Remember when I interviewed Annabel on her birthday? Well, Sam turned three this past Sunday and, as he is a second child, it took me a few days to get around to the interview.  More truthfully, it took me three days to get around to it because 90% of my time with Sam is spent chasing him around at full-speed, trying to get him, and everyone around him, through his early childhood intact.  Interviewing falls a bit by the wayside.

But no matter. We finally got to it and, as he is less of a lying liar who lies than his sister is, this requires significantly less editing time.

Without further ado, Sam at three.

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite food?

What’s your favorite thing about school?
Telling my teacher about it. [No idea, folks. No idea.]

What makes you happiest?
Making bread.

What makes you sad?
When someone knocks over my tower.

What is your favorite thing to do with Dad?
Play with him.

What is your favorite thing to do with Mom?
Clean up the kitchen and do puzzles.

What is one new thing you’d like to try this year?
Play with a triceratops. [!!]

What would you like to be when you grow up?
A firefighter.

What’s that going to be like?
I’ll put out the fires.

sam skating

Photo ruthlessly stolen from Dory, because she takes far better pictures of my children. And just about everything else.


I’m not particularly interested in flower gardening. I’ll freely cop to the fact that one of my most significant faults is my truly excessive practicality and flower gardening is just…eh. What’s the point, right? I can’t eat them. I have limited gardening time and limited gardening space and extremely limited gardening talent, so why would I waste any of that on something that is not fundamentally useful?

Then a few weeks ago I was reading a bit about gardening and the author mentioned, in an offhand manner, the way that inter-planting flowers in your vegetable garden can help bring in pollinators and increase yield. And I thought, “I’m sorry, what?”  And this is such an obvious truth to gardening that I hesitate to write it here because it makes me look a bit, well, dim.  But I guess I am dim because I never fully thought about before. You mean something doesn’t necessarily need to be 100% needed to be useful? Well. That’s interesting.  It also explains a lot about my crappy gardens.

There I was a thing I was going to do last year that you may remember. I was going to give $50 away every month to a charitable cause just because. You may have thought I forgot about it. I didn’t, really. I spent the money for a bit, and then we had tight month for one reason or another. So I skipped that month. And then I skipped the next month, probably for the same one or another reason. And then I kept skipping months, even after cash flow improved, because I couldn’t stop overthinking where it could go, or what I should give to, and which was the best way to spend the cash. What if I gave the money to Organization A, when Person B was clearly in more distress? Or what if Person B was really not the neediest and I should really be worried about it Fundraiser C? And so on and so forth while my $50 did nothing for anyone.

But I didn’t forget about what I’d said I would do. The obligation was still there, in the back of my brain, squatting angrily next to all the other obligations I was ignoring.  It takes a lot of energy to ignore all of those things, all those bills to pay, things to clean, food to cook, exercise to do, and, yes, blog posts to write. No wonder I’m so tired all the time.  But when you ignore as many obligations as I do, you learn to silence the muttering from back there so that you can get on with the more important stuff, like building block towers with the children or watching Downton Abbey.

Then the other day a friend of mine posted a link to a friend of hers who was raising money to help offset costs of a stem cell transplant. And I didn’t wonder if the cause was legit, I didn’t do a background search on the recipients, I didn’t check with Michael, I didn’t wait to see if something better came along in the next week. I didn’t even stop to wonder if these folks were secretly planning a trip to Bora Bora. I just hit the “Contribute” button, typed in my payment information, and whispered, “Fly free, little fifty bucks.” Okay, I didn’t actually do that last part, but I kind of wish I did.

The obligation beast (well, that one anyway) immediately left the back of my brain to go get some lunch and that’s when I remembered: “Right. This is what I meant to do all along.”  Over the last year I’ve been feeling so badly about my inability to plant a vegetable garden, the most absolutely perfect, truly productive, absolutely-above-reproach vegetable garden, and I never realized that what I actually needed to do was to plant some flowers just for the fun of it. And, shockingly, those flowers might turn out to be useful, too.

I’m going to try to do better this year, both in gardening and in being charitable. And I wish those fine folk s a lovely trip to Bora Bora.

If you are interested, that family has reached their goal but they are still accepting donations because they will have costs above and beyond their goal. Link here:

I am not lying when I tell you that our tree is…what’s the word, what’s the word…homely. It’s homely. It’s homey, too, but definitely homely.

It started out okay at the tree farm.

While I was taking this picture, everyone was yelling at me to help.  I did. Eventually.

But then we decorated. And our decorations are, really, quite bad.

We’ve got more kid-made ornaments than you can shake a stick at:
I was actually trying to just take a picture of one, but they were packed in so close it was just easier, and more point-proving, to grab all three at once.

We’ve got relics of Michael’s childhood, which always seem to involve basketball and Charlie Brown characters.
This wins my vote as the most bizarre Santa I’ve ever seen.

We’ve got ornaments that make no sense to anyone not us:
phone booth
No, we didn’t go to London one year. THAT would make SENSE.

And we have, as promised, the world’s most bizarre star.
Yes, that’s a picture of Annabel on her trip home from the hospital glued onto a paper star that has since been decorated with glitter paint and I could explain it but, frankly, the story is less interesting that the star.

And that’s not even going into the knitted garland, the half-broken lights, or the angel who looks like a hooker from 1864.

But Christmas trees have one redeeming quality and it’s this: if you plug in the lights, step back a bit, drink a cup of really strong eggnog, and don’t pay too much attention to any one thing, they still manage to look kind of pretty.


And, yes, blurry. That’s probably the fault of the eggnog.

P.S. You think this is bad? Check out the year we actually screwed extra branches into the tree. A live tree. I am not making that up. We did that.

Who wants a Friday phone-it-in post? I do! I do!

Thanks to Ginger I get to have credit for posting while still doing very little work. This is an excellent system and I approve. Also, holiday spirit, yada yada.

Presenting the holiday meme:

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Egg nog at Christmas, hot chocolate the rest of the year.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa wraps, in his own paper. Until a couple years ago I didn’t know Santa didn’t wrap sometimes. I think that variety of Santa is a bit lazy, frankly.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White. Colored lights make the ornaments look weird.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

5. Tacky holiday sweaters: yea or nay?
Nay. I do wear red sweaters but for some reason I do that a lot anyway.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Food other people make that I eat. Food that I make that I eat. Food that I eat. Food.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? The family fight around whether the tree was straight which always ended up with it falling on my swearing father’s head. What? We are that kind of family. I treasure that memory so much that Michael and I recreate it each year.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I read too many Nancy Drew novels and tried to make my mother submit a handwriting sample so I could do a full graphological analysis. So she just told me. Right after she stopped laughing. I think I was 9ish.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
I think we did sometimes? We were pretty inconsistent on Christmas traditions. But it’s something I’d like my kids to do. I think it’s fun.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With a lot of really tacky ornaments we’ve collected/made over the years plus some ancient lights plus the world’s most bizarre paper star on top (I’ll post a picture this year). Last year I knit a red wool garland that was pretty awesome. Basically it’s like a summer camp’s arts and crafts session threw up on a tree. It’s great! [Aside: I’m thinking of entering the lifestyle blog market. What do you think?]

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
I don’t mind it really, especially if I don’t have to drive in it. At least until March or so which is when I’m over it, done, go away snow. (Please note that some years the snow doesn’t go away until May.)

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, though not with any fancy moves.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Uhhh…not really. I remember getting a ten-speed bike one year. That was exciting. (This is also why I try not to sweat over getting the perfect gift for my kids. Few people seem to remember this.)

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?
You know, I think this gets lost in a lot of places, but we are so far north that I really feel in tune with the celebration of warmth and light that surrounds this time of year. When it is dark and cold by 3:30, I will take a crackling fire and some twinkly lights, yes, please.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Pumpkin pie. Hands down.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Swearing aside, I really like decorating the tree.

17. What tops your tree?
As mentioned above, a truly ridiculous paper star with glitter paint and a picture of baby Annabel on it. I’m not kidding. We may change that this year. But probably not.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving?
This is one of those trick questions designed to reveal my true self, isn’t it? Forget it. I am committed to remaining an enigma.

19. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum?

20. Favorite Christmas show?
The Grinch. Naturally.

21. Saddest Christmas Song?
Saddest? As in the lyrics are the saddest or it makes me the saddest to hear it? I’m going with the latter: The Little Drummer Boy. That song is looooaaathesome, pa rum pum pum pum.

22. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Silent Night. Or Carol of the Bells, which I always find enchanting.

Sam was having trouble settling down last night, as he sometimes does as his off switch is a bit faulty, so I went in to rock him for a moment. As I tucked him back into bed he held up the small white bear he had chosen as Most Valuable Snuggly for the evening.

“Where’s his momma?” he asked.

I glanced around his room and located a polar bear at the foot of his bed. “Here’s the momma,” I said and tucked it in next to him.

“No,” he said. “That’s the brother.”

“Oh.” I looked around the room for the other white teddy bear I know exists in our house.  I didn’t see it. “The momma must be in Annabel’s room. Do you really need it?”

He nodded solemnly. “Yes.”

I slipped out of his room and into Annabel’s. Luckily, she has always had a highly reliable nighttime off switch and she was already asleep.  I located the desired bear and carried it next door.

“Here she is.” I snugged this bear in next to the other two.

“No,” he said. “That’s the dad.”

Now, you are reading this and thinking, “Wow. What a complex family dynamic this little boy has created using just his powers of imagination! Childhood is so magical!” But that’s just because you don’t know Sam as I do. I knew that what he was really doing was messing with me.

[Sam is my apple-tree child, in case you were wondering, and could have sprung Athena-like from my own, messing-with-people head so I know these things.]

I folded my lips and looked around the room.

“I’ve got to have the momma,” he said, with a tinge of petulance in his voice. “I can’t go to bed without the momma.” I looked into his eyes and saw that, messing with me or not, he was ready to escalate this to meltdown should I fail. I kept looking.

Finally, half-hidden under a pile of books because Sam always sleeps with a pile of books [see above apple-tree commentary], I found a medium-sized brown bear.

“Is this the momma?” I asked, holding her up.

“Yep,” he said, satisfied and triumphant. I handed him the animal, hauled the blankets up over the giant pile of bears, kissed him on the head, told him to go to sleep, and made a mental note to record this here as a sign that all our lessons about families coming in all sorts of combinations are working.

Or that my boy has a really sick sense of humor.

Either would be fine with me, really.

I caught myself planning for the 2013 season today.

It was a total accident, I swear. I was looking for something to read while I ate my lunch and the Fedco catalog was sitting right there. I remembered that I’d wanted to look at possible shrubs plantings and next thing I knew, I was waving Michael over and saying, “Hey, come look at this great list of companion plants for the apple trees.” Then I began pondering whether it made sense to sketch out a plan of our property to best lay out our goal plantings for the next year.

I know, this all sounds like a very responsible, logical way to garden.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t successfully finish this year.

We started out strong. We set up the little greenhouse that had been in our basement for five years, we started tomato seedlings on time, we built two new beds. We planted, fertilized, watered, and then, inexplicably, gave up.

We let the white flies take over the pumpkins. We didn’t transplant our tomatoes on time and then, once we did, we let them turn into a useless tomato jungle. We let the chickens get to the carrots. We let the spinach bolt, the beets pop out of the ground, and the beans get bean-y. The half-hearted trellising system we concocted for the snap peas dumped most of them in the dirt. We planted some bonus pepper seedlings handed off by a friend too close together. Deer ate the new raspberry bushes and apple trees. We don’t actually know what we did to the potatoes. We just know they didn’t like us very much.

Crop yield?

A few heads of emaciated garlic, enough paste tomatoes for one dinner’s worth of sauce, some grungy snap peas, a few side dishes of green beans, and one-and-a-half pumpkins. (A deer took a few bites out of one of the pumpkins and half of it went moldy before we discovered it.)

I think we were given more produce than we grew. All that time, dirt, and money: wasted.

I guess you could call 2012 a learning experience, but I’m not sure we learned much. Well, we learned that if you give up on the garden, it will give up on you. Which is a predictable yet still sobering outcome, I must say.

Given all this, it is patently absurd that I am spending this much time thinking about 2013, a scant four weeks or so after finally digging up the sad, skeletal remains of 2012. Had I bothered to spend this time a few months ago, things might have turned out very differently.

But then, we are the family who spends quality time talking about the addition we are planning for the back, despite still having plywood countertops and exposed insulation in the kitchen that we use every single day.

Some may call us dreamers, but I prefer to think that we are just really, really dumb.

So…what do you think about an elderberry hedge? And is yarrow or comfrey better for underneath?

I can’t decide either.

Good thing I’ve got some time.

Well, that was interesting.

And by “interesting” I mean I WON I WON I WON.  By a lot.

My version was Version C, which took in a whopping 65% of the vote. I mean, I never doubted I was right, but it’s still nice to win.

Michael’s Version A came in second with a measly 21% and Annabel’s Version B was scant 3%.  (I am willing to consider that she merely was repeating it incorrectly because, in case you didn’t know, four-year-olds are highly unreliable narrators.) Interestingly, 11% said you had yet another version and I think I can sum that version up this way: cheating.

The point of Eenie Meenie Miney Mo is to resolve disputes in an entirely fair and impartial manner, at least until the point when you are old enough to understand how it always comes out. (And I suppose one could hope that by then the involved parties would be old enough to find another way of reaching consensus.) Those of you who did an optional second verse if the first verse didn’t end the way you wanted? Are you kidding me with this?  That’s unethical Eenie Meenie-ing and I won’t stand for it. Mostly because I never thought of it when I was 7.

But there you have it. I win, Michael loses, and some of you had very questionable playground behavior. If I look at you askance from now on, I think you’ll know why.