Friday, July 25, 2008

Suburban Jungle Warfare

We have a small garden with a half dozen tomato plants and some basil, rosemary, and peppers. It's taken me two years to figure out just how to plant them, stake them, and prune them to keep them healthy. The first year, the garden was part of the back yard, so I had a steady stream of visitors to the garden, including rabbits, squirrels, birds, and children. Last year my dad built a fence, keeping out the children, and we placed a plastic mesh over the top to keep out the birds. We had to abandon the mesh because the plants grew up through the mesh, creating a mess. This year, I created an inner fence of chicken wire that keeps the rabbits out and placed a plastic owl that seems to keep the birds away, but I've yet to solve the squirrel problem. They ignore the owl, don't care about the chili powder I've dusted, and are undeterred by the deer-away I've sprayed.

I have to admit, I think I'm going a little insane. One problem with being a stay-at-home dad is I get to see what goes on in my garden during the day. This year we have a bumper crop of tomatoes but because of our wacky weather, they've yet to turn red. Often I'll walk by the kitchen window and see a squirrel perched on the fence, feasting on one of my tomatoes. I used to be a calm man. Not anymore. If I see something eating my vegetables, I stop whatever I'm doing and run out there like a madman, sprinting towards the varmint to scare him away. Megan thinks it's quite funny.

I recently asked my dad to bring over his pellet gun. Now if any readers out there think it's horrible to shoot little creatures (as I once did,) don't worry, the squirrels are perfectly safe with me looking down the scope. Plus, they have to be there at a time when the girls aren't there to see what I'm doing. I actually got a shot at one yesterday. He was sitting on the fence having lunch on my dime. I quietly stepped out the back door, aimed, and fired. He calmly looked over his shoulder as if to say, "I wonder what that was."

I ask you, would it be overkill to buy some sort of infrared motion detecting laser defense system for my garden? I know I could buy a lifetime of tomatoes from the store for what it would cost me, but that's not really the point, is it?

(I walked over and checked for squirrels at least ten times while writing this. I need to go get a job.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How I spent my summer vacation, part 1

We just got back last night from a week near Charleston, South Carolina with Nana & Papa, Uncle Jim and Aunt Tracy, and, most importantly, their kids Davis and Elena. For an idea of what the week was like, I could just post this picture:

But I think I'll give a few more details... Click on any of the pictures for a larger view. Our condo was right on the beach, and we spent parts of each day on the beach or in the pool. Here's the view from the deck:

7 year old Davis was a champ. Here he was sharing his vacation with three squealing little girls and he acted like there was no place he'd rather be. Clara played too rough with Elena and Kate startled people by randomly shouting out things like, "DON'T EAT THE BEANS!" At dinner one night Kate couldn't get Elena's attention so she shouted down the table, "WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR, ELENA?" Elena responded with her calm Minnie-Mouse-on-helium voice, "Pink." Satisfied, Kate turned back to her dinner, "OK." Milk almost shot out of my nose.

Davis wasn't stuck with little girls the whole time. He got to spend a guy day with his dad, Papa, and uncle at the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier at Patriot's Point near Charleston. What a great antidote for pink princess-y girlie buffoonery. A frickin aircraft carrier!

Here's Kate and Jim just before we boarded a carriage to ride around historic Charleston. Kate's hair and make-up guy can be seen rushing off in the background.

Porches like these are called Piazzas. This particular one is called the Ice Cream Piazza because the couple that owned it used to invite orphans to come have ice cream every Sunday during the Depression.

After our tour, Kate was a bit tired at lunch:

One of our attempts to get them all together for a group picture:

And though Clara didn't quite make it in the picture, this one is my favorite:

After that picture, we failed in our efforts to keep the kids out of the surf, and soon enough they were sopping wet, rolling around together in the crashing waves. It was probably only about 15 minutes total but all four of them wished it would last forever, and I'm sure they'll remember it that long.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Childhood Rite-of-Passage

We knew the day would come, but we were not prepared.

No amount of parental warning can truly educate a child to the dangers surrounding them. Sometimes the little one has to actually experience the touch of something hot, to knock over that lamp onto themselves, or to get their heads stuck between the slats of the dining room chair to realize that maybe they should rethink doing something like that again. And perhaps the constant warnings from us parents to slow down or you'll fall, to be careful with your milk cup, to hold the bannister on the stairs, or to stay away from the edge of the pool turns us from rational bestowers of wisdom to the adults in Charlie Brown: "Mwa mwa mwa mwa mwa. MWA! MWA!" But it only takes one drop of the ice cream cone to realize that maybe you should hold it with two hands. Cry all you want about it - it's not like I didn't try to warn you.

Last night Clara did something that she may think twice about doing again. She stuck something up her nose.

About an hour past her bedtime, I heard a blood-curdling scream from upstairs, which could mean anything from her closet light wasn't on to she had lost a limb jumping from the top of her dresser. I was betting on the closet light. When I opened the door I saw her on her bed holding her nose.

Me: What's wrong?
Clara: My nose hurts!
Me: What happened?
Clara: There's something in there!
Me: Do you need to blow your nose?
Clara: No.
Me: Clara, did you put something in your nose?
Clara: Uh-huh.
Me: What did you put in your nose?
Clara: I can't know

I grabbed a flashlight and some tweezers but couldn't see anything up in there - and no, exploring the depths of my daughter's nostrils no longer seems even a little bit gross to me any more. I was convinced there wasn't anything in there, but I took Clara downstairs to get Megan's second opinion. She couldn't see anything either, but did find that one spot high on Clara's nose was quite tender. Clara blew her nose several time but nothing substantial came out.

Megan: Clara, did you really put something in your nose or is that just a story?
Clara: I really did.

Megan believed her but I wasn't convinced. We've always called her "an unreliable witness" and I didn't want to turn this into an ER visit unless we were sure. A bit more nose blowing revealed a little blood, and I was coming around to the idea that something was up there. As we stood there debating the options, Clara blew her nose one more time and something came out: a small plastic screw, which could have fallen out of a toy or a piece of furniture. It was a smaller one of these:

Megan: Oh sweetie, do you feel better?
Clara: Yeah!
Me: Now you never put anything in your nose, OK?

Mwa mwa mwa mwa mwa, mwa? - But maybe it hurt just enough to stop her from doing it again.
(No, that's not Clara's x-ray up there.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Happy, Happy Weekend

After a weekend of visitors and celebrations, Clara and Kate have been happy to play quietly inside on this rainy morning. Five days of visitors and guests can tucker out little girls. My dad stayed for a couple of days and joined us and a dozen friends at the Webster Groves 4th of July parade, the height of Americana. I'm not sure what the girls enjoyed more, the parade or sharing their toys and pool with the other kids. Pictures below. Some of Megan's family, including her aunt who flew in from California, spent Saturday with us. Sunday and Monday were spent with my cousin Shauna, who came down from Chicago.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Stealthy Ninja Kid

Clara, almost 4, has free rein in our house and is responsible enough to play on her own in any part of the house, though she's most often found within three inches of me. There's only one time when she doesn't have complete freedom - when she's supposed to be asleep. It's during these times that this clumsy, overly loud little girl turns into the silent, creeping ninja kid. I may be wrong, but I'm starting to suspect that instead of sleeping, Clara is in her room having a tea party, in the guestroom pretending the read the books in there, on the third floor making castles with duplo blocks, or in the bathroom dancing in front of the mirror. Whatever she's doing, she's doing it silently.

This morning I woke to the slight sound of Clara's door closing, which isn't a big deal because she can use the bathroom on her own now. But over the next twenty minutes I heard Clara's door at least five times, but I never heard her. I have no idea what she was doing, and as long as I could keep sleeping and she didn't wake Kate, Clara could spin from the ceiling fan for all I cared.

Occasionally when Clara is supposed to be sleeping Megan or I will see an eye peek around the corner at us, but we never hear her coming. This afternoon, as both girls were supposed to be napping, I went into the kitchen to get a drink and was startled to see Clara standing there silently, like one of the children of the corn, but with an embarrassed smile.

Me: How long have you been there?
Clara: Ummm... 8
Me: 8?
Clara: Yeah, 8.
Me: OK.

Sneaky little rascal.

Just to give you an idea of how sneaky she can be, she's in the picture below (and no, she's not the smiley girl in the middle - that's Kate.) See if you can find her.

(click on the picture if you give up)