Thursday, April 15, 2010

Coconuts for Squirrels

Despite knowing better than to be out in the sun without putting on any sunscreen, I've spent the past three hours digging holes and transplanting perennials in the front bed. It's a warm day for mid-April, with strong sunshine and temperatures in the mid-70s. I can't help but think of this time in April three years ago: a cold, blustery day with swirling snow and a madman on campus. I'll talk more about that day tomorrow; today is too nice for the stuff of nightmares.

This week I've been moving my favorite plants from the old house to their new home in the front bed at our new house. When we bought the new house last November, one of my first reactions was concern over my garden. I can't help it, I'm a little insane about my plants. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving my garden behind, but it was the wrong time of year to try to transplant anything at the new house. Not to mention that much had died down to the ground and I would have had a hard time finding anything without the telltale foliage to indicate where anything was. So after a long, LONG winter with lots of snow, it's finally warm and sunny again and I'm finding all my favorite plants very easily as they emerge from the ground. I can pop them into a plastic shopping bag, transport them to the new house, dig a good hole in the bed I prepared, and pop the plants back into the ground. Instant garden, easy-peasy. All my plant-related stress and drama over the winter has fizzled out, which is good.

What isn't good is me setting a bad example for Ally, my almost 3-year-old toddler, by being outside with no hat and sunscreen during the middle of the day. She's very fair skinned and it's only a matter of time before that first sunburn if we're not careful. Telling her to be careful about sun exposure doesn't make a whole lot of sense if we, as parents, don't show her how to be careful. And that's true about a lot of things in life. I can't expect her to limit junk food in her diet if she sees me plough through a bag of sweet potato chips in one sitting, or for her to develop patience for others when I'm beside myself with how long it takes her to eat her breakfast. And I'm really going to have to start biting my tongue the next time a crazy driver starts to merge into my lane without signaling or checking her blind spot, unless I want Ally to add some choice words to her vocabulary at this young of an age.

But what about the positive things I want to encourage Ally to do? I want her to be creative, expressive, and confident. If I want her to get physical exercise by playing on her slide, I can't complain about the dirt and grass stains on her pants while she's learning to land on her feet. If she's going to learn to play by herself while I fix dinner, then of course she's going to have toys spread all over the living room by the time we eat. What's the point of her making up a story all by herself if I don't take the time to listen to how her stuffed black dog Thomas chased an orange dinosaur that wanted all the cookies? And yet the daily requirements of keeping a toddler clothed, cleaned, and fed often seem to get in the way of taking the time to nurture her character.

Last night I was preparing dinner while Ally entertained herself by looking at all of my cooking spices in the pull out drawer beside the oven. Steve's out of town on business, so juggling playtime and dinner after I pick up Ally from daycare is something of a highwire act. I was concentrating on getting something for us to eat before Ally got so hungry that she threw a fit. It only seems to take about five minutes for her to go from the mild announcement of "I'm hungry" to astonishingly whiney howls of "I'm really, really HUNGRY!" While I cooked some pasta, Ally was telling me that this container was salt, and this one was pepper, and the salt was white while the pepper was black. She continued by telling me the salt was in her left hand and the pepper was in her right one. Then she moved on to the oregano, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper, describing their colors and containers and what they might be used for. I must admit I wasn't giving her my full attention until she stopped and said, "These are coconuts for squirrels!"

Huh? I looked up and saw that Ally was proudly holding a container with two whole nutmegs. Coconuts for squirrels, indeed.

I think we might be okay.

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