Friday, June 30, 2006

One Easy Solution

All I
Meant to imply was that if we could
Only do as I see fit, we'd
Never have a problem.

Maybe I should steer clear of Poetry Friday, for the common good.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Travelers Tales

And so, we have returned from points north and east (barely). The huge, steaming pile of soiled clothes are washed and put away. The huge, steaming cat box has been de-toxed. (Necessary as it is in the laundry room. I really regretted not having on hand one of those WWI gas masks for a while there.) The refridgerator has been restocked and we have slept a night in our own beds, so I am now somewhat restored to normal. Somewhat.

It was a good trip. Good for the soul and good for us to get away for a week of enforced family time together. As the beds, except for the hotel we slept in the last night on the road, were truly horrible, I won't say that is was entirely restful, but I feel actually rejuvenated and, for the first time in a few months, looking forward to work, again. Guess I was feeling a bit burned out.

We took the drive up to the resort in two days, which was rather pleasant due to the purchase of a car DVD player which kept the kids in a zombie trance for the entire trip. Yes, it's probably going to lead to some lack of character building that they didn't have to drive like we did, with nothing to do for hundreds, nay a couple of thousand miles if driving coast-to-coast, but stare at the Nebraska scenery and play 'The License Plate Game' or 'The Alphabet Game' or the 'Alphabet License Plate Game'. As a kid, I was blessed with being able to read for a few hours at a time before becoming a bit carsick. Charles can barely read a road sign without becoming queasy. So, yes. We drugged our kids with technology and reveled in it. We also drugged them with Benadryl after having Sara puke her guts out twice. You'd think we'd learn after the first time, but noooooo. Had to have her demonstrate her inner ear intolerance to long drives twice. This also lead to the emergency purchase of laundry stink-remover as well as detergent and a stop at the Laundromat before we even checked into the resort. Sigh.

The room, itself, had seen better decades. It was actually a condo, seemingly last re-done in the '70s or so, with the carpet so stained you really didn't feel comfortable walking on it, and a shower that was physically painful to use; one of those ones that the water comes at you as small needles. We got to sleep on one of those pull-down wall beds that reminded me of a 1950's batchelor pad space saver. We gave the kids the bedroom as we really didn't want to leave them loose in the living room. We also had ourselves a mini X-Files festival going after getting them to bed, and the TV in the bedroom was smaller than the one in the living room. Priorities. The grounds were nice, though. Lots of golf course views and such. We got a giggle out of the condo unit being up for sale. We didn't know what it's actual asking price was, but they 'start at $160,000'. I'm not sure if the pleasure of the ants' company comes with it. I'm thinking the peeling wallpaper does, though.

The mornings were spent for me in a room with about 100 other providers, about 1/2 docs, 1/2 physician assistants and nurse practitioners. We learned about things like 'updates in antibiotic resistant organisms' and 'evaluation and treatment of unstable angina'. Not exactly gripping but necessary. Charles read the assigned stuff for his course work and the kids hung out, eating sugar cereal that they don't get at home and playing with stuff. Then we went out and saw the sights, like Lake Michigan. And Torch Lake. And Grand Traverse Bay, both East and West arms. We also took in the tiny zoo in Traverse City, where Sara had a complete meltdown (Whoo hoo! Baby still needs a nap, yes she does!) and went fishing (Sara caught 4 tiny rock bass and Colin caught 3, but one was the size of my arm. This guy across the dam caught a walleye the size of his upper and lower leg, though, so hey! Guess the fishing there is good.)

On the drive home, we had the chance to inflict our grimy selves on poor Gerah, who certainly wasn't thinking clearly in her New Baby sleep-deprived state and asked us to dinner. I truly am in awe of her. Her house was immaculate. (Make that her very beautiful, lovingly restored, amazing house was immaculate.) She was not only dressed but had on makeup and her toenails were polished. She didn't even have any spit-up on her. She didn't smell funny, which means she had recently showered. She spoke in complete sentences. And was funny. How the hell does she do it?!?!?!?

And her husband and daughter were perfect. Baby Nico was completely adorable and only fussed a scootch. You'd hate her if she weren't so fabulous. Truly, truly fabulous. Plus, the beer they had the very good taste to serve completely rocked. She even served dessert. Now, all I have to do is somehow convince them that SW Wisconsin is actually where they really, really want to live, or at least visit on a regular basis, and my nefarious plot will be complete.

But then, we had to leave.

We got home Saturday afternoon, to Molly peeing her name in the driveway in her delight. Really. At least the "M" and the "O". I'm not making it up. Should have taken a picture, but the camera was burried and the urine evaporated quickly in the heat of the concrete. Under our bed, we found other evidence of her feelings of us leaving her for a week: a shredded magazine and the mangled remains of some Polly Pockets that I'd gotten to amuse Sara but they somehow (???) migrated from the tote I'd put them in for the trip. (Yes. I put them in. I'm sure of it.) Sigh. Again.

Upon our return, she also managed to extract one of Sara's sandals, my hairbrush, and, somehow a 1 lb tub of Eucerin, that I use to battle the dry skin flakies, from my duffel to the under-the-bed oasis. She had started to lovingly gnaw the brush when I discovered her and expressed my displeasure. Kitty raced around the bedroom for hours in an acrobatic display, leaping out of bags, until I started tackling the mountain of filthy laundry, where she followed, diving out of the piles of smelly clothes and trying to sneak into the washer when my back was turned.

The joy of pet ownership.

A couple of hours after our return, the neighbor boy, A, who sometimes plays with Colin, knocked on our door. He urgently wanted us to go over 'for a few minutes or the evening'. It was rather confusing, but as Sara was in the throes of a monster nap, Charles and Colin went over to investigate. Turns out, they walked in on their daughter's 9th birthday party, complete with oodles of kids, relatives, neighbors, soccer coaches, and all. Not what we'd expected. Turns out that their dad, S, had been keeping a lookout the past week to invite us to the shindig, but hadn't seen us until we pulled into the drive that afternoon. Gah. Terribly sweet and nice, but to be honest, the last thing any of us felt like doing was going to a party with a cast of thousands. We didn't even have any clean clothes, as they were still being shoved through the appliances. Charles left Colin to eat hotdogs and beat a retreat on the excuse that he needed to check on Sara's nappage progress. Thankfully, she slept for hours and hours, thus we didn't have to even lie by saying that the rest of us couldn't come. Such a wonderful girl she is!

So there we are. The trip, in brief.

And how are all of you? Missed you terribly, darlings. Kiss, kiss. I've got a load of blog reading to catch up on.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Haikus for CME

That's Continuing
Medical Ed-you-kay-shun
for the rest of you.

Must have fifty hours
each and every year or else
dire things happen.

What those dire things
are, I know not, but I don't
ever want to know.

So, dark and early,
Saturday, we pack up the
minivan and go.

Where? Ah. Yes. Some go
to Hawaii or maybe
NYC or Vale.

Me? Well, I'm off to
glamorous and envious
Northern Michigan.

Hey. It's mostly paid
for out of my yearly funds,
if we keep it cheap.

The place? Oh. A golf
resort. Do I golf? Uh, no.
Nope. Nyet. Nosiree.

Fortunately the
beloved Charles and kids will
accompany me.

Each morning, I'll go
and sit on my arse to get
a little smarter.

Then, I'll skip back to
the room and we'll go see stuff
like Lake Michigan.

Our long planned for trip
back to Portland to see our
family and friends

Fell through, so this is
it for this year's vacation.
Better than nothing.

So, we'll pretend that
the Big Lake is really the
Pacific, without waves.

We do get one bright
spot; on the drive home, we will
go annoy Gerah.

So, see you later,
alligators, we're hitting
the road with much glee!

Thought I'd leave you
all with these dreadful haikus.
See you in a week!


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pushed to the Brink

I am seriously beginning to question my sanity.

You all know the garden, right? The one I plant each year? The vegetable one enclosed in the stone walls, somewhat reminiscent of a fortress? Yeah. That one.

Moving to the Upper Midwest from the gentle Northwest has opened my eyes to all the local bug pests. The first couple of years, when still in Northern Illinois, I was granted immunity. No pests, at least the non-human chomping kinds. Pleanty of mosquitos lurking under the cool leaves of the zucchini and hordes of those horrible stinging mini-sweatbees that like to get you behind the knees, where the sweat pools. (Man! Those hurt like hell, making me yelp in a most undignified manner. Then, 48 hours later, they itch worse than any bite I've ever encountered. Bastards.)

About the 3rd or 4th summer, I noticed these guys on my zucchini. I thought they bore watching, but didn't dive in with the bug destruction measures. My credo is 'Live and Let Live', because it is the easiest credo. Doesn't require you to do anything but let things be. That's why I didn't harvest any zucchini past July. Given that you don't expect to get your first zucchini until mid July, well, let's just say that I haven't forgotten the evil squash bugs.

The next year found us in Wisconsin. I kept my eyes open for undue pests, but I only planted a few things that year, as we were settling in and not sure where we wanted things. The second year (last year), found me flabbergasted by the stunning infestation that was the cucumber beetles, both striped and spotted. No cukes were harvested past early August, and when the ghost town that was the cucumber trellis was completely barren, they headed over to the squash, both summer and winter.

Well. Enough of this laissez faire gardening. Time for drastic measures.

This year, I'd bought a giant economy sized bag of diatomaceous earth and liberally sprinkled it all around, dusting it over the small plants, every mother-loving one of them. (Looked like hell, must say, with all that white powder all over. Gah. My sensibilities were shaken, but I had no choice.) The next morning, I went out to see how everyone had spent the night, and was completely horrified to see several spotted cucumber beetles on each cucumber AND all the zucchini and winter squash. The little bastards weren't even going after the cucumbers first!

Time for Operation Scortched Earth.

First, I bought one of those environmentally 'safe' namby-pamby plant sprays. (I was still trying.) Yeah. Like that was effective. So then, I pulled off the shelf, where it had moved with us, after I realized too late that squash bugs were satan's own spawn, and had tried to deal with them via toxic chemicals, the spray bottle of bug-death-from-the-sky. You know, the stuff that you can't spray on your plants less than a week before you consume them? The stuff that you can't use more than a few times a season? That stuff.

{Aside: No, I haven't forgotten the water source is our well. I'm doing this once. It's also not rained in the week since I applied it, and we can't expect to harvest the first of the fruits of my labor for about 6 more weeks. I've tried to keep my inner General Sherman in check. Somewhat.}

So. I sprayed a week ago, with anguished trigger finger. And, by gum, it worked. Sorta. There are still a few cucumber beetles, but they seem to be staggered, at this point, by the natural, non-toxic spray. The squash bugs, however, seem to have made their way to my little garden this year. But! I now know what to look for! And have unearthed a side of myself that frankly concerns me.

I can be found, on at least a daily basis, in the garden, bent at the waist, muttering, peering at every single plant of the cucumber/squash extraction, and under every leaf, for the damned squash bugs. And when I find them? Well. Let's just say: Picture a horror movie, early on. Two lovebirds are going at it under the covers. The moment of ecstasy has commenced. Aaaaannnd a large pair of bipass pruners reaches down from the rafters and bisects first the one and then the other, mid-coitus.

Sort of a buzz-kill, eh?

You do remember that I'm bug phobic, right? Let's just say that this is a measure of how close to the edge my sanity has been driven.

By my word, though, I WILL harvest in August. And September.


So, tell me honestly, should I be concerned?


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bad Parents

I really try hard not to condemn other parents, but sometimes, there comes a point.

I submit the following:

Each of the past 2 summers that we've been here in rural Wisconsin, we've been neighbors to several migratory families. They are good and interesting neighbors, provide much entertainment as you peer at them, unobtrusively through the windows, sometimes reaching for binoculars. You get to know them by sight, and soon, you watch their kids grow. Come winter, they leave, because only fools hang around in Wisconsin for the winter.

In the barn, of course, are the barn swallows, who treat Charles as a god, following him on the mower as he exposes hidden bug-manna. I have no doubt that they have our (or at least his) back, should those thug deer try something more than just stamping and huffing at us. There are eastern bluebirds in the bird house to the West. We got to watch a minor turf war between them and another family this spring, but the current residents proved the tougher and seem very cool. There's a family of American goldfinch who think the seeds from my columbine are quite the haute cuisine, the parents, their 1 son and 4 daughters all jimmying the seeds from the pods yesterday morning. The cardinal who lives in the lane, who flies in front of the car windshield at least half the times you drive down the street. Throw in the woodpeckers, hawks (reason #52 why our kitty is NEVER, EVER going outside), hummingbirds, your usual robins and crows and starlings, the loud, lewd wild turkeys and pheasants, and all and it's quite the busy place.

Then you have the house finches. Each year, we've had house finches nest above our porch light. I'm terribly fond of them. They raise 2 broods and are nice, if neurotic, neighbors. They really don't like us using the front door during the spring and summer. We try to accommodate them, within reason.

This year, though, I think the parents are either teens, or completely dumb, incredibly unlucky, abusive or really, really need to take a course or 5 from Home Depot in how to build a structurally stable structure. One in which you can safely raise your offspring.

The first brood, about 2 months ago, were, one by one, somehow ejected from the nest, then the next day, the nest fell. I assumed some other bird was responsible and felt very sad. A month later, the whole nest fell, again, with all eggs lost. About two weeks ago, they rebuilt, and a week ago, I found another egg that had fallen to it's end. (picture below) Currently, the nest is still in place, although somewhat precariously so. They seemed to have abandoned it, but I saw them back today, along the roofline at the front, which is their usual pattern when having another go at it.

Do you think that any infertile birds out there are bothered by this? Or maybe they are just on crack. I've named them Brittany and Kevin. Do you think it's time to call Child Protective Services or am I just too judgmental? Maybe if I offer to take an egg for a night or two each week to give them a spell and a chance to go to some counseling or take some parenting classes? Yes. That sounds right. I'll speak with them tomorrow, unless they're hung over. Unless that makes me an enabler? So difficult to know.


Thursday, June 08, 2006


Instead of writing overly much about the tornado that scooted past our town night before last, I'll just show the pictures, shall I? We didn't see a funnel cloud, it was probably just over the hill, a few miles away. You could hear it, though. Not like a train as much as a moving rumble of thunder that was constant for 30 minutes or more, or the sound of the wind, loud through the window of a car as you speed along. Initially, the sound seemed to bounce from side to side, then concentrating dead ahead, then, finally, after a half an hour or so, faded quickly, closely followed by the end of the warning siren.

These first 3 are out back, looking Northwest, from where the tornado was coming. The air was terribly still and the dark grey tendrils from below the slate clouds were swirling and being rapidly sucked up into the cloud mass, like a reverse time-lapse film. Beyond erie. The only sounds were the roar of the storm a few miles away and some crying birds.

Ah. And so all cleared up out the back. Yes. Tornado is past. All clear. Warning lifted. Satellite looks good. TV weather guy is talking about other storm cells and our county goes from orange 'tornado warning' to yellow 'tornado watch'. Kids and mother-in-law up from the basement, with pets in tow. (Mad-kitty looking decidedly disgruntled as she had been confined to her carrier and not allowed to explore the bomb shelter room in the basement that is basically a small concrete bunker, where we store packaged foods, water, and wine. So it's a combination bomb shelter/wine cellar. Yes. We keep a cork screw along with the can opener and paper plates and plastic cups. If the world ends, we're going in style, baby.)

Molly needs to go out the front to pee. Look at the clouds that greeted us out the front door. The pictures just don't do justice.

Dead ahead, to the South:

And to the East, well, there were these two huge rolling clouds, the one on the left turning clockwise, the one on the right turning counterclockwise, barreling right into each other. Above our house. Yikes:

I mean, these were monsters:

Fortunately for us, they were monsters that were headed off to points elsewhere.

The skies cleared, this time for good. We finally got the kids to bed and curled up ourselves, still a bit buzzed from it all.

And then we went to sleep. The next morning, we heard there were somewhere in the vicinity of 2 dozen tornados that went through the state and that 20 houses in Columbia County (a few counties over) were severely damaged from the worst of them. I feel somewhat guilty about being so thrilled by the cool-factor of the storm, but I guess, since there's nothing that I can do to control such things, might as well enjoy what you can out of life.

And remember that the next time could be yours to lose a roof, or worse.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Ariella Was Here

You-all knew that Ariella was moving up to Madison, right? This makes her 'minutes' from me! (Well, 'minutes' as in 'less than an hour'. Not counting road construction. And tractors.) But close! Closer than Jersey, by gum. (Her blog recently had to become password protected due to a particularly virulent troll, so I can't link it.)

This week, she and her husband, Erik, were in Madison, closing on their new house, going furniture shopping, visiting home improvement stores and spackling the garage.

And, so she agreed to come over for dinner, bringing the naturally cautious Erik, with her.

(Erik, being a prudent guy, was appropriately leery of meeting somebody who publishes the drivel of her life on the INTERNET. Erik, being newly wed to said Ariella, was also appropriately leery of his bride meeting with somebody she met on the INTERNET. We applaud this. It shows good judgment. We also hope that the fact that I didn't meet them at the door with an axe, purely as a joke, was appreciated. It was tempting. Oh, so tempting.)

Instead, we had some beers and dinner and lots and lots and not-nearly-enough-4-hours-later-lots of conversation.

In short, Ariella and Erik rock. I also managed to make her forget her shirt, so I have it as hostage, guaranteeing we will get together again. Or she sends me her address so I can mail it back to her. (NO! It was a second shirt she had in case the air turned cold. It wasn't THAT kind of party. Sheesh.)

So, Yippee! For me! Ariella is moving within minutes from me, in a couple of months.