I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

R.I.P. Zucchini

 I read a book this summer called Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. I was completely inspired by this self-proclaimed crazy person who used a vacant lot in Oakland, CA to start a community garden. It wasn't limited to fruit trees and vegetables, but also an apiary (bees), turkeys, rabbits, ducks, geese and pigs. Her dedication to following through with every difficult task was amazing. She battled slugs and mustered up the courage to kill and skin her own bunnies for food. I found myself devastated every time a plant didn't thrive or when some jerk would come into her garden and steal her prized heirloom vegetables.

  Needless to say, one of my goals in life is to become an urban farmer. I may not be able to go as far to slaughter my own animals - but I could keep a beehive or tend to a flock of chickens in the yard.

 But it's trickier than one would think. And I don't know if I'm mature enough yet to handle the responsibility. Animals constantly try to escape (the author eventually gave up on her turkeys and they roamed the ghetto freely). I can't quite deal with our dog and his escapades. Gardens need specific spacing and soil PH levels to succeed. That's another weak point for me. And bugs always attack.

 This year, a very specific moth has killed the zucchini plant AND my chances at making unlimited amounts of zucchini fritters for the rest of the summer. Sure, I can go to the farmer's market... but it just isn't as satisfying and honestly doesn't taste the same. The annoying bug is called the squash vine borer. It lays eggs on the bottom of the leaves and then I believe works its way down the stem of the plant and kills the root. I didn't know the warning signs and found out too late. I ripped up the saddest looking part of the roots and saw some really gross white, grubby bugs. Thanks a lot for eating my zucchini!

 I did some research from other people's gardening blogs and they were proactive enough to start zucchini seedlings from their original plants after the month of June - which is apparently when this bug attacks.

 Live, garden and learn, right? I will after I make my last batch of truly homemade and homegrown zucchini fritters.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Minivan Madness

 This post is long overdue. I must discuss our "new" minivan.

We bought the 2007 Honda Odyssey this past March after my final debacle with the cursed Dodge Neon. The troubles I've had with the Neon date back to before Ayla was born, but like any sucker, I kept having to fix whatever ailment it decided to have because I was stuck in a car loan. But I worked like a maniac to pay that loan off early and trade in its' sorry ass to the Honda dealership. (And if it remains a lemon, I have no guilt in taking the maximum trade-in value because they are the ones that sold it to me in the first place.)

The minivan has changed my life. There wasn't ever a moment of mid-life crisis... I never had an awesome sports car pre-children -  so I didn't really care about leaving behind my days of carefree, sexy driving.  Having a minivan that starts every time I want to go somewhere, not leaving me stranded in a parking lot with two kids, is pretty sexy on it's own.

 Obviously we needed to upgrade because a family of five needs more room. Regardless of my loser Neon, we had to obtain some third-row seating. The first amazing thing is that I can strap the kids into their car seats while standing inside the car. This may not seem revolutionary, but the space is very helpful when it is (1) pouring rain or (2) when someone is having a massive, squirming temper tantrum about getting into said car seat.

 The second amazing change has been our roadtrip potential. We used to squeeze everything into Gregory's Hyundai Elantra (which dear Hyundai, you never failed us) and hope that I could get my butt in between the kids in the back seat to manage snacks, books, throw-up and 12-hour restlessness. Now we can use the spacious "trunk" AND have additional passengers!  If all of this sounds pathetic and sad, you have to understand where I was coming from. A CD player, automatic windows, dual climate control and back-up sensors were NOT features on the Neon.

The third amazing feat is that the Honda minivan has seemed to cure Ayla's motion sickness. She routinely threw up on every long trip we took... and voila! we just drove to and from Holden Beach without incident.

In honor of our upgrade (and second most valuable possession after our house), I compiled a playlist for my Ipod. Not a cassette mix-tape like I used in the Neon, but a real grown-up Ipod playlist. Check it out:

1. Selected songs from Yo! Gabba Gabba. It puts Jackson (and the rest of us) in an instant good mood.
2. "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" - Billy Ocean
3. "Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" - Ghetto Boyz  (think of the scene from Office Space)
4. Theme from An American Tail - it has amazing family sing-along powers.
5. "Human Nature" - Michael Jackson. It is my all-time favorite driving song.
6. "I Need A Dollar" - Aloe Blacc. Bigger car = bigger payments.
7. "My Baby's Got Sauce" - G-Love & the Special Sauce. Bringin' back the good stuff. It's what I would have listened to if I drove a minivan in junior high.
8. "That's Not My Name" - The Ting Tings. Ayla's choice.
9. "The Sign" - Ace of Base. Most people know how much fun I had blaring this in my first car. The sentiment hasn't changed much since then.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Violet, you're turning violet, Violet!"

 One by one, I am forcing my kids to get into the movies I watched growing up. I've already succeeded with The Dark Crystal, Annie and the ending of The Muppets Take Manhattan ("Somebody's getting married!").

 The current project is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

 Arguably, one of the best movies EVER.  Creepy, yes, but that's the point. Watching it as an adult, you can pick up on all of the dark nuances and sarcastic humor of Gene Wilder.

 Some parents might say that their kids watch whatever they put on tv... because they're in charge. However, sometimes the amount of whining and "I want to watch Scooby DOO!" is too much to ignore. Willy Wonka has been one of those movies I always offer... and like Muppet Christmas Carol... they always used to turn it down.

But, we seem to have turned a corner into cinematic history. They love the songs and Ayla is completely intrigued with the storyline. She came running down the stairs to tell Gregory, "There's a girl who ate a piece of gum. It tasted like potatoes and gravy and then she TURNED INTO A BLUEBERRY!" My heart just fluttered with joy.

 We had quite the discussion about why the kids in Willy Wonka kept getting into trouble: they didn't listen to Mr. Wonka. Augustus couldn't keep his hands out of the chocolate waterfall; Violet turned violet because she stuffed the gum in her face; Mike T.V. wouldn't stay out of the Wonkavision machine.

 I have no shame - I am going to use all of these examples when Ayla won't listen to me. If she has the fear of turning into a blueberry because I tell her she can't have popsicles before dinner, then so be it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Somewhere a kitten is cursing my name

 Today was a first for me. We turned away a cute, cuddly black and white kitten. She tried all of her tricks... "mewing" in that pathetic, high pitched tone; curling up into a little ball in our flowerbed; befriending our other cat Pockles and looking forlorn without her mother.

 My neighbor pointed her out to me early this morning when I returned from my doctor's appointment (all is well there, by the way! Baby on August 13th or sooner...). Our wild cat Pockles, who can't be contained for long inside the house, had made a new friend. An impossibly small kitten was roaming between either the flowerbed or under our front porch.

 We have no clue where it came from. There used to be a stray black cat that lived in our other neighbors garage - but she hadn't made any appearances this summer. Regardless, here we are with another cute stray kitten on Broad Street. My neighbor and her son put out food and water for the cat, but since she had taken residence under our porch AND befriended our cat (fleas and all!) - we had to do something about it.

 Looking at my current situation, (1) very pregnant, (2) daily chasing two crazy kids, (3) occasionally chasing an overeager Beagle who escapes down the street and (3) three cats deep into the litter box already... this poor little kitten had to go.

So I became the kind of person who drops a flea-ridden baby cat at the Humane Society. Thankfully, they take any and every animal (instead of being super selective like Animal Friends). But it's still gut-wrenching to bring any animal into the "surrender" room and know that they might sit in a cage for months or be found to have some untreatable feline disease. I filled out the paperwork, signing that I wasn't really the owner and just trying to find an easy way out of cat ownership and guiltily handed over $20 as a donation.

 Ayla had a difficult time coming to terms with the recently found new "pet" going to stay with the animal doctors. She literally threw herself in despair, saying that "I don't like three cats, I want FIVE!" .But once we explained that the little girl kitty had fleas from living outside and needed a special doctor... she was content to say goodbye and good luck to our dirty little friend.

 Even if that cat is cursing us for turning her away, I'm not quite sure we shouldn't be cursing her. We may not have caught this new friendship in time... and Pockles could have brought fleas into our realm. I'm sure Pockles couldn't resist cuddling with his new buddy. But what's summer without wrestling all of your animals into a flea bath with protective gear on your face? 


When Jackson wants more of something, he turns into a little seal. He uses his sign for "more" (touching all of his fingers together) and yells "Eeeee" repeatedly. And repeatedly means yelling this one word over and OVER again until we fulfill his requests. I think "Eeee" is his way of adding the word "please" into the equation.

To continue with the swimming theme, I wanted to post this video of Gregory and Jackson at the pool. He loves to be underwater and even though he probably has water up his nose - it doesn't stop our little seal from asking for more!

 (Apparently I am a failure at uploading videos to Blogger, so per Gregory's computer recommendations, I am just putting up a link to the video on Facebook.) Click here to see it!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Swimming at the YMCA (and everywhere else)

This week marked the end of YMCA swim classes for Ayla and Jackson. We'll have to take a little break before starting up again, since the next session would be inevitably interrupted by the birth of their new sibling.

Our YMCA (and it may be the same everywhere else) designates levels with a different type of fish. Babies start out as Shrimp/Kippers, grow up to be Inia and Perch and graduate at a shark level. You become so good at swimming that you are a predator! Or something like that.

Jackson is still at the age of parent/child classes, so I enjoyed getting into the water with him every week. Until these classes, he was a total wimp about the water. Maybe it was just bad timing on our parts, but our previous trips to hotel swimming pools or the beach were quite unsuccessful. He has stood on the side of the pool crying until taken back to cozy hotel rooms and tested the ocean water with one toe and run in the other direction. Last year's beach vacation for him meant lounging in a chair instead of jumping over waves.

Now he is water-crazy. Perhaps it's the laid back approach of just getting into the pool and distracting the 2 year olds with songs. We do the hokey pokey and sing ten rounds of "The Wheels on the Bus". If you can get over the embarrassment of singing in public, it's actually fun. He blows bubbles like a champ, jumps into the water with abandon and LOVES going under water with people and waving at them.

Ayla took her first class without a parent in the pool. The kids are taught to wait patiently on the side of the pool until they can practice swimming alongside the instructor one on one. Dog-paddle (or "ice cream scoops") and kicking backwards.

Jumping into the water was a big highlight, which is something that the girl has NO fear of. We were trying to reiterate in class AND at the beach that she had to let someone know she was ready to jump on their heads... because she wasn't waiting for the signal! The funny thing about Ayla is that she yells and screams while she is swimming. If you weren't looking, you would think she was drowning. She is just kicking along, huge smile on her face, but screaming like she is terrified.

I've been talking with a lot of friends about our memories of learning to swim. Does anyone remember being afraid of the water and then conquering that fear? Did you have a terrible or amazing instructor? I can't imagine not knowing how to swim. I took swim lessons early and often; having some teachers that were tough. One particular lady would yell that we had to keep our eyes open when jumping from the side of the pool... because she didn't want us fearful of what was going to happen. It worked for me, but I'm sure for some kids that was a little traumatizing. But much of my confidence in the water was built early in a class and then confirmed by hours upon hours of screwing around at the pool with my friends. It was there, at the public pool, that I learned handstands and how to blow bubbles out of my nose when I flipped. We would hold our breath under water with stopwatches to see who could last the longest. We had tea parties in the shallow end and played sharks and minnows in the deep end.

We have to find that balance between healthy fear of the water and confidence that we know how to swim through it. There was one scary moment at the beach that Ayla was suddenly struggling below the water without any sort of flotation, simply because she hadn't considered that possibility when letting go of her raft. She thought she could swim to Gregory only a few feet away, but found herself sinking while kicking her legs instead. (That's an image that is permanently burned into my nightmare file... seeing her poor little face so scared underwater.) To keep tabs on a toddler in even an uncrowded pool is hard - so we felt safe with the permanent rule of wearing swimmies on her arms.

Our kids have to acknowledge limits in the water but not let it be a concern at the same time. It seems like such a fragile thing to establish. I'm hoping that getting them in the water during their ages of no-fear attitudes will do most of the work for us. Once they realize how deep the ocean (or deep end) really is, they'll already know how to swim through it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

When you have kids of your own...

How many of us grew up hearing from our parent(s), "When you have your own kids, you'll understand."? It was the rationale used for almost anything. It's why we couldn't have the ridiculously expensive brand name clothes all of the time. It's why you had to finish dinner. It's the reason why our parents got to have the final word in every argument.

Basically, until you grow up and have kids of your own... you know nothing. Then, maybe someday, you'll see the light and understand the secrets of the universe.

I'm probably the exception to the rule - but now "that I have kids of my own", it's only reaffirming the belief I had at 16 that I wouldn't ever really understand the reasons my parents did/do the things they do. The path I've taken in my early years as a Mom, and the perspective I view my role as a parent, are not the same.

In fact, my experiences have made me even more confused about why some parents think they've got it all figured out. These are the parents that can't ever muster up an apology to their kids (because they are obviously never wrong and have never made mistakes). We aren't living in ancient China where you respect your elders no matter what happens or you won't achieve enlightenment. These are parents that use their authority to manipulate, confuse and belittle their kids. These are the parents that involve their kids in their adult problems (at young ages), but still lord over them when the kids try to act like adults themselves.

What I know is that having children means something different to each person. Maybe we can all come to understand a deeply-rooted animal instinct to protect, love and find everything our kids do to be amazingly unique and special. Those are the strongest things I feel. I feel rooted to the earth, invested in the future like never before AND a weight on my conscience to be a better person. That's what I get - now that I have kids of my own.

But I don't get the perspective that kids can be used as excuses, crutches or a means to fulfill my own shattered ambitions. I chose to be a parent - my kids didn't choose me. I have to remember to respect that. I want to grow with them, learn from mistakes, be realistic, apologize if I act like an ass and never, ever make my problems their responsibility. That, to me, is a true display of love.