Friday, May 30, 2008


Growing up I never pegged myself for a gardener. My mom was, of course, and she was an enormously talented gardener. But probably one of the reasons she had such locally famous gardens was because she didn't let her too young daughter near them. (A few examples of my mom's talents can be found in past blog posts here and here.)

And still, to this day, I am not as dedicated to the art of gardening as Mom was. I have other things that interest me more than gardening, and those things are often easier to accomplish with three kids in tow.

Lack of talent or dedication aside, spring usually finds me outside cleaning up the few gardens I have. Mostly these days that has involved pulling vast amounts of weeds (I did not tend to my perennial flower border garden as I should have last summer-- shame, shame!). Yesterday, though, most of the weeds were finally gone-- hurrah!-- and I was able to move onto more exciting endeavors... replacing a rose that didn't make it through the winter, adding some porchulaca as a ground cover and some cocoa bean shells to (hopefully!) stop, or at least slow, all the dreaded weeds. It smells like a chocolate factory outside my house right now, another benefit to my favorite type of mulch,

putting some favorite herbs into pots near the kitchen door (basil, dill, oregano, thyme, rosemary and tarragon),

replacing-- yet again-- some hollyhocks that have been eaten and replaced year after year for the past few years by some sort of critter and never take off.  This year I splurged on a larger containers, I hope this helps ward off my hollyhock kidnappers(!),

and replacing plants that, for whatever weird reason, just disappeared or never came back (salvia pictured here).

But, of course, still lots of weeding to be done. The euonymus in the front has really taken off, and I love how the English boxwood shrubs look interspersed in there (they're new this spring) but I can't stand how big, ugly dandelions spring up in the euonymus and because the euonymus is nice and thick now it's practically impossible to pull the dandelions. So yes, the fun has begun, but lots of drudgery still left. I suspect that will remain true throughout the entire growing season.

Next up, the vegetable garden, which I'm already a few weeks behind on. My excuse? It has been unseasonably cold here for May, but still...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Madeleine's Future Husband: Beware

While sitting around our dining room table eating lunch today Madeleine, out of nowhere, blurts out, When I have kids someday, if I get a girl I'm going to give her fairies in her room, you know, like wallpaper? And if I get a boy I'll do, like, soccer balls.

That sounds interesting, Madeleine, I respond.

And then Hank chimes in, If I get a girl I'll paint her room pink with purple fairies.

I think a purple room with pink fairies would be better, responds the older, and in her eyes, wiser sister.

Well Hank, are you going to let your wife help decide what your kids' rooms should look like? I ask.

Hank thinks for a moment, Yes, she can help.

Well, Madeleine declares, when I get married and have kids my husband is not helping me decorate our kids' rooms. He'll be at work.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cool Down

Yesterday we drove home from Silver Lake in our shorts and T-shirts contentedly, enjoying the memories of a more than warm but less than hot eighty-degree day spent under the warm sun playing bocce ball and croquet.  For Memorial Day, it was warm.  Summery, even, and we had the flushed faces and tired bodies to prove it.

We pulled into the drive around 6 p.m. and decided we needed to take advantage of the warm weather and get the lawn mowed.  The kids, tired though they were, scooted up and down the block while Joe and I finished some mundane tasks in the yard.  

A few hours later, quite suddenly, the wind shifted.  In an instant the warm, eighty-degree breezes plummeted and no longer was my T-shirt warm enough.  We herded the kids back inside after a few moments and within the hour the temperature dipped down into the forties.  The forties!

Last night's experience reminds me of an old Wisconsin saying: If you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes.

Yesterday T-shirts and capris, today jeans and sweatshirts.  Gotta love spring in Wisconsin!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Waking Up

Is there any better way to wake up then when a sunny, cloudless spring day coupled with the smell of freshly brewed coffee greets you following a solid, eight-hour night of sleep?  

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sniff, Snort

Last night Hank finagled his way into our bed.  Well, finagled might be overstating a bit.  It's possible his sucker of a mom invited him in since the girls were with Grandfather and Diana.  And by possible I mean likely, but really, how he got there is irrelevant.

OK, so Hank is sleeping with us.  But at 12:30 a.m. he wasn't actually sleeping.  He was wide, wide awake sniffing and snorting.


Sniff, sniff.  Then a readjusting of position.  Covers move.  More snot sucking (hey, I know it's a gross visual-- or audio reminder-- whatever-- but it was gross, OK?). More moving.  More rolling.  More sniffing.

Hank, mumbles a tired Superdad, use a Kleexex for Pete's sake!

Sniff, sniff, snort, snort.  Roll over, kick off the covers.

Hank, in a loud whisper, Dad!  Can you get me a Kleenex?

A sigh from Superdad.  Cate, whispers Superdad (why are we all whispering since we're all awake?!), do you have any Kleenex?

From me a grunt.  Joe takes it to mean no and trudges off, tiredly, to the bathroom.  He gets back.  There's more sniffing, sucking and some occasional blowing. Hank, just blow!  whispers Superdad.

Everyone-- and by everyone I mean those actually participating in the midnight Kleenex madness, like Hank and Joe-- lies back down.

Sniff, sniff!  Snort, sniff!  The pillow is readjusted.  Sniff, snort!

Hank, I swear, you're like an eighty-year-old man, grumbles Joe.  I start to giggle.  

Sniff, sniff, snort, sniff!

Now I'm really laughing.  Loudly.

Seriously, Hank, says Joe, look at you.  You can't lie still, you can't stop making all these personal noises and you're lying there with navy blue socks on, for Pete's sake!

Now I'm laughing so hard I'm crying.  Hank is starting to wonder why.

Sniff, snort, sniff!

Now Joe is laughing.  What's so funny? demands Hank.  He's annoyed now.  SNIFF!  SNORT!

I think I fell back to sleep while doubled over in hysterics.  My goodness, each day this kid kills me just a little bit more.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Garage Sale

Madeleine and a neighbor friend have been outside in her friend's yard all afternoon preparing for a rummage sale.  They have both been picking the choice items out of Goodwill piles at their respective homes and saving them for this event for months which, if last summer is any indication, will be an on-going, all summer sale.  There are piles of books, cookware and clothes being folded, priced and arranged and rearranged.  They've been knocking on doors up and down our street and flipping old "Scott Walker for County Executive" signs over and turning them into really darling rummage sale signs colored pink and purple with lots adornments only seven and eight-year-olds would think of.

But the pricing.  Oh goodness, the pricing!  I took a stroll down there to look over their merchandise a bit ago and had to chuckle to myself.  Madeleine, who is seven, and her friend, who is eight, are responsible for the price structure.  At their garage sale a decent saucepan can be had for fifty cents while a cheap paperback off the bargain shelf at Target will cost you five dollars.  There are two sets of sparkly, baby girl sunglasses; one pair will set you back fifty cents, the other two dollars.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Book Club

I have always been a reader.  I have always had the ability to lose myself in a book and to become so engrossed that the world around me almost ceases to exist.

Despite my love of reading, I have never joined a book club as so many other readers do.  I don't know why, really.  Many seem more focused on idle chit-chat and gossip than discussing the book at hand and others seem more interested in reading books I am not interested in reading.  So I've never joined.

Well, now, Madeleine is a reader. She too has the ability to lose herself in a book and become oblivious to the world around her.  

I decided to create a mother/daughter book club for her that embodies all the characteristics of a book club I would like to be a member of.  Tonight was our book club's first meeting.  This evening, Madeleine and I carefully arranged vanilla meringues and chocolate meringues on one platter and a plate of scones on another platter.  We then poured a gallon of Trader Joe's peach juice into a teapot and carefully set out four cups and saucers alongside the "tea" in preparation of the discussion of a decidedly British book (by myself I set out an array of wine glasses and a favorite Beaujolais). Four girls in total (six belong to the club, but two could not make it) arrived at our house tonight at 6:30 p.m. to talk over Matilda by Roald Dahl. 

I don't know what I expected.  I knew Madeleine loved the book.  She raced through it in a matter of days and those days were filled with loud snorts and giggles.  I knew the other girls had loved the book based on what I heard from the other moms.  But loving a book does not always translate into being able to talk about a book.  But it did tonight.

I was amazed-- amazed-- at the insightful thoughts these girls had.  Matilda isn't incredibly layered, but there are some inferences to be made that I thought the girls might miss.  Nope, they all were well aware of all the different characters' nuances, what made each unique, why the Wormwoods and the Trunchbull had to be so fantastically evil to make the book funny and why Matilda and Miss Honey related to each other.

All the girls took the job of discussing the book very seriously for about an hour, which was a lot longer than I thought we would get serious discussion out of them and during that hour I could see how much fun they were all having thinking about different scenes in the book and letting other peoples' thoughts about the book soak in.

I can't wait for our next book club night!

Monday, May 05, 2008

WPA Conference

Like last year, Joe and I headed up to Oshkosh, Wisconsin this past weekend for the Wisconsin Parent's Association's annual conference on home-schooling.  Even more so than last year, both of us felt we learned a lot, challenged different ways we thought about certain things and, most importantly, feel we're better equipped to give our kids the sort of education we want them to receive. 

If, though, I were to devote this post to explaining what we learned it would be 8,651,552 words long.  I don't have the time or, frankly, the inclination, to write a post that is that long.  

But I do want to give plug WPA (Wisconsin Parent's Association).  They put together an incredibly beneficial conference every year but, most importantly, it is because of this group that home-schooling is as easy as it is in this state.  This group has made it a point to bring all types of home-schoolers together, no matter what their educational philosophy or religious background happens to be.  It manages to get strong-willed, smart people to keep the goal of home-schooling effectively and legally paramount in their minds, and they do it well.  I highly encourage anyone home-schooling in this state to check out their website and then join, even if you never intend on attending a conference.

And hey, if you ever do decide to attend the conference, you can write your own 8,651,552 word long blog posts which I will probably, quite happily, read.