Thursday, March 29, 2007

The downside of character underwear for kids... that the pictured character is almost always on the back (at least for boy briefs). Which means that the Papaya always wears his underpants backwards. Why sport Mater or Lightning McQueen on his bottom when he can simply look down and enjoy seeing them? What were the manufacterers thinking, I ask you?

Amazing what first class postage will do!

When we received our new camera about 2 weeks ago, its box was wrapped in a sheet of bubble wrap – the kind with really big bubbles – and ensconced in a much larger box for shipping. The Papaya was fascinated and enchanted. “May-wee will weally like this,” he said. (Merry is his cousin who had just completed a visit with us.) “No, no, no, Mommy – don’t pop it yet! Save it for May-wee. She will be weally happy to get it. She will get it and she will say, ‘Thank you for the poppie-things, Josiah!’ And I will say, ‘You’re welcome!’”

I told the Papaya that we would save it until we went to the beach house in August and saw Merry there. He considered this possibility for a few minutes, then decided that August was much too far away. The following is his monologue (repeated several times since), punctuated with occasional affirmations from me:

PAPAYA: No, no, no, Mommy. We won’t wait until the beach. We will send the poppie-things to May-wee in the mail. We will take them to the post office and we will give them to the lady there and she will get on an airplane and go to May-wee’s house in Pennsylvania and wing the doorbell and give them to May-wee and May-wee will be SO excited and happy for the poppie-things. [I guess my previous explanation of how the US Postal System worked left out some important details.] We will put the poppie-things in a box and we will use lots of tape and be ve-wee careful to make sure that they don’t break. [The first time I’ve ever heard of anybody going to extra lengths to protect bubble wrap in the mail.] Come on, Mommy, we will go wight now!

The Papaya put the bubble tape into the large outer box that held the camera, closed the top flaps, and put on a single piece of Scotch tape. Then he found his shoes and went to garage door. “I’m weady to go to the post office now, Mommy!” Happily, the post office was already closed for the day, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend good money to fly bubble wrap across the continent. I put the bubble wrap on top of the refrigerator and told the Papaya that the post office was closed and we would think about sending it later – hoping, of course, that his ardor would have diminished by the next morning.

I was wrong. Every box that the Papaya’s gotten ahold of over the last two weeks, he’s filled with the bubble wrap (he pulls a stepstool up to the refrigerator to retrieve it), taped up with Scotch tape, and tried to take to the post office. I’ve held him off by telling him that the boxes were much too big to mail (very true), but he hasn’t forgotten. I even tried to get him interested in popping the bubble wrap himself, but this got him very upset (“No, no, NO, Mommy – those are May-wee’s poppie-things!”). We ordered a birthday present for Merry’s mommy on-line (to be delivered to her house) and told the Papaya that the poppie-things that came with her birthday present would be for Merry. But that didn’t seem to really satisfy him for long.

Finally this morning, when the Papaya tried to lug a very large Pampers Cruisers box, covered with long pieces of Scotch tape, to the garage door to go to the post office, I gave in to the inevitable. I located a modestly sized box, and the Papaya wrapped up the bubble wrap (not in a sock) and affixed a tag to it indicating that it was for Merry. We then took a walk through the house and found a couple other things to include with the package, because it really did seem wrong to mail just bubble wrap to Pennsylvania (maybe I simply have too little imagination). And we took the box to the post office, handed it over to Sonya, our postmistress, and asked for Priority Mail.

So tonight the Papaya can dream of Sonya on an airplane bound for Pittsburgh, precious bubblewrap in hand, ready to deliver it into the hands of a delighted Merry. Enjoy the poppie-things, Merry!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Christmas in March

When I was six or seven years old and living with my family in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I remember my sister and I getting ahold of a lot of butcher paper and deciding to have Christmas in April. (I don't really remember the actual month, just that it was nowhere near December.) We wrapped up an enormous amount of our little toys and put them all into a basket for my mother to open. I still clearly remember the intense sense of excitement I had, creating all of those fun little gift packages. I was so sure my mother was going to be thrilled and excited, too. I don't remember my mother's reaction, but I'm sure it was satisfactory, even though she probably felt very little true enthusiasm over opening multiple packages filled with her daughter's toys.

I'm glad I have this memory, because it's helping me empathize with the Papaya and the obvious thrill he gets these days when he wraps up his cars and presents them to me as presents.

One thing I can't empathize with, though - why, oh why does the Papaya insist on using his dirty socks as his primary wrapping medium?

When I read my sister's decorating and home design magazines, they recommend wrapping presents in non-traditional materials - cloth napkins, baby blankets, brown paper, etc. This seems to be the trendy and classy thing to do. So maybe the Papaya is trying to flow with the times. I have never yet, however, read a single article that suggested using dirty socks to enclose gifts. He is clearly avant-garde.

To fully comprehend my distress at the Papaya's choice, you must know that laundry is the one household task that I really enjoy - that I really excel at. Making dirty clothes clean - it feels like magic. And then folding fragrant, clean clothes & linens and putting them away - it gives me such a feeling of riches. All those clean clothes, nothing dirty any more - wow! Part of my laundry prowess involves never losing an article of clothing. If socks or breast pads don't match at the end of the laundry cycle, I feel incomplete until I find the pair and will often search the house until I find satisfaction. My floor may be filthy and my end tables bathed in dust, but hey - all my household's socks match! Life is good. Am I quirky? You bet! But wouldn't the world be boring without quirky people?

Anyway, imagine how painful it is for me to see a dirty sock with a car inside, wrapped in scotch tape and sitting on my dining room table, when I know that its pair is far from it and that my next dark wash is coming up tomorrow. Can I get that dirty sock into the wash by tomorrow so that it can be cleaned with its pair? Can I get them together again?

It's not as simple as just opening the present, pulling the car out, and throwing the sock into the laundry basket. Oh, no. The Papaya insists that his special presents cannot be opened until it is Christmas time.

"But Papaya," I cajole, "Christmas isn't for months and months and months! You don't want to wait that long!"

"No, Mommy - you can't open it until Christmas time," he responds with gusto.

"How about we wait until Daddy comes home tonight?" I suggest. "Then it will be a special time."

When Papaya Daddy returns and we are eating supper together, I make another attempt to free the dirty sock sitting in front of my dinner plate. "NO!" the Papaya insists. "It isn't Christmas time yet!"

"Why don't we pretend it's Christmas tomorrow?" Papaya Daddy suggests, obviously enjoying the situation. "We can even sing Christmas carols."

The Papaya seems doubtful but I grab at the suggestion. The next morning at breakfast, I announce that it is Christmas and that I get to open my present after we sing a carol.

"NO! It isn't Christmas time until winter comes! It isn't winter until it snows!" The Papaya has been listening to me only too well.

I desperately grab our powdered sugar shaker from the cupboard and dust powdered sugar over each of our cereal bowls. "There! There's snow! It's winter! Let's sing 'Jingle Bells'!" I immediately dive into a rousing chorus and Papaya Daddy joins me. The Banana loves it and claps along. The Papaya looks disapproving. This isn't fooling him. I still can't open my present.

I grasp at the last straw in my arsenal. "How about if we find real Christmas paper, Papaya, and you can choose the kind you want and wrap a present in that instead of a sock?"

He immediately perks up. "Open your present, Mommy!" Music to my ears. Gratefully, I peel off the 12 pieces of tape and pull out green Ramone (from the Cars movie). "Thank you, Papaya! Does Ramone belong to me now?"

"No - he's my Ramone. Merry gave him to me." I guess we still have a few pointers to teach the Papaya about gift-giving. But what I really cared about was that those red socks got back together again in time to wash them both and reunite them, clean and dry and good for another wear (and wrap). Life is good.

Signs of Spring

Our new camera arrived around the same time that our Navajo willow produced buds. It survived the winter! Have you ever seen anything so beautiful? Leaves - in our own yard! I can't wait for our cottonwoods to follow suit.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

One of those days

I didn't really have anything planned for yesterday, and that was a good thing. It wouldn't have happened. It was one of those days. Since I wasn't trying to pack or prepare for guests or do anything in particular, it wasn't actually that stressful, and I almost found myself enjoying (with a kind of bemused enjoyment) the absurdity of it.

I think we may have had a bit of intercontinental virus exchange after all, since both kids have bad coughs and crusty eyes that look very similar to the eyes of their cousins when they arrived a week and a half ago. Anyway, some combination of her bad night-time cough, incoming molars, and the fact that I forgot to turn the heat on before we went to bed night before last (it's been warm during the day but still hits the 20's at night) meant that the Banana woke up screaming at about 12:30 yesterday morning and continued on in fine form until 6:00. Papaya Daddy & I each made at least two, and possible more, nocturnal trips to try to comfort her during this time period. We had very short-lived success.

Finally the clock hit 6:00 a.m. & we brought the Banana into bed with us, where she usually nurses before beginning her day. She nursed away, then vomited all over me and the bed. Since I'm a vomit-phobe, I always nurse the Banana on top of a towel, to prepare for exactly this type of eventuality. The Banana, however, cleverly evaded my precaution and rolled over to a non-protected section of bed right before she vomited. It went all over my feather pillow, as well as the sheet and the mattress cover (Thankfully, I ripped up the mattress cover before it went through to the mattress). The Banana then managed to vomit the rest of her morning milk in two more spectacular locations - all over her high chair, and then all over the new outfit Papaya Daddy was attempting to put on her. I had my morning's laundry cut out for me.

We hoped that the vomit was simply a product of exhaustion and coughing (the Banana had coughed pretty hard at the outset of each attack), so we wiped off the high chair & put the Banana back in it (in a 3rd outfit), and fed her a little bit of cereal. Meanwhile, I washed my hands well, then cut and wrapped up the cranberry white-chocolate blondies we had made for the health center's Commisioned Corps bake sale. I hoped that no vomit germs had drifted over to them. One of the blondies had stuck to the bottom of the pan a little, so I wrapped it up for my husband's lunch & he put it in his bag (he worked in the ER yesterday, which meant he wouldn't be home for lunch and would probably work late). We let the Banana (who didn't want much cereal) down, and five minutes later, she wandered into the kitchen, handed me a piece of plastic wrap, and said, "Thank you!" While I wondered where in the world she found plastic wrap, she held up a blondie and took a large bite, with an enormously self-satisfied look on her face. It's exactly the kind of food you hope you child will wolf down after three vomits in quick succession - cranberry white-chocolate blondies!

Husband left for work (with a much smaller blondie) & I began my day of coping with a possibly sick and definitely fussy Banana, as well as doing several loads of laundry. Everything went well for a while - the Banana took some Tylenol and a nap and was much better afterwards (no more vomit), the Papaya was well behaved and fun to be with, and three loads of bedding and towels went past beautifully. Then I washed our feather pillows. They did well during the initial washing cycle in our high-efficiency front-loader, but I probably shouldn't have tried to run the extra-fast extended spin at the end, considering that the tag on the pillows instructed me to wash gently. When I opened the washing maching door, it appeared that a large goose had thrashed around the interior of the machine for quite a while, eventually giving up the good fight. One of the pillows had split lengthwise from end to end, releasing all of the feathers and down in its outer layer, as well as quite a few from its inner layer.

Luckily, the inner liner, though pathetic at holding in feathers, appeared to be intact, and to still contain the majority of the pillow's feathers (hard to believe, considering the volume of feathers in the washing machine). I put the good pillow in the dryer, and decided to try to salvage the torn one.

First, though, I put both kids down for their afternoon nap. The Banana went down easily, but the Papaya decided to make things a bit more exciting by sucking out the entire contents of his sippy cup (in little bits) and spitting them out all over his shirt, his mattress, and his pillow. His shirt and pillow were completely soaked through. I stripped his shirt off, confiscated his pillow, and sent him back to bed with the understanding that he had not done a praiseworthy deed. I wondered whether I should try to wash his pillow, too, since it had spit all over it. I eventually decided that I had had enough of pillow laundering, and that he could live with it.

With both kids finally asleep, it was work time (again). I pulled out the shop vac & cleaned the inside of the washing machine as well as I could (I repeated this a couple of times more as the feathers continued to dry). Then, rueing my lack of a sewing maching, I pulled out my dusty cross-stich supplies (last used way before the Papaya was born) and did the best I could sewing the split pillow back together from end to end. It was no easy task, and let me tell you - a wet feather pillow smells BAD! Finally, with wet stinky jeans from the pillow sitting on them, I finished and put the salvaged pillow in the dryer with its twin. (Our pillows were wedding gifts, and pretty nice, & I hated to give one of them up, if only because of the sentimental attachment).

Our feather pillows are fairly large, and take about five or six dryer cycles to completely dry. So I dried them throughout the afternoon, occasionally checking them and congratulating myself on my excellent seamstressing job. Finally, near the end of supper & after my husband finally came home from work (he was three hours late), the buzzer sounded at the end of the sixth dryer cycle. Since it was almost time for bed, I was eager to pull out our two clean, warm, and fluffy feather pillows. I opened the dryer door, then jumped back and screeched as several dark insects flew out at me. I took another look. An entire gaggle of geese had just duked it out in our dryer. My seam had held, but the pillow had split in a different place. I sadly concluded that perhaps that particular pillow was not meant to be. At least our marriage is proving more durable than our wedding gifts. I felt happy that I hadn't bothered to put the shop-vac away yet. The facility with which it sucked up dry feathers and down was immensely satisfying.

While Papaya Daddy snoozed on the couch, I researched down pillows on Finally, my purchase complete, I dragged my husband into our bed. Although it contained only one nice feather pillow, it was at least covered with fragrantly clean linens. And we all slept the night through.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring has Sprung! (At least for this week)

Before my sister and her family arrived & we debarked on our Northern Arizona Mini-Tour a week ago, I envisioned titling my post-trip blog entry "The Transcontinental Virus Exchange Program". This is because when our two families met each other, we were each in the end-throes of some pretty nasty colds and it seemed inevitable that we'd trade them. However, we somehow seem to have avoided spreading the germs, and had a really lovely trip together. We saw many beautiful things, experienced some dramatic weather changes typical of the Southwest (including a freak cold windstorm in the middle of an otherwise idyllic sunny day, right at the time that we attempted to hike a little of the way down into the Grand Canyon), and simply had a wonderful time being together. The four children (ages 5, 3, 18 months, & 15 months) played together the best we've ever seen them. It's always good to have wide-eyed guests remind us of how fascinating and cool our surroundings really are.

If you want to read more about our trip together, check out my sister's blog. Hopefully, she'll be writing more about it & posting some more pictures. The cool '98 Toyota Corolla pictured in this entry (named Lydia), with the San Francisco Peaks behind her, is our good and faithful beast of burden (and the extent to which we burden her, especially with the roof box attached, is truly outstanding). Despite our occasional abuse (such as letting her oil run out or switching to reverse instead of overdrive as we accelerated to 65 MPH while driving down the side of Second Mesa), she's gone from 80,000 to over 150,000 miles since we purchased her, without a single problem. We hope she continues to like us. We're not excited about buying another vehicle.

But I digress. Back to the blog title I did choose. When we returned to our house late Saturday afternoon, it felt like Spring had arrived in our absence! The sun was warm and bright, and the wind was slight. There was even a beetle (a warm weather bug) scuttling across our backyard. And even better - there was Green in our yard! (Unfortunately, most of it will have to be plowed up with our scuttlehoe, because it's completely undesirable, thorny, and invasive*, but at least it's Green!) Our mint is quickly coming back from its winter slump. The native orange globe mallow we noticed last fall is starting to return, and may even have flowers before too long. The trees planted last year have buds and I have high hopes of seeing real leaves soon. And - joy of joys - one of the bulbs we purchased from High Country Gardens & planted last fall is blooming - a gorgeous deep blue iris! I wish I had a camera so I could take a picture & post it (we will soon, but it may have wilted by then).

Part of the excitement of actually having something we planted bloom is that Papaya Daddy & I both have pretty Black Thumbs. Another is simply the enormous amount of work that went into planting the bulbs. The soil behind these health-center houses is not native soil (which is, itself, not super-fertile). Instead, it's thick, heavy clay that was trucked in for some indecipherable reason. When people try to dig it (unless it's soaked, an uncommon occurance), common tools used are (I kid you not) pick-axes & jackhammers. My strong husband dug down about two feet (with a shovel) before he planted the bulbs, mixed the soil with sand (to help it drain better) and soil conditioner, then put it all back in before he planted his bulbs. To see something actually come up is wildly exciting. We succeeded! Hopefully, more will follow.

If it seems like Papaya Daddy put a lot of effort into planting a handful of bulbs, you should have seen him set up our cold frame. After building it, he dug a hole, big enough to hold its area, and about 3 feet deep, in our backyard. Then he placed the cold frame in the hole so that it was angled towards the south and banked some of the extra soil around the sides & back to help maintain warmth. Then he got the soil ready. He drove down to the wash & filled our trunk with sand. We drove to Flagstaff & bought some fertilizer. He drove down to the local corral & filled our trunk with horse manure. We pulled out the leftover soil conditioner from the garage. Papaya Daddy mixed everything together with the leftover clay soil in an old plastic wading pool, then returned it to his 3-foot hole. Then he finally planted the seeds we had purchased - lettuce, arugala, and chard. After a week or so, beautiful little green shoots began to appear, and we felt flushed with success.

But do not forget that we are Black Thumbs. This past week, the one we spent away with my sister & family, we forgot to ask somebody to water our cold frame for us. Unfortunately, the lovely warm weather that worked such wonders for the mint, bulbs, and tumbleweed in our yard proved deadly for our poor cold frame plants. When we opened it up upon our return, we were greeted by the pathetic sight of brown soil. When we looked closely, we saw sad little wilted plants. It looks like a handful might have survived, and Papaya Daddy planted new seeds yesterday. But if you come visit us anytime in the next month, I hope you don't expect a fresh-picked salad.

I feel like I've rambled enough for one blog entry, so I think I'll sign off now. And maybe post news of my kids soon. They continue to do and say cute, hilarious, and sometimes completely exasperating things. Before I sign off, though, I'll conclude with a bemused rant that fits this entry's loose theme of growing things.

*I mentioned our yard being filled with nasty invasive species. The main offender is tumbleweed, also known as Russian Thistle (guess where it originated). It's one of the worst plants you could imagine - it completely takes over, it's covered with horrible, needle-sharp prickers that fall off everywhere and pierce your foot if you walk barefoot, and it keeps nice native species from growing. Which is why I was amazed to find this website and farm selling tumbleweed for high prices (especially to Japanese, it seems). What nerve! It's the equivalent of running a kudzu farm & export business in the southeast. The "farmers" actually live in a subdivision, and "harvest" their tumbleweeds by grazing fence lines, according to this article. I have to admit, though, that I admire them - it's entrepeneurship at its best. I wish I had the nerve to sell the tumbleweed around here for $15-$25 each, plus shipping. I'd be a rich woman!