Thursday, April 29, 2010


I feel like I've been to hard on Wes here. He really is very helpful around the house.

This has happened before.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Future hero of the people?

I have to believe that someday this will be a good thing. The stubbornness. The tantrums. The screaming and the head banging and the whines for "MAAAMAAAA" every time I'm out of sight (i.e. in the bathroom).

Wes asked me for something to drink this morning and I absentmindedly gave him a cup of water, which he started pouring on the floor after I handed it to him. I told him "No." He ran into the living room and smacked his forehead so hard on the corner of the couch that an angry purple two-inch-long bruise instantly sprang out of his skin.

Give me water when I want milk? I'll give myself a concussion. So THERE!

I handed him to Ryan this morning so I could take a shower. He screamed for me the whole time I was in there. It was endearing the first day he did this. Three weeks ago. Now it is incredibly tiresome. I would like to take a shower, run to the store, read a book, eat chocolate chips in the pantry guilt free, and Ryan would like to not be treated like he is kidnapping his own child from the Walmart parking lot.

So, when he is slamming his fist on the lectern one day, standing strong for the Public Option or campaign finance reform, or he's on the phone with the Mayo Clinic refusing to hang up before they find a spot for his patient, or he's insisting to a parole officer that he can personally vouch that his student is going to turn his life around, or if he's a corporate officer, blowing the whistle on his company because they committed fraud, I will remember what an incredibly stubborn toddler he was. And hopefully I will laugh. Unlike today, when I am counting the minutes until his morning nap.

Will not take no for an answer. Or change out of his pajama top.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mini Me

"Huh, we're under a severe thunderstorm warning. All I see out the window is blue sky. That's weird."

I walk out onto the front lawn and look back up over our house at what looks like Eyjafjallajokull erupting somewhere up the street from us. A huge, dense anvil is spreading out to the east, puffy white cumulus towers are shooting skyward to the southwest. An ominous shadow blankets the neighborhood.


First step in thunderstorm safety: When presented with a severe thunderstorm warning, the prudent thing to do is to run outside to take a look as a family (most of the family--Wes went to bed at six o'clock last night).

"Woowwww" says Charlie "Why is that cloud moving?"

"That's called scud, Charlie, it's a low cloud that forms near the base of the thunderstorm, or updraft. It's interesting to watch scud because sometimes it gets sucked up into the updraft like a vacuum cleaner."

Sure enough, the ragged piece of scud slides closer to the storm and disappears. We all watch in awe as the storm builds in front of our eyes. Then it occurs to me that we should cover the plants in case of hail.

"Charlie, will you help Papa and me cover up the plants so they won't be damaged by hail?"


He runs through the living room and kitchen and out the back door. When I catch up he is standing on top of the swing set yelling at our neighbors over the fence.


I finally coax him down the slide when Ryan appears with a collection of tarps. I carefully position the soccer goal in the pumpkin patch and lay a tarp over it. Ryan covers the Bird Blocker with another tarp and slides the plastic baby pool upside down over the seedlings.

Charlie is back on top of the swing set, bouncing with excitement. He points at the base of the huge storm.

"Hey Mama! Why does rain get heavy and fall out of the cloud?"

We've been talking about why it rains recently. He likes detail.

A clap of thunder.

"We can talk about it inside! Let's go!"

Once inside I check the radar again and note that the storm is sort of falling apart and looks to miss us to the north by a few miles. Crisis averted, but the plants are roasting under tarps in the eighty-five degree sun.

Charlie watches a few more minutes of the weather coverage on TV then I declare it time to go to bed. He takes one last look at his back yard handiwork out the window just as the wind picks up and lifts one of the tarps off the plants.

"WHAT'S HAPPENING!" he howls like the misunderstood-but-brilliant scientist character on a natural disaster movie.

"Oh," I say casually, refreshing the radar image for the hundredth time, "the wind is blowing and the tarp fell off the plants. It's OK, the storm isn't coming here anymore."

Ryan picks him up to take him to bed and he manages to make his whole body go limp while kicking Ryan's legs at the same time. I am on the phone with my dad, who has called to report quarter size hail from our storm as it passed over their house a few minutes prior. Halfway up the stairs:


I'm trying not to laugh too hard, at least on the outside.

"Why don't you and Papa go fix the tarp before bed." I don't give in to tantrums, but he has worked so hard on his plants and I truly don't see another way out of this one. They run outside and fix the tarp then head upstairs.

We got storms later, but never had any hail. I found Charlie asleep sideways on his bed, his head contorted around so that he could look out the window and watch the lightning as he fell asleep.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What the H is the deal with laundry?

I am incapable of staying on top of the laundry.

Yesterday, I told my dad that when he came over to watch the kids and had to step over a pile of dirty clothes and several piles of clean, folded clothes on the laundry room/pantry floor to access the juice boxes.

"I'm just not capable of keeping up with it, so I'm just going to do the best I can and if everyone has enough clothes to wear at any given time, then I'm doing fine, right?"

He sort of laughed and we talked about something else for a while and then I went to work. To my gloriously clean office where the pens stay in the drawer day after day and people wear one outfit per day.

But this morning, when I was back at home, where all four people wear more than one outfit per day, and some of us, three or four depending on how quickly I can strip them when they run out the back door. And where some of us manage to do disgusting things to their beds that necessitate near daily linen changes on a frustratingly regular basis (Thanks for NOTHING Target Pull Ups, you assholes). And despite doing what feels like ten loads of laundry every day, I couldn't find one measly pair of socks for myself. Anywhere.

And then Ryan was treated to a very becoming tantrum that rivaled the one Wes was having about not getting more milk after feeding his to Rossby. There were lots of whispered swear words. Classy.

On the way to take Charlie to school I ran into Labmama and we commiserated about the laundry situation. She is familiar, but I get the sense, since I've never once impaled myself after tripping over a pile of size four underpants at her house, that she is doing a better job than me.

So when I got home I sucked it up and folded everything I could find and started two new loads (one that was full of Charlie's bedding. forehead vein, throbbing). Then I made some snickerdoodles and mopped the kitchen floor.

So it is better, mostly because of the snickerdoodles, but I still have to put everything away and I still have no socks. And I haven't done the adult laundry, yet. And the only time I can put away clothes is when kids are sleeping which means during Wes's naptime I can put Charlie's away, but Wes's usually live in a laundry basket in the hall outside his door. Facepalm of exasperation.

Someone tell me the secret, please!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pillow Talk

Ryan: Can you wait until our kids start doing science projects?

Me: No, it's going to be awesome. I have a few ideas already!

Ryan (imitating his future old man voice): 'Charlie, when is your science fair? TWO MONTHS?! Why are you only telling me this now?'

Me: We have to write a proposal! Submit it to the NSF! Wait to be funded! Perform the experiment! THEN we can present it at the science fair! This is at least six months of work. Probably more like ten!!

Ryan: (imitating Charlie's future 3rd grader voice) 'But Mooommmm! I just want to plant four sets of four seedlings each then vary the soil conditions to see which conditions make the plants grow the best!"

Me: (flabbergasted) "Great! Where's your literature review?!"

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Ryan set up our tent this afternoon just for fun. When Charlie saw it he disappeared into the house and returned with his pillow and his quilt.

They're out there sleeping now.


Friday, April 16, 2010

And now I hope someone will pinch a brother, it doesn't take as long

Our grocery store has a program for kids that originally seemed like a cute little diversion in an otherwise boring errand (for kids, that is, I love grocery shopping) but has since become impetus for a near panic attack every time we set foot in the store.

It is the reason I drive five miles out of my way to go to the hippy grocery store where the only distractions at the register are two ounce tubes of local honey that you can eat like candy (I am told) and sugar-free lollypops that I tell the kids are medicine.

But sometimes, like when I want to buy bread without mortgaging the house, I have to go to the normal grocery store. And barring misbehavior (usually of the brother pinching variety), I can't get out of the store without a visit to the damn Buckaroo Buck* machine.

We wait while the cashier scans our groceries, Charlie standing with his nose an inch from the moving belt, bouncing on the balls of his feet in anticipation. When we are all done the cashier smiles and exclaims "I see two good boys who need a BUCKAROO BUCK!" And I smile and force them to say thank you and tell the cashier that "YES! They were VERY GOOD BOYS today!"

And then off we roll to the Buckaroo Buck machine, which is tucked into a corner of the Customer Service nook. It is conveniently located for the store, I would imagine, but not so conveniently located for the throngs of mothers, carts laden with rapidly thawing steam-in-the-bag broccoli and tater tots, each with their two-point-two children of varying temperaments by the sticky hands (who are, in many cases, not exhibiting behavior befitting a Buckaroo Buck, if you ask me).

Like my parents before me, who no doubt exchanged "This is stupid" looks with other parents as some minimum wage clown made balloon swords for my sister and me, knowing that somehow this fun thing would cause a huge fight, the other assembled mothers flash between chirpy upbeat encouraging and eye rolling and mock self-strangling motions over the kids' heads.

And that's when the parents are actually there.

Many times it's just me against three or four kids who are just a little too old to be saving up stickers to get a box of sidewalk chalk or some watercolors.

And Wes? Not so much with the turn-taking these days. At least he lets me put the Buckaroo Buck in the machine for him. But after that, I have to watch as he pushes the red button over and over again, sending the crane down into nothingness over and over again, before finally, risking a huge public tantrum, "helping" him get the crane over to the part of the machine where the stickers are. He screams with delight when the crane gets something. Then he watches it drop. And then we spend another lifetime watching him and his eight-inch long arms try to get the ball out of the machine.

And then it's Charlie's turn.

And he doesn't let me help put the stinking Buckaroo Buck into the machine. No!! He has to do it, in order, upside-down, backwards, upside-down AND backwards, and partially folded up, before finally letting me give it a go. By this point I can feel the eyes of the mothers who have ice cream in their carts.

Charlie also knows that if you don't get a ball on your first, second, third, or fortieth try, you get to go again. Until you do! No matter how long it takes! Isn't that great?! So he throws the first couple to make the game last longer.

This lasts until I, once again, "help" move the crane into the right location, or suffer an aneurysm.

And of course no trip to the grocery store would be complete without me crawling under someone's Honda Odyssey to retrieve an errant Buckaroo Buck ball.

Charlie has two-hundred fifty points and is saving for a kite, which is four-hundred points. I wonder how many points a nice bottle of pinot noir would be?

*Name changed to maintain the illusion of geographic anonymity

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


OK you can eat it!!

All that faithful watering (grudgingly watering "Mama's pepper plants" and "Mama's tomato plants" for a minute or two before dousing the strawberry plants Old Testament style) has paid off! Hurray! We thwarted the birds!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bird Trouble

I have never wanted to kill an animal so badly in my entire life.

This morning began like every morning. We ate breakfast, we cleaned up. Charlie ran outside in his jammies to check the progress of his strawberry.

The first red strawberry of the season. The beautiful, ripe, red strawberry that we have been waiting until it was just right before picking it and eating it whole. He's checked it every day for a week. First he inspects the top, bright red, juicy, delicious looking. Then he gingerly turns it over to see if the bottom was ripe too. It was almost ready yesterday. When he turned it over he said to Ryan "Not yet! But it's getting close!" before gently placing it back in the soil.

Charlie turned on the hose and carried it over to water the vegetable garden. The children have to do their farm chores before being allowed to watch their PBS Kids, of course. I sipped my coffee on the porch and mused about how happy I am that Charlie has taken such an interest in the garden.

Charlie squatted at the edge of the garden watering the strawberry plant for several minutes without making a move for his perfect strawberry. Without making any move at all, actually. He was still, all his attention focused on the strawberry plant. When I walked over to check on him he said "Mama, the strawberry is broken! Can you fix it, please?"

The strawberry had been chewed all the way around like an apple. It lay pitifully, right where it's always been, covered with a few flecks of soil.

"Oh, Sweetheart! I think a bird ate it! I am SO SORRY." I put my arm around his slumped shoulders.

"Can you fix it?"

"No, honey, I can't. A bird ate it. We'll have to wait for the next one."

"Why did a bird eat it?"

"I guess the bird was hungry and saw the strawberry and thought it looked good. He didn't know it was yours, he is just a bird."

He was crestfallen. I gave him another hug and told him that the plants will make more strawberries all summer long and asked him if he'd like to help us build a cover to put over the garden so the birds won't take any more strawberries. He agreed.

At church I was discussing our pumpkin patch with a gardener friend of mine when Charlie squeezed between Ryan and me and blurted out "A bird came and ate my strawberry because he didn't know it was mine. BAD BIRD." The grandfatherly man barely missed a beat and told us how to build the cover. Then gave us lots of bonus advice about killing roly polies with crushed up glass. Charlie loves roly polies. It was not good.

Ryan and Charlie put up some stakes and a net (brand name: Bird Blocker) while I was at a meeting. Rather, Ryan put up some stakes and a net and Charlie yelled at every bird that came within fifty-yards of our garden.

"We put up a net! Don't get too close, you could get hurt! You can't get the strawberries now! Sorrryyyy!!"

Which is a far kinder thing than I wanted to yell. Which is that I've been Googling recipes for "Songbird Shish Kabob" and think it will go nicely with the bok choy that came in our organic vegetable delivery.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The farming situation may be getting out of hand

It was another afternoon of pure klass at the Academomia household.

Why yes, that is my roasting pan! Why spend eleven dollars on a huge plastic baby pool when you can find hours of water fun right in your very own pantry?

Actually, the baby pool I want for them won't fit in my car, so I am waiting for the weekend when Ryan can stay with the kids while I roll it home by hand. I sure hope it's not windy. I'm not sure why I don't just buy the small one again, though, because then never use the whole bathtub, preferring to sit practically on top of one another where the kicking and scratching is most convenient.

Also? This afternoon when I checked the pumpkin patch for sprouts I was delighted to see several of these just peeking their way out of the soil:

A few hours later I checked them again and they had grown even more!

Charlie was pretty excited, but the thing he is most excited about is this:

Every time we go in the back yard the first thing he does is check to see if the strawberry is turning red yet so he can eat it. Not that he's wanting for strawberries--I hit a sale at the hippie grocery store and loaded us up--we average a quart a day. He also ate two pounds of grapes today. Wes would eat three Clementines per meal if I let him. This is why I had to start a small farm in my yard. Next summer I'm going to have to till up rows and plant kidney beans, garbanzos, and pintos. Although I don't want to test my marriage vows in that way.

Hmm. Now I really want to try beans in a pot! Like these new additions!

Basil, cilantro, and parsley.

And two zucchini plants because not having them, and the associated possibility of growing another four-pound squash like I did in my first garden, was making me anxious. I also added another tomato plant, because I want to have enough to save for the winter. Because I want to be like Martha Ballard, a late 1700s Massachusetts midwife whose diary is featured in a book Godmother gave me, A Midwife's Tale, by Laura Thatcher Ulrich, who grew food for her family FOR THE WHOLE YEAR in the span of a New England summer. Although she probably wasn't making pico de gallo out of her tomatoes. And also, her kids practically ran the household while she waded through rivers at night in the snow to deliver babies. I will probably never be that cool.

When the kids are playing outside I like to put my chair right in the middle of all those pots and think about salsa. And where I'm going to live after the TEN pumpkin vines that have sprouted take over my house like Jumanji.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sweet Potato Recipe

(Without pictures because I'm on borrowed time from Lego-palooza in the playroom)

I got this recipe with my first Greenling order. Greenling is an organic grocery delivery service. You can use it like a regular grocery store, where you pick out the things you want, or you can order a "box" and they will pick out the things you get. I ordered a "Local Box" and they filled it with seasonal, local, organic produce and brought it to my porch. I also ordered the "Farmstead Box" as a treat. They said it would be products made by local companies like cheese, bread, and jellies or pestos. Instead, what I got were brownies, cupcakes, cookies, and a candy bar. No complaints here!

Anyway, I got some sweet potatoes in the local box and initially I didn't know what they were because they were so pretty! I had to smell them to figure it out! The cilantro-lime sweet potato recipe was one of several recipes on a sheet they included with my order. The sheet was accidentally thrown away by someone (cough, water hero, cough), so I don't have the exact amounts of anything, but here is what I did Saturday, which is the second time I made them.

- 2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 cm/0.5 in cubes.
- Olive oil
- 1-2 limes
- Kosher (or sea) salt
- Cayenne pepper
- A handful of cilantro (leaves torn off the stem, but not chopped)

1. Mix together about one lime's worth of juice with several tablespoons of olive oil

2. Pour mixture over sweet potatoes and toss

3. Put sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet and roast at 375F for 40 minutes

4. Mix two tablespoons olive oil, about a tablespoon of lime juice, and a teaspoon of lime zest in a small bowl. You can add cayenne here if you like it spicy, which I do, but the kids don't. I put in a half-teaspoon the first time and it was pretty spicy. I did about half that the second time and it was less spicy, but still had a little kick. Add the cilantro to the mixture.

5. Transfer the cooked sweet potatoes to a mixing bowl. Pour the oil mixture over them and toss. Garnish with a few pieces of additional cilantro if you want. Serve.

This is an easy one to modify based on your tastes. I use a ton of cilantro and extra lime juice, for example. And also, make extra... The kids didn't like them because they were spicy and Ryan and I ate the whole two pounds the first time I made them!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I need a weekend to recover from the weekend!

Saturday morning we woke up to a river flowing through our back yard. It was coming from our neighbor's yard, under our back fence, under the swings, pooling against the porch (up to my ankles there), and then split off to flow around both sides of the house, through the front yard, and into the street.

My first reaction was the terribly mature "We're not going to be able to have my dad's birthday party out there!" Then I sloshed out there, climbed up into the fort, and tried to see the source of the water. Then I stalked back inside and asked Ryan to go tell the neighbors to fix it while I got the coffeemaker going. Ryan glared at me and said "Poor neighbor! Something is wrong with their pipes!" then left to knock on our new neighbor's door at 7:30 on Saturday morning. I saw their heads moving around on the other side of the fence for a few minutes and then Ryan came home to tell me that the water was coming straight up out of the ground.

SUPER! I thought. All this yard work and now our house is going to disappear into a limestone cave.

The neighbor came over to ask Ryan for help in stopping the water, so Ryan gathered some tools and left again. A few minutes later I noticed the river was slowing down. Ryan came home to a hero's welcome.

Later Charlie told Ryan's parents "Papa is a HERO. He fixed the water! When I get bigger and become a Papa I will be a hero too!" When we got home from Charlie's gym class the water was all gone. The yard had dried up enough to walk on by mid-afternoon and the whole family happily spent the whole day out on the porch.

Except for me, because I was doing a little cooking.

I made a birthday cake,

two-dozen cupcakes,

a cheesecake that outgrew its pan in the oven,

an apple pie, five pounds of cilantro-lime sweet potatoes, six pounds of roasted chicken breasts with rosemary and kosher salt, a breakfast strata, and a cucumber, tomato, and onion salad. Spending all day cooking from scratch with the windows open and music on, happy little barefoot kids running in from the back yard to grab a popsicle or a glass of water before zipping back out again? It was heaven.

Saturday night we had a birthday party for my dad on our porch (freshly cleaned by Ryan and his dad of the fourteen empty compost bags, plastic pots in varying sizes, Radio Flyer wagon full of extra dirt, toy-stravaganza, and baby pool full of rotting weeds that smelled like a swamp). No one left hungry or wanting for sugary icing. By the time the last guest left we had lit a candle for the outside table, added a camping lantern when that wasn't enough light, Wes's eyes were getting heavier and heavier and the sounds of my teenage cousins (and Charlie) cheering for the basketball game were wafting out the windows of the house.

And that was only Saturday! More about Sunday later, like after I find a way to condense the three-minute video we took of Wes falling asleep in his macaroni and cheese at my aunt and uncle's house.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What's in the Bag?

I've been tagged for the What's in the Bag meme by Sarah over at Harrytimes All Jacked Up, so I thought I could give you all a break from the daily horticulture report and let you take a peek inside my purse. The instructions were to take a picture of your purse and then dump it out and let us see what is inside.

Here it is: black Coach bag. It was a gift from my parents for Christmas and I LOVE it. I have always wanted a Coach bag and once (pre-Charlie) saved $300 for the very purpose of buying one but then once I was standing in line at the department store I just couldn't do it. I smelled this purse several times a day for the first few weeks and the pretty purple lining still makes me smile every day.

Although, now that I am looking at this picture, I am wondering if I ever really SEE the lining anymore!

Here's the inventory:

-Reusable grocery bag from BlogHer (love that bag!)

-Lip gloss, lip gloss (I only use one of them, naturally)

-Penssssss (Holy cow what is with all the pens?! Is it because I stash them all there because it's the only place in the whole house the kids seem to understand is off limits? Or is it lingering office supply issues from school? Or both?)

-Keys and keys! Are you noticing a pattern of inefficiency here or what? One set is personal, the other is for work. How many times have I thought I should put those all on one ring! pretty much daily since January. And yet here we are.

-Church name tag and old grocery lists, child's fork, very nice.

-And in the top row we start with my planner, which I seldom remember to use, preferring to call the pediatrician's office three days after a missed appointment to ask them what day it was again.

-My personal wallet

-Mardi Gras beads, of course!

-Pizza coupons and my OTHER wallet! Behold the power of two! It has our grocery money in it. And my checkbook.

-Kleenex, which I didn't know was in there the other day when I used a grocery store receipt to wipe Charlie's nose. Ironically, that happened while I was in line at the grocery store.

-Flash drive. [pushes glasses up nose with index finger, snorts]

-Seeds, cilantro and jalepeno peppers. Anyone need some jalepeno pepper seeds?

So, there you have it. Just the essentials!