Today’s Best Toy

An old broom, which has been relegated to the kids. Thus we don’t mind if it’s completely soaked in mud puddles.

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Car Washing

When we were at my dad’s for Easter, some mention was made of the state of my car. I forget how exactly the topic was introduced, but I believe the phrase “There’s mold growing on it!” was used. My counter-argument that it was moss, not mold, somehow did little to change the general opinion that my car was too dirty.

I suppose I could have taken offense at this. After all, I am a grown woman, married and with two children, and here my dad and aunt were razzing me about a dirty car. But it didn’t bother me, for two reasons. First, they were absolutely correct. The one time I remember taking my car through a car wash (I can’t remember why), the attendant there took one look at it and tried very, very hard to direct me toward their full-service option. When I insisted that I just wanted the quick $5 pass-through, he eventually went along with me, but shaking his head the whole time. My car is not a status symbol for me. I care about the engine (since that’s what gets me from A to B) and to some extent about the interior (since my family spends time there) but only about half a whit about the exterior. If anything, the knowledge that it’s completely filthy makes me feel more comfortable. After all, who would ever break into it?

The second reason that I wasn’t put off by the commentary on my car was that it came with a plan to wash it that day. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the idea of doing some outside work was very appealing. The fact that my little ones would adore a job that involved being outside with lots of soapy water and (best of all) the hose was also appealing. And having Dad’s hands available to help with the task sealed the deal for me. Even if it did mean wiping out whole ecologies in the process (which I reminded everyone of multiple times during the scrubbing).

There was one potential hitch, though, and I did my best to head it off before we got started. I vividly remembered washing my parents’ cars when I was younger, and the Inspection Process which inevitably occurred. Every groove, every crevice was carefully examined; the windows were checked for streaks; the wheels had to have been thoroughly rinsed out. Deficiencies in the job meant that I was sent back to work on that spot again.

So detailed were my memories of this that I felt compelled to tell Dad ahead of time about my 80% rule. It goes like this: I’m far more likely to do annoying tasks like washing windows if I don’t hold myself to the idea that I have to get things perfectly, absolutely clean. Most of the time, getting it about 80% clean (maybe 90% if I’m feeling industrious) creates as much psychological boost as I need, and gets all the really important stuff off. And, following that famed 80-20 rule, it only takes about 20% of the time.

Dad listened to my words and gave a non-committal reply. I don’t think I actually swayed him with my logic.

But as it happened it wasn’t an issue. Either I’ve become more meticulous since I was fifteen, or Dad cares less when it isn’t his vehicle, because he only sent me back to rework a spot once. I could live with that. And enough grime was removed from my car that I spent the next few days doing double-takes when I saw it in the driveway. Whose car…? Oh, yeah. That’s mine.

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Park Days

Some days are sunny, some are not. Some days (like yesterday) waver between drenching rain, bursts of hail, glorious golden sunshine, and misty showers. They are all lovely, and all of them find us outside eventually.

Masterpiece

When I was little I loved doing crafts. (That has not changed, obviously.) I vividly remember cutting, gluing, drawing, painting… If it was crafty I liked it, and although I admit that my memory may be biased, as far as I know I’ve always liked crafty things.

So needless to say I’ve looked forward to doing crafty things with my kids. And I’ve been a bit disappointed at the level of interest that they’ve shown. Crayons get chewed on, pens get taken apart, paper is more fun to rip and crumple, and even painting can hold their attention only briefly. Maybe I’m hoping for too much — Nathan is only three and a half — but somehow I expected that simple paper crafts might at least hold his interest. Coloring pages appear to bore them, and although at times Nathan has seemed very interested in drawing, it’s generally only when we’re both drawing on the same piece of paper and he can scribble over my picture. Sitting down side by side for a drawing time? Not likely.

I keep trying. I don’t want to force them into something that they’re truly not interested in, but at the same time I want to present the opportunity occasionally for them to discover the joys to be had. Also, the alternative of playing with their toy trucks with them has gone from mildly amusing to tedious to insanely boring.

So every once in a while I haul out the pens, the crayons, or — if I know a bath is due anyway — the paints. And my boys keep applying their own boundless creativity to the materials before them. A while ago I set Nathan up for painting, and decided to try Ryan on painting for the first time. I stripped him down to just his pants and gave him a brief introduction to the concept. He experimented for a few minutes with applying paint to paper; and then, dissatisfied with that medium, tried the brush on his own belly. Not there was a medium that he could get interested in! And Nathan, ever open to new ideas himself, was happy to help apply paint to Ryan’s skin — pretty much anywhere he could reach. Needless to say, we had to do a pre-bath shower after that little episode.

Dave’s Diet

Dave has been losing weight for a while. In typical Dave fashion, he’s done this very deliberately and without much fuss, with a perspective reminiscent of The Hacker’s Diet: {calories in} – {calories out} = {weight change}. With that basic premise, he’s played around mostly with the {calories in} term. He started just by cutting out things like hot dogs and soft drinks. Later he began regulating his lunches, taking stir-fry or a carefully weighed-out portion of homemade enchilada. And at times he’s skipped lunch altogether, so that his only meal of the day is dinner. Right now is one of those times.

He’s lost over fifty pounds. He no longer looks like an average American guy — he looks like a trim, healthy man. As his wife I appreciate the extra years that he’s (statistically, at least) added to his life. And as the cook of the household, I have to say that cooking for a man who is short on calories is very satisfying.

To be fair, Dave has always been appreciative of my cooking. He is generous in his praise at dinnertime, will try any bizarre new food that I set in front of him, and has even gone so far as to tell people that living with me is like living in a fancy restaurant (not really true, but it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy anyway). But there is nothing, nothing like setting dinner before a man for whom it is the first, last and only meal of the day.

Last night, for example, I decided that I didn’t feel like making the mulligatawny soup I’d planned. Instead I put together a meal of mushrooms baked with a maple sausage stuffing, Quick Quinoa “Risotto” with Asparagus, and baked sweet potato fries with rosemary and parmesan. I wasn’t sure how well it would all come together, but holy cow you should have seen Dave devouring his food. At one point he pronounced it “amazingly fantastic” and told Ryan that no, he would have to get his own stuffed mushroom, because the father wasn’t interested in sharing. I love eating good food, but an even stronger motivation for me is seeing those I love eating (and loving) good food. So the intense appreciation with which Dave consumed his dinner… well, it fed my little cooking soul.

Invasion Of The Tasty

I know, of course, how strawberries spread. I’ve grown them in one of my tall raised beds for a few years now, and anyway I grew up around a strawberry patch. I knew that each time my parents’ strawberry patch was rejuvenated, it was done with runners from the old patch. I even remember seeing the occasional plant trying to take root outside of the bed.

But somehow I never considered strawberries to be capable of truly invasive behavior. So last fall, when I was thinning the strawberries in our front tree beds (having learned my lesson about letting the plants get too crowded), I didn’t worry about the runners that had made their way into our yard. Sure, there were an awful lot of them — the tree beds are essentially level with the ground, with only a token cedar edge to jump over. But surely the lawn mower would take care of them when the time came.

Um… no.

I don’t know how many plants have colonized our yard. The Shuksan variety seems the most prone to invasion. I do know that the lawn mower has only spurred them to grow lower to the ground. While their pampered colleagues in the beds have grown tall and lush, the ones in the lawn have huddled tenaciously down to the earth, and put out white flowers in defiance of all mechanized trimming equipment. Even when Dave went after them with the weed whacker, taking them right down to the earth, they sent out stubborn new leaves on shorter stems still. I imagine them gritting their metaphorical teeth and thinking grimly I will produce sweet delicious berries if it kills me.

I don’t really want to kill them, of course. I am greedy for every strawberry I can get. I tried digging some out of the yard and transplanting them somewhere a little more hospitable, but discovered that pulling their roots free of the matted sod was… um, challenging. I stopped after about six plants.

So for the moment we are ceding part of the yard to them, and resolving two things: first, to be vigilant about nipping off this year’s runners before they root; and second, to be careful where we step come June.

Easter

Nathan was about three and a half this year for Easter, and for the first time we tried to do the whole shebang. Last year we dyed some eggs, but this year we dyed eggs, did Easter baskets, and even made an attempt at an egg hunt. These activities were not all seized upon with the same enthusiasm by the young ones. Nathan was mildly interested in the egg dying. (Ryan showed no interest at all, for which I was glad, because I had no intent of letting him near either eggs or dyes.) He went along with Dave and me, putting eggs into various colors of dye, and then putting them into the carton afterward. But the part he really enjoyed was after all the eggs were dyed, and we let him start mixing the colors. He started out with a spoon but graduated quickly to mass pourings, and it wasn’t long before we had four bowls of… well, gray.

He was also very hesitant about the egg hunt. To be fair, the weather had turned from gorgeous the day before to cold and rainy, and I’d been silly enough to hide the eggs outside on the deck (albeit under cover). So it probably wasn’t too surprising that only half the eggs were found when Nathan decided that he wanted to go inside. There’s something of a history of competitive egg hunts in our neighborhood (not that I personally was ever involved, of course). My kids are so far not carrying on that tradition. With some prompting, Ryan managed to finish up the hunt and we all headed back inside.

From the kids’ perspective, I think the highlight of the Easter festivities was either the candy in the Easter baskets or their cousins coming for dinner. I’d done actual baskets for the first time, complete with quilted basket liners, simple homemade stuffed rabbits, some butterfly cookies, and a few plastic eggs with some candy inside. Nathan’s face when he discovered the content of the plastic eggs was rapturous. Long before he’d finished his own candy, I saw him eying Ryan’s basket thoughtfully. We don’t have candy in the house all that often, and to be allowed to eat it for breakfast was unheard of. What an awesome holiday! I’m glad we did it up at Dad’s house, or he’d be asking me for candy every morning now.

Speaking of sweets, at dinner there was a rabbit cake, a gorgeous work of art provided by Amy, and it attracted Nathan’s interest long before it was time for dessert. Fortunately his cousins were around before dinner to provide him some distraction, or I think he would have just hovered in the kitchen. Honestly, I don’t know why we don’t live closer to family. Both kids absolutely adored tagging after their older cousins, and it was like magic — Dave and I could spend all of ten consecutive minutes without being called upon for parenting. That’s some kind of record, I think.