Monday, November 28, 2005

Going Overboard

Several years ago, I left my mop and bucket sitting in the hall outside the bathroom before my garden party. This week, I left my To Do list sitting on the counter. My niece Laura and sister-in-law Terri had a laugh about one item that wasn't crossed off: Scrub laundry sink and wipe down laundry walls.

Contrary to all Flylady's mandates, I do go overboard in cleaning when I have a party. It's my way to do the spring/fall cleaning. There are downsides to this approach, other than being exhausted when your guests arrive. My husband announced that, the next time I entertain a large gathering, he and boys would be leaving for a week. They enjoy hosting and would show up for the party though. OK, perhaps I stress out a little and perhaps I become demanding and perhaps my sense of perspective is skewed. I don't care. I love having people in my house.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Enough whoopses already

Thursday afternoon, hubby was warming the car while I finished my hair on the way to Thanksgiving dinner at my inlaws. The boys were dressed and waiting. I heard an outburst and started for the front room. Hubby stopped me. "You don't want to go out there." Scary words. When I worked up the nerve, I saw droplets of milk on the living room ceiling, milk dripping down the living room walls, milk covering the piano, milk on the carpet, milk on the leather chair and even milk on the french doors in the dining room. Seems Ron was drinking a glass of milk, not in the living room which is against the rules, but on the very edge. He decided that he would stop his twin brother from wrestling with the dog with one hand while holding the drink with his other hand. Well, brother didn't like it and responded by kicking out with his leg not knowing his brother had a glass of milk.

I decided to cook the turkey today since the oven would be busy with ham, dressing, bread, etc. for my family's Thanksgiving here tomorrow. Ricky was helping by thoroughly cleaning the range. He removed the burners and knobs and did a good job cleaning. I was mopping the floor, and gave him the (rather clear, I think) instructions to spray and wipe the oven door. When I checked his progress, I discovered he had somehow turned on the Clean oven switch and the oven door was locked, charring a 20+ pound turkey. The outburst, this time, was mine. Hubby finally managed to get the door unlocked and the turkey proceeded to cook normally.

A few hours late, Ricky cleaned the refrigerator for me. He took all the food out, threw away the mysteries, and wiped everything down with soapy warm water with a little bleach. As he put the food back, he announced how he was organizing the food. I went over and opened the door preparing to praise him, when the bar that holds the bottles on the shelf in the door fell out along with the bottles. Only the very large, almost full glass bottle of hot sauce broke splattering sauce and glass shards all over the kitchen. By now, I just had to laugh. Seems he thought the bar was removable and it broke. He pressed it in place but that doesn't work too well with plastic.

I'm a few hours behind schedule for tomorrow's influx of relatives (31 in all), but I know they won't care if I don't do everything on my list. I am so thankful for my family. I'm even thankful for my teenage boys.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Prayer Request

Yesterday several soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne were killed in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad. They knocked on the door of my friend last night. She refused to open it at first, but that won't change the fact her son will be forever 21 years old. RIP, Jon, you grew up to be an honorable man.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Important Scientific Information

I just discovered an important scientific study from MIT that is not getting the press it deserves. Please go here and read carefully.

First Snow

It snowed yesterday, with a strong biting wind. I worked yesterday. Luckily, I had some indoor work to do - cataloguing the plants in the garden beds, documenting plans for next year's garden, and researching the history of the garden.

It has been a warm, dry fall. Not best for the plants, but wonderful for someone who is working outside for the first time in her life.

Here's another picture of the garden. This is on the lower east side of the garden with a sitting bower to the left and the lake behind it. My plan is to plant this bed more densely and to group the plants for more of a dramatic effect.

Mama Bear Restrained

One of the hardest things for me to do as the boys approach manhood is to shackle my mama bear instincts. Several nights ago at dinner I asked about their day. Ron, with a fleeting expression of pain and disappointment, told me that he was not going to be the basketball manager this year. He was led to believe by the coach that he would continue this position from last year and I was there when the new coach told him he didn't have to attend try-outs. When Ron asked the coach about the scrimmage game this Friday, the coach told him that he wasn't the manager as it was given to one of the boys who attended try-outs.

OK, so the coach can select whomever he wants for this position. Just don't mislead the boys. Just play fair. Just give him a valid reason. I was ready to contact this man and ask some questions, but when I suggested it to Ron as we said prayers that evening, Ron told me to drop it. I think he was pleased that his mama was so much on his side, but he doesn't need his mama to step in anymore.

I'm so proud of how he has handled this. I know he hurts, but no one else would know. He decided not to ask about the decision, but go on with his life. A friend who teaches high school told me once that some kids just have to survive high school and then blossom as adults. Nonetheless, I think it is important for the boys to be involved in school activities, to belong to a group, and I hope (pray) he finds his niche.

Thursday Three

Here's today's Thursday Three from Terry.

1) If you had an unlimited amount of money, what sort of house would you like to have?
This is the hardest question. For certain, I'd spend more money on the land than on the house. The house would overlook the sweeping vista of a valley (all mine!), surrounded by old growth timber, wildflower meadows, lakes, rivers, swamps. Can I also throw in a desert and ocean? I thought I knew about the house until Terry linked to the Gamble House. So in this Arts and Crafts style, my house would have two angled wings connected to the main house by glass enclosed, heated and cooled, covered walkways overlooking the gardens. One wing would be mine and the other wing would be my husband's. My wing would include a conservatory, craft room, multimedia room, and library. Hubby's wing would probably include a woodworking shop and his library. It's not that we don't love to spend time together, but we need room to spread our stuff.

2) If you decided to chunk it and go the full Thoreau route, what sort of hovel would you like to have?
Probably not much different from Thoreau - cabin in the woods. It would be a wildflower woods and have a river running by it instead of a pond.

3) What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the house or apartment you live in right now?
One thing! You're kidding, Terry. We remodeled about six years ago after much thought and deliberation, but there are still things I would change. Since this is one sentence, I'm going to count it as one thing (don't you love colons, semicolons and parentheticals!): make the boys' bedrooms larger; change the entryway; include a baking center in the kitchen; at least double the size of the laundry room; use wood flooring; add soffits to better define the open living space; enlarge the closets; and add more storage. Don't even get me started on the outside.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Urban Experience

Chicago. Saturday night. Somewhere near Garfield Park. Hip Hop Poet night at an urban church. Several groups performing. Request goes out for a male and a female volunteer. A young black female volunteers. Another call for a man. A skinny 16-year-old boy stands. Mouths drop in disbelief at this white boy in glasses. They shrug, motion him forward and hand him the microphone and tell him to rap about his glasses. "Nah, breakdancing." And off he goes. Brings the house down.

This is the story related to me, his mother, by several people when I picked Ricky up from the mission trip to Chicago. No, he didn't breakdance (surprise!) but he sure rapped about it.

All Saints Day

We celebrated All Saints Day this morning at church by displaying the names of those who died during the last year, by communion (with the saints) and by lighting a candle in their memory. This is the picture I shared of my mother.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Typical (?) Friday

What shall I post about on this quiet fall morning? Another chapter of The Slaughterer? Where the boys are? A Night at the River? OK, here's a recap of yesterday.

The boys are on fall break and headed separate ways. I dropped Ricky off at the church at 8:30 for a missions trip to Chicago. They are taking the bus to South Bend to catch the South Shore train and then taking a city bus to First Church of the Brethren near Garfield Park. This church has an active missions program and Ricky will be doing some type of work project on Saturday, with a "cultural event" Saturday evening. He blew hot and cold about going on this trip (if you have an image of teenage uproar in our house for several days, you are right), but I have a strong sense that this trip will change him more than anyone he serves. He called in the evening to let us know he got there and that he loves us. The call was unexpected and sweet.

After I dropped him off, I headed to work. I was planting tulip bulbs in the West Arbor Bed, when fellow sane gardener whispered, "I think The Slaughterer is in the gentians." I ran across the garden and found three out of the four transplants in her wheelbarrow. I let out several pathetic mews. "My gentians, my sweet gentians!" She felt truly sorry, but how could she have not known? She suggested they be planted there, they were in sunken pots (which she said was confusing), and they were surrounded with stakes and a chain. I dug them out of the wheelbarrow and replanted them, but they are extremely difficult to transplant and the seeds I had oh so gently shaken onto the soil were lost. Of all I've done in these gardens this fall, I was most pleased with the gentians.

I raced home, fed Ron and took him to his weekend activity - Go Mad - sponsored by Youth of Christ. This is essentially a weekend of games and fun with some devotions which caused his twin the angst about having to work in Chicago while his brother played. And why did they ever name this event Go Mad? Say it aloud. That's the last thing teenage boys need to be reminded of.

Then I raced across town, picked up some Subway sandwiches and met hubby and friends for a campfire at the river. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the evening. And hubby and I have a




Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fall Gardening at Wildflower Woods

I know it's been a while since I last posted and this may be cheating, but I've been asked to write a garden article for the site's newsletter. Here's the inaugral article for my column called "Under the Arbor."

With a riotous backdrop of chrysanthemums, asters, sedums and cosmos and the sound of school children touring the garden, the gardeners have been busy this fall getting the Formal Garden ready for winter.

Before the heavy frost and snows, most beds have been weeded. The west Arbor bed has been readied for renovation next spring. With deep shade, competition from the wisteria vines and lack of irrigation, this bed was overtaken by wildings, to use a Gene Stratton Porter term. Others may call these wildings weeds, but a weed is only a plant where it doesn’t belong. Wild ginger was running rampant in the arbor bed, but it is a delightful plant along the paths in the woodlands.

Fall is also the time for planting. We are planting spring bulbs, but this fall we had a very special addition to the garden. One of the Board members discovered that a large bed of fringed gentians were in danger of being destroyed by a gravel pit. We dug four plugs, about six inches square, and transplanted them near the flagpole. They were planted in sunken pots filled with gravel, in order to mimic natural conditions. Since fringed gentians are biennial, with seeds germinating into small plants the first year and blooming the next year, we may not see their fragile blue blooms again for two years if we were successful in this tricky transplant.

Seeds have been collected to plant next spring with the extra seeds packaged for sale in the gift shop, benefiting the Society. We are attempting this winter, for the first time, to save the especially beautiful or rare tender annuals by pottings or cuttings. These annuals are spending their winter in the big bay window at the farmhouse.

Many bulbs have been dug and dried on screens in the Garden Shed (reminiscent of The Harvester) before being stored in the cool, dark farmhouse basement for the winter. These include gladiolas, begonias, canna lily, peacock orchid, and dahlias.

The hardy plants overwinter in the garden. Some have been cut back, but those with attractive foliage or seed heads remain intact, as they are especially beautiful in winter laden with snow.

Perhaps the best part of fall gardening is planning for the next season. We have inventoried the plants in the formal garden beds, noted what works well and what hasn’t thrived. We then cross-referenced the existing plants with the plant list maintained by Gene Stratton Porter from 1912 through 1922. And we talk about the “what ifs.” What if we plant these in drifts for more impact? What if we revive the yellow bed, perhaps adding this plant? What if we make part of the herb bed into an herbal tea garden? What if we outline these beds to draw the eye to the layout? What if we move this to the rock garden? What if we add some cabbage roses to the rose bed? What if? What if?

If you have some “what if” ideas to share, now is the time.