Thursday, May 31, 2007

Things to do besides gardening

Stay inside where there's air-conditioning, put my feet up, and watch back-to-back episodes of "What Not to Wear" and "10 Years Younger."

Contemplate culling closet and dresser of old clothes for the thrift shop...but don't.

Make tiny peanut butter cookies with M&M's pressed into the tops with Bean to be served on her new tin toy tea set.

Not mind when the neighbor kids come over to play with Sister and Bean and eat hot cookies.

Read blogs.

Make chicken-fried steak with gravy for dinner. (Yee-haw!)

Enjoy the break from the 90 degree heat and only a couple of times peek out the window to see if the 7 potted plants still left are wilting yet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Still pregnant

I went to my second midwife appointment today and was relieved all over again when she heard the baby's heartbeat without a problem. I had a few hours of paranoia beforehand, imagining that it all would've gone wrong again, but everything's fine. I'm not sure when this will really stop becoming an issue with me. Maybe next appointment?

Tonight, though, Husband and Sister and I perused a book of baby names and had great fun tossing out names we liked and mercilessly mocking those that were stupid. Sister really likes Bert and Maximus. Ahem. These are a vast improvement over her choices of Star Blossom and Sparkles for Bean, however, so I'm going easy on her.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Playgroup dynamics

Amy Sedaris is making an appearance on Sesame Street today! She's acting as a rather sardonic Snow White, but perhaps this is old news to all you other mamas out there? My circle is admittedly limited these days...

I do get out sometimes though. This morning I took Bean to her usual Tuesday morning playgroup and left feeling a little thrill that I'm beginning to make friends with my 2 favorite group mamas. We're the moms with the daughters, whereas the other 2 moms have sons that are several months younger. The moms-of-girls are all meeting at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham in a few days to hang out again while the kids are hopefully engrossed in the outdoor water play area. We made this plan after the moms-of-sons had already left, but no one mentioned getting in touch with those moms to include them.

I've been secretly hoping that for some reason those moms would just stop being interested in the playgroup because one of them talks non-stop about either t.v. shows or what her son will and won't eat that week. Seriously. You can barely get a word in edgewise. The other one is quite pregnant and feeling so low energy that she says she's going to start sending in her mom with her son instead of coming with him herself. No one's talked about this, but I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I suppose the playgroup is meant for the kids. But really, it's at least half for the moms to get together and have some grown-up conversation, enjoying the dynamic we've put together, right? Now, one of my very favorite friends happens to be a childless woman more than 20 years my senior, so I can assure you that I have no problem hanging out with older ladies. But this mom's mom ain't one of my favorite friends. Yes, I have met her.

Maybe playgroup outside of playgroup is the way to work this. It's not worth getting all junior high bitchy and cutting off any little kids just because a couple of the moms aren't my cup of tea.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

It's been a quiet day today. Husband went to work, Sister was at her dad's, and Bean has maybe a little intestinal bug that's keeping her energy very low. I tried to squeeze in some planting during what I was assuming would be a very long naptime, but only got 2 things in the ground before she woke up. We spent the time between 3:00 and 5:30 just idling inside--reading, playing with beads, lolling on rugs in various rooms, and watching DVR'ed episodes of Elmo's World, skipping through the 40 minutes of Sesame Street before it. The whole world seems to grind to a halt when one of the kids is sick. No one called and only a couple of emails landed in my inbox.

Slow time is nice, even if a child has to be sick before I let myself take it. But pretty soon I'm going to have to slow down. I'm getting a belly and it's already getting too damn hot outside to keep planting. (I told myself last week that once I got the last few things we'd already bought into the ground I'd call it quits for the summer--but then went shopping at a super-cheap, huge nursery an hour's drive from my house and got a couple dozen more perennials. As soon as they get into the ground then...)

Anyways, school's almost out and Sister and I will both get a much-needed break from the school routine. I'm so looking forward to a lazy summer with my girls.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spilling it

Okay, it's at last time for me to 'fess up here about why I've really been so tired--not just from sleep-deprivation and gardening--and cranky--not just from SAHM malaise--for the past couple of months. Ready, all 3 of you out there?

I'm pregnant again.

I'm 13 weeks along with a perfect ultrasound, blood test, and midwife visit behind me, so I'm feeling pretty confident that this pregnancy is going to be okay. (Quick--knock on wood for me!) Sister is so excited she went to school the morning after we told her and announced it to her entire 3rd-grade class. Husband is letting himself be excited now that the danger of miscarriage seems to be past, and even Bean has been talking about me having a baby in my belly and how she wants a baby in her belly, too.

I'm settling in to feeling pretty excited myself.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Food meme

Devilish Southern Belle tagged me for a meme today. I have to say I'm not so good at going through with the meme thing lately. (Okay, my readership has dropped and no one tags me anymore. I know, I know.) But I'm supposed to list my top 5 favorite local places to eat and this I find appealing. I love to support local businesses and I do so love to eat. The meme rules are as follows for those I tag below, lifted right from Belle's site verbatim:

1. Link to the name of the person who tagged you.

2. Include the state and country you're in.

3. List your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location (locally).

4. Tag 5 other people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they've been tagged.

Okay. I'm in Chapel Hill, NC which is stinking with great restaurants. There are just a lot of great cooks and bakers here, even with no cooking school nearby. It's a nice place for a foodie, and if you're not one you're likely to become one in short order. (Ha! Get it?) I don't get out nearly as much as I used to and would like to, but here's my list.

1. The Barbecue Joint is just what the name suggests, but it's more than that, too. It has hands-down the absolute best barbecue I have ever put in my mouth. Ever. They also have fried squash, duck confit salad, house-cured meats of many varieties, and rockin' mac-and-cheese for the 2-and-under crowd. Plus, it's run by one of my old kitchen buddies, Damon Lapas who's cute, funny, and single for all you single Chapel Hill ladies out there.

2. Guglhupf is a great bakery run by a posse it Austrians? I'm not sure and have never actually met them, but they make great coffees and crank out excellent croissants, danishes, and breads. Rumor has it that their bakers show up for their shifts at midnight and work til 8:00 am. Ouch! They've added on a cafe in the last year or 2 and have things like cheese plates and platters of sliced meats and cornichons. I haven't been there for lunch, but when I do I'm havin' a meat and pickle plate. What I usually do is haul Bean there and let her splash in their outdoor fountains while I have a latte and a pastry of some kind. I feel all civilized and shit when I can manage that.

3. Lantern, and no "the" there please. But forget the snooty articleless-ness. They have phenomenal Asian cuisine made with excruciatingly fresh, local produce. Everything I've ever had there is perfect. Plus, they invent and serve their own equally fresh and fabulous cocktails in the best people-watching bar in town! I never take the kids 'cause I usually have to wait a long time to get a table, but it's so worth it.

4. Carrburritos is actually in Carrboro, just a few miles down the road from Chapel Hill. I seldom make it down the road that far these days if I'm hungry for a burrito, but if Husband and I happen to be in Carrboro we go there. They fry their own corn and flour tortilla chips, and you can dip them in truly excellent fresh salsas. My favorite is this smoky chipotle stuff with little black flecks of charred goodness. Great guacamole, great, uncomplicated ceviche, and lots of food for not much money. Oh, and great decor--weird Mexican clay statuary, oilcloth tablecloths, and tin ceiling tiles. The girls love it, too.

5. One of my long-time favorites is Crook's Corner, so charmingly and ably cheffed by Bill Smith. I must confess I used to work there, but I don't continue to like every place I've worked like I do Crook's. It's good Southern food made with good quality ingredients and everything I've had there is well-made and just what I want. Soft shell crabs in season and "cheese pork" are a couple of my favorites. They also make the town's best margarita, or at least they did 9 years ago when I was fresh off Sister's birth and in need of a bender with friends to take my mind of my slack-ass (now Ex-) husband. On a more pleasant reminiscent note, I remember working the line one very slow Monday or Tuesday night with Bill and Damon (yes, from the Barbecue Joint above). There were steamed oysters on the menu. Orders were only trickling in, so Damon and I sampled a few raw oysters. They were so fresh and briny and delicious that we had a few more. Bill wasn't partaking, but he also wasn't protesting about food cost. He stood there with his hands folded above his Buddha belly like he always did, smiling benignly at our very vocal pleasure. Damon and I ate oysters til we were stuffed and must have polished off at least a few dozen each, adding all manner of little flavorful goodies from our prepped line--lemon juice, hot sauce, scallions, vinegar, bacon bits, and I can't even remember what else. It is still one of my favorite memories of both food and work.

Ah, food. I had no idea I'd spend so much time working on this meme, but it's been such a nice diversion. Husband's dealing with a post-bath screaming Bean now, so I guess I should get my ass off the computer and help him. But I still need to tag folks, so how about Suburban Gorgon, Mama D, Lauren over at Dream Kitchen, Joan in Southern Suburbia, and Blind As a Bat Beth.

I'd feel more guilty about tagging if I hadn't enjoyed doing this particular meme myself. Hope you all do, too.


My calendar is empty today, which is a rare and pleasant occurrence. I just wish I could enjoy it, but I've once again fallen behind on my sleep. And I knew it would be a challenging day when I woke a little after 6:00 before my alarm even went off, hearing Bean beginning to chat to herself in her crib. I really, really need just 15 minutes to myself in the mornings with no kids and no Husband awake yet so I can at least take a peaceful shower and start my cup of tea before being fully jarred awake by the reality of the day and--let's face it--them. It was not to be this morning. Which is perhaps within an hour I found myself yelling at Sister for not getting her tail downstairs fast enough. My blood boils over way too easily on mornings like these.

Bean went down for her nap at 11:00 am this morning, about 2 hours earlier than usual. This was a nice reprieve, but it also means that I won't be napping myself today since there's just no way for me to fall asleep after such recent caffeine consumption. I'll start to crash around the time Bean wakes up and Sister comes home from school.

At least I managed to cross some ancient items off my to-do list already today. Took the dog and his poop in this morning for some tests and a vaccine. Cancelled my utterly unused gym membership 'cause who am I kidding here? If only I could bring myself to "wash baseboards," I'd probably feel so self-congratulatory my whole attitude would turn around.

But nah. Maybe outside for a bit of light puttering in the cool 65 degree air is what I need.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


This week Sister has been bringing home this super-easy math homework--easy because she's done it all before and it is merely intended as review before the end-of-grade tests start next week. Her whole class is worried about these tests, and Sister has been a bit worried about them, too, since last year when she first caught wind of them. I've been assuring her ever since that she has nothing to worry about, that these tests are really testing how well her teacher has been teaching and how well her school is working. Now, I will admit thatI have no fear at all Sister is going to fail third grade. These tests do determine whether a 3rd grader will be promoted to 4th, will have to spend vacation days indoors at summer school, or will fail altogether. But Sister's a smart girl who's practically hung on every word this adored teacher has uttered all year, from what I can tell.

Some part of me feels a bit of guilt that I should really be doing more to help her teacher out here. I love love love this particular teacher. She's done a miraculous job reinforcing my belief of the past couple of years that Sister does not have attention problems requiring medication (as 2 of her teachers have hinted we should look into). Rather, she just hadn't yet found the teacher who could bring out the best in her. Some part of me thinks I should return the favor and drill Sister on this huge list of terms and problems that she's going to encounter in the end-of-grade tests next week so her teacher will look especially good. I got this list last week and what I did instead was asked Sister about a couple of things on it, then promptly stuck it in a drawer where it's still languishing under some more recently-added coupons.

I just can't make myself believe that stressing Sister over an achievement test in third grade is really an okay thing to do, notwithstanding the fabulousness of her teacher. Yes, I'm assuming she'll do well enough because I used to do well on such tests as a kid. Above that, it's just not worth it to me to spend two weeks drilling her in order to up her score by a couple of points. She's only 8! There will certainly be time to stress about tests when she's older and the stakes are higher. But third grade? Pfffttt.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

More on gardening

All of Chapel Hill is hazy today and oddly enough, it's because there's a big forest fire in Georgia right now. Georgia! It's windy, sure, but somehow this is an amazing phenomenon to me. It takes 4 hours to drive to Georgia from here, you know?

Got outside to do a little gardening today despite my post-lunch urge to nap. A nice glass of sweet iced tea stiffened by resolve to get some more damn plants in the ground before it gets too hot to be worth it. It's only May, but it's been in the mid-80's lately and not getting any cooler. The front yard is shaping up nicely. We've taken up quite a bit of our large front lawn and installed a huge planting bed instead, in case I haven't mentioned that. Before you start clamoring for pictures, though, let me just say that it's just not that pretty yet. The shrubs and trees I've put in are nowhere near their bushy, mature size and so things out there look mulchy and sparse to my eye. Maybe next year when it's all filled in a bit...

In the meantime, I'm hoping not to be quite such a landscaping widow to Husband's pond-building obsession soon. While I went through my part of the girls' bedtime routine last night--the stories and teeth-brushing part--he made a beeline for the fully dark backyard to work on the pond. After he put Bean down and sang her a song and wished Sister goodnight--his part of the routine--he practically ran outside again before I could stop him and stayed out til 9:30, fer chrissakes! This weekend's supposed to be nice, too, so I expect we'll be hanging around the house. Again.

Lest I sound like I'm complaining I have to admit here, though, that the pond is beginning to look really lovely, even half-finished and with black plastic pond liner still showing. Can't wait to plant there, too!

Monday, May 14, 2007

It's a nice evening here at the cave

Sometimes we have lovely, peaceful nights like this at home. The girls are sweet and funny and full of amazement at the world. Husband is contentedly working on his pond project in the backyard. The frogs are croaking in the trees and among the rocks. The house is clean and airy. I hear neighbors' voices rising and falling intermittently because it's the perfect temperature to have the windows open in the house. And I baked a very delicious chocolate cake with chocolate icing today. The cake is moist and the icing is very sweet, but it has lots of toasted pecans stirred into it to temper the sweetness a bit. I'm going to have some soon. A second piece, actually.

I love these times when they happen, and they seem to have been in short supply lately.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Blessed return to cozy bed, gas stove, and laundry facilities

Two showers, 6 loads of laundry, 9-1/2 hours of sleep, and 2 cups of hot tea post-camping have got me feeling like a human being again. It's a good thing our troop hasn't caught on to the fact that primitive camping trips are something many other troops plan and go on. I would probably draw the line if I had to take 12 girls out into the woods with no cots or toilets or ready-made fire pits like we had on this particular trip.

Actually, the worst part of the trip was not the absence of my usual creature comforts. The worst part was that I learned a bit more about some of our girls. I learned that one of them is very rude to grown-ups and was apparently never taught to say please or to phrase any of her needs as a request rather than a flat demand. I learned that one of them is heading for a high-maintenance adulthood, if her insistence that she couldn't do anything and needed it done for her is any indication. I learned that a couple of them very readily gang up on another if the opportunity presents itself. I learned that one of them really does have a violently short fuse, as Sister has told me before.

About myself, I learned that I should skip high-stress trips if I'm sick and way behind on my sleep. I can only hope that poor Sister won't have to deal with comments about how mean her mama is. I tried my best not to embarrass her but it was hard. Also, my realization many years ago that I should steer clear of any career involving dealing with people because I don't actually like being around many people may hold true for being a Girl Scout leader. 'Cause, you know, kids are just people and not some special wonderful species all their own.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I was never a Girl Scout

Bean's down for her nap now, and I should be doing all sorts of things other than sitting in front of the computer. I should be outside planting the few remaining plants destined for the bog garden still languishing in their pots. (The weather has appropriately cooled off again, no longer 92 frigging degrees like it was earlier in the week.) I should be scrubbing scummy toilets. I should be packing for the Girl Scout camping trip I'm taking Sister's troop on tomorrow.

But what I should really be doing is trying to convince myself that taking 12 girls aged 8-10 camping will be fun and inspiring and not too rainy or buggy or sleepless or just generally too much of a pain in the ass for this homebody mama. I'm not there yet.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sad, old garden

I spent yesterday evening after dinner planting about 10 variegated hostas on the bank of Husband's new bog garden. I have no idea what their cultivar name is because they were at our old house when we moved in. The new owners of my old garden emailed me a few days ago to say they'd been digging up and dividing the hostas, and I was welcome to come help myself if I wanted their extras. They'd be sitting at the top of the old driveway and I could get them anytime.

I was pleased at the prospect of free hostas because I'd been planning to get some to fill in some bog space anyway. I was also delighted to have a reason to go visit my old plants. I walk by there twice a day on the dog's daily 'round-the-block-to-poop tour, but I can only see the plants closest to the road. The beds right by the front door are too far away to see well.

So on our morning dog walk, Bean and I swung by the old house so I could see what was there to pick from. I wheeled the stroller up my former gravel drive, remembering the familiar crunch under the stroller tires. I walked up the little hill a bit, looking for the plants I expected to be in their full, explosive, spring growth. And...nothing. Or anyways, not much. Because all that watering the new owners didn't do last year during a solid month of temperatures in the upper 90's and no rain took its toll. These were pretty established plants, so they wouldn't have had to be watered every day. But they would've needed some extra attention that I guess the new owners just didn't have the time to give them, or perhaps didn't understand was necessary. No more ferns, dead nettles, columbines, spiderwort, bleeding hearts, or forget-me-nots.

And those poor hostas! They had dug up nearly all of them, as far as I could tell, and had tossed them into 2 big piles, all broken, dried out, and wilted. Ack! I gathered 2 flats' worth of mangled root balls and took them home, hoping that if I watered them heavily and planted them in full shade they'd make it. They are pretty sturdy plants, so they might be o.k., but it was just sad to see how little care had been taken with them.

Sigh. I know, this is over-the-top dramatic if you don't care about plants, but I put in literally hundreds of hours of hard, sweaty work in that old garden and I really hate to see it wasted and unappreciated. You sorta figure that if you plant perennials you've just improved some small part of the world in a permanent way, right? Maybe not. Next time, I'm bringing some plants with me, even if it is in the middle of summer.