82-22F
Wednesday April 24th 2019, 8:59 am
Filed under: Family

Going to go see the Buffalo Wool vending machine. (Stuffing a last-minute extra skein of yarn in. You never know.)



Almost halfway through his childhood already
Tuesday April 23rd 2019, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

It was still there. I told Parker about it and he went running to look, his little brother right behind him. The two of them are a pair.

He had been three. It was just to the left of the bathroom door. I did not mention that it was from when he could proudly go potty all by himself now: a small, perfect handprint, like a time capsule, lower than the door handle that would have been an upward reach.

(Many times I’d thought of washing it off. Never quite did.)

But back to Friday for a moment: while the rest of their family was finishing up their birthday visit with the great grandma on the other side, our son ducked out for a few minutes that evening to let us see the baby without any competition for attention from the other kids. After all, Spencer would never be not quite seven months again.

They’d fed him right beforehand. He should have been fine. But his routine, his surroundings, the faces around him, everything had been strange all day long and he was tired and he was Not Having It Any More. From the screaming baby at the door till he fell asleep in my arms about 45 minutes later.

I did manage to distract him into half smiles a few times and almost a laugh. His grandpa got some hold-the-baby time, too.

He stopped crying for a little while–and then remembered that oh right he still wasn’t home and he still wasn’t in bed, and let loose again.

We had bought a fun Halloween pacifier on impulse in Santa Cruz last fall and had forgotten to bring it to them in time for that: it was still here. Cool. So that problem, at least, we could solve, even if it took a minute or two to hunt down.

I have a childhood memory of my grandfather rocking me in a wooden rocking chair on a planked wooden floor with Eichler style floor-to-ceiling windows behind him. I was very little.

I live in an Eichler. Carpeted, hey, but the plate windows behind me and wooden rocker, that I could do.

Gradually, with some gentle nudges from me on that pacifier when it started to slip, he gave way to the sleep trying to claim him. Barely, restlessly. But he was quiet at last.

Saturday was our day, and as they came in the door there was my tall son with the baby in his arms again.

Spencer took one look at me and immediately broke into the biggest grin.

I was utterly, completely smitten. I was already, but man…

This time he had a complete giggle fest with me. It was great.

Sunday morning early, they all flew home.

Sunday afternoon with the light coming through the windows just exactly so, shining bright on that wall next to the front door, it stood out and we could see it. He’s quite the basketball player in his age group (I’ve seen him play–he’s good!) and he probably had to do a nice little leap for that one.

A time capsule of an eight-year-old star athlete, missing only the autograph.

“You can wash that one,” said my husband.



But don’t climb the peaches. They’re useless that way.
Monday April 22nd 2019, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

It’s easier for the two of us to fly than the two of them and their four kids, so it had been awhile since they’d all been here. There’ve been changes in the yard just this year; the two older boys ran out back to explore.

I named each fruit tree going around one by one.

It was when I said the magic words ‘apple tree’ that Parker’s face lit up. “Apple!”

I’d wondered if he remembered. He’d been not quite four. Me snipping the tape off the clamshell squirrel cage then lifting him up, him picking the last apples off that tree I planted when his daddy had been about his age, him watching me intently in the kitchen as I sliced them up and then him proudly offering everybody their portion. (His baby brother ditched the skin on his by wiping the bits into the spaces between the keys on the piano when no one was looking.)

After that visit, my daughter-in-law told me that Parker wanted to eat apples all the time and he wanted them cut across the equator so all the seeds showed and he wanted to go on walks to plant those seeds so they could grow into great big apple trees where they lived so that everybody around them could get to pick and eat apples like that, too.

He wasn’t more than politely impressed with my peaches or cherries (yet) but that big old Fuji, that one was near and dear to his heart.

And the kids could climb it, too, though I didn’t think of it at the time and they didn’t think to ask. It wasn’t till later that I tried to picture any good climbing trees near them and couldn’t come up with any, and I can imagine it didn’t occur to them that one even does such things.

It’s not terribly scary high and it is pretty sturdy.

Well then. Next time.



For Emily in her recovery from sepsis
Sunday April 21st 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

The second cherry, the tart English Morello, is really putting on a show this year.

Some of you may remember: this is the one that the spring after I planted it was nearly killed by–something, and I never saw anything going at it and couldn’t figure out what, but its new leaves got chomped on and then entirely disappeared practically overnight; when it tried to put out a second set, those went down to the nubs, too.

My bare root had become a bare everything again.

I finally decided whatever it was had to be nocturnal and I went out at night with a flashlight.

The entire tree was utterly engulfed in swarms and even multiple layers of iridescent black and green Japanese beetles trying to push past each other to devour some faint morsel. I had no idea what to do–knocking them off and trying to stomp on them all was so gross and useless because there were constantly so many more, and pesticides meant killing the wildlife. The soapy water that I use to suffocate indoor ants and wipe away their scent trails (insects breathe through their skeletons) I didn’t want in the soil.

So I Googled.

Which meant that good friends scraped off their barbecue grill for me and gave me a plastic bucket of the ashes. I waited for the tiniest first sign of green and went out that night and doused the beetles with the stuff.

They fell away from my tree instantly, gratifyingly, dying unanimously while fertilizing the roots those non-natives had stolen so much from. I repeated that scene till they didn’t seem to come anymore.

But the sapling had already given it its all. It stayed bare. I thought that was the end of it.

It took longer to come back on the third go-round and there were fewer and smaller leaves but it just wasn’t its time to go yet. Recovery wasn’t immediate, not that year and not entirely the next, but this year it’s already growing faster than it ever has.

And look at it now.

(Old wire racks recycled as gopher barriers: where they can’t come up for air, they don’t want to go.)



Playdough meets Dr. Seuss
Saturday April 20th 2019, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Family

Our San Diego family has a great grandmother on the other side and a grandfather with birthdays a day apart this week in this town.

Which is how they ended up here.

The kit came with a mat with helpful ideas (Playdough must have learned over the years that parents want that stuff confined and away from the rugs) but this was all her own creation.

Maddy, age four, made Grampa his very own birthday cake. She worked that candle for the center three times until she felt she’d gotten it just exactly right. 



One smoking-hot car
Thursday April 18th 2019, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Chocolate happened. And the test of Richard’s latest Rube Goldberg: to hold it at this level warmth, then down, then up, then hold for tempering it. It’s currently at 30C, with the molds on a cookie sheet with wires running under it. For our control group we have the extras that didn’t fit on it.

Meantime, the treasure of the day. Cute little car, I said. (Wondering at that odd bit at the top.)

He looked it over. “It’s a cigarette lighter–see?” (Flick. Not that anything came out.)

Okay, *that* was ironic. An intricately detailed toy car for a Detroit radio station’s call name given, I presume, to the chairman of the FCC, a small token that didn’t violate Federal guidelines. (Or maybe Richard’s Grampa bought it. Can’t ask him now.)

It is certainly a historical reference to the fact that most adults smoked when we Baby Boomers were growing up; the cigarette companies provided free smokes to American soldiers, oh so patriotically, so as to snag the Greatest Generation market; they were so much a part of the culture of the day that one of my favorite Halloween candies was candy cigarettes, so little kids could mimic their parents, box and all.

Which my mother found to be an outrageous product and made us give them to her to throw away–so one year I hid mine. I guess you could say I sneaked a smoke in the woods behind the house with Mary Lou next door. (I can just see my parents reading this and going, Ooooh. Mary Lou. That explains it. That kid…)

So. Not only was GrampaH a commissioner of the FCC at one point in his life, he was also the one who got hauled before Congress and grilled mercilessly for saying the law says the airwaves are to be used for the public interest; the Surgeon General has just come out with the (first) official statement that smoking is bad for your health; ergo, the law says smoking ads should not be allowed on the air.

They painted him as corrupt but he had every receipt for every expense he’d ever submitted going all the way back to when he’d helped establish the Federal Radio Commission before TVs existed. His wife sat in the room to cheer him silently on and knitted herself a herringbone coat which she would proudly tell me about when she was 97. They grilled him for days, the southern tobacco-growing-state Senators in particular.

Awhile later they went, he’s right, and passed a law specifically taking smoking ads off the air.

And so here we are, all these decades later, with a little toy car. From a radio station. In Detroit. GrampaH had owned the little roadster, and he was a Mormon. Did he offer it to people who wanted to light up? Would not having an ash tray in a high official’s office have been rude?

Who knows?

We had no idea the thing existed.

But I gotta tell you, the provenance of this one (it’s sitting on what it says is its owners manual) is nonpsychodegradeable.



Well so just try it
Wednesday April 17th 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My sister-in-law asked two days ago if we were enjoying everything.

?? Enjoying what?

Today the doorbell rang: it was the truck driver she’d been expecting to arrive here. All those pictures she’d taken last year, all that inventorying, all those ranked choices between the siblings, the conference calls–she was looking forward to all that work on our behalf paying off for us.

Boxes and boxes and boxes and I’d had no real idea.

The soft but entirely synthetic afghan, so not my thing but made the way my allergic mother-in-law had asked for. I was just at the very start of teaching myself to knit lace at the time–there was no such thing as online knitting anything other than this still-new little group called the Knitlist.

But then the Barbara Walker books came back into print.

I chose a pattern that was a mixture of feather-and-fan and cables. Because cables. They were more my thing, but I figured if I did a whole swath of lacework like that I would be forced to keep going and I would make mistakes and learn along the way how to correct them and I’d get more confident at it. I committed myself inwardly to an hour a day and pretty much held to it. My own mom said an afghan should be long enough to cover your toes and go up to your chin–and my father-in-law was 6’7″. I was a careful newbie at this yarnover thing. It took me three months.

I stretched it out and looked it over, quite pleased: I did a good job with that, and that was actually really nice yarn.

I have grandkids coming in two days and my living room was stacked high with moving boxes and I wanted them out of there. Books, quilts, old cameras. An electric can opener! Something we’ve never bothered to buy, but it would be nice and now we have one. The yellowing plastic dated it to, I dunno, around the time we got married? Things lasted then, and so have we.

Pulled this thing out and guffawed in disbelief. Burlap? Is supposed to hold water across the desert? Was this some kind of a DadH practical joke? Because he would have loved it if it had been, that would have been just his thing.

Richard was surprised at my surprise: everybody knows those work, right? Of course they hold water!

How?!

You’re the fiber artist, you tell me!

Me, slightly bug-eyed, feeling that rough fabric: it was tightly woven, but. Uh… No. Just no.

But the thing does say it’s patented, so? If we believe hard enough? Or something.

Maybe if I tried filling it. I’m not sure which way would disappoint me? If it works? Or if it doesn’t?

It’s got to be waxed on the inside. Surely. Right, so I don’t need to make myself have to try to figure out how to dry it back out.

Where on earth do I put such a thing?

 



If only I could put their perfume in a photo
Tuesday April 16th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

I spent lots of time today winding yarn, going over patterns, debating doing this vs that. It felt great to be planning something interesting.

There are more and more and more apple blossoms. My Fuji tree is nearly 30 years old and last fall was the first time I ever hired a professional arborist and his crew to prune it (and a few others.)

Those guys knew what they were doing. Yes, we had all that rain, but still, not only is it beautifully shaped, I’ve never seen it bloom as much as it is now. Which is what I was hoping for.

P.S. And on a completely different note, as someone whose family did a camping trailer trip across the country and back in 1969 plus many other road trips, man, what we missed out on! An entomologist and his son have created an app to identify the bugs that wipe out on your windshield. Divvy it up, kids, your side vs. Susie’s and see who can win the most splats! A bug in the southeast likes the smell of exhaust pipes for laying eggs. Darwin rules.

Make sure Dad passes on the right, too. You want your fair share.

 



Notre Dame
Monday April 15th 2019, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Family,History

We talked to the kid whose birthday is today.

Who once did a semester abroad in Paris.

Who stayed in an apartment on the Left Bank.

Who got to see Notre Dame every day.

Who told us, before we saw the latest of today’s news releases, that more had been saved from the fire than they had quite dared to hope.



Each day a blessing
Sunday April 14th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Life,Lupus

My niece Emily has been in the ICU: she caught the flu, got worse, started barfing and her (tween? Tell me he’s not a teenager yet?) son called my sister and said, Grammy, Mom needs you.

My sister went over and called an ambulance.

Emily’s kidneys had shut down and things were very very bad.

This afternoon she was moved out of the ICU, where she’s been the past week.

Today she ate solid food for the first time. Some.

She feels–well, she’s definitely had more fun than this.

Everything. Everything. Is looking far better than it did. We can start to breathe again.

Today Mom and Dad told us Dad’s in hospice care now. Dad’s favorite caretaker can still come and that made the decision easy.

This is another of the amaryllises from Dad last fall where the TSA thought the bulb was a bomb.

This is not how I usually photograph them and I wondered why I was doing it this way as I snapped another from the same angle rather than changing it. Why… And then I got out of the sun and put it back on the porch and that was that.

I did not see till I went to post the picture: it was taken looking straight down so that the stem that supports the blossoms is out of direct sight–but you can infer where it held the sunlight within itself by how it left only its shadow to our eyes. But it is real, it is there, it is strong against the winds outside, and there where it cannot directly be seen, it holds the glorious colorwork steady.



Can I hear you now?
Thursday April 11th 2019, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Garden

A few more days and the whole cherry tree should look like this and more.

For my dad: an Apple Blossom amaryllis started opening today.

The Frost peach has been properly thinned, and so has hours of paperwork and housework that had needed to be out of the way before company comes next week.  Sometimes even the disorganized have to crack down and get to it.

The reward is that I found the bluetooth pendant for connecting my cellphone to my hearing aids–it had fallen behind the computer.



Well that worked
Monday April 08th 2019, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Mango tree

I left the Sunbubble zipped and the Christmas lights and heater on while we flew to see my folks; Richard’s Rube Goldberged auto temp set-up on the lights no longer works, so those would just stay on, but the heater’s would turn it off above 74. I knew the humidity would rise a lot with nobody around to open the greenhouse door by day and I had no idea how hot it would actually get in there. But tropical trees don’t argue with heat, is all I could figure.

When we left it that way for five days over Thanksgiving we came home to black spots on the leaves and a graying and withering away of all new growth, taking away all chance of fruiting from what would have been. Alphonso mangoes do not like humidity. The fruits from last summer held on, though.

It’s warmer now than it was then and boy has it rained (with the irony of, not inside the plastic. I’ve had to water this one tree.)

I didn’t want another disease attack, now that I know my resistant variety is actually somewhat susceptible, but you do what you have to do, and besides, visiting my Dad was vastly more important.

All this in ten days. This is what the new growth looked like as of yesterday that had been just starting in several spots, like the first photo. All those small lower clusters of leaves did not exist yet when we left. New branches on a mango in flush can grow several inches a day, with the leaves reddish as they grow, then light green, then gradually dark and lush, and I knew that, but still, wow.

Heat and increasing sunlight with the season and plain good luck. And suddenly I have a much bigger tree.

As soon as these bud out and start fruiting, those uprights will start curving gracefully downward with the weight. And what would have fruited in November suddenly doesn’t matter.

We ate our first just-for-the-two-of-us mango yesterday, the third from the tree. It was like nothing I could describe and do it justice, but it was very very very good.

There is one last summer 2018 mango turning slowly yellow as this year makes its promises.



Reds and greens
Saturday April 06th 2019, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

We’re having a Cooper’s hawk sighting nearly every day now. Cool.

Another Red Lion amaryllis from my dad–here, the hawk’s gone now, let me give you a close-up. Love love love these. If you have an amaryllis with four or more leaves it should bloom the next year, too.

The ground is so wet that digging a big deep hole and finally planting the Kishu mandarin I got for Christmas was surprisingly very easy. Like pushing a shovel into Play-dough.

If you live in non-citrus-growing areas and wish for a mandarin orange, plant this one in a pot to keep in or out depending on the weather. The tree is small and the fruit is golf ball sized, soft, seedless, and the peel pretty much falls off and you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth just like that. The fruit doesn’t ship well for grocery stores, you have to grow your own.

It ripens months before my Gold Nugget and thus stretches out the season for us. Not to mention it will create more ground-bird nesting habitat out of what was a bare spot.

Today was a perfect spring day and the Sungold cherry tomato that I planted in 2017 burst into even more blooms. Three years!

Note that it was originally set up inside the largest tomato cage I could buy but by now it’s simply carrying it up and away on its shoulders to wherever and there’s no disentangling the thing, all you can do is admire its Leaning Tower of Pisa impression from inside that happy thicket. (Those few dead leaves are from where the freezes got to the outer edges of the plant but it’s made up for it since.)

And to repeat the Red Lion red theme, while listening to two two-hour sessions of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I got ten repeats done on this cowl; I can get one last one out of this skein and then that’s it.

There will be two more sessions tomorrow, so it is time to pick the next project. Baby girl afghan is what I want to do, but I don’t think I have quite the yarn I want for it yet.



Can’t wait to meet her
Thursday April 04th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Family

There is this other news happening, too.



So proud
Wednesday April 03rd 2019, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Dad’s on a lot of oxygen–the machine’s at eight, for those who know how to count such things–but even so, his blood levels sink really low when he gets up and walks around, so while Mom, my husband, and my older siblings (who visited mostly one at a time, other than Sunday night’s pizza dinner) chatted, I found myself going and sitting in front of the TV in the other room with Dad, whose hearing makes it hard for him to follow the conversation in even a small crowd and who needs that chair where he can put his feet up high.

I’ve had my blood oxygen at 70%, setting off the alarm repeatedly in the hospital for a temporary problem. I don’t know how he does it. I am in awe of his perseverance.

The Smithsonian Channel was on a lot, nice and loud for the both of us, and as I quietly knitted I learned a lot of stuff I never knew before about the Egyptian pyramids. Which was pretty cool. Limestone increases in strength with compression but if you tap at it and cut it just exactly so, it slices pretty much straight down. Who knew?

I went through three and a half skeins in those four days.

Dad reached for my hands with a light in his eyes: he had something he wanted to tell me.

“I wanted someone who was intellectual and spiritual,” he said. “I picked your mother for you kids.” He wanted me to know how proud he was of her and how proud he was of us. Of me. Of each one of my kids. He wanted to tell me this and he wanted to say it now, not for the first time, but it was important to him to give voice to all his heart right now.

Mom chose the best, too, Dad. Both of you did, and we thank you for it and we are proud of who you are and grateful for who you helped us to be. We love you.