When the dog bites, when the bee stings (when I’m feeling sad.)

April has been a tough month over here, Gentle reader.  I feel as though all those spring showers have not only flooded my yard, but they’ve soaked my soul a bit.  Too much distressing news, too much stress, too many emotional days, too little exercise, too many carbs:  it’s all combined to made me feel frayed at the edges and flat out sad.  In the words of Spock, I freely admit that I have been emotionally compromised.

I’m at the point when I want to shake my fist at the sky and shout (politely, of course) “Time out, please!  I call time out!”  However, I’m pretty sure that God and the powers that be don’t exactly grant time outs (or do overs, which really would have come in handy last week.)

So I’m doing what I always do when everything gets to be too much:  I channel my inner Julie Andrews (we all have one) and start appreciating the numerous, smaller bits of wonderfulness in my life while I wait (slightly impatiently) for the bigger items to get their act together.

Here’s what is helping me survive the blues today:

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1.  Our peach trees has buds on it for the first time which means there is a good possibility of home grown peaches this year.  Those blossoms were the most ridiculously gorgeous shade of pink and they made life feel just a tad bit rosier.

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2.  Without any watering, weeding, or working our rhubarb plants have sprung into action and have produced pounds and pounds of tangy fruit that is just begging to be put into a dessert of some sort.  So I’m getting my Great British Bake Off on and making a few delectable items to eat this week.

3.  We inherited some new bedroom furniture this weekend and the budget has enough leeway in it to allow for new linen (from sheets to comforter.)  Even better, the husband has agreed that for my birthday next month he will paint the room whatever color I choose.  After fifteen years of marriage I will have properly decorated, color coordinated grown up space to sleep in, instead of a hodge-podge of a room that acts as a catch-all for any item without a home.

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4.  Our asparagus is out of control, in the most delicious way.  Today (thanks to the rain last night) all the spears are a good four inches taller than yesterday.  So for lunch we’re having bacon wrapped asparagus that was just cut this morning.  Bacon makes everything better.

5.  My daughter has discovered a few of the authors I loved when I was her age.  Trinity’s in love with anything by Mary Downing Hahn (Wait Till Helen Comes scared the pants off me, mostly because no one in their right mind wants Helen to arrive.)  My daughter just finished I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan and agreed with me that the biggest lesson learned there is if you run over somebody with your car, you need to get out and help them- not drive away dummies.  (Seriously, this should be mandatory reading in Drivers Ed.  Hit and run accidents would drop by 70%, at least.)

It’s nice that for all the differences between our two generations there are certain things that never change- like good books.

6,  My cat, sensing that I’ve got the blues, follows me around the house and whenever I sit down for a bit (even in the bathroom) he lays on my feet and purrs directly onto my toes.  It’s highly therapeutic (despite the invasion of my potty time privacy) and makes me feel loved from top to bottom.

7.  The blueberry bushes we planted two years ago are still alive, despite the harsh winters they’ve endured.  I’m convinced that it is solely because I did my best Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans impression last fall when I urged them to “Stay alive!  No matter what occurs!  Stay alive!”  (I loved that movie in my college days and I’m convinced that part of the reason I fell in love with my husband is that not only did he own that movie, he had the soundtrack as well.)

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8.  The wee birdbath that my mother gave me this weekend is absolutely perfect in my flower garden.  All the rain has filled it up and I find it so charming and so lovely that in moments of quiet desperation I just look at it, while taking deep breaths, and the world is suddenly bearable once again.

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9.  My mother also gave me her spice stand, which enables me to see all my herbs (pronounced with the “h,” of course, to sound more like Martha Stewart) and spices at once, without having to turn anything or knock anything down.  It is absurd how happy I get seeing all my seasonings at one glance, but it’s the small delights that make life bearable.

Especially when it seems life is hellbent on making you do the ugly cry.

Gentle Reader, it’s a rainy Monday morning here (and I’m sure elsewhere) and no doubt there are many of you who are a bit down.  What little things are making you happy?

Posted in rantings and ravings | 4 Comments

Spring Break reading.

We are not on Spring Break, here at Bunkersdown.  We took our break in February when we escaped to Florida for a few days.  However, everyone else in Indianapolis is on their Spring Break this week and a good number of them keep knocking on our door to see if the kids can play.

I am not a slave-master (contrary to what my children believe), and when the sun shines we should spend more time outside, so this week we are giving our math and history books a lick and a promise and slowing down our school schedule in order for a little more socializing.

As a result I’ve had more time than usual to read this week and I’ve taken incredible advantage of it.  Here are some of the better reads I’ve enjoyed lately.

The Giver (Lois Lowry) How on earth did I manage to miss out on reading this novel for the past twenty years?  I have no clue.  None.
If you are person who is even more behind on reading the Young Adult classics than I am and you’ve never experienced this book let me tell you now:  Get on it.  Read this thing.  Read it now.
I read this book with my two oldest children and it was a fabulous experience.  We discussed topics such as the cost of love, the power of choice, the safety of obedience. We had conversations about utopias and dystopias and the many opias in between the two extremes.  To me, it was the best novel we shared together all year and so many things were learned- especially by me.

Texts From Jane Eyre (Mallory Ortberg)  This is a spoofy novel that is made for people who love literature.  Mallory Ortberg creatively and hilariously writes text messages between various literary characters and authors.  Read in one complete sitting, this book grows a little tiresome, so I suggest savoring the sections bit by bit at night in your bed like fine chocolates, just try not to laugh so loud that you wake up your spouse.
My favorite parts of this book are the Edgar Allen Poe texts, the Medea texts, and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock texts (I love that poem and its messages were utterly sublime.)
While being familiar with the various authors and books mentioned is helpful, it is not absolutely necessary.  I have never read Daisy Miller, but those sections were still incredibly funny to me.
There is some salty language (I mean seriously, Lord Byron has to be creepy and use the f-word a lot, right?) so if these things really offend you, this might not be the book for you.

How Your Body Works: The Ultimate Guide (Thomas Canavan)  This is, by far, the best children’s nonfiction book I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Not only is the narration clear, concise, and accurate, it is written perfectly for younger people.  The pages are arranged attractively with excellent illustrations and photographs.  Besides the well written text there are random fact bubbles throughout the book, that my son particularly enjoyed.  Each chapter also suggests easy, at home labs you and your child can do to further understand the information presented.
My favorite thing about this book is that the photographs include people of all ages and colors, accurately portraying the human race as the diverse group of people it is.
How Your Body Works: The Ultimate Guide is a book that every library (be it family, school, or public) should have.  I will definitely be purchasing my own copy as soon as possible.

Wishful Thinking (Kamy Wicoff)  What is Spring Break without a little fluff?  And believe me, Gentle Reader, Wishful Thinking is superior fluff.
The novel starts out as a typical single mother, how-does-she-do-it-all story, but then things get interesting in a hurry. The book takes on science fiction tones when the main character receives a telephone app that enables her to be in two places at one time, enabling her to be the overworked employee that her boss requires while being the mother that her children need. Throw in a potential love interest, conflicts with her ex-husband, an interesting best friend, and a competitive co-worker and Wishful Thinking becomes more than just ordinary chick-lit, it becomes chick-lit on steroids.
(Random aside:  I hate the term “chick-lit” because I feel in my literary heart it’s derogatory, but I have no other term to use for this style of book.  Somebody help me.)
The book does have its flaws.  Like many other books in this genre, I found the entire plot to be overly predictable.  There was never any doubt in my mind how this storyline was going to end.  However, despite knowing where the final destination was, I had a fun time getting there.  Which, is really, all you can ask from a fun, fluffy piece of fiction while enjoying what is not Spring Break.

So that’s what I’ve been reading over here at Bunkersdown.  What have you been reading lately?

 

(In the interest of full disclosure:  I occasionally receive advanced reader copies from Netgalley in exchange for my honest and sincere review.)

Posted in books | 2 Comments

Spring madness.

It’s spring, Gentle Reader.  It’s spring!  The daffodils are beginning to bloom, the sun has decided to shine in Indiana once again, the grocery stores are full of jelly beans, tiny buds are growing on the trees,  and the chickens have upped the number of eggs they’re laying.

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Ah, spring.  We’ve missed you.

I can also tell it’s spring because the kids have been digging into their summer clothes.  Closets are in complete shambles around here as the children change their clothes several times a day, but it feels so nice to have the cooler air on our arms and legs.  It almost feels like we’re waking up from a long winter’s nap.

Everyday we open up the windows and let in the fresh breeze.  Of course, after the sun sets we run around, shivering, while we close them until tomorrow, but it’s worth it.  I think we’ve all been stifled with stale air for too long here at Bunkersdown.

Last week I worked in the garden for the first time this year.  It was heavenly.  And messy.  My peas, beets, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and bok choy are all planted.  I feel almost a spiritual hunger to eat fresh things, healthy things.

My annual need to cleanse and purge through all our clutter has hit, right on schedule.  Spring makes me want to clean and freshen up and tidy everything in sight.

I’m taking the whole purging thing a bit more seriously this year.  (The girls have put their stuffed animals in the Witness Protection Program.)  My goal is to give or throw away 100 things from each room and after only three rooms we’re already on our second minivan-ful of donations to the Salvation Army.  The kitchen filled half of its quota when I simply cleaned out the silverware drawer.  Baby spoons- gone!  There are no babies here.  Rusted cheese knives- trashed!  Only shiny things are allowed here.  Rusted canning lids- recycled!  I’ve got newer ones I can use.

Soon spring will feel ordinary and everyday.  We’ll start taking the sun for granted again.  We won’t marvel at the green shoots that emerge from the ground.  My inner fire for cleaning will diminish and the kitchen island will get cluttered again.  But for right now it all feels new and clean and miraculous.

Ah spring, we’ve missed you.

Posted in rantings and ravings, Whoops. Got Lazy. | 2 Comments

Birthday shenanigans.

Occasionally the planets align and the fabulous birthday idea that germinated inside your brain for your somewhat persnickety, turning-twelve-years-old-and-it’s-a-big-deal daughter, is just as fabulous when executed in real life.

(Please tell me, Gentle Reader, that I am not the only one who suffers from having amazing ideas that simply do not translate into reality well.  It would be comforting to know that there’s a group of us who dream bigger than we can actually deliver.)

Being twelve years old is a challenging age.  Things that were loved and anticipated in earlier years are deemed too babyish now by the birthday girl.  And yet, Trinity’s not quite old enough to fully embrace the typical teenage ways of dealing with birthdays.  Twelve seems to be one of those bridge years that straddles childhood and adolescence, while being neither.

The birthday idea centered around taking a small trip.  The beauty of living in Indiana (I mean besides the obvious fact that Indiana is great) is that it’s called the Crossroads of America for a reason: there are several big cities with amazing places to visit all within easy traveling distance.

For weeks we debated the pros and cons of various nearby cities: Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville.  They all offered a myriad of fun activities and places to visit.  However, when I told my daughter, my book loving, readaholic daughter about my favorite bookstore in the entire world, the trip rather planned itself.

For my daughter’s twelve year old birthday we went to Columbus, Ohio and visited the lovely neighborhood of German Village with some of our extended family that lives nearby.

German Village is an amazing and unique neighborhood.  Established in the early and mid 1800’s, this place has been beautifully maintained and cared for, becoming one of the premier historically restored districts in the nation.

Cobblestone streets and sidewalks line the area, while narrow brick houses, eclectic shops, and art galleries mingle together, side by side.

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But the best part (at least for us) is the incredible Book Loft.

This independent bookstore has thirty-two rooms all devoted to books, as well as a gorgeous courtyard filled with tables of discounted books.  When you walk into the store, a friendly employee hands you a map of the place.  I don’t know about you, but a bookstore so large that it requires a map is my idea of heaven.

For her birthday, Trinity received book money not only from us, but also from her grandmother and aunts.  We spent the better part of the early afternoon exploring the children and teenage sections of the store while Trinity plotted and schemed to get the most literary bang for her bucks.

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We left carrying bags (and bags) of books because everyone needed a little something to commemorate visiting such an amazing place.  And the look of pure delight on Trinity’s face as she struggled to carry all of her new novels was lovely to behold.

Afterward our shopping extravaganza, the rain had (finally) stopped and we played at a nearby park in the neighborhood before having dinner at an Italian restaurant.

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As we sat around the table, stuffed to the gills with delicious food and talking about our day’s adventures, my nephew, after consuming what may have been his seventh breadstick, summed up what everybody was thinking when he announced, “This has been the best day!”

And that is when the server brought out a chocolate cake and everybody sang Happy Birthday to my amazing, twelve year old daughter.

May this year be her best year yet.

Posted in outings and trips, The Big Girl | 8 Comments

Maternal pondering on a Monday morning.

Right now the children are scavenging hungrily in the kitchen, trying to find something to eat for breakfast.  The pancakes and granola are gone, as is the emergency box of Cheerios that was set aside for such catastrophes, and I forgot to make the overnight waffle batter yesterday so the entire house is waffle-less.

Oh, calamity.

Fortunately, there is yogurt, fruit, bread, and eggs so the kids have something from which to cobble together a somewhat balanced, yet slightly off kilter nutritionally morning meal.

Most exciting of all my offspring are foraging somewhat independently for their own breakfast.  One daughter made a fruity yogurt concoction, another scrambled eggs in the microwave, while my son cut his own lopsided pieces of bread for toasting.

Meanwhile, I was here at the computer, offering guidance from the sidelines.

That seems to be my new role these days: the cheerleader from the sidelines, the advisor from the shadows, the nervous Nellie in the corner trying to let her children make their own decisions.

It’s exciting and scary, this new phase of parenting I’m in.  All three of my kids are becoming increasingly self-reliant.  I am no longer needed for many of the things that I had done for my children in the past.  Which is good and exciting and freeing, but also sad and lonely and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

Last week my son didn’t ask me for help the entire week with his pre-algebra.  The explanations and examples in the book were enough for him to understand the concepts and do the work on his own.  Part of his success comes from the foundation I have given him in the past but a large portion of it comes from the fact that decimals are his mathematical jam- he gets them in a way I don’t quite understand.

That pretty much sums up what I do now as a Mom:  I watch these individuals I love so completely take the things I have taught them in the past and blaze new trails with it.

As a Mom, I’m constantly worrying if I gave them enough to work with while nervously watching them navigate their way into the new territories of adolescence.  I struggle to swoop in only when they truly need me and not when I want to feel needed.

It’s so, so much harder than I thought it would:  not the parenting of these older kids, but the struggle to not parent them when they don’t need it.  It feels similar to giving birth.  The pushing wasn’t my hard part, it was not pushing until the appropriate time.

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No gratuitous pushing.  That’s my new motto.

I wonder if that comes on a t-shirt?

 

 

Posted in parenting | 6 Comments

Skipping February.

My family and I spent the good part of last week in Florida. (The bad part of last week we huddled together for warmth here in Indianapolis.)

I’m a firm believer in taking Spring Breaks in February, despite the fact that it isn’t spring, nor is spring even imminent. It’s just because February, despite being the shortest month of the year, flat-out sucks. The poet, T. S. Elliot, wrote that April was the cruelest month but I don’t agree. February is with its biting wind and bitter cold. By the second month of the year the novelty of winter has completely worn off. All the things that delighted us in October and November now only depress us. Christmas is long gone, warm weather is a distant memory, and everyone has forgotten what it feels like to have sun on your face.

So there is nothing better when the February blues hit than to pile into a minivan packed to the gills with snacks, books, and children and head south.
To get to our destination in Florida, my family and I drove for sixteen hours- stopping only to get gas and use grimy gas station bathrooms. But the unhygienic peeing conditions and the long cramped car ride were completely worth it when we arrived to warm temperatures and the salty smell of the sea in the air.

I’ve said it before and I will repeat it again and again: there’s something magical about sitting on a beach with your toes buried in the sand. I’m not sure what it is about hunting for seashells or hearing the waves crash on the beach or watching pelicans dive for fish but these things heal tiny cracks in my soul that I didn’t even know were there. While staring out at the seemingly endless ocean, library book lying forgotten on my lap, my priorities all seem to realign and it’s as if I’m able to rediscover my place in the universe.

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Our trip to Florida was a quick one this year, we were gone for less than a week. But sometimes a few days is all you need to feel like you’re skipping February.

I hope, Gentle Reader, that the February blues haven’t been too bad for you this year. And, I hope that there is something as healing as a warm, sandy beach in your life.

Posted in outings and trips | 4 Comments

Got mint?

The other day I was trying out a new recipe for a cucumber and avocado salad.  The dressing used lime and mint, so I pulled out the chopped mint from the freezer that our neighbor had given us last summer.

My oldest daughter, Trinity, wandered into the kitchen and watched me pour the dressing over the salad.  “Oh, mint!” she exclaimed excitedly.  “Did you know that the ancient Greeks believed that mint was created when the goddess Persephone stepped on a woodland nymph and crushed her?”

After sharing this appetizing piece of information with me, my daughter then waltzed out of the kitchen on her merry way.

I, on the other hand, was left emotionally scarred.  As will you be the next time you smell mint and think ‘crushed woodland nymph.’

You’re welcome.

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Posted in The Big Girl | 2 Comments