Sense Memory

Posted on 4/30/2008 04:42:00 AM
My Grandmother used to have the biggest, most beautiful lilac bushes in her back yard and each summer when we'd go to visit, I'd spend hours playing under them in the back yard and smelling each and every heavenly bloom. Almost the entire time we've lived in this house, I've tried to get the same big beautiful lilac bushes to grow in our yard. The KingofHearts has purchased and planted bush after bush and for one reason or another the bushes kept dying. We've finally convinced one bush to last more than one season -- really by accident more than anything else. It's extremely anemic and barely a bush at all, but it does produce some blooms each year and all I have to do it go out back and smell one to be immediately transported back to my eight year old self sitting on the ground under Grandma's lilacs.




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This Gnome Could Take You Too

Posted on 4/29/2008 06:22:00 AM
One day a year or so ago when I was at IKEA (who is dead to me now, by the way) these little garden gnomes were on clearance for ninety-nine cents each. I bought six of them, brought them home and put one on each step leading up to the front door because -- NINETY-NINE CENTS, c'mon!

The KingofHearts dislikes them and refers to them as "Swedish sex toys." He has "accidentally" stepped on, knocked over or otherwise broken all but this one last little gnome. He swears it hasn't been on purpose but I think we all know the truth: He is threatened by them.


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Sounds Made Up to Me

Posted on 4/28/2008 04:27:00 AM
Dormouse: Why doesn't Baby talk?

KingofHearts: She doesn't know how to talk yet.


DM: Maybe she does know how to talk. Maybe she just talks in a different language and we don't understand her.


KoH: What language do you think she speaks?


DM: Ummm... maybe French?


KoH: Nah, if she spoke French, we'd know.


DM: How?


KoH: When she'd cry, she'd say, "Le wah! Le wah! Le wah!"


DM: Oh. I guess she doesn't speak French then.

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Who Me?

Posted on 4/27/2008 01:52:00 AM
What does this photo remind me of?


Ah yes:


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How Cool is This?

Posted on 4/26/2008 07:39:00 PM In:
Process photos from digital cameras

To make your own, go
here.

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Purple

Posted on 4/26/2008 01:55:00 AM
Little purple pansies touched with yellow gold,
Growing in the corner of the garden old.
We are very tiny but must try, try, try.

Just one spot to gladden you and I.


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Oh, Crap!

Posted on 4/25/2008 06:38:00 AM

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The Caterpillar Learns the Spoon Trick

Posted on 4/25/2008 01:45:00 AM
I've recently been in touch with a friend that I haven't heard from in fifteen years. Or rather... he's been in touch with me -- just one more way Google has improved my life. (Let's just hope that my former stalker never figures out how to do that.) He was in the area for a conference recently and dropped by with his son for a few days. I love it when you see good friends after an extended period of time and it's just like no time has passed - almost like picking up in the middle of a conversation. I personally have a lot of friends like that. I may not easily make friends in real life, but I'm really good at making friends that last a lifetime. Take that, KingofHearts.

We had a great time getting to know his son, who is absolutely adorable by the way, and wish that we'd gotten to meet the rest of the familia. Maybe next time. Here he is trying to teach the Caterpillar to hang a spoon off her nose. I believe, however, that he underestimated the size of the spoon... and overestimated the size of her nose.

She seems to be having fun though.

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Bloody Hearts

Posted on 4/24/2008 07:31:00 AM
Bleeding hearts are some of my very favorite flowers and always remind me of my Great Aunt Ruth, who had the very first ones I ever saw as a kid. I remember being utterly fascinated with the ones in her front yard and sitting on the stoop, staring at them for what seemed like hours -- but I was a kid, so it was probably five minutes - hey, that's a long time when you're seven. Whatever it was, it was long enough for me to learn that if you turn the heart upside down and pull it open slightly, it looks like a lady in a bathtub. Please tell me I'm not the only one who figured that out.

I have tried desperately to get big lovely bushes like the ones she had to grow in my flower beds here, but between too much sun, possums, and neighbor kids who help weed the flo
wer beds by pulling the entire plant out of the ground, it's been slow going. Still, I get a few nice blooms each year. The Dormouse loves them too, but she can't remember what they are called and refers to them as "Bloody Hearts." Until I heard her call them this, it never occurred to me that it's quite possible that the reason I loved them so much as a kid is because they appealed to what would later become a adult fascination with all that is morbid.

Less talk, more gore:


And, for clarification, the lady in the bathtub:


Perhaps I needed more friends when I was a kid.

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Camera Hacks

Posted on 4/23/2008 03:00:00 AM
I've had a couple of emails about the camera work I've been posting this month and all I can say is, soon April will be over and I will stop incessantly posting photos of every stupid flower that grows around my house. Until then, humor me - I'm enjoying one of the prettiest Springs I've seen in a long time. Also, damn, I wish I had gone ahead and majored in photojournalism like I considered back when I was a senior in high school because I've been having the most fun taking pictures lately.

What I didn't have and could have used back when I was trying to set up a dark room in my parents' laundry room on top of the deep freezer, is the Internet. There are a ton of great websites out there with tips for photographers, PhotoShop tutorials, etc. I'll admit that one of the things that deterred me from declaring photography as a major was cost. There were no digital cameras back then and if you were going to major in photography, you'd better be ready to pay hundreds of dollars a month for film, emulsion paper, chemicals and other equipment because the school certainly wasn't going to eat the cost for you. Now, you can take a thousand pictures a day and all for the initial investment of the camera. If I'd had a digital camera my senior year in high school, I might be on a whole different career path now.

I thought I'd pass along a tip I just tried out and love:
How to make your own flash diffuser from an old film canister. I wouldn't have expected this to really work, but I had a film canister sitting around so I thought it was worth a try. Here's a photo of The Caterpillar without the diffuser:



And with the diffuser:


See the difference? I love how much more realistic it makes the photo and how much warmer the skin tones look. And all for the cost of something I already had in my house would probably have thrown away anyway. A quick Google search reveals professional flash diffusers in excess of $23. Take that, THE MAN.

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The Second Oldest Profession

Posted on 4/22/2008 06:55:00 AM
There are times when being a mother is one of the most rewarding, uplifting, and awe inspiring careers I've ever experienced - days when I just ooze gratitude for these two little beings who have been entrusted to my care for more than just a few hours. I rejoice in my role and thrill at the chance to take care of the Ankle Biters that are running around my house.

Then there's the last three weeks.

A couple of bony protrusions from the Small One's lower gum line have made each day progressively longer and each night progressively shorter for the past three weeks. She has been spectacularly unhappy. I would be too, I suppose, if my body was trying to tear itself open to allow new parts of it to be exposed.

The Large One is growing too and has been up at all hours complaining that her legs hurt and she can't sleep. This usually happens just as I got the Small One back to sleep after her three am screamfest and was about to lay my head back down on my own pillow. That's after a day of arguments and willfulness that defy logic:


"No, you can't do that."


"But I want to."


"Well, you can't."

"But I want to."

"But the answer is no."

"But I want to."

"No. Stop asking."

"But
I WANT to!"

"I already gave you the answer, I'm not going to tell you again."


"
BUT. I. WANT. TO."

"If you say
I want to one more time you're going to have a time out."

"But I
don't want to. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!"

Why am I arguing with an irrational four year old? Because I want to.

I remember once when I was a pre-teen and driving somewhere in the car, discussing jobs and careers with my mother. I don't know how we got on the subject; I must have said something derogatory about motherhood.
I was incredibly naive and didn't know much about the world at that point in life. I can only imagine how it would have made my mother feel. Or maybe she was just trying to nip my hubris in the bud... I don't know. But she said to me, "You know, dear, being a mother is probably THE most important thing you will ever do in life." And she was right. I like my job. I feel I provide a valuable service to people most days. I love my career. I believe that what I'm involved in changes lives. I've seen it happen. But all of that pales in comparison to being someone's mother and being responsible for all the decisions that affect that person's life.

I'm sure I've said it before, but it bears repeating. I don't think I've ever done anything as difficult, time consuming, physically exhausting and thankless as being someone's mother. It's
HARD, ya'll!

There are nights when I simply can't wait for bedtime and I climb under the covers at 7:00 pm. It's sad and pathetic that I have no life but I couldn't care less if it means I get a break. When the KingofHearts was in the Air Force, one of the worst things about it was that if he hated his job (and he did), he was pretty much SOL. He couldn't improve the situation. He couldn't register a complaint. He couldn't change jobs. He couldn't even quit. So when things weren't going well, it was pretty awful. But even then, he knew that in six years his enlistment would be up and if he so desired, he could have his freedom back again. Six years is a lot shorter time to wait than eighteen (or more).

I'm not so self-pitying as to think it's any more difficult for me than it is for any other parent. In fact, I probably have it a lot easier. The Caterpillar - and The Dormouse before her are incredibly easy children, especially when I look around at some of my friends' babies. I'm just saying that even though I was pretty realistic in my expectations pre-children, it's still turned out to be... what's the phrase I'm looking for?... umm... nothing at all like I thought it would be.

We seemed to have turned a corner this weekend and I got my normally cheerful, easy going baby back for a few days. It's been lovely. She's spent her mornings grinning at me, rolling around the house on the floor, putting her head on my shoulder and I'm reminded of why I wanted to do all this over again in the first place. I guess that's how the next eighteen years will go. Some periods of blissful appreciation followed by the need to suppress the impulse to Fed Ex my children to China... and I know how much it would cost too. So I suppose I'll just enjoy it now and steel myself for the inevitable downturn that's coming. Because if you run your finger across the Caterpillar's upper gum there's another tooth threatening to come in.

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More Tulips (Four Lips?)

Posted on 4/22/2008 05:58:00 AM

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Four and A Half

Posted on 4/21/2008 06:49:00 AM
Since The Caterpillar got to celebrate her half birthday, The Dormouse wanted to do the same thing. The only difference is that The Dormouse was four and a half, while The Caterpillar was just... half.


Recognize that half of the cake? We're nothing if not thrifty.

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A Mass of Incandescent Gas

Posted on 4/20/2008 03:11:00 AM
We had one of these Forsythia bushes in our front yard when we first moved into the house and it was so overgrown and unkempt that we immediately took it out. I still remember all the birds who had used it as a hotel sitting on the fence squawking angrily at the KoH while he was yanking it from the ground. Now, seeing these things bloom in others' yards, I wish we had just pruned it and made it acceptable instead of pulling it out completely because when it blooms it looks like the sun just exploded.


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Horton Hears Who?

Posted on 4/19/2008 12:34:00 AM
Oh, a Who.



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Literacy is Overrated

Posted on 4/18/2008 04:50:00 AM
Why you should never let your four year old learn to read and write:


Now there's more than just constant verbal commentary on your mad housekeeping skillz.

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Mystery Tree

Posted on 4/18/2008 04:40:00 AM
One of the coolest things about Spring in this area of the country is all the flowering trees in the. If you'd said flowering trees to me when I lived in the Southwest, I'd have blinked three times and looked at you like you grew a second head. What are these flowering trees you people speak of? Several years ago, The KoH and I made a donation to the Arbor Foundation and as a thank you, they sent us ten different three inch tall baby trees. We planted them all around the house and promptly forgot what was what. This little sapling in the front yard is now about eight feet tall and finally beginning to meet the definition of the word "tree." We still have no idea what it is. The only thing I'm sure of is that it's not a cactus.


Edited to add: I've been schooled. It's an Eastern red bud tree. Apparently, the KoH figured it out some time ago, but never told me. We are excellent communicators.

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The New Ritalin

Posted on 4/17/2008 02:27:00 AM In:
When The KingofHearts and I got married, the Bishop who married us gave one of those Advice for a Happy Marriage speeches - which is really just a cover for: Crap, we got all these people dressed up and here and now we've realized that the whole ceremony is less than five minutes. S-t-r-e-e-e-e-t-c-h!! In it, he actually uttered the phrase, "Don't let sarcasm become part of your daily routine." To which my friends in the back of the church immediately uttered a great, simultaneous, stifled "GUFFAW." Talking to the Bishop later at the reception, I think I might have answered, "Sarcasm? Were you serious? Our whole relationship is BASED on sarcasm!"

Imagine the needless suffering that could have been avoided among my friends, family and co-workers if this stuff were the new wonder drug available from Pfizer.


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Two Lips

Posted on 4/16/2008 11:19:00 PM

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Lonely Little Petunia In An Onion Patch

Posted on 4/16/2008 11:10:00 PM
We have these wild onions that grow all throughout our lawn. My pet theory is that this readily available smörgåsbord is what keeps the bunnies coming back. No matter how hard I've tried, no matter how many little onion bulbs I've pulled up out of the ground, I cannot get rid of them and they multiply faster and faster each year. After a couple of years we just started picking, cleaning and chopping them up to serve on potatoes with sour cream. They're not bad. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


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Mjolnir

Posted on 4/16/2008 02:37:00 AM
More pics from the heat and beat. I should put all these together and make one of those comic flip books.

How to make a sword from a leaf spring:

First, one must heat the metal to red hot.

Prepare the hammer.

Swing the hammer.

Make sure you're about to hit the metal and not your buddy's thumb. Because that would be bad.

Bring down the hammer.... and....

Clink.
(I love the expression on Matt's face here.)

Repeat several thousand times.

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TJ

Posted on 4/16/2008 01:50:00 AM

I think everyone has an historical figure with whom they identify/feel strongly. In recent years, I've become more fascinated with John Adams but for most of my life it's been Thomas Jefferson. I think part of it has to do with my watching the musical
1776 as a kid. Which is stupid, I know, but it sparked an interest and I began learning about him and who he was. As a fellow musician, I identify with his use of and love for music. While he was writing the Declaration of Independence and stuck for inspiration, he would stop writing and play the violin to clear his head. This is the kind of guy I can get behind.


In addition to being a fairly competent writer, he was also a scholar, inventor, naturalist, architect, archaeologist, and spoke six languages. He founded the University of Virginia and assembled a library which became the foundation for Library of Congress. Can anyone say Renaissance Man?


Sure he wasn't perfect and he's not without his controversy:
Hey, let's free the slaves.... oh except for mine, I kind of need them - and let's not even get started on the Sally Hemmings thing. But he, like all of the founding fathers, was human... despite history's attempt to make them all look like demigods. I think that's what makes them more appealing to me. That they were able to do what they did even through their flaws and foibles. It give me hope.


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Under the Boardwalk

Posted on 4/15/2008 01:03:00 AM
Here's something I don't think I've ever told anyone: I have this weird fascination with the marks and dates that I often see placed in the concrete of bridges and overpasses. I always notice them when I'm driving on a bridge or overpass and look for them when I don't see one in an obvious place. I'm no civil engineer though, so I don't have a clue as to their significance. Most of them appear to be the date the bridge was built - or maybe the date that the concrete pieces were poured. But some have additional information and I have thus far been unable to get Professor Google to educate me. Anyone care to enlighten me? This is the marker under the overpass near the Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin. I think it's beautiful and one of the most interesting ones I've ever seen. Is it odd that I think this is beautiful? Don't answer that.


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You Can't Beat the Heat

Posted on 4/14/2008 03:00:00 AM
We have odd hobbies in our house.

The KingofHearts teaches Japanese swordfighting to church ladies (
no joke there - just ask).

I have a keen interest in criminal profiling and have taken classes in forensic investigation just for fun. Once, we got into an argument over dinner over the formula to determine how long a body had been dead -- the missionaries who were eating with us at the time just stared at us, mouths agape. (Of course that paled in comparison to the time those same missionaries were eating at our Bishop's house and in the dinner prayer he asked God to bless Britney Spears' boobs, that they might stop flying out of her shirt so often. So I don't actually win the Making a Missionary Uncomfortable Prize. Better luck next year.)


A common, favorite road trip of mine is to drive hours and hours to tour houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright. If they are not public buildings, I have either talked my way in anyway or just stood outside the person's home taking pictures. Sure that's not creepy and weird -- unless you're living in the house. Then you might be inclined to contact the authorities.

The KoH crochets. Once,
when we were dating, he made me a scarf during his work breaks - that went over well with all the other macho military types.

One Valentines' Day, I got a glass blowing class as a gift from my husband. It was one my favorite gifts ever. I made three misshapen glasses and two paperweights. I still have them proudly displayed in my kitchen.


A few years ago, Monica, the KoH, and I left work on a Friday afternoon, drove eighteen hours to Chicago (first detouring several hours into Ohio to pick up a friend) and were back by Monday -- why? To
inspect cows.

I often wonder whether we really enjoy stuff like this or if subconsciously we just do it to make friends and neighbors raise their eyebrows at us, only to return their glance and say, "What?"


Several years ago when the KoH was working a construction job, he picked up a truckload of bricks that were going to be discarded. He brought them home and built a ginormous permanent barbecue in the back yard. We busted on him a lot for the speed of his masonry skills. My dad was out visiting at the time and decided to take time lapse photos of the project -- in some cases the series looks like the photos are going backwards because KoH ended up taking a row off every so often to fix mistakes. While Dad was taking pictures, Monica and I sat on the deck and yelling "One! One brick! Wha ha ha ha." a la
Count von Count. We teased him unmercifully but the truth is when he was done we had a very nice barbeque on which you can cook for an army and it only cost us a couple of $20 bags of Portland cement.

The latest and greatest in the world of Underground Hobbies is Blacksmithing.
Our friend Matt and the KoH turned that ginormous barbecue into a forge a year or so ago. They each made a knife that would make Crocodile Dundee nod his head -- you call that a knife? THIS is a knife.

This weekend, they decided to make a sword out of the leaf springs from a car's suspension.
As a public service, I thought I'd let everyone in on the gear you need to actually open a smithy shop in your backyard. It's quite cheap and hopefully if he ever loses his job, he'll be able to make a living shoeing horses or something. Until then, who needs a Wii when you've got fire?



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Fire, Fire!

Posted on 4/14/2008 02:50:00 AM
Have I mentioned that I'm a bit of a pyromaniac? I think that's the only reason I don't complain about him doing stuff like this. Fire. Pretty.


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Dirty Jobs

Posted on 4/13/2008 12:34:00 AM
The reason I hate, loathe and despise those biter biscuits that people give babies:


That onesie got washed six (6!) times.

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Mmm, Popcorn

Posted on 4/12/2008 01:52:00 AM
I looked out the window, and what did I see? Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.
Spring has brought me such a nice surprise. Blossoms popping right before my eyes.
I could take an armful and make a treat. A popcorn ball that would smell so sweet.
I wasn't really so, but it seemed to me: Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.


When I was little, we used to sing
Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree (lyrics above for the uninitiated) in the kids' classes in church. Growing up in the Southwest, I intellectually knew what the song was about, but I had no real frame of reference for it at all. I have no idea why it was such a popular song in my area. If someone had written a song titled Very Sharp Thorns on the Cactus in the Dirt, now that might have meant something to us kids. I still don't know what an apricot tree looks like. But in Washington, D.C. we have 30-50 varieties of Dogwood that I think fill the bill. You always know Spring is coming because the first things to bloom - the thing that stick out from the forests - are the Dogwood trees. Sometimes if enough of them are growing together along the highway, you have to do a double take as you drive by to remind yourself that a freak snowstorm didn't just leave a dusting all over the trees.


Last night a big thunderstorm came through and knocked all the white blossoms off the trees but it was pretty while it lasted.


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The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Posted on 4/11/2008 02:18:00 AM
Not my Caterpillar, just a caterpillar. Apparently, Daffodils are tasty, yet filling because this one only needed a couple of bites.


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The Dog Whisperer

Posted on 4/10/2008 05:21:00 PM
I gave The Dormouse a piece of cardboard and some watercolor paints to get her out of my hair keep her busy today.

"What should I do with it, Momma?"


"Whatever you want. Be creative. The cardboard folds in half -- maybe you could paint something and stand it up like a sign."


"Oh, ok! Momma, how do you spell garage?"

"G-A-R-A-G-E."


A few minutes later she came back with a hand painted sign. "It says, Dogs don't go in the Garage." There is a drawing of a dog inside a house with a line through the dog.

"What's that for?"

"It's for Monica."

"...???"

Shoots me a duh look. "So her dogs don't go in the garage and get lost in there. Then they might not get out and they would make a big mess. All Monica's organization would be messed up and they might eat some things."


"Ah, of course. Do you think the dogs will be able to read the sign?"

"Uh huh. Yep they can." A few minutes later she said thoughtfully, "Well, maybe I should write it in dog language, just in case." She grabbed a ball point pen and wrote
Rof Rof Rof Rof over the top of all the words she had carefully painted with the watercolors. "NOW, they will be able to read it."

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Gardening: A Cautionary Tale

Posted on 4/10/2008 02:59:00 PM
A few years ago, in a desperate effort to isolate ourselves from six barking dogs owned by the various neighbors in a three hundred and sixty degree radius of our place, we planted these Chinese elms around the house. Basically, we wanted a hedge row and we'd read that these were fast growing, hearty plants. At the time, I wanted to put in a Burning Bush hedge instead, because I think they are so beautiful in the fall, but they grow quite a bit more slowly -- not to mention the fact that they were quite a lot more expensive. So between that and the need for at least some kind of barrier from the dog chorus - and soon! - we opted for the cheaper, faster growing plant instead.

I won't say it was a mistake, because in the back yard we've let them grow up as tall as they will and when they are really leafy it almost feels like we're not living in a neighborhood where you can stand between the houses, stretch your arms and touch them both. I love it back there in the late summer - especially now with the hot tub on the deck. It's awesome. But in the front yard, we really just wanted a little waist-high hedge.

Let's just say that when they said in the catalog that they would grow quickly, they weren't just whistling Dixie. In two years, these plants grew from spindly little pencil sticks stuck in the dirt, to a big beautiful leafy hedge row in the front yard. But the problem was that they didn't stop. We had to cut them ( I say "we" because I cut them once... Once.) at least six times a year in order to make our house not resemble ancient temple ruins in the Mexico countryside. They grew into thick-trunked woody trees, resembling a hedge row only because of their location. Our neighbor across the street complained when they grew too tall that she couldn't see into our yard anymore (but that's another post for another day). It really pissed off our next door neighbor when we wouldn't get to trimming them for a few weeks and they grew through the fence and into his driveway. More than once, I heard him cussing us for not cutting them more often when he didn't think I was outside. The thing was, we did cut them. It's just if you didn't set up a schedule much like a regular appointment at your favorite hair stylist, they just got out of control again in a mere six weeks and who wants to spend every Saturday trying to convince trees that they are hedges?

Finally The KoH had had it this year and he did what we should have spent our time and money on in the first place. He bought enough Burning Bush plants to replace the Chinese elms in the front yard and he pulled out all the elms, which now had root systems that rivaled the tributaries to the Mississippi river. It's too bad, because that's like six or seven years of growing time that the Burning Bushes could have been doing and they would now be big and beautiful, but instead we've got spindly, pencil like sticks in the ground again and will have to wait another hundred years or so to see a real hedge around this house. (I'm soooo hoping we won't still be living in it by the time that happens.)

So this, I guess, is a cautionary tale to anyone considering purchasing Chinese elms: Unless you really enjoy yard work, don't.

The Dormouse, however, had a GREAT time helping Daddy pull out the elms. That is, if you define "helping" as: walking around underfoot, talking non-stop, insisting she wear this "gardening hat," running inside every six minutes to get something and tromping mud all over the carpet, and moving one small pile of dirt from the ground to a cardboard box and back again sixty times. It was very serious work for her.







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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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