Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Farewell, September

Ah September, we hardly knew ye. You arrived with bright warm days and comfortable nights, but the mosquitoes were still capable of exsanguinating the occasional victim so I didn't spend a whole of time outdoors. Then somewhere along the way the sun no longer rose over the horizon before 7 am and it got dark before 8 pm. Now September's time is spent, it's windy and cool, and there's a frost advisory for tonight. While I do love fall and the thought of mosquitoes dying by the bucketful makes me smile, I'm not ready for cold weather just yet.

Because of the aforementioned mosquitoes I've been putting off some late summer gardening chores until it turned cooler. I have several plants that I needed to get in the ground and September is a great time to do that, but the mosquitoes drove me up the wall and I kept putting it off. Plus, it had been awhile since we'd had much rain and the ground was hard as a rock. Actually the orange Montgomery Co. clay we have in the backyard turns more into terra cotta than rock when it gets dry and I hate digging in it when it gets that hard. "Later," I kept telling myself but ignoring the calendar. "I'll get it done later."

Well self, it's time to wake up and smell the later 'cause it's the last day of September and the temperatures are dropping down into the mid 30's tonight. I heard this on the radio this morning as I was cleaning out my daughter's closet, looking for her long-sleeved shirts and knee deep in outgrown summer things. My husband, who was working in the basement, could have heard me yelp in surprise.

I'm not ready for frost! I still have work to do outside! Cold weather can't come until I'm ready for it! But I didn't trust the weather to listen to me so I spent most of the afternoon transplanting some asters and joe-pye-weed, putting some blanket flower and Baptisia in the ground, cutting back the Jerusalem artichokes that had toppled over the other day in the brisk wind and generally tidying up a bit. Hopefully we'll still have a couple of weeks of mild weather in October so my transplants can get their root systems established before cold weather settles in for good. As I worked I couldn't help but bemoan the fact that I never got around to turning my compost pile properly this summer, or that my vegetables didn't do as well as I had hoped for this year. I'll probably harbor similar thoughts this time next year, too.

But it was a nice afternoon in the garden all the same. The pineapple sage is coming into its glory with scarlet flowers and the goldenrod is amazing with full, deep yellow blooms. The perennial sunflowers have seedheads now, which I'll leave up along with the coneflowers and the Liatris for the birds. This will be the last week I leave the hummingbird feeder up, but one kept buzzing around the deck to keep me company. Our dachshund had a grand time investigating the swamp milkweed beside the stock tank we use to catch rainwater. The asters are periwinkle, mauve, and purple mounds now. To my surprise, one of my azaleas out front has new flower buds on it but I doubt it'll bloom before we get really cold weather.

Later, before dinner, Ally helped me harvest a good number of eggplant and peppers and she watched with interest as I picked up the pale Jerusalem artichoke tubers from the plants I cut back earlier today. She held out the plastic bag as I dropped the produce into it. Ally was quite impressed by how heavy the bag got as the vegetables filled it up. In another month she'll be doing the same thing while trick or treating for the first time, but she'll be amazed by the candy, not produce, going into the bag. By then the long days of summer will be a memory and we'll all be dressing in layers again. With any luck I'll be too busy raiding my daughter's candy haul to complain too much about the change of the seasons.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The pumpkin festival at Sinkland Farms in Riner, VA, opened this past weekend.

It's a great way to spend an hour or so on a fall weekend.

There are many, many pumpkins waiting to be found in the fields.

Or you can pick out one that's already been picked.

That is, if you can make up your mind about which one you want.

There are weird gourds to look at.

Some pumpkins just want to be sat on.

There are friendly animals in the barn waiting to see you and be petted.

Some of the animals are really, really big.

And there were musicians and kettle corn, pony rides and ice cream, tractors and a corn maze. We'll be visiting again next weekend, I'm sure.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One year later....

Holy schnikes, my blog was exactly one year old yesterday!

I first started blogging because although I enjoy writing, I felt that I didn't have enough opportunities to do it. Writing summaries of endless chemical trials at work just didn't cut it for my sense of creativity. I originally thought that maintaining a blog would ease my way back into creative writing more regularly, but I didn't initially view writing a blog as an act of writing in itself. Boy was I wrong.

A blog entry is nothing more than an essay. Blog entries can be lengthy or just short blurbs, but there's very little difference between writing a blog and anything I ever wrote in high school or college. I still need an idea for each blog and I try to be careful with the composition and grammar for each entry. While each embryonic entry is scintillating in its originality and composition while it's still in my head, I do have to sit down and actually write the thing out, which is where it acquires all of its clunkiness and bad grammar. The act of posting an entry produces no less apprehension in me than turning a paper in for a grade did 20 years ago in college. Is this an interesting topic? Will someone find fault with the composition? Omigosh, what if someone doesn't like it? And yes, these thoughts do still pop up in my head even though I think maybe all of one or two people actually read my blog and I don't think anyone reads it with any regularity. :-D

Friday, September 18, 2009

Go away, Diego, go away!

My young daughter adores the animated series, "Go, Diego, Go!" Every night she asks if she can watch Diego or his cousin Dora in "Dora the Explorer," but I think she prefers Diego because of the animals featured on his show. The show is geared to preschoolers and it teaches some basic information about wild animals and critical thinking.

As I have a scientific background, you might think I would appreciate this show, but in reality I loathe it. Boy do I loathe it. Let me reiterate, I loathe Diego.

Diego, I hate the fact that my two-year-old daughter adores you. I hate the fact that she's going to want to be an "animal rescuer" just like you and that she's going to be heartbroken when she finds out that this is not a valid career choice. She's more likely to become a crazy cat lady with a dozen cats in her house than someone who dashes willy-nilly about the rainforest, miraculously finding and saving the lives of a wild animal each and every day. My daughter is also going to be very disappointed when she finds out that she can't just take a zipline to get to where ever she wants to go each day and that she won't be lauded by talking animals on her morning commute to work.

I hate the fact that the animals talk to Diego and Alicia. Boy, will my daughter be upset when she tries that with our dachshund. I'm deeply annoyed by the talking and singing camera and rescue pack. I find their theme songs as repetitive and inane as a commercial for a children's toy. Oh wait, that's exactly what they are. The very idea of talking lab equipment is wholly inaccurate as none of the PCR equipment in the biochemistry lab was ever helpful by telling me why they weren't working that day, even when I cursed them all the way down to their subatomic levels.

Diego, where are your parents and why are they largely absent in the show? Why do they let you have a baby jaguar as a pet? Keeping a wild animal as a pet is not healthy for the animal and it's certainly not going to be healthy for you when it grows up and tries to eat you. What kind of parents let their 8 year-old-son run around the rainforest without any adult supervision? It's a miracle that you find your way home each episode with nary a scratch on you. Why do they let your older sister, Alicia, drive a car when she's only eleven? Is this some cultural thing I'll never understand because I'm a caucasian living in the US? Honestly, if you have to rely on a talking camera and rescue pack to figure out what animal needs your help and that you'd better take a boat instead of a bike down the river, I'd never let you out of the house.

I hope that my daughter will quickly realize that "Go, Diego, Go!" is naught but a fantasy if only because no one, and I mean no one, on the show ever seems to have as much as a mosquito bite despite the fact that they're living in the middle of the Amazon forest. Even at the tender age of two my daughter knows that you can't venture into our backyard without a dozen mosquitoes homing in on you.

And if my diatribe seems a little harsh for a child's cartoon, don't even get me started on Dora and that damn monkey.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


So I had a rather unnerving experience in the produce section of our local Walmart yesterday. I'm sure everyone who has spent anytime shopping at a grocery store has seen something fall off the shelving all by itself at some point or another. You're pushing your cart (or your buggy, depending on how far south you live) around the corner and suddenly an apple spontaneously falls off the apple pile and hits the floor. Or an elaborately stacked display of citrus will seemingly eject two oranges, which leads to an avalanche of citrus cascading everywhere. Usually this happens with roundish fruits and vegetables that roll easily. Flattish foods, like collard greens or bags of baby carrots, rarely misbehave this way.

I was looking at some tomatoes yesterday when I head something fall from the display behind me. There was a bag of radishes on the floor. I thought it was odd that a flat bag had slid off the shelf like that but I picked it up and put it back. A second later I was surprised to see a plastic box of miniature bell peppers two feet down from the radishes fall off the shelf and break open. Red and orange peppers bounced around on the floor. Dutifully I picked them up and put them back on the shelf. A man and his wife walking past laughed gently and told me that they had dropped a whole box of doughnuts on the floor just last week, Doncha you hate it when that happens? I stammered that I hadn't even touched the radishes or the peppers when they fell. That's when two heads of lettuce bounced off the stand behind us. Mr. Husband looked at the errant produce with big eyes and I decided it was time to go.

I told my husband about the eerie happenings in the produce department when I got home. Steve pointed out that the freezer section is immediately behind that wall of produce and someone was probably slamming the freezer doors a little too hard, making the vegetables fall off the stands that way. That's a logical explanation, but part of me likes the idea of a produce-geist throwing a hissy fit every so often at the local Walmart. However, I'm shopping someplace else if I ever see something similar over in the meat department.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Potty Chronicles

So we're in the midst of potty training Ally, our 27 month old daughter. I know, I know...."training" isn't the politically correct term in favor now and I should refer to it as "potty learning" instead. Whatever you prefer to call it, my goal is to go from diapers to using the potty without the use of pull-ups. I don't see the need for pull-ups, which are only a more sophisticated form of diapers, when all I really want her to do is just start using the toilet. I know we'll have plenty of accidents before she's four years old, but it's time to get the potty show on the road.

Ally is in a great daycare center where the staff spends a lot of time working with the two year olds on using the potty. She's in diapers there, but we change her into big girl panties (the BGP) when she comes home in the evening. Ally is very excited about wearing her BGP with Disney's Ariel on them. She is less excited about using the potty, however.

This puzzles us, as previously Ally was all about sitting on her potty chair or even on the child's potty seat that fits on our toilet. We'd frequently ask her if she'd want to sit on her potty chair like a big girl and often she'd oblige happily but without any of the productivity for which we hoped. Then for about a month Ally would want to get out of her evening bath to sit on the potty. We'd oblige, lifting her out of the bubbles, and she'd hop on the potty chair for all of about six nanoseconds before wanting to get back in her bath. Five minutes later she'd request to sit on her potty chair again. We'd let her, hoping that maybe she was about to get the hang of it, but after alighting on her chair for a mere second she'd want to be back in the bath. After several weeks of this nightly ritual it got pretty old so we'd put her on the chair before and after her bath, but not take her out of her bath just to sit on the chair. I'm not sure who was training whom at this point.

I know Ally is ready for potty training. Ally stays dry for several hours and she will tell us when she needs a diaper, sometimes running back to the changing table for one. She's pretty aware of her bodily functions and will tell us when she's pooped, or if it's just gas. Yes, that's right, my two year old will announce with great confidence that she has gas. Makes for some great dinner conversations, but then again, we're pretty much stuck in the poop, pee, potty, and BGP category for any conversation these days. But within the past week, the potty chair has suddenly become a source of tension. She no longer wants to sit on the potty and will immediately begin to wail if we even suggest it to her. You can imagine the commotion this causes each night when we're regularly asking if she needs to pee so we can avoid an accident in the BGP.

Last night, while trying to convince Ally that there's nothing to fear about using the potty, I reminded her that everyone poops and pees, and that all her friends and family were doing this. Telling her that Mommy and Daddy use the toilet, and that some of her friends were already using the toilet, didn't really seem to have much impact on her. Eventually I invoked the name of "the authority" to convince her that using the potty was perfectly normal. Yep, I told Ally that Papaw poops in the potty at his house. I swear her eyes grew big as she mulled over this bit of information. Then she asked if Granny peed in the potty. "Oh, yes," I nodded my head gravely. "Both Papaw and Granny poop and pee in the toilet." While Ally seemed a little calmer about the potty chair afterwards, she still had no intention of using it last night.

I asked Ally's teacher this morning if Ally ever seemed afraid of using the potty at daycare. She laughed and said no, that Ally would eagerly sit on the potty and would even ask to use the potty. Ally still hasn't actually produced anything on the potty there, but she certainly wasn't afraid of it or avoided it.

Clearly we only have a potty issue at home, and it's probably one we created unknowingly. I don't want to get into a power struggle with Ally over the use of the potty chair, but there's a fine line between being a firm parent and being a control freak. And that line is about as indistinct as the one between being a lax parent and one being played by a two year old.

Even so, we are now debating trying to bribe Ally with a favorite treat (miniature marshmallows, to be exact) just to sit on the potty for a couple of minutes this evening so she can see that there's nothing to fear about the potty. We should know better than to try this. When Ally was only an infant and suffering from what seemed like an endless bout of stomach flu, Steve once blurted out in a fit of exhaustion that he'd give her a pony if she'd only stop throwing up. And she didn't throw up again. I think by now Steve owes Ally a small herd of ponies as he's made this offer to her multiple times for various reasons over the first 18 months of her life. Thankfully he stopped doing this before Ally was really aware of what he was offering her, but I should remind him not to say anything about a pony in connection to the potty training.

We'll probably try the marshmallows tonight, along with a glass of red wine for us. Ally will probably sit on the potty chair for a few minutes just to get her treat, and after some wine we won't really mind that she isn't interested in doing this on her own right now. And that's okay, Rome wasn't built in a day. There'll also be a bottle of carpet stain remover nearby for the inevitable accident in the BGP later on since she didn't pee in the potty, but potty re-acceptance is the first battle. We can tackle actually using the potty later on.