. Tom dug out the marinade bottle from the trash while Bear and I were at the ER, but the ingredients were fine.

The next afternoon at the grocery store, I went over to the naan display and re-read the label. I read through the ingredient list (fine) and the Potential Allergens line beneath it (wheat, soy, and egg). Nothing. As I was setting the package down, a smaller line of type down below the allergen list caught my eye. In a different, lighter font it read "May contain pieces of tree nuts."

Goddamn. It slipped by on my watch. I felt terrible.

If there is a silver lining to the whole experience, it's that I've learned that I can't be assured safety just by reading through the ingredients and the allergens list. I have to read the whole package. Carefully.

The other good thing to come of this is that Bear is leaving for her first sleep-away camp in two weeks. The freshness of this experience and how frightened she was will help her to remember not to take any chances eating unlabelled foods. I've already spoken with the menu coordinator at the university her camp is at, and special arrangements have been made to accommodate her allergy.

In lighter news: I have a pond!
In darkish news: At the cost of personal injury. Specifically, a sprained or broken foot. The jury's a bit out on which, and I'm being stubborn about going in and having to pay for an x-ray when it's probably (hopefully) just sprained.

It all began on my birthday, when Tom very gamely began to dig the pond that I may have mentioned wanting two or three (thousand) times.

Doesn't he look like he's having fun? I'm pretty sure that when I took this picture, he was thinking I wonder if I'd bought her more jewelry for her birthday if she'd still be making me do this?

The answer is yes, honey. Yes, I would. But more jewelry is always welcome.
When he got done that day ("done" being defined as exhausted, filthy, and more than a little cranky, if we're being perfectly frank), the hole was starting to look something like this. The deeper part is about three and a half feet deep, with an 18" deep ledge around the outside. This is to set plants on.
Now, don't get me wrong: I greatly appreciated his efforts. I thought it was looking great. I just thought that once we lined it and filled it with water, that it was going to look a little bit too much like a jacuzzi filled with questionable water. The shape was too jacuzzi-like, not organic enough. And not as big as I'd pictured, although we were somewhat limited in size by the size of liner I'd ordered. When I mentioned my concerns, he grumbled something about fixing it "next weekend" and disappeared to grab a cold beer from the fridge, saying "For God's sake, don't you try to do it or you'll throw your back out."

The next day, I went out and looked at it again. Jacuzzi. Hmm. I felt bad asking Tom to do any more, so I grabbed a shovel. (That's my official story, and I'm sticking to it. The truth has more to do with the fact that once I've pictured how I want something to look, I have a very difficult time waiting. I need/want it to look that way NOW. This slight personal quirk has led to many instances of personal injury. This proved to be no exception).

The girls were in the pool, as I measured and dug, spreading out the pond liner to be sure I was still within its limits. It was looking great, and I was spreading the liner out one last time before I called it quits for the day. It was ferociously hot and muggy, so as I stepped along the plant ledge, dragging the heavy rubber liner along, I was thinking about what iced beverage I'd like as soon as I was done: diet cherry Pepsi or iced tea?

I tweaked the liner toward me and took one more step backward along the ledge ... except that there was no ledge just where I chose to step. Instead, I fell blindly back into the (three and a half foot deep) hole, landing solely on my right foot, which instantly corkscrewed sideways under my weight.

There was a moment where I was lying on my back on hot black rubber in a dirt hole in my yard, staring up at the blinding sun, sweat plastering my hair down and dripping into my eyes, my ankle a white blaze of pain. A moment where my entire being was thinking, "Oh, SHIT." A moment where I wanted nothing more than some sort of cosmic half-second rewind button.

The moment passed, and was followed by another, equally enjoyable moment, where I realized that not only was I lying on my back at the bottom of a hole in my yard, but that I now wanted to get out of the hole. I just had no idea how to go about doing that. I scrabbled pathetically at the liner and pulled myself to a sitting position. The utter ridiculousness of my predicament began to hit solidly home.

I called for the girls, who were splashing and shouting in the pool, and couldn't hear me. I hollered louder, "Girls! I need your help! GIRLS!" That finally yielded a dripping wet Bug, who peered down over the edge of the hole at me, then very gamely helped to haul me out by one arm.

With Bug's help, I managed to drag/limp my way to the patio, where, looking like one of the Mud People from Woodstock, I collapsed into a chair. Bug trotted inside and returned with a Spongebob ice-pack and some paper towels to clean up with, which was not unlike trying to sop up with oil spill in the Gulf with a Q-Tip.

I sat for a minute to regain my equilibrium. Then I called Tom at work.

"Hi, honey. I've been working on the pond. Good news: I didn't hurt my back!"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Waiting for Normal

I have several great blog topics I've been planning to post about. On Tuesday, I decided to set aside Wednesday morning as blogging time to catch you up on the pond, my inability to do projects without sustaining major injury, and the awesomely hilarious Father's Day card that Bug made for Tom.

Then Tuesday evening rolled around, and instead of the quiet family evening at home (followed by early bedtime), I wound up spending a few hours with Bear at the emergency room.

Instead of blogging Wednesday morning, I spent it remembering how to breathe. And being thankful that everything had turned out OK.

I know I've talked here before about Bear's peanut/tree nut allergies (this would be a link to a previous post if I'd had my full ration of coffee).

At the dinner table Tuesday, she took three bites of the grilled chicken and dropped her fork. "My mouth is itching like crazy! It burns!" She ran for the freezer and popped in an ice cube. I handed her a dose of Benadryl.

While she sucked her ice, I dug through the trash for the marinade bottle. It was a new brand, and I was 99% sure I'd read the label. Nope, no cause for alarm in the ingredients.

The itching subsided as the Benadryl took effect, and we shrugged it off. We've been through this before, and it usually ends here.

Two hours later, she began to experience the next level of reaction - gastrointestinal, extreme dizziness, nausea, and racing heartbeat. For the first time in my kid's life, I heard her say, "Please, Mom, can you take me to the doctor? " in a distressed and frightened voice. Since one of the hallmarks of anaphylaxis is a feeling of doom and anxiety, she didn't need to ask twice. Tom stayed home with Bug, who was already in bed, and I rushed Bear to the emergency room, handing her more Benadryl on the way.

We were lucky. The reaction did not progress to her respiratory system, so I didn't need to use her EpiPen. As we waiting at the ER, her symptoms gradually began to decrease. They gave her a hospital gown and put her in a bed for observation for a couple of house. You do not want to see your kid in a hospital gown and bed. It makes all sorts of possible scenarios seem glaringly real. By midnight, she had only some lingering dizziness and was feeling tired. They released her, with instructions to wake her up at 3:00 am for another dose of medicine.

I slept beside her that night, although sleep is a generous word for the light dozing I did, waking up in an anxious fog to check her, check her breathing, make sure she was OK.

Wednesday morning, instead of being Blogging Time, was kind of a train wreck of exhaustion, emotion, and lingering anxiety.

Today is better. Bear is being her usual brand of teenaged cranky, sniping at Bug, sighing elaborately when I ask her if she's brushed her teeth yet. I tell her sternly to knock it off, watch the attitude, but it actually doesn't bother me a bit today.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fine Art of Caving

"Can I have Facebook?" Bear started asking me in sixth grade when "all" her friends were piling onto the social network like lemmings.

"No way." I said, cementing my status as the uncool mom who "never let her do anything." Unfortunately for her, I'm cool with that.

However, I recently caved. She just finished seventh grade, and while by no means worldly, has acquired a bit more savvy about the Internet. Enough, at least, to let me green light Facebook with several caveats:

-Don't list your birth year.
-Don't list your school name.
-Don't list your town name.
-Don't be a moron.
-Dad and I are among your FB friends.
-I am privy to your login and password and control your privacy settings.

She knows that The Mom Gaveth and The Mom Will Sure As HELL Taketh Away, if the power of the Facebook is abused.

When I was toying with the idea of caving, I did some exploring around on some of her classmates' FB pages. Pages whose privacy settings were open enough to allow me (not their FB friend) to surf through their information and photos. I can confidently say that some of their parents spend zero time on their kids' Facebook pages.

I found suggestive photos (i.e. preteen cleavage shots), profanity, and horrendous spelling/grammar. I was pretty equally appalled by all three. Not usually the judgmental type, I can confidently say that if my 13-year-old consistently misspelled "what" as "wat" on their FB page, that she has no business spending her time on FB. Call me a hardass.

Letting Bear on FB has had the additional effect of curtailing some of my own FB fun. I've never accepted friend requests from kids before, but now I am in the interests of keeping my finger on the pulse of her social life. It's all very Big Brother, and I can confidently say that my own parents never had half this information about what went on amongst me and my friends. Fascinating.

For me, though, this new Bear-inclusive Facebook means:

-No more cursing on FB. Damn it.
-Removing all links to my blog on FB. I need to reserve some corner of the Internet where I can bitch with impunity.

Wish us luck.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school:
And Bug and Bear are just all broken up about it:
Bug has Step-Up Day today, where she gets to meet her fifth grade teacher and see who will be in her class next year. Bear is performing in the school talent show (hence the Hawaiian garb). She and five of her friends have formed a woodwind quartet and will be playing some Vivaldi and calypso music. Interesting blend of styles, yes?

School's out for the summer at 11:00 am. I'm sipping my last solo cup of coffee and savoring the quiet of an empty house for the last time until September.
Shall we begin the countdown until the first "I'm bored. There's nothing to do around here." of summer?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Band BBQ or I Sincerely Hope My Homeowner's Insurance Is Paid Up

Me (randomly, to Bear): Hey, you know what would be fun? Let's have an end-of-the-year BBQ and invite your band class.

Bear: Cool!

I shot off an email to her band teacher, proposing the get-together and offering to supply drinks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and dessert if the kids would bring chips and side dishes. "Great!" she replied.

A couple of hours later, it occurred to me to ask Bear how many kids are in her band class. Which, you might have already realized, is probably how I should have opened the conversation.

Fifteen kids came, so it worked out fine.

Junior High band kids? For the record? NUTS. At 2:15, the first cars pulled into our driveway and disgorged a horde of teenagers onto my lawn. Taking about 2.5 seconds to get the lay of the land, they descended on the snack table and four-square court like locusts.
In the three hours they were here, I saw:

-a sprained ankle
-an impromptu group song-and-dance routine to a Spongebob song
-people eating cupcakes whole
-people chasing each other with badminton racquets
-"dancing" (quotes to indicate loose classification of what looked like spastic body movements).
-a boy asking my cat out on a date
-much, much chasing of boys by girls and vice-versa
Bug parked herself in a chair near the four-square court and kept a covert eye on the action.

"They're insane," she informed me quietly, when I walked by.

"Hormones," I told her. "Powerful stuff."

She nodded and sought refuge in her book, peeking up now and then to watch with something akin to awe.
I also got to see Bear in her absolute element. She was giggly, goofy, and so happy. "I had the BEST time!" she told me afterwards.
A couple of days before the BBQ, she told me she was kind of nervous about it.

"Why? Are you afraid it will be lame?" I asked her.

"Yeah. Kind of," she admitted.

"No way!" I reassured her. "I bought party hats, cute little noisemakers, and treat bags today. It's going to be awesome!"

I watched horror creep over her face.

"Oh, and we're going to have face painting!" I chirped.

Her mouth hung open.

"Kidding," I told her.

She sagged in relief, "Oh man, I thought you were serious. That would have been awful. I can't even imagine."

"Give me some credit, kid," I told her.

Why is it so hard for them to believe that we were ever teenagers ourselves?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gasp. Wheeze. Cough-Cough-Cough.

There are something like 50 forest fires burning merrily away around Quebec this week. And while normally this is something I care about on an environmental/where will the little bunnies go?/poor trees/I hope it doesn't burn any homes - level, it's suddenly become personal. As of Saturday, a nasty thick cloud of smoky crap began to settle over Maine. I logged onto and found myself confronted with words I hadn't seen since moving away from Phoenix in 1996, "Air Quality Warning", and a blurb about smoke from the wildfires drifting toward our county.

Right on cue, that night I began to wheeze. Then cough. And cough and cough and cough and cough. Bear complained that her throat felt "thick." Bug's nose was itchy. Tom began clearing his throat upwards of 38 times per minute.

It had been a gorgeous day, and all our windows were wide open to catch the evening breeze. I caught of whiff of woodsmoke and remarked to Tom, "It smells like someone's burning brush." Just as the sun set, I noticed that the air was looking hazy and thought that probably meant that tomorrow was going to be a real scorcher.

When my genius-level, lightning-quick reflexes kicked in about four hours later I connected the air quality warning with the smell, the haze, and my family's inability to breathe and hurried to shut all the windows. Which frankly didn't help all that much at that point.

Let's just say husband has a pretty clear idea of what it would feel like to sleep beside a 75-year-old man with emphysema and incontinence problems now, what with my wheezing, grabbing for my inhaler, coughing, then running for the bathroom because coughing makes me need to pee. I was a delight and take full ownership for his sleep-deprived crabbiness at the breakfast table the next morning.

That was five days ago. The air still sucks. I'm getting a little peevish about it, and I'm starting to suspect that the fires were started by pharmaceutical companies.

No, seriously. Hear me out.

The smoke from these fires is affecting not only people in the Quebec area, but New Hampshire and Maine. That's a lot of people. (I'm too lazy to Google population numbers here, and I don't voluntarily do math before noon). Many of these people will need cough medicine, allergy medicine, or inhalers because of the air quality. (I'm basing this on a smallish research group comprised of me and the fact that I've been swigging Robitussin straight from the bottle and sucking on my $124 inhaler like it's a pacifier). Multiply that by some large number to represent affected population minus smaller number to represent number of population with lungs of steel/people who shut their windows earlier than me. Result? HUGE revenue for drug companies.

I'm hoping if I solve this for the Canadian government, I'll at least get a free inhaler out of the deal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Garden Tour!

Last night I said to Tom, "If I only had one more Limelight Hydrangea, it would totally complete the garden."

He said, "Yeah, right."

It's possible that I don't have the highest credibility on this subject. For instance, every August I heave a frustrated sigh and say, "This is absolutely all the garden I can deal with. No more new flowerbeds!" Then every spring, I dig a new flower bed.

At most recent count, I have six flowerbeds in the front yard, two shade borders and a hillside of wildflowers in the side yard, five blueberry bushes, a pea and cucumber patch, a raspberry patch, and a small flower bed in the back yard. Also, I helped the girls each put in a flower bed outside their bedroom windows.

Tom likes to tell the girls that when they come home to visit in twenty years, they'll find him in the front yard with a shovel, digging up the last square foot of yard for me to plant something. I pretend to take offense, but I really am thinking of how utterly freaking amazing the yard would look if I could plant the entire two acres in gardens.

You can sum up my garden philosophy like this: More is more.

I spend a lot of time weeding.

This is all a roundabout way of explaining why I've been persona non blogger this month. May is the key gardening month in Maine. I've been tilling, amending soil, sowing seeds, dividing perennials, and planting annuals. I thought I'd give you a peek. In this photo, you can see four of the six front yard beds, including the bizarrely-shaped new flowerbed. Every day I cock my head at it, decide it's not quite right, and dig a little more here, a little more there. Eventually, it will blend. My style of garden planning is what you might call kamikaze. Plans are for the wusses. Just start digging. I have a similar method when it comes to cutting hair, which is why I never, ever do.

Yeah, there's an above-ground pool in my front yard. Quelle white trash, yes? It happens to be the ONLY completely flat piece of yard we own, so the neighbors have to suck it for the three measly months of swimming weather. I try to distract them with pretty flowers, but it's tricky to pull focus from an 18-foot cylinder of eye-bleeding turquoise. Someday, when the kids are past the swimming-in-the-front-yard age, I plan to make that spot into a flower bed. Surprised?

Climbing rose: