Monday, June 30, 2008

Cleaning, er, Blessing my House

So, I'm on the FlyLady bandwagon again, and I've stuck with it for a month so far. Today is the last day of my first rotation through all of the "zones" in my house, and the place is looking pretty good. If nothing else, it's gotten me off my butt to do some of those icky jobs that always get put off (cleaning the filters in the kitchen vent fan, washing windows, etc.). The best part about her system is, the longer you stick with it, the less cleaning you have to do each time, because the dirt doesn't accumulate and really stick the way it does if it sits for, oh, say, a couple years. Ahem.

I'm still working out which parts of my house are in which zones, as my housework load doesn't split up evenly if I use her divisions. I pretty much skipped doing anything with the basement, which is disgusting and disorganized and used for nothing other than storage and cat feeding/litter, so it was less important than the areas we look at every day. Today, though, I bought a mop and attempted to bring the cat room up to some level of hygenic decency. Because really, the place was foul.

Good thing it's in a half bathroom, because I had to rinse the mop out every two square feet or so and scrub each section of the floor several times just to get the worst of the cat litter dust up. Ick. As I was scrubbing the layer of grime off of every surface in there (including walls), I was really glad I had decided to switch to a different kind of cat litter.

Since we got the cats we've been using the clay clumping kind, usually the kind for multiple cats, which has more fragrance and clumps harder so it's easier to scoop. While we scoop every day, the box only gets actually dumped and refilled, um, when we move, which is less icky than it sounds because the clumping litter really does suck up everything with the least little bit of moisture in it.

But last week I was reading an article about how clumping cat litter may cause health problems for cats and people, what with cats cleaning themselves and ingesting stuff that clumps so hard when wet that it can actually clog bathroom plumbing. Plus, every time you dump the clay-based litter into the box, a huge cloud of dust comes flying up (hence the mopping of walls today), which I can't imagine is good for Asthma Man to breathe.

While I'm not the type to jump on every health-scare bandwagon, the article makes sense, and my cats do tend to puke rather more often than normal, especially for not-very-hairy cats. If there's an easy change I can make that will reduce the number of times my kid comes running to me screaming "Cat Puke!!!!" I'm all for it. Since there are alternatives to the clay-based litters that still clump but don't seem to cause the health risks of the formulas we'd been using, I decided to give it a try.

We're trying Swheat Scoop, which is made from wheat and looks kinda like something you'd add to your cereal if you were having regularity issues. It has virtually no scent - certainly none of the "look, our litter smells so nice you hardly notice we have cat" smell I'm used to - and there was pretty much no dust when I poured it out. I bought a new litter pan and filled it up with the new litter today, adding a couple cups of the old stuff on top so that the cats would recognize the smell, and it was christened within minutes of being put into service. I cleaned it out this afternoon when I was mopping the floor in the room, and it scooped just as well as the old kind ... so far, so good.

Oh, and I ran the new vacuum over the throw rugs in the basement, and bleeeeechh. I was right to fear it. I don't ever want to see that again, thank you very much.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Our little diplomat

"Okay. So. Please stop talking - there's something I want to talk about with you guys. Now. What would be the chances of me getting to do the 'all around the mulberry bush jump in your lap' thing again?"

I swear this is a word-for-word transcription, written down moments after we managed to stop holding in the laughter and treat her as seriously as she required.

Also, when trying to decide which toy to ride, she tends to ask, "Does this require a helmet?" which cracks me up every time.

Guess that whole "no babytalk" thing is working for us, huh?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Disturbing on so many levels

I've been wanting a new vacuum for months now, and after I saw how much lint was building up on Jason's side of the bedroom carpet (via the Urine Gone! blacklight, remember?), I decided we might actually need one. After all, the old one is close to 15 years old, the bags are impossible to find, and, um, I really wanted a Dyson. And the red ones were on sale at Target.

Were on sale ... now gone, so I spent 10 minutes in the vacuum aisle attempting to compare vacuums that were at eye level on the display. Note to self: When lifting vacuums overhead, make sure all the attachments are firmly attached. Ended up buying a bagless HEPA double cyclonic whatever-it-is that was on sale and about half the price of the Dyson sale price.

I just finished vacuuming the whole house with it. I have heard horror stories along the line of "I had just vacuumed with my old machine, and I ran the Dyson, and my god, the stuff that came out of my 'clean' carpet!" Well, I hadn't vacuumed since last Friday, but still, I wasn't really expecting this:

Um, yeah, ewwwww ... and that's just from the 5'x7' wool throw rug in the living room. I mean, it's a cathair magnet and the place where the cats usually wrestle, but still. Eww. Want a better idea of the scope of the situation? Here's a different angle on the same canister:

The stuff I got off the sofa slipcover was a little disappointing:

I'm used to using a vacuum with a bag, which I pack so full of stuff I end up pulling a 5-pound bag of cat hair out every six months or so, so I honestly have no idea what volume of stuff I usually get with the old machine. But I can pretty much guarantee you, even with a fresh bag, it was less than this:

That's a layer about 8" deep across the entire top of my trashcan. All hyperbole aside, the clot of hair, dust, carpet fiber, dust, skin flakes, dust, and miscellaneous stuff was at least as large as either of our cats. The amount hair didn't surprise me - I know we're going to be covered in the stuff for years after the death of the cats - but the amount of dust/skin/grime/whatever that brownish grey stuff is was shocking. And I didn't even do the basement, where litter dust is about 1/4" thick on every horizontal surface. I'd like to officially apologize to all of our lungs for what we've been putting them through for the past year.

It will be interesting to see what sort of volume we get next week ... and I might turn the carpet height adjustment down a notch to make sure we don't end up with bald spots. Set this thing on "hard surface," and I think you could suck plywood splinters out from underneath the carpet padding. Whee! This makes vacuuming fun again!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Flower girl practice

The wedding is in less than a month, and we didn't have anything better to do today, so we started Flower Girl Boot Camp today.

Of course, we don't have the right dress, or shoes, or hair thingee, or basket, or petals, but we did our best to come up with reasonable facsimiles. Today's agenda: walking slowly while sprinkling petals.

Looks like we've still got some work to do.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Not sure what I want to write about

My kid is shy. No, not shy - tentative to the point of debilitation when among unfamiliar people, especially kids. Once she knows the people, she's the most outgoing blabbermouth you've ever seen, but throw one unknown kid in the mix and she clams up and (usually) starts screaming.

Needless to say, this makes visits to the playground a bit traumatic. It wasn't bad during the winter, when most people stayed inside and we had playgrounds mostly to ourselves. It started getting bad a few months ago - we went to the indoor playground at the mall when it was raining outside, and there were maybe 10 kids playing. It took 10 minutes (yes, I timed it) to pry her off of my lap, get her to stop saying, "Mommy, make the other kids go away," get her to stop wailing and shrieking because one of them tried to talk to her, and convince her to go play. Then she tried to run in a circle around a piece of equipment, but when she got to the other side there was a parent standing in her way, so she had to run back the way she came, and she managed to make it back to my lap before she had a total meltdown. Another 10 minutes of sniveling and whining and "Mommy, make them go home! I don't like other kids!" and she finally went off to play, and I ended up having to drag her out of there half an hour later, she was having so much fun.

Next trip there, same thing, only without the break in the middle - 20 minutes of nonstop whining and moaning and asking very politely for me to tell the other kids to go home, followed by her finally working up the nerve to go play and then not wanting to leave.

We went to a birthday party for the older kids of some friends, and my kid was a wreck the whole time, despite the fact that we're over at that house all the time and we know the kids and she's best friends with the youngest sibling. Why? All the grandparents and great-grandparents were there. Next time I told her we were going to visit those friends, the kid started kicking and screaming and saying no she didn't want to go, it was too scary. After some prying, I was told it was too scary because there were "all those people there."

When my mother-in-law was visiting last month, we took my kid to her end-of-school picnic, which was held at a park we go to pretty frequently. The picnic was for every kid in the school, plus parents, so there were a lot of people there. We were there for close to an hour and never could get her to go on anything other than whatever baby swing was currently occupied by another kid. We had to sit on a bench a few dozen yards away from every single other person on the playground and watch. In the cold. For an hour. And as soon as we left, she wanted to go back and play, after I told all the other kids to leave. Um, no.
We went on vacation, and she loved the hotel pool ... unless there was anyone else using it. We managed to get her to ignore the one guy swimming laps by assuring her that he would stay on his side of the pool and we would stay on ours, but the four rowdy folks on Sunday kept her out of the water for at least 15 or 20 minutes, standing on the edge telling us to make them leave.

She was so excited to go to summer camp at her regular school ... until she found out that none of her previous classmates were in the camp, and there were a bunch of other little kids she was going to have to play with. The screaming was so bad the first day that we left after 20 minutes, I didn't even try to leave her there. It was "too scary," she wanted to go home so she could "just be with Mommy," and couldn't I just make the other kids leave?

The next day I told her I would stay the whole time, and she was fine in between the six or so complete meltdowns she had because, say, that girl looked at her pink hula hoop. The following day I did a dump and run, and after calming down from her initial hissy fit, she was fine. The next week I dumped and ran on the first two days and she was fine after a few minutes of crying; on the last day (her favorite day - water day! with swimsuits and everything!) she hadn't stopped crying after 45 minutes, so I had to come get her. What was so horrible that she couldn't stop crying? According to her, some other person had eaten her snack (because she was crying and wouldn't eat it), and she hadn't gotten to do craft (because she was crying and refused to participate) and she hadn't gotten to use the water table (because they were just lining up to go outside to use it when we left). Um, kinda circular logic there, what with the "I'm crying because I'm sad that I didn't get to do things because I was crying," but it's been a recurring theme recently.

On Monday we went to a friend's house to throw water balloons at each other, and after a while I put away the balloons and the kids went in the backyard to play on the swingset. The friend's next-door neighbor has a 2-year-old, and she came over to swing with my kid's best friend. My kid wouldn't look at the neighbor, wouldn't sit on the same side of the swingset as her, and only barely managed to avoid a full-on fit.

Yesterday she didn't want to go to camp, but I took her over and told her she could watch through the window for a while. After assuring her that no, I can't tell the other kids to go home, I managed to get her inside the room next to her class ... but she wouldn't budge from there. I decided that it's not worth the psychological damage she's starting to associate with school, just for me to have two hours of free time, so I didn't make her stay.

Today we didn't even try to go to school. Instead we went to the playground, the one she specifically said she wanted to visit because the little splash pool was finally open. When we got there, there were maybe 10 kids running around and splashing near the pool. She wanted nothing to do with it, and we had to use every deserted piece of equipment that was as far from the pool as possible. Another kid came and sat on the swing at the opposite end of the swingset, so we had to leave. A kid tried to climb up the ladder wall next to her - a couple feet away, not paying any attention to her at all - and she lost it and screamed and whined and rended garments and summoned demons and I could only calm her down by telling her that if she's trying to get the other kids to not notice her, wailing like a siren wasn't the best choice.

After maybe half an hour the preschool group that had come in the meantime all climbed out to get dried off for lunch, and there were only three or four kids in the water, and I managed to convince my kid to sit with me on a bench near the pool. She stood there, got up the courage to go into the water in front of us - there was a 20' circle free of other kids - and before she could get her shoes off, some other kid walked through the empty space. Didn't stop, didn't look at my kid, didn't even know we were there, but my kid lost it again and 5 minutes of screaming ensued. She finally went in the water when I agreed to come stand next to the edge (rather than sit on a bench 10' away), and I had to practically drag her home after another 30 minutes of playing in the freezing cold water.

On the way home, she wouldn't stop talking about the "friends" she made at the pool, the one little girl who walked with her (for five feet, and I'm not sure she even realized Liza was there) and the other girl who could get her whole head wet, not just her hair (as the girl derisively pointed out to my kid and her walking friend, who were leaning over getting the tops of their heads wet). Neither of these girls are likely to even remember Liza tomorrow, but I'm going to be hearing about them for a week.


I hate this. I hate that she's so tentative, so slow to warm up, so overreactive about the littlest, weirdest things. I hate that she's so tall people assume she's older than she really is and expect her to be able to hold it together better than she does. I hate that she's always on the outside, watching through the window or from across the playground, lucky if she talks to one kid without melting into a wailing puddle on the floor. And I especially hate that I know exactly how she feels.

I was always the one on the outside, wanting to join in but too painfully embarrassed to try. I can remember sitting on the fringes of the playground, watching the other kids play, wanting to be invited to join but never making it over there to ask if I could. Feeling like everyone was watching me, judging me, criticizing me - when it's unlikely they even knew I was there. I was the tall one, the chubby kid with glasses and bad hair in the back row of every single class picture. The kid who was so unpopular in elementary school that the boys who played Dungeons and Dragons wouldn't even let me join.

My parents wanted me to be outgoing - my dad is the kind of person who will go to a historical reenactment village and end up chatting with the sawyer for 45 minutes - and I don't think they ever quite got it. Go join things! Talk to people! Be nice! Nobody's making fun of you, it's all in your head! I did, I tried, I was, they were, and it wasn't. Sorry, guys.

I tried to join the field hockey team in 7th grade, and I didn't even make it through the organizational meeting before I got so embarrassed at my own lack of knowledge and/or skill and/or physical abilities that I burst into tears and had to get my application back from the coach. And that was just sitting in the auditorium in a meeting - I never even made it to the field.

I tried to go to my 8th grade "formal" dance, despite not having a date and hating dances in general. I got the dress (a black tank-top knit dress with a long swirl skirt that looked really good on me, and cost $80), got my dad to drive me to the dance ... and as far as I can remember, I started crying in the car as we pulled into the school driveway, and I never even made it to the door. Every other girl was wearing $200 prom-type dresses and had dates, and I was going to be the awkward dateless one. Again.

In high school I was on the fringes of a couple groups, the band geeks and the theatre people and the math nerds. You know you're in trouble when you're the least popular one in Math League. I had one good friend (Hi, K!).

I joined the fencing club in college, not because I had any particular interest in fencing, but because one of the members literally reached out and dragged me over to the table during the activity fair at the beginning of my freshman year. She was tall and weird and a little chubby, and I loved it. Fencing attracts all manner of oddballs and outsiders - let's face it, MLF, you have to be a little off to enjoy poking other people with potentially deadly archaic weapons - and yet I was still on the outside. I was the one who didn't drink at parties, who didn't sleep with everyone in the club, whose room or apartment no one ever bothered to visit. I was asked to parties only because the entire club was invited (and they needed someone sober to keep score during beer bowling); I was asked to come to the mens' team away meets because I had been nominated the Team Mom, mainly because I had a sewing kit and was the only person liable to have cough drops, kleenex, or extra snacks in my gym bag.

I made a few friends with coworkers after college, but when I switched jobs I didn't keep in touch with more than one or two. I didn't make any friends at the new job, although we did end up being good friends with our neighbors, mainly because they gave us no choice (Hi, guys!). When we moved to Kentucky I only ended up with friends because they pretty much grabbed me at the library and forced me to join in (thanks, Kimberly! I needed that!). I had people to hang out with who had kids roughly the same age as mine, but I never got to the point where I could just call one and say, "Hey, let's ditch the kids and go see a movie."

I've been back in Cleveland for over a year now, and despite visiting playgrounds, going to storytime at the library, going to tumbling lessons at the rec center, hanging out at the library, and joining the local preschool PTA group, I have a total of two friends in town - my former next door neighbors. I go to kid activities, and either the parents all already know each other, or they blow off my attempts to start conversations, or I'm so busy wrangling Little Miss Whinypants that I don't get a chance to try to meet people. I went to two PTA meetings - the first one I had to take my kid with me, and she refused to stay in the gym with the other kids where were being babysat by the girl scouts, so I didn't even make it to the actual meeting. I went to one other meeting, and I swear I was the only one in the room who wasn't paired off with someone they already knew, chatting and having a good old time. I sat there like a stump and went home having talked to a total of one person - the one at the door who asked my name so she could make my nametag.

I hate this. I hate being awkward and outside and lonely. I hate that I do the things I'm supposed to, yet somehow friends never magically appear like they seem to for other people. I hate that when something good (or bad) happens, I call my friend (singular), and I call my mom.

I really, really don't want this for Liza. She's been like this since birth, always wanting me or Jason, never anyone else, never showing much interest in what other kids were doing, never wanting to play with them or talk with them unless she already knew them. She'll chat up the clerk in the grocery store for 10 minutes, but she won't say "Hi" to a girl on the swings.

I want her to be the kind of kid that walks into new situations happily, not the kid who clings and cries and protests and refuses to try new things. I want her to want to talk to other kids, even ones she doesn't know. I want her to want to join in, and then DO it. But it isn't happening.

And I hate it, because I know I can't "fix" it, it's just who she is, just like it's who I am. And some days, I hate that, too.


Also, I hate that I just wasted my kid's entire nap by writing this. So much for getting anything done today.


Edited to add: Also, hate thatshe insisted on wearing underwear for nap today. When I woke her up from her nap, she was dry, but groggy, so I let her stay in bed while I went to switch a load of laundry and go to the bathroom. Huzzah, dry after nap! BUT... When she got up a few minutes later, she was in a huge puddle, which had soaked through her waterproof mattress pad and soaked the mattress, too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Oh, George, we'll miss you

Scary fact for the day: I went to see George Carlin in concert in college ... with my parents. That was a bit, um, awkward.

Cooking update

Chicken and Salsa Soup - really good for something so simple. We used the lime-flavored corn chips and about twice as much cheese as the recipe recommended, and I think we'll do both next time we make this.

Also from Better Homes and Gardens was a grilled vegetable sandwich recipe that isn't anything special ... except for the cumin mayo. We didn't do these as sandwiches, we grilled them at a friend's house and served them over spinach as a side dish salad, and boy, were they good. I'm going to be using that mayo recipe for other veggies ... or as a pasta salad dressing ... mmmmmm.

I'm switching cookbooks for a few weeks because I'm sick of looking at this one on the counter ... so we'll see if Cooking Light has anything worth sharing with you guys. Here's hoping so!

My favorite new toy

While I really, really like the mis-constructed Happy Meal toy, I'm really referring to my new photo light box, which I finally got around to trying today. Geez, what a difference good lighting and a white background makes! Even the dumb toy looks good, not to mention things that are actually awesome to begin with, like the scarf I just finished ...

And that's with absolutely no editing other than a crop. Huzzah for not having to monkey with the color on every single freakin' product photo for my business!

Sunday, June 22, 2008


  1. After exchanging the defective one for a new one at the store, I spent almost an hour playing with the black light in the Urine Gone! kit. I am all CSI'd out, having seen in horrid detail exactly how many spots the cats have barfed on, how far stuff sprays out of the toilet when you flush, and how much lint we have on every surface in our house. The floor on Jason's side of the bed lights up like the Milky Way under a black light. Kinda cool, until you realize that I just vacuumed on Friday. Eeeew. Dyson, anyone?
  2. After scrubbing my bathtub for two hours early last week (no, not kidding, and eeeeew) I finally realized that the mildew problem we have stems partly from the previous homeowners, who covered up their mildew problem by putting white caulk over the yucky areas, then smoothing it to look like grout. Only now the caulk is peeling off, exposing the mildewed and/or chipped grout underneath, and it's pretty much impossible to get that stuff clean. Ultimately the damage to the grout means we're going to need to regrout the tub someday, but I'm not up for doing that right now ... so when I was exchanging the Urine Gone! kit at the store, I grabbed a Grout-Aide grout and tile marker as a temporary fix. I was fairly sure that it would suck, but for $7, it was worth a try. Yes, I know, I'm just covering up the problem again, but daaaaaaaamn, you should see how sparkly white my grout is. This stuff works (as long as you don't look toooo closely, especially at the area where I used it to cover up the unremovable stain/chipping from the bottom of the tub). It's so much fun, I'm wishing I had more mildew so I had more stuff to cover up ... but then again, that might be the fumes talking.

Apparently tonight is "Shill for As Seen On TV" night on the blog. So, do you think the AquaGlobes actually work? Might have to try some in the hanging baskets by the front door, since I'm getting tired of watering them every other day and it's only June.

Oh, and while I'm in the confessional ... I've reached the point where I'm totally bribing my kid to stop peeing on the floor (and in the car, and in the yard, and in the bathtub ...).

  • Pee on the potty = coupon for 5 minutes of computer time before bed.
  • Pee anywhere else = lose a coupon, unless they're all gone already, at which point I start chopping off body parts ... er, taking away dessert, followed by bedtime books, followed by body parts.
  • Make it through the whole day (until 6:30 or 7) without peeing anywhere other than the potty = get a present from the basket of $1 junk I bought at Target and gift-wrapped and put in a place that's really obvious yet inaccessible to small children.

The last three or four days she made it until about 4:30 or 5 with no accidents, then went and hid somewhere and purposely peed on the floor. I'm sorry, but it's not an "accident" if you're playing in the yard, have been asked 400 times if you need to go potty, and you suddenly drop what you're doing so you can climb up the ladder and pee all over the floor of your swingset. Also not an "accident" if get up off the potty and run into the garage to pee on the same spot on the floor two days in a row. Can you say, "power play?" Because I can, and I ALWAYS win. I've got 30+ more years of experience in being stubborn ... I can't make her pee on the potty, but I can make her life a lot less fun when she doesn't. Bwahahahahahaha!

And today she got her first potty present (water balloons), so there's a possibility this might actually work. Of course, now that I've written that we're having success, she's going to sneak off and take a crap in the front seat of my car, but hey - at least I can be happy for tonight, right?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

To Whom It May Concern,

Dear Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc.:

I wanted to thank you for producing such a uniquely designed product as your Prospect Adjustable Highback Booster car seat. Here are just a few of the features I really have come to appreciate over the few weeks we've been using your product:
  • I love how the entire seat must be removed from the car in order to remove the pad to clean up spills. All the time I spend wrestling that thing in and out of the backseat of my car would otherwise be spent doing frivolous things, like playing with my daughter, so thanks for saving me from myself.
  • It's so innovative that you designed it so the entire booster seat must be disassembled in order to remove the pad for cleaning. And it's so easy to remove the entire back assembly - I've only broken three fingernails doing it this week. And the fact that all of the straps have to be unthreaded in order to remove the pad - what a design feature! And those little plastic thingamabobs that keep the straps in place under the seat are so cute ... at least I think they are, but since I keep losing them every time I take the seat apart, I'm just working from memory here.
  • And who came up with the idea to have the seatback pad overlap the seat pad enough that any diaper leaks or potty training accidents automatically soil both pads? And you also designed the seat to funnel all liquids right out the gap in the back and into the crevice between the car's seat and backrest ... how did you ever think of that?!? I'm getting so good at jamming my hand down into an opening that's 1/2" tall in order to sop up urine, I hardly ever lose (much) skin off my hands anymore ... and my car only smells faintly of pee!

Listen, fuckwits, a booster seat that's designed for a child weighing between 22 and 100 pounds is going to require a lot of cleaning. Even once the kid is past bottles and leaky diapers, there's still potty training and wet swimsuits and muddy shoes and clothes and vomit and about 45 other things I've cleaned off of car seats in the past three years. Would it have been so terribly difficult to design a seat which contains the mess and which doesn't have to be uninstalled or disassembled or unthreaded in order to be cleaned? No, it wouldn't, because infant carseats are virtually all designed that way.

I'd like a refund for the money that your shoddy design has caused me to spend on a waterproof seat protector to put down under the booster seat - that's $20. And I'd like remuneration for all the time I waste messing around with your poorly designed piece of crap every time my daughter doesn't tell me she needs to pee. Given prevailing wages and the amount of time it takes me to uninstall the seat, unthread the straps, take apart the seat, remove the cushion, clean up the spill on the car seat, and put the whole thing back together once the load of laundry is done, I figure you owe me about $10 per occurrence. Since she's relapsed on the potty training, that means you're up to about $200 for that, too.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience to arrange for payment. Thanks, and have a great day, you thoughtless bastards!


Your Customer

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Which is worse?

The fact that the "Scientific Black Light" that comes with the "urine gone!" kit is so badly made, it comes with instructions on how to fix it when it doesn't work ... or the fact that I've reached the point where I have to buy a product called "urine gone!" to clean up after both the kid and the cats?

Sand Art for Small People

Hurry and buy some sand from the $1 rack at Target while they still have it - it's a good deal!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Saturday and Sunday

"Okay, the second layer is done on the playground."
"Crap - we still have that much left over?"


"Hey, look - the piece of landscape cloth we have left over is exactly the right length to cover the barren wasteland under the overhang at the back of the house. Score!"
"Um, okay, how about using up all of the remaining Round-Up to kill off the grass behind the deck, then adding a bed there? I was planning on doing that next year anyway ..."

"Alright, now that we've got more landscape cloth and Round-Up, we can take care of the barren wasteland on the side of the house."
"Oooh! I know, let's make it so it's easier to mow around the mailbox. That ought to be good for at least two wheelbarrows full."

"Twenty more wheelbarrows left? Make the bed in the back deeper."

"And make the bed on the side deeper."

Our landscaping design is now inspired by "Early American Oh-God-We-Still-Have-To-Find-Spots-For-More-Mulch," and I have doomed myself to having to walk the property with a spray bottle of RoundUp every day for the rest of the summer, but at least it's done and we can use the entire driveway again.

Next time I order 10 yards of mulch, it had better be because I'm working property management for a shopping mall or something.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More good news/bad news

Good news: I've finished getting mulch down on all the flower beds, which is the really finicky annoying part of the job.
Bad news: Here's what my driveway looks like after Day 2:
Sigh. Guess after I finish adding the extra mulch to the playground, we're going to be adding some extra flower beds this year, after all. On a more positive note, here's my favorite addition from the new flower bed:
When we were buying the bedding plants, I told Liza she had to pick between buying lots of little plants, or three large plants. She picked the big ones (good girl! easier to plant!). This is some variety of coleus.

Bad news: We never got a chance to take Liza tubing on the New River in Blacksburg, despite a week of prepping her to not scream the whole mile down the river.

Good news: "Look, Mama, I'm innertubing!"

Look, clean water that's about the same depth as most of the New River. And she can stand up whenever she wants to! And she doesn't have to wear a lifejacket! And the innertube is pink!

Note that she's showing off her (now green and purple) facial bruise, as well as the Mysterious Large Swollen Leg Bruise That She's Had Since Tuesday Morning But No One Can Remember What Caused It. She got the "bruises easily" gene from me, so I can confidently say that this is probably the least black-and-blue she's going to be for the next three to four months. Don't believe me? Don't make me post pics of what my legs look like (shudder).

Do they still make that spray-tan stuff for legs? Maybe that would help disguise them ...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good news/bad news

Good news: I finally got around to ordering mulch.
Bad news: I ordered 10 cubic yards of mulch, which was delivered yesterday.

Good news: I've got the first layer of mulch down under the swingset.
Bad news: I've got it 2" deep - it's supposed to be 4" deep when I'm done.

Good news: I have plenty of mulch to finish the swingset and the new flower beds.
Bad news: Boy, do I ever have plenty. (That's how much is left after doing the first layer on the swingset)

Good news: One of the roses I planted last year is super-happy this year, thus continuing my plan of using landscaping to distract my neighbors from the satellite dish.
Bad news: The rose has pretty much shot its wad for spring blooms, so after finishing the mulch I can look forward to an hour of deadheading followed by weeks of it sitting there looking boring before it (hopefully) blooms again later this summer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back in Black(sburg)

Searching the Yellow Pages for late-night dinner ideas on the day of our arrival in Blacksburg, we saw a sign that civilization is slowly encroaching on SW Virginia:I did say "slowly," and with good reason:

Total number of Korean items on the entire menu: maybe 10. This just cracks me up every time I look at it, because I can't help but want to go there and order Chicken Fried Chicken with sides of macaroni and cheese and Kim Chee.

Besides mocking the local restaurant scene, we also went "hiking" on the Cascades trail:

We got almost 1/4 mile in (on the four-mile round trip trail) before Certain People were too tired to continue. It was all the rock throwing that wore her out, I just know it:

More photos available on flickr here, or check out the widget I'm planning to add to the sidebar if Liza sleeps long enough this afternoon.

We spent a good part of each day enjoying the hotel. Our room had a bed so big I had to roll over twice to be close enough to whack Jason when he started to snore ... it's a good thing the room was large, since we were stuck there for a few hours every afternoon for naptime. When she wasn't racked out on the sofa bed, jumping up and down on our bed, or sitting glazed-eyed in front of Super Why, Liza was in the pool, where she learned all about the wonders of swimmies and goggles and being able to swim the length of the (small) pool unaided:

We hung out downtown a bit, eating good food and visiting good yarn shops. I got lots of knitting done, and did I mention the food?

We went out to Chateau Morrisette on Sunday to do a tour and tasting, and while we were there we grabbed some lunch and sat under their tent to listen to the guitar player they had performing. It was approximately 1 billion degrees, even in the shade, and Liza was in a foul mood from having wiped out on the edge of a table earlier that day, giving her the traditional Vacation Giant Facial Bruise. And it was still pleasant ... nice place. Boring tour, but nice location. And the views from the drive back to Tech aren't bad, either:

Speaking of views, on the way back to Cleveland we made a side trip past Beckley (WV) to show Liza the New River Gorge Bridge. She's really too young to understand the total awesomeness of it, but she was in favor of the set of stairs we had to climb down to get to the good vantage point.

Hiking back up the stairs in billion-degree heat? Not such a fan of that. My god, it was like carrying a furnace back up those stairs, she was so hot. Blech.

And, lest I end on that note, here's the video that will make MLF so nostalgic for his college years that he'll grab his family and catch the first plane headed to southwest Virginia:

Bet his kids get farther up the trail than mine did ... not that it would be hard.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Branching out

Remember my little genius? She's exploring other media, including print:

horticultural photography:

and her favorite, minimalism:


"... you will make the kid scarce for at least an hour so I can veg out in the bacteria-filled hotel bathroom BY MYSELF BECAUSE SHE IS DRIVING ME INSANE. INSANE. I'm just saying."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Down by the river

Yesterday evening Liza and I went over to the river, which was a little bit greener than the last time we visited:
Even the river was greener:
Rocks? Yep, greener:
She's looking away from the camera because she's watching the insane local kids sliding down the falls. Trying to convince her not to follow them was interesting ... Meanwhile, Liza's hair was loving the humidity:
And Liza was loving the leftover Easter candy I brought as a snack:
On our way back to the car we stopped off at the pond near the parking lot to commune with the frogs:
And on the way home we stopped at the frozen custard store, where - miracle of miracles - the special flavor of the day was pink. Doesn't matter what it tastes like - if it's pink, she'll eat it.
Peach-colored works too, if it's got sprinkles on it.

Monday, June 02, 2008


wedding anniversary approaching ... appropriate plans should be set in motion now if they are to arrive in time.

Let it officially be known

... that whoever decides it's a good idea to cut the grass without bagging will subsequently be responsible for removing from the bathtub the giant clog of grass clippings that wash off Liza's legs after she runs around in the hose for an hour.

Hint: I'm not talking to myself here, dude, and I'm not up for dealing with this every frakking day for the next three months, no matter how much more convenient it is for you. Eww.

On the positive side of things, I think I've pretty much confirmed that in order to fit two cars and a riding lawnmower into our garage, you'd have to have a rather cavalier attitude toward paint scratches and accidentally-scraped-off side mirrors. Not that it's happened yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Anyone got a Tardis attachment I can borrow for a few years? Because that whole "bigger inside than on the outside" thing is looking like the only way the garage is going to work.