Gnats Gnosh on Gnocchi

Posted on 9/28/2011 10:45:00 AM

A couple of days ago was a particularly buggy day.  We get this a couple times a year in our neighborhood: you go outside to enjoy a cool, sunny afternoon outside and are suddenly chased back inside by a literal swarm of gnats and mosquitoes.  It's like a very tiny, way less dangerous, way more annoying version of The Birds.

I haven't ever figured out what brings them out in droves like that, but the spiders love it.  Those aren't raindrops you see on that spider web above, they're bugs. 

Can't see it?


Take a closer look:
 


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Mum-y

Posted on 9/26/2011 10:05:00 AM

The other day, The KingofHearts came home from Lowes or some such place and handed me this pot of chrysanthemums.

"What's this?"

"I brought you mums."

"Oh...kay."

"Because they make you happy."

"Ah....  Wait. Huh?"

"Last year you said you like to have mums on the porch in the autumn because they make you happy.  So I brought you mums."

I don't even remember saying that.  

But he does. 

And that makes me happy.

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Mary, Mary

Posted on 9/25/2011 07:05:00 PM
KoH:  "You're funny."

Caterpillar: "No I'm not."

KoH:  "Yes you are, you're funny."

Caterpillar:  "No, I'm not!"

KoH:  "And you're contrary too."

Caterpillar: "No! I'm not!"

KoH:  "I think you've just proved my point.  You're contrary."

Caterpillar:  "NO. I'M. NOT!"

KoH:  "You don't even know what contrary means."

Caterpillar:  "Yes I do."

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Magic Mushrooms

Posted on 9/24/2011 01:46:00 PM
Q: How many fungus jokes can one actually use on a single blog?

A: Not as many as this gal.

After my first fungus post, (Who says this blog isn't diverse and educational?  How many people can say they have not one, but two fungus posts on their Motherhood and Family blog?  I rest my case.) we had even more rain and a whole new crop of fun guys.  

Too much?

Nevermind.  Just look at cool photos.

More pornographic fungi
Did you know the plural of fungus is not only fungi, but also funguses?

Me neither.

This one scares me... a lot.
Sprinkled from a salt shaker funguses
I'm pretty sure this one is just a bunch of dead ones of those above.
Fringe-y decorative fungus
Fungus aliens returning to the mother ship

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Milking the Pirate Thing One More Year

Posted on 9/23/2011 10:02:00 AM
So... the party.

We kept it pretty low-key this year. We've been to enough gym parties this year that we knew we didn't want to do anything big, involved, expensive or that required... what's that thing again?... ah yes, planning.  So we invited five kids/three families over for a barbeque on the new deck.  Deck warming/Fourth birthday... kill two birds with one stone.  

In the weeks leading up to The Caterpillar's birthday, I'd asked her if she wanted to have another pirate party, since we kinda have a history with those.  She said no.  I was pretty sure when we did the pirate cruise last year that we weren't going to get a lot more mileage out of the pirate thing so it didn't really surprise me that much.  But when we did ask her what kind of a party she wanted we got a few too many requirements:  "Princess, no kitty, no pizza, no Strawberry Shortcake, no princess, no happy face, no cake, no princess and cake, no dress ups, no...."

Since we never really could get her to narrow down the wide swath she cut through the party supply store, a couple of days before her birthday, I had this Gestalt lightbulb appear above me head:

"You know, Ella is coming to your party and Ella really likes pirates.  Do you want to have a pirate ship cake?"

"YES!  A PIRATE SHIP CAKE! YAY!!!"

Psychology!

And so, I went about the task of creating a pirate ship cake.


My workmates have dubbed me "Martha Stewart" because of this cake and have spent endless minutes mocking me because of my usual declarations that I'm not interested in cooking or baking.  But honestly, it took very little effort and only about four or five hours total, which was broken into baking the cake one day, carving and icing it the next and adding the decorations just before the party started.


It's not like there's a bare chested mermaid figurehead hanging from the bow, or anything.  I totally wouldn't go to that much trouble.  And anyway, The Dormouse only came up with that idea after the cake was finished so I didn't have time.

When she got home and saw the cake for the first time, she spent at least three full minutes just staring at it and giggling like a fool. 


Then she spent another three full minutes in quiet contemplation.


So... totally worth the time spent.

Originally, I had gone to Target for pirate themed decorations, but while I was there something made me think of voluminous pile of Caterpillar artwork overflowing from a stack in the kitchen and how I had to throw it all out while she slept to avoid a fight. I looked down at the fifty bucks worth of pirate stuff I would also throw away in the next twenty-four hours and I had a brainstorm.  So I put all the stuff back and instead gave The Dormouse The Caterpillar's artwork and told her to use it to decorate the deck.
 

We renamed the deck the Pirate Ship Revenge.  As long as the Pirate Ship Revenge is a place where you can both grill hot dogs and burgers and roast marshmallows for s'mores.  (Not sure the Dread Pirate Roberts would approve, but eh, whatevs.  I hear he changes his mind a lot.)


Note to others considering this as a kid-friendly activity:  do not purchase Giant Campfire Roasting Marshmallows for s'mores.   If you consider that regular-sized marshmallows do not easily fit into kids' mouths, then it's easy to extrapolate from that information that with these you will probably have to spend at least eighty-nine hours wiping sticky stuff from their faces, arms and combing it out of their hair.  For some reason however, it wasn't easy for me.

Then we all gathered round for the ritual microwaving of a marshmallow. 



Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.  It's really quite entertaining.

The Caterpillar asked for one thing and one thing only for her birthday: a gyro bowl. I know it's weird.  I'm as perplexed as you are - especially since I had never heard of this product and had to look it up on the interweb.  Since this request didn't change over the course of several weeks (and because I happened to notice it in the As Seen on TV end wrap I walked past at Target)  I felt I had to comply.  Here she is explaining the benefits of the gyro bowl to other bewildered party goers:

It's a bowl that you can put food in and you can turn it over and the bowl sfins and sfins and the food doesn't fall out!

For good measure, I got her this toy too and she has spent more hours playing with it in the ensuring days than perhaps all the other toys combined over the past year. 


We may need a mate or two to help us swab the deck now. 


Man, am I glad they only have one birthday per year.

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An Open Letter to Three

Posted on 9/22/2011 09:20:00 AM
Dear Three Years Old,

Let's face it, we're all adults here.  Well... you're not, but... you know what I mean.  I think we can admit with little enmity that you and I were not friends.  You were full of tantrums and screaming fits and arguing with her shoes and time outs and kicking me in the back in bed at night and I was not very good at dealing with you.  So I must say that I'm not sorry to see you go. 

Never again will I exasperatedly announce to the woman with the infant in the grocery store cart, "Don't believe them when they tell you about the Terrible Twos... it's Three that'll getcha.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid."

Never again will I painstakingly set the clock for three minutes, one for each year of age, and tell her "You need to stay in your time-out for three minutes, but if you get up, we'll have to set the clock back to three minutes."  And then to the background music of screams and "NO CLOCK! NO CLOCK!" put the next hour and a half of my life on hold while I continually reset that damn clock back to three minutes approximately eleventy-bajillion times.  From now on I'll be setting it to four minutes. 

No, I'm probably not going to wax saptastic about the joy that was Three Years Old any time soon.  It was a rough year and I was working too much and stressed too much through most of it.  I did not cope very well with your presence.   

But Three Years Old was also when she started being a person.  She's always had a personality of her very own, but this was the year when it developed into something unique and wonderful.  When her sense of humor started to define itself.   When she started having hilarious conversations with her dolls:

Doll #1: "What's wrong with you?"

Doll #2: "I got a baby in my tummy."

Doll #1:  "Well, you better go find a doctor and get it out.  That could be trouble."

Three was when she began her hilarious fashion choices.  Because who says flip-flops, a pair of shorts and a bathing suit with the skirt sticking out over the waistband isn't January-appropriate attire?  She had a scarf on, people.

Three was when she invented exciting games to play with her sister:

"OK - put your hands on mine."

"Then what?"

"Then we count and yell 'PIZZA!'  OK?  Ready?  Go.  One, two, three PEEEEZZZZAAAAA!"

*deadpans*  "Wow, that was fun."

Three was when she caught the craft bug and spent hours at home each day cutting a single large piece of paper into several hundred smaller pieces of paper, declaring it "my project." (It was also when I learned that I needed a better vacuum.)  It was when she finally started getting interested in drawing pictures and reading and writing.  Even if I didn't always come off looking like a supermodel.


Three was when she realized she did not have nearly enough toys and started using the cats as her dolls, making them answer her questions by nodding their heads and pointing with their paws and sometimes wearing them as accessories. Coincidentally, it's also when the cats, in helpless acquiescence, learned to accept their fate and adopted the self-defense mechanism of lying there like slugs.

Three was maddening, troublesome, hateful, frustrating, and never-ending.  But Three was also full of crinkly noses, giggles, kisses on the hand, dancing in front of the television, singing improvised versions of American Pie and spontaneous I love you Mommas.  So while I'm still not all that sorry to see you go, I  kind of love you too.  Bye Three. 



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Along Came a Spider

Posted on 9/16/2011 07:09:00 AM

I walked into one of these today and it was such a strong web, I thought it might lift me off my feet.  Reminded me of a movie I saw thirty years ago.  I'm not really arachnophobic or anything, but I really, really hate that feeling of walking into a spider web on the way to the car in the morning. Is there a word for fear of spiderwebs on your face?

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Blithe Bulldozer of Bodgery

Posted on 9/15/2011 10:29:00 AM In:
For a few years, we were obsessed with this British show called Junkyard Wars, which, I believe, aired on the Discovery Channel.  Want to know how obsessed? We once spent nine hours at someone else's house, lying on the living room carpet, eating junk food, watching the Junkyard Wars marathon because each and every one of us Could. Not. Look. Away.

Junkyard Wars is where I first heard the British expression "bodged together."  Incidentally, it's also where I first heard the phrase "drawn reciprocating dingle-arm with sinusoidal repleneration mounted on a base plate of pre-framulated amulite."  Can you believe I lived to adulthood without incorporating that into my vocabulary?

Now, there's a new version of this idea on the Science Channel, called Stuck with Hackett.  All I have to say about that is it's a good thing we discovered this one early on in the show's history because there aren't enough episodes to have a marathon yet, and so we only waste an hour at a time watching this dude make a washing machine and drier out of car parts and improvised flame throwers.

When we had our beautiful briny sea event in the basement last week, The KingofHearts stayed up all night that first night with a shop vac and a dream.  A dream that he could one day suck up all the water entering our basement and empty it into an inside drain connected to a sewer faster than Mother Nature could replenish the water in the outside stairwell. I believe I woke up around 1:00 am to the sound of a vacuum motor coming from the basement, but in my sleep-addled haze, it didn't really occur to me that this was an ongoing thing and I fell back asleep. 

Anyway, for whatever reason, he felt like he could handle it and chose not to wake me up.  When I woke again at 4:00 am and still heard the sound of the shop vac, I realized what he'd been doing all night and actually got out of bed to see if he needed help. 

"Have you been doing this all night?"

"Only since about 9:00."

Lesson the first:  Mother Nature is more powerful than us all.  Just ask my friend who lives in New Orleans in a house that sits three-quarters of a foot above sea level (considered high ground in NOLA, by the way)...  a newly rebuilt house.  

I took over shop vac duty while he went to Lowes to purchase a little pump motor.  When I wrote this post, The KingofHearts had attached it to two hoses, one went into the outside dry well and sucked the water up, while the other - our garden hose - emptied that water out in the driveway.  By plugging it in, one could empty out all the water and keep it from coming up under the door.  And if the drywell was empty enough, the ground water drained into it and stopped coming in under the basement walls.  It worked and didn't require picking up a ten gallon shop vac full of water every fifteen minutes and emptying it into the sink.

Lesson the second:  ten gallons of water + one shop vac - three wheels + a drain in a sink three feet off the ground = approximately ninety-three point four pounds + a colossal backache.  I had only taken over shop vac duty for a few short minutes before I developed this equation.

What his little contraption did require, however, was someone to to sit near the motor and plug it in for it to begin to work.  Then when the drain was emptied, it needed to be unplugged to turn it off so the motor didn't burn out pumping air.  For most of Thursday as it continued to rain, I sat in the basement room plugging and unplugging that thing every fifteen minutes while allowing my kids to watch insane amounts of television unsupervised upstairs, so The KingofHearts could catch up on the sleep he'd missed the night before.

By Thursday night, it was still raining, and someone still needed to plug and unplug the motor.  I mentioned in some off-hand comment that it'd be really cool if there was some kind of a switch that could turn the motor off and on.... like.... oh maybe... a sump pump?  Since we've been talking about putting a sump pump in for a couple of years, but never really got around to it, it was a bit of a sore spot.

I insisted that we spell each other on the task so neither of us had to stay up all night again and he said he'd stay up until midnight and then wake me to cover the duty so he could sleep the rest of the night.  When he came to bed, I got up to go downstairs and spell him, but he stopped me. 

"You don't have to do it."

"Well, I'm not letting you stay up all night again."

"No, I mean, I fixed it.  Neither of us has to."

"What do you mean?"

"I made a switch to turn the motor on and off."

"From...?"

"Stuff I found in the basement."

Indeed.  

Let me take you on a tour of his bodged-together self-starting sump-pump.

Black motor to the right causes green hose to suck water up from drain.
Switch from neighbor's old sump pump attached to float (like the one that's inside a toilet) goes down inside drain.  Only the floater ball we had did not fit inside the hole.  So he took that off and replaced it with a plastic cup filled with foam.  Water pushes cup/float up, which pushes switch arm up and turns motor on. 2x4s hold the whole thing in place.
Motor sucks water in and pumps it out through gray garden hose.  Excess extension cords allow motor to connect to electricity without opening basement door, thus ensuring no one enters house at night and kills us in our sleep.
Gray garden hose takes water up through basement stairwell, out down driveway...
...and empties water into gutter in front of house, to run down street into storm drain.

Voila!  Poor man's sump pump.

I know I make fun of my husband probably too much, and, truth be told, he gives us all a lot to laugh at.  So laugh if you want - I've already considered submitting these photos to this website - but this little contraption allowed us both to sleep that night.  


Or something like that. 

Thus endeth the lesson.

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Deck, Part Deux

Posted on 9/14/2011 07:00:00 AM
“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders—what would you tell him to do?” " To Shrug."

Monica, so impressed by the deck accomplished by The KingofHearts, (Deck Accomplished, see what I did there? Bwahahahaikillme.) was inspired and decided she also needed to have also have a deck where you didn't risk your life by stepping out onto it.  (Greedy!)  So she undertook a deck improvement project of her own.


Since simply holding it up from underneath seemed like an inappropriate use of her time, I brought over my manual laborer husband and The KingofHearts gave her a few pointers, like how to turn on that Mother's Day present she asked for last May.


And how to measure just a tiny bit too long for every single joist. 

Just kidding, Monica.  I think he gave you those measurements because he enjoyed hammering each and every joist into place a la Amish construction... to prove his manhood.


Me?  I was about as much help as an Oompla Loompa feeding a giraffe. (Why no online image of that, Google?  I think you're falling down on the job. But then again, I can't quit you, Google, because here's something even more awesome instead.)  Apparently, I'm shorter than even *I* gave myself credit for, so I got the easy job and stood on chairs to Nail Stuff In while the Tall Ones did all the heavy lifting.  

Occasionally, I took a break to photo document the day.  

And to enjoy watching everyone get covered with sawdust.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch inside the house....


Monica's husband, Barry decides he doesn't really want to have lipstick applied to his forehead at the Gorgeous Pretty Beauty Little Girl Nail Salon and tries to hide under the bed.  So the Shortlings begin the lengthy process of adorning his feet instead.


He tried to disappear like a snake into its hole,


but they were smarter than him and found the other end.


A satisfied, if reluctant, customer.  He's rather gorgeous, isn't he?


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Study in Yellow

Posted on 9/13/2011 09:43:00 AM

On the way home from church on Sunday, we passed this giant field filled with yellow wildflowers and The Dormouse asked if we could stop to take a picture. It seemed like a good idea at the time so we swung by the house, picked up my camera and turned the car back with visions of frolicking in a field of poppies in our heads.

What I didn't realize until we pulled the car over was that this area is a big construction zone and the whole thing is fenced off. We couldn't actually get in the wildflower field; we could only skirt the border of it. It also became quickly obvious that we've had two weeks of torrential rain recently, so anywhere near the flowers was pretty much all mud and we all sank an inch and a half into the mud in our church shoes. I got stung by a bee and almost fell into a gully while The KingofHearts prepared to explain our presence to the security guard who came to investigate what the hell we were doing.

The visual in my head is always so much better than the actual experience.

But still, with some creative angling (and a vow to just clean up my pumps later) we got a nice shot or two... or nine.









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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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