Monday, May 31, 2010


Spent most of yesterday in the backyard, sifting through compost. Mike tossed a bunch of junk in the compost pile this year-- out of a what you might call optimism. It's full of sticks, and I even found an occasional plastic toy in there. Since plastics never break down I was able to just pull them out and hand them back to the boys. Yay plastic. Ugg.

No more sightings of the resident snake. I'm hopeful it will appear before the end of summer. I layered a ton of compost across all the beds, and also got some more seeds and seedlings started. I even experimented with some hanging gardens. I used some old juice containers to put some squash out. It's not an ideal combination (small container, large plant), but nearly all of my gardening is experimental. This is just one more experiment. I start everything from seeds, so I feel some leeway. I don't put a lot of money into buying small plants, so I feel free to have my fun. Some of my coolest gardens have been experimental. Our garden in the Netherlands was PERFECT for sunflowers, and we always had an amazing crop. But sunflowers would not be the usual choice for a rainy, northern european country, but as you can see from the photos, it worked. The fence in the background was just about 6 feet tall. It's all that separated our garden from the Troll's workshop, but that's another post.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thank you Graham Norton

You never disappoint.

Awkward Family Photos.

serenity now

grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference

I was thinking about this in the shower last night. Not because I contemplate serenity often, but because there is oh-so-much I want to change. I realize this may not really be what they're suggesting, but still it had me thinking. I decided to list some things I cannot and can change, as it may help me remember. Here's a list:

things I cannot change

-that my husband cannot tell the difference between a kitchen towel and a bathroom towel.

-teaching: students texting in class

-that Willy refuses to use the big-boy potty

-how or whether people respond to my work (true for both jobs)

-the global economy. I am particularly unable to influence the economies of Greece or the EU countries. So I just have to stop worrying about that.

-what BP is doing with that damn oil spill. It literally makes me feel sick.

things I can change

-how I use my time (both jobs)

-how I treat Willy in terms of the whole potty thing. I'm thinking about going Obi-Wan and just dropping it all together. Sure, it's the easiest solution, but I also think continuing with the pleading/rewarding/reminding stuff is just turning it into a bigger issue. I think that is why he so thoroughly relishes not going to the potty.

-teaching: focusing "lectures" around discussion not lecture. I can certainly tell ALL my classes about the oil spill because chances are they have not even heard about it.

-writing: how many queries I send and my query letter (and it's improved a lot, thanks to QS). That being said, I know my synopsis is awful. That's next on the agenda. Right now I just don't send in a query if they ask for a synopsis, which is not really a long term plan. YA Highway is offering a contest for their one year anniversary and giving away (among other things) a synopsis critique. Crossing all appendages for that one.

-I am just dropping the towel thing, but really, how can he not tell? They're totally different shapes and sizes. He does not try to put a bath towel in the kitchen drawer, but basically anything smaller is fair game for kitchen use. It makes me crazy.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bug day

Best. Day. Ever.

I was invited by Zehra to bring in some "bug stuff" today for James' class. Elizabeth brought her group, too, which meant about 20 preschoolers. We had SUCH a good time.

They literally oooh'ed and aaah'ed when I took out my collecting gear: pins, nets, envelopes, etc. And that was just the tacklebox.
Izzy found a tortoise beetle yesterday so I had one live insect to show them, which they loved.

I also brought a nice collection of about 70 insects arranged by family, and several guide books. They were ecstatic.

The kicker was the framed insects we got in belgium, a huge beetle (goliathus cacicus) and buttterfly (papilio blumei). See more on goliath beetles here, and the peacock swallowtail here.
By this time we'd spent about 30 minutes (all of circle time), and I heard that they had a storyteller coming in next. The kids were really excited and thankful, but I am certain I enjoyed it as much as they did. As I was packing up I heard that the storyteller was running late, and so I offered to do some collecting outside with the kids. Screaming ensues.

So, we head out-- of course Willy is also on the playground so I have to check in with him. What is mom doing at school after drop off?! The order of the universe is disturbed!

I duct-taped my sweep net on because the metal band that's supposed to hold the net on is broken. I chose the sweep net because the playground does not have a lot of plant life. It's full of equipment and woodchips-- not exactly a diverse ecosystem. I saw some tall grass and plants along the road and thought I'd head there (sans children) to do a few passes with the sweepnet. The children lined up shoulder to shoulder along the back fence-- watching me work. I worked for a while with with the sweep net and peeked in to see it teeming with life.

I marched back to the playground and asked the kids to circle me. (I also asked the teachers if there were any bee allergies in the group. I didn't think I had any bees, but I wasn't taking chances. They said no, but also that they don't always know before someone is stung. Ummm. Let's not have a lawsuit brought down on the group, okay?) I sat next to the fence and then opened the net. Bugs just started streaming out of it.

Several kinds of beetles, a few ants, many many hoppers, crickets, aphids, leaf bugs, and a whole medley of spiders. I'd given the children envelopes, which are usually just for collecting dragonflies and damselflies, but they all tried to urge the critters into their little envelopes anyway. It kind of worked. I saw a few of the cellophane envelopes with what looked like a squashed bug inside. Most importantly, the kids loved it, and nobody was injured/freaked out/stung.

I offered to run another pass, and dump all the insects into a spare yogurt container I brought. I told the teachers to stick them in the freezer, and that I would help the kids pin them next week.

So. Much. Fun.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Son of a Bitch! Final LOST episode !Spoilers!

We watched our dvr'd (I know this is not a word) final episode of Lost last night. Ugg. I am feeling really dissatisfied. Mike liked it, but I felt it was a cop out on a couple of levels. I really liked that it ended in a reverse of the opening sequence: Jack's eye closing (vs. opening), him looking at the sky while nestled in the bamboo, Vincent the dog showing up... I thought that was fitting.

But the whole group-date in the pan-religion church just bugged me.

Maybe I'm dense? Did they die at other times and now they're in 'heaven' but at the age when they lived together on the island?

Not to sound like a mother, but did Aaron die, as a baby?-- or will Charlie and Claire raise him in heaven. Raising a perpetual newborn surely is not anyone's idea of heaven.

Who is taking care of Jack and Juliet's son?

For that matter, who is raising Penny and Desmond's son? Hopefully not Eloise Widmore. She scares the bejesus out of me. Not the sweet, baking cookie type of grandma at all.

Where is Mr. Eko? When Jack entered the chapel I was so hopeful he would appear!! He was a man of God, right? or at least his brother was... maybe he was just masquerading as one. I can't remember. It's much too complicated, and my brain has to hold on to things like statistics, and the lyrics to all the Beastie Boys albums. I cannot remember every last episode of lost.

I think what bothers me most about it is I am SUCH a planner. I have a rough outline of what I plan to do for the next decade. Seriously. And this just feels thrown together. Everyone knew, through the writer's interviews, etc. that THEY didn't know exactly where the story would go six years ago. That bothers me. I can see some leniency for inspiration-- not every idea comes right at the beginning. Instead, it feels like they had no plan, and they kept tossing 'cool' ideas into the mix. And then they couldn't gather all the different lines and put them back into some kind of meaningful narrative.

It was such a fantastic idea, but I am simply dissatisfied. Mike points out that I was bound to be dissatisfied. He liked the ending, or at least accepted it.

Here is what I wanted to happen: I imagined that the characters would get a chance to make a decision, to chose the island life or the LA life. But I didn't want them to all be dead. Even if it's not "now", if it's the future (but how can it be the future if Aaron is still a baby). I wanted all those people to become reunited, and to know-- to have realization of the current narrative and the sideways narrative, and then each be given a choice to go to the island forever if they liked. Is that too Dharma?

I did like that all the ruined love stories, all the devastating heartbreak deaths (Shannon, Jin and Sun, Libby, Charlie, Boone, etc.) were 'erased'. Those were the shattering moments on the series. The deaths I felt the worst about. But again, then where is Mr. Eko, Rousseau, Alex, her boyfriend (was it Karl?), etc.

I think the underlying problem is this sort of revisionist sense of "that's why, because we told you so", when it doesn't make logical sense. Logical sense in that world at least. For example, I can totally suspend disbelief to imagine that good and evil, personified in twin brothers, must combat each other for all time on a tropical island. Fine. I buy it.
But to imagine that three people manage to turn a 747 around and then acheive take-off on a tropical island. I don't buy it. It's ludicrous. Take a boat, for goodness sake.

I always HATE these kinds of mysteries. In my humble opinion, the best mystery is the one where the author gives you just enough info to solve it yourself, right before the lead character solves it. I HATE when they pull the rug out from under you at the end. Where's the fun in that?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Projects and more

Now that classes are over I have to get cracking on research and writing for a few months.
I will also teach an online course, but that doesn't count as teaching so much to me. None of the fun interactions, none of the debating or discussing. Just the tests, the grading, the emails, and the MIA students.

I have been obsessing over the garden and yard these last few weeks. Totally fell in LOVE with our compost last weekend. Not just because I spotted a snake in there when I was turning it.
It has finally kicked off into true, breakin' down, steamy, composty goodness. We started it when we moved in last year with a ton of kitchen waste, then dumped a pile of leaves on in the fall. Not good compost chemistry. Then of course it froze in winter. I was beginning to think we'd never have success, and that I might have to start researching greens vs. browns, or adding something weird to it. But no, not the case. It just took off and became SOIL. LOVE IT.

Been watching bugs like a madwoman since spring came in. At Melissa and Mike's this weekend I saw about 35 different insects, and had a great time walking all the little kids around to show them. Their garden is breathtaking, and not even fully in bloom yet. I had serious garden envy. Baby steps. Ours has come a long way since last year-- Mike made me a raised herb bed, a raised strawberry bed, and a veggie plot. Then of course we've got the community garden plot, too. I only hope we get enough veggies out of it to not regret dropping the CSA membership. I'm trying to be patient. Not very hard. But I will give it one full growing season before I change the status quo.

Willy's class did bugs a few weeks ago, and James' class is on it this week. I sent in one box of specimens (all ones that are fine to be destroyed by curious 2-4 year olds) and several books. Zehra asked if I wanted to come in to talk to James' class about insects later in the week.

Hells yes.

I can't wait. Totally bringing in some big framed samples of massive tropical beetles and butterflies.

I have to shut down my computer now. I have been obsessed with writing lately. I need to break up with my computer, and definitely my email.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

beetle lino cut from about 2001 (K. Owens)