Saturday, May 30, 2009

This Week's Gems

As many faithful readers know, our Elise can be a bit of a smartypants. We continue to have no idea where she gets this. Really. Not a clue! But wow has she delivered some good lines this week. We're starting to feel a bit like the Tappet Brothers around here, what with the non-stop belly laughs. Enjoy!

Situation: Andy wants to fool Elise into coming downstairs, and says something ridiculous to entice her.
Elise: "No way, Dad. I know your tricks!"

Situation: We're out to eat at Quiznos to celebrate Elise's last day of preschool.
Andy: "So, tell me about school."
Elise: "Mmmm...It's delicious!"

Situation: Elise and I head to her new elementary school to drop off some paperwork, and meet the principal in the lobby. (Ms. Martinez is amazing, btw.) No real line here, but our confident five-and-almost-a-half year old struck up a conversation, challenged the principal to count to 100 by tens (she did very well) and gently suggested room for improvement in Ms. Martinez's joke telling skills.

Situation: Two very nice 4th grade boys stopped by the house to do some fundraising for the American Heart Association as part of the school's Jump Rope for Heart event. They were so sweet and funny and just generally the kind of kids I'm proud to call neighbors. I love the way every kid we've met from our school does such a wonderful and respectful job of of engaging Elise in conversation. We all discussed why they were raising money, and the deadly nature of heart disease. Elise has some new-found confidence in her understanding of death, and was eager to share her wisdom.

Elise: "Once someone is dead, they can't ever live again."
Boy #1 (looking stunned by the ignorance of little kids): "Of course they do! When they go up to heaven to be with Jesus."
Boy #2 watches shrewdly
Elise: "Oh now you're just making stuff up! What a silly story!"
Boy #2 watches with growing excitement to see what happens next
Boy #1 & Elise simultaneously decide it's just one of those weird things other kids sometimes say and move on to talk about other stuff.

These young men are so cool. I finally got around to asking about their fundraising goals, and they were so excited to tell me all about what they've raised so far. Only after they spoke proudly of their efforts did they show me the list of thank-you gifts they could earn. Apparently, there is a really cool rocket thing that they aspire to. I hope they make their goal!

With Elise's preschool career officially over, we're getting a lot more relaxed time together. I had no idea 2 days/week could make such a difference in perspective, but they do. It feels like we suddenly have more time to really enjoy one another. These are some of the highlights I could recall from the week, but honestly she's pretty much a nonstop laugh riot. The creativity, the wickedly dry sense of humor, the joy she takes in making others laugh-these are the things that render life golden around our house these days.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Trouble with Sprinkles

A quick search of previous entries leaves me wondering how I could have neglected to write about Sprinkles before now. Really?! All of that pee and destruction and I haven't mentioned her before? Well, time to change that, and also to ask for advice.

When we first moved here back in September, (Wow-it's creeping up on a year! Time flies...) there was some hefty evidence of cat infestation. The previous tenants had let their cats use the closets for litterboxes, and the piles of cat poop piled up outside in the flowerbeds might have been a clue as to what the next several months would bring.

Given the numbers of cats we see wandering the street here, it would be unreasonable to assume that only one is responsible for the stench all over the patio. And our inability to leave anything outside without it getting sprayed. And the plants that have been killed by urine overdose. However, there is one cat that is constantly in the yard. I've seen her leaving the driveway as I notice fresh spray on my car tires and hood. I notice her coming to the back door, and then find urine marks. I've seen her fleeing the scene of freshly sprayed kid toys. And, I've opened Elise's bedroom blinds to see this kitty up on the roof, peeing on the wall just under the windows. This is the cat that led me to buy and set a trap. We call this kitty "Sprinkles" because she sprinkles everything with urine.

Well, last night I'd had one cleanup too many, and decided to find out where Sprinkles comes from. After a walk to the next block over and talking with a few of the neighbors, I finally found Sprinkles' home!

As it happens, Sprinkles' given name is Eliza. Her mom was hit by a car when she was practically newborn, and her people bottle fed her and her siblings. She was an indoor kitty for many years, until she started spraying and was banished outdoors. To the best of her human mom's recollection, Eliza is about 10 years old.

Well, now what do we do? Apparently she's a sweet, snuggly little thing who talks to her mom through the kitchen window every morning. She isn't suited to indoor life at all anymore.

Eliza's home yard has been invaded by some wicked mean ferals who have proven impossible to trap. One of them is a mean queen who has apparently just deposited another litter of kittens. If I were Eliza, I'd stay out of that yard too.

My thinking is that if the queen could be caught along with her kittens and relocated, Eliza might have some incentive to stay closer to home. Any experts out there want to weigh in? These neighbors are really nice people, clearly love animals and are doing the best they can by their kitty. We all want to find a good solution for her, so now it's just a matter of finding that solution. Help!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Perspective is Everything

Elise has been making a self-portrait out of perler beads this evening. Over dinner, she told us that she wants to iron it and give it to Rista. You know, so that Rista can still remember what Elise looks like when she's not alive anymore. (Yes, she's working on figuring out this whole death thing.)

So I said, "Oh, Honey, I think she'll like having a portrait of you, but you're going to live to be an oooollllllld lady."

Her reply?
"Really?! I'm gonna finally be thirty THREE?! Cool!!"

I mean, she knows that I'm 34hundredthousandmillion, so 33 sounds just about right for "old lady".

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Great Cat Debacle of 2009

This all started out with the best of intentions. Honest! Lots of marauding felines were marking our house, so I thought I'd do the right thing. I got a trap, and have been neutering every tomcat I can get my hands on. The San Jose animal shelter has a fabulous feral cat program that fixes (spays or neuters), vaccinates for rabies, and even de-fleas for a whopping sum of $20. At that rate, I can afford to help a whole lot of kitties.

Well, I could have. And then I cleverly left my trap set last Thursday night.

At first, I was thrilled because the cat I caught has been the neighborhood terror for quite awhile. He looked pretty awful, the weather was predicted to get hot, and I was happy to get him off the street for some medical attention. Alas, I had neglected to note that the San Jose shelter does not take ferals on Fridays. No problem! There are low-cost clinics around!

I found a low-cost clinic, but apparently "low cost" means different things to different people. Because the cat was so grouchy and so unwell, he needed sedation so that the vet could draw blood. The vet had some suspicions about FIV, the kitty version of AIDS, which would make him unsuitable for release. I gulped and okayed the charges.

The next day, the blood work came back and was of course positive. No wonder he was so mean-this kitty was in some bad shape. I gave the okay for euthenasia and cremation. I went to the vet to sign the paperwork and pay the bill.

Four hundred dollars later, I'm scratching my head. I don't question her charges-small veterinary practices are businesses and she really did give this cat some tender attention. But wow could we not afford that. This is the month for retiring every last penny of our credit card debt. Massive vet bills weren't really part of that plan. So, tomorrow is the day that I finally clean out the garage and take pictures of stuff to sell. I think I can get half to two-thirds of the bill knocked out, and we will still be able to say we're free of credit card debt by the end of this month.

From here, I'm not sure I want to keep trapping cats. I know that someone needs to, because the animal suffering (not to mention the property damage) will continue as long as there are fertile felines roaming the street. Luckily, there are several local organizations which can help with the trapping and fixing of kitties. I'm happy to do the work, but I'm not so happy to foot the bill.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

It was a beautiful Mother's Day here, and we hope it was where you are, too. Andy and Elise let me sleep in this morning, which was a treat in and of itself given that our girl has taken to getting up around 6am. After a nice lie-in, I was greeted with a "Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!" followed by Andy carrying a big tray laden with a scrumptious breakfast. Complete with a rose freshly cut from the garden. Major style points for that one.

Breakfast was pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup, veggie sausage, apple cinnamon muffin, Ranier cherries AND coffee in the special mug Elise made for my birthday. (Look, it says "Mom" on the bottom. No way-it says "woW!" No it doesn't!) Tucked under the plate was a book all about falcons, my newest obsession. What a beautiful treat. To top it all off, at the end of the meal Andy presented me with the nutrition information for everything so that it would be easy to count for my Weight Watchers points. I was in high fiber, low fat heaven.

When Andy and Elise were out and about yesterday, I suggested that they look for a bird house kit that Elise could put together. The houses looked a little complicated, but they found a perfect little feeder. After breakfast, we headed outside to build! This kit was nice because it had holes started for the nails and very simple instructions. Elise was awesome with the wood glue, and liked using the hammer. Some of the nails were tough to pound, but she stuck with it and got them all in. It was beautiful to see the look of satisfaction on her face when she realized she had done it all on her own.

And, since this was a kit for kids age 5 and up, they included paint! Behold-

And here is the finished product, as seen from outside:

And, a closer look from inside. Yes, I really did hang the holder crooked on the window, and yes, I really did have the feeder itself hung crooked. We'll just pretend the birds like it better that way. ;-)

I suppose one could ask for a better Mother's Day than this, but I'm not sure how it could possibly be delivered.

The running theme around here these days appears to be loose and missing teeth. Elise is hilarious without her top two front teeth. She's got just the tiniest bit of a lisp. Today, she lost one of her bottom teeth. That makes FIVE teeth for this five-year-old.

Loyal readers will doubtless be shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that our girl is a bit of a smartypants. We, of course, have no idea how she got this way. Before she went to bed, Elise wanted to write a note to the Tooth Fairy. I hope she doesn't wake Elise with uproarious laughter when she reads this:

And the back of the note:

Mostly, Elise likes the idea of saying silly things. But I think a little part of her also figures that if the Tooth Fairy is going to the effort to bring her something, the least she can do is thank her with a good laugh.

Five years of motherhood and I'm always amazed. Thank you, my wonderful husband and daughter.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Better Gardening through Facebook

There is something about the springtime that makes me want to take care of little, growing things. Since we're not in the market for babies, cats, puppies, guinea pigs etc. right now, plants are the latest victims of my affections. (This is going somewhere, I promise.) Unfortunately, our entire yard appears to be falling victim to fungus, spider mites and maybe even some aphids. Because our soil is so very clay-ish, drainage is a problem and my winter plantings have felt it. Root rot is not good for peas, apparently.

So, I want to grow stuff we can eat, but all of the existing beds are full of disease-ridden flowers planted in heavy clay. Luckily, I have amazing powers of perception and was able to notice the vast stretches of grass that will need watering while we're on water rationing this summer. Hmmmm...

My solution is to build raised beds. They're a little easier to tame than the hard-packed clay, and I can put them in the sun that they are going to need. With a teensy bit of distance from some of the other diseased foliage, I figure my seedlings will have a fighting chance of getting started and healthy before we have to deal with disease too much.

I'm handy with tools, but not that handy. So, there I was, messing around on Facebook one night, looking at an ad for "Kiwi collars." They're really just sturdy lumber hooked together with galvanized hinges, but I loved the notion that they require no sawing, drilling, nailing, etc. So, I talked it over with the landlady (who says it's okay to put them on the lawn as long as we return it to grass when we leave) and with Andy and placed my order. Happily, they ship from a distributor in South SF, so I got to take a nice little drive to pick 'em up and didn't have to pay shipping fees. Oh, and I got them today after placing my order today. For the record, the Mainfreight people up there are super nice.

This is what my driveway looked like at about 3pm today:

My initial plan was to lay hardware cloth under the frames to keep out varmints like gophers, but I gave up on that when it started raining. And then got very hot and sunny. And then sprinkled again. But had I been clever, that's what I'd have done. I'll save the stuff for something else-maybe a cover for strawberries.

The collars are individually flat-packed for shipment to the US, which was a little off-putting at first. Then, I realized that I'd need to lay something under the frames to kill the grass anyway, and the boxes turned out to be a perfect fit!

Assembly required no effort, and the cardboard made it easy to slide things around until I'd found an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. Note how thoughtfully I left plenty of space for the gardeners to push their mower between the boxes when they come every other week.

Pretty, right? The boxes are 40"x48"x7. They are each filled with 6 cubic feet of "garden soil" and 1 cubic foot of compost, all from the neighborhood hardware store. (Yes, I bought compost-I didn't have enough of my own ready yet, having used a bunch last weekend.) We should get some nice food out of this! Maybe by the weekend we'll be able to plant some of the seedlings I started inside:

So, I found my perfect garden boxes on Facebook. I am also a fan of Square Foot Gardening, which is the general guideline I'll be using. It's a method that makes a lot of sense, and lends itself well to boxes like this. Look for more posts as our food gets growing!

And, if you're like me and need something small and fuzzy to dote on during the spring, I recommend San Jose's peregrine falcons!

Death and Preschool

I had meant to get back on the blogging wagon, so to speak, when things turned upside down last Monday. Elise's preschool teacher of nearly 2 years died. This did not seem to have as much effect on Elise as we might have thought, which I guess is good. Knocked me for a loop, though. I chose this particular school because of Linda. She was an amazing teacher who kept curious kids exploring. Elise's favorite subject at school due to Linda's classroom design is math. How cool is that?! Whenever Elise sees an insect and excitedly says, "Look at this cool bug-can I touch it?" and then picks it up to play with, I thank Linda. She also helped us with some of the little foibles that were getting in Elise's way and keeping her from enjoying her preschool experience. Linda "got" what was going on with our girl and got her off to a roaring good start.

Today, Elise wanted clarification about school. Wednesdays were always Linda's day off, and she commented that it isn't really her day off this week because she is dead. I agreed with her. She also noticed the picture of Linda that hangs by her classroom door-something I'm pretty sure she never looked twice at. So, she's processing this idea of permanent loss in the sort of increments that make sense when you're five. I'm glad for that, and hope I'm giving her the space she needs to do that.

Of course, because I was completely at a loss as to how to help Elise through the loss of her teacher, I did some gathering of resources. Parenting Beyond Belief has some wonderful and straightforward talk about death and grieving, and I found that helpful. I also asked one of my favorite parenting bloggers for insight, which she did beautifully right here. Thank you, RYD!

Toothless grin

Elise has traded in her snaggle-toothed look for a more, um, toothless one. Behold!
Unfortunately, this one came out in her sleep, and is presumed swallowed. We woke Sunday morning to "Uh oh. Uh oh. Uh oh!" (scamper scamper) "Guys, what did you do with my tooth?" Poor kid. She and Andy composed a very nice note of explanation to the tooth fairy, who was pretty cool about the whole thing.

No more loose teeth for awhile, or so we imagine.