Wednesday, August 26, 2015


A year ago today, I spoke to my mother for the last time. Her last words to me were, "Love you... be good!" It's how she ended every phone call for two decades. 

This past year has been a year of learning to live without my mother's smile, her infectious floor-stomping dance, her advice... and her daily calls. Oh, how I miss those calls. Even the ones where we discussed  nothing but how many loads of laundry we'd washed, and whether or not we were simmering the same type of soup on our stoves because "it's a soup kind of day."

Some time ago during one such call, my mother shared a story about a ship carrying thousands of bath toys, that had capsized. Years had passed, and children were still recovering rubber duckies from the sea. The story captivated her, and she shared it frequently with anyone who would listen.

On the anniversary of our mother's passing, my baby sister (her blog post about this is HERE and includes a bit of the history on the place we chose) and I chose to send 66 rubber ducks down the Mississippi river... one for each year of her life. We had large ducks, small ducks, ducks with handwritten messages, and ducks dressed as everything from pirates to snowmen. When all our ducks were counted, there were just over 70 in the basket. Mom would have loved the extras and called them "freebies", so they stayed.

We chose a spot where two rivers met, and set about letting the little ducks go early this morning... first by gently setting them in the water, and eventually tossing them in to see who could toss them the farthest. There was an odd sense of "rightness" to the throwing.

Some of the ducks set right out, heading towards the Gulf of Mexico. Some went bottom-up, dabbling for who-knows-what, while others hugged the shoreline. And one silly duck floated BACKWARDS for as far as we could see. Mom would have liked that too... each duckie was obviously dancing to it's own beat.

We watched the ducks until they were gone from our site, while sipping at bottled Pepsi; a sugary tribute to her favorite drink.


Too many things this past year, have felt unfair. Too many moments have gone unshared; too many giggles silenced, and too many calls not made. But today is not a day to mourn what we've lost.

Today is a day... of release.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Reimagining a Dream

From the time that I was three, I knew that when I grew up I wanted to work with kids. Sometimes as a teacher, and other days as a stay-at-home mom. As I grew, my dream matured into an in-home educational daycare that would open once my children began school.

When my son was five, we decided to homeschool - one week before kindergarten started. My daycare daydreams were put on hold. Last year, just as I began to mentally rearrange the house, the state unionized daycares... essentially making it highly prohibitive to watch any children on assistance. And with my latest mobility issues, I no longer feel safe being the sole adult in a house full of children who can move quicker than me.

Twenty years of long-term planning, feel as if they've been flushed.

I still work with children at church, with an amazing troupe of teen helpers. And I still watch my youngest friends here, with the help of my own teens for speedy rescues from sofa-skydiving incidents.

For several years now, my daughter and I have been carefully collecting our favorite toys, books, and games. We called it "The Grandma Basket" and it's been a special bonding activity as we've discussed the merits and longevity of each potential item. Some are from our own childhood days, while others have been purchased specifically for the someday-daycare. But until a month ago, they were jammed into a corner of the dining room, largely inaccessible.

Last month, we began to rearrange the house. And while most of the changes were functional and unavoidable, we felt that now was the time to create a special playspace - as my nephew frequents our home and is big enough to play on his own now. So the Grandma Basket became... Little Friend Corner.

Tucked behind the sofa while still visible from the entire living area, is a special wall of low shelves housing our curated goodies. Now rather than rearranging the house each time a young visitor arrives, there is a permanent space along a wall that would have otherwise sat empty.

It may not be a daycare, but it has that not-too-big, not-too-small feel, that's juuust right. I don't know where it's going, but slowly my dream is re-imagining itself. In a whirlwind of frustration, this little corner is my happy-place.

Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 Garden - Part 4

Just a quick August update. This is when my garden tends to look pretty leggy, and I struggle to keep up with watering because of the sheer size of the plants. An hour each morning isn't nearly enough some days. *shrugs* Last night we had a wonderful soaking rain, and the garden has perked up just enough to be beautiful. So quick while it lasts, here it is... our August garden!   

Our tomatoes are touching the eaves again this year. The disappointing part is that this seems to be a poor variety. Every tomato we've harvested has had a black growth - and has spoiled before ripening. *sigh* Live and learn, next year we'll order our seeds in January so our beloved Bumble Bee cherry tomatoes aren't sold out! 

On the other hand,  just LOOK at our trellis! I have looped the zucchini vines up, across, and back across again; some of these have to be nearing 16' long! The cucumbers are doing just as well, and FINALLY we have baby melons! Last year all we had was blossoms, but I see actual melons this year! Most are the size of my thumb-nail, but we have ONE the size of a tennis ball that is being supported by an onion bag right now. Our fingers are crossed that this is the year we get FRUIT from our garden as well as veggies and herbs!

The rest of the garden is doing well also. I have 40-50 peppers just starting to blush, about a dozen zucchini growing steadily, countless (literally, I can't find them - my daughter finds them!) cucumbers hiding behind the zucchini leaves, and dozens of itty bitty melons! Not to mention the hundreds of tomatoes... that we're praying SOME will grow without this goshawful blight. I'm ready to swap out all our tomato soil, just in case it's in the soil at this point, but for now - we'll see if we can manage anything from this year.

The herbs are doing amazingly well also. I ended up harvesting a full half-pound of peppermint last week. EIGHT OUNCES - of an HERB! Our freezer is filling quickly of labeled baggies, as we simply can't keep up with that much fresh mint.

Even our leeks are starting to look like itty bitty leeks instead of awkward chives!

Despite quite a bit of five-finger discount losses due to the proximity to our sidewalk, our harvest count right now is at:
* 5 tomatoes, with a combined weight of 25.3 ounces
* One pepper, at .3 ounce (we'll be harvesting the rest of these next week)
* Four zucchini, with a combined weight of 35.7 ounces
* Six cucumbers, with a combined weight of 42.4 ounces
* And along with all the other herbs I haven't bothered to weigh, 8.1 ounces of fresh peppermint.
That's just shy of 7 pounds of produce... from miniature varieties of vegetable, BEFORE our prime harvest times!

We have already begun to evaluate the garden towards next year.
* So far we know that we WILL be growing zucchini again; either the same Table Dainty or a similar tiny variety. The Chinese long-beans will go away however, in favor of returning to our never-fail Purple Podded Pole Beans to help with nitrogen fixing.
* For cucumbers, we will continue with our miniature Dragon's Eggs - but are considering branching out into gherkins as well... for pickling. These will be underplanted with GARLIC next year!
* Our carrot beds - while they have a small handful of carrots growing, we feel as if we would have better yield returning to salad greens, so those will be planted with arugula next year; the princess and I can't get enough of it in the stores, so we'll be growing our own!
* We are loving the yields we are seeing in peppers this year, and the squirrels are actually leaving these alone! So the Maule's Red Hot peppers will return next year, WITH the companion marigolds! I don't know if we got lucky or the rumors are true, but peppers and marigolds SEEM to love each other just as we were told!

 The other things we know we will grow next year are: Sweet Alyssum, (can't get enough of their pretty white flowers or the fragrance) a few varieties of basil along with our other various herbs, and we want to try peas! IF our melons do not produce well, we may companion-plant edible-pod peas with either beans or the gherkins!

Plants we still don't know about are: our melons, (which could give way for peas & gherkins or acorn squash) the leeks, and the parsnips.

It's a learning process, but we love the journey. And being able to enjoy fresh produce grown right outside our dining room in our own "private oasis"... is priceless.