May 12, 2013

Irises, redux

You are probably not as interested in irises as I am. In fact, I'm not all that interested in them. Outside of the fact that they are pretty. And some varieties smell rather nice. And they remind me of my grandmother.

Actually, that's a lot of stuff that makes it sound like I am totally interested in irises.

There are other things far, far more important. My little family, for one. My work. Friends. Neighbors. Reading Harry Potter with my 7-year-old (who wants me to call him Jay now). Taking the kids to their sports and concerts and play dates. Heading out for a play date or two of my own.

But I like to garden. I like it so much that I manage to play in the garden about once every six months. Which means that in the 8 years I've lived in this one spot, I have played in my garden perhaps 16 times. Total.

And not once have I played with my irises.

Though I did accidentally spray a few with weed killer last year. That was not pretty.

I should play with them, though. They need moving, badly, out of the shade and into the sun. Which I may have mentioned last year, in the penultimate blog post before my rather long break.

I haven't moved them. And yet, somehow, they are defying the odds. They have budded. And in another week, maybe 2, they will bloom.

In the past year, while I have been not moving my irises, Peabo turned 14. He grew 4 inches, and given that he's suddenly gotten just a little bit rounder, I'm betting we're in for a killer growth spurt this summer. He started high school, and then started again in a place that makes him so happy he comes home smiling, even on a bad day. He is also learning the best lesson I can teach him: to identify what he needs to feel safe, accepted and competent, and to advocate for it appropriately. He reads voraciously, when he's not playing video games or listening to podcasts about them. He wants to be a journalist - a video game journalist, of course - and he's starting to figure out what he needs to do to get there. I find this to be pretty darn cool.

My diva turned 11. She no longer feels the term "veggie girl" applies, and given that she's abandoned broccoli florets and will eat only the stems, she is probably right. She's also leaving elementary school for middle school in another month. And the middle school she's going to is phenomenal. An arts school that will let her explore her inner writer, actor, musician and artist. My girl can sing. Have I mentioned that? She can sing. Beautifully. She can write, too. She writes songs, her own form of poetry. And she writes stories. She is creative and athletic and still impresses me daily with her willingness to jump in head first and try something new.

And Jay, my redhead, is now 7. He is tall and wiry and still redheaded, though the color has faded just another shade closer to brown. He's figured out that his eyes look green when he wears a green shirt. He now likes to wear green shirts. He tried 2 new sports and realized that neither one is soccer. So we're signing him up for more soccer. He does all his homework without prompting, can spell like a maniac, and absolutely loves math. Loves it. To the point where he asked me recently if he could please go to a middle school that specializes in math, and did I think he was going to get into a good college? He's in 2nd grade. Clearly he is a planner.

In the past year we have also acquired a puppy, a smallish fellow named Figglebob Lloyd, or Flloyd for short. He can chew through even the super-tough black Kong toys and is generally smarter than everyone else in the house. We're trying to make him stupid so we can train him properly.

So there you have it. Peabo is smiling. My diva is exploring. Jay is planning. And Flloyd is creating just enough chaos to keep things interesting.

And my irises are blooming again.

July 2, 2012


If you haven't been hiding under a rock, you've heard of the massive line of storms that swept the Eastern US, starting somewhere near Chicago and speeding across the country through Virginia, DC, and Maryland, leaving downed trees and devastation in its wake.

Our humble abode lay right in its path, along with those of our neighbors and countless friends. 

It was a pretty wide path.

From inside the storm, it really didn't seem that bad. The storm was short, no more than an hour. So short, in fact, that Peabo - the only kid at home Friday night - slept right through it. It was blowy. Big wind, very little rain (because rain is apparently not in our vernacular this summer). Our power flickered on and off about 20 times, and then it came back and stayed on. 

And I really thought that was it.

When we woke up, I made a quick survey of the yard . Lots of downed branches and debris, but nothing too serious. 

Then I booted up the computer. My daughter's swim meet had been canceled. The neighborhood July 4 beach party, too. Most of my neighbors were without power, with the exception of my block, which is the only part of the neighborhood where the power lines are buried.

Which does make one think that perhaps - just perhaps - we should bury more power lines. Protect that infrastructure, right?

It's not often that I'm in a position to help folks. So I talked Peabo into walking the neighborhood with me and seeing what we could do. And that's when we saw how bad the damage really was.

A few steps from our house, a tree down on top of a car. Around the corner, power lines in the street, brought down when a large tree fell across the road. Two blocks were roped off to keep people safe. Around another corner, a tree down on a neighbor's house. Near the beach (we live by a river and there's a nice little beach), another tree had hit a transformer. 

Trees and branches and debris everywhere. Traffic lights and gas stations and grocery stores without power.

Our community rallied. Neighbors helping neighbors, offering their refrigerators and air conditioners and chain saws and time. The July 4 picnic moved from the beach to the home of our community association president, who had electricity and a pool and a willingness to open his doors to provide respite to his neighbors who were working hard to clean up the damage. 

Peabo and I did our part. We went down to the beach and picked up branches and cleaned up the recycling, which had blown from one side of the beach to the other.

When we got home we had another surprise. I found a shingle in my yard. Just one, but it was enough to send me and my recently acquired, very tall au pair to check the attic. I borrowed his height because I am too short to open the attic on my own. In the 7 years I've lived here, I've never once seen its insides. 

The second he moved the trap door, we could see it. Sunlight streaming through a visible, sizable hole right at the peak of my roof. Multiple shingles had blown off the ridge vent. The hole was long and narrow, and there was no way a bucket under it was going to keep that attic dry. And, given the damage to our small community, and to the much greater community beyond ours, no way I'd get a claim adjustor - let alone a roofer - out to fix it any time soon.

So I turned to my neighbors. Mostly for a ladder, so we could get into the attic, give the bucket a try, and make sure the damage wasn't worse than what we could see. They lent me a step ladder, and my tall au pair braved the 120-degree attic to give it the all clear. Then my neighbors went one step further. They pulled out the really tall ladder and climbed up to the roof. They assessed the damage. They sent me out for supplies. And then, because more rain was due that night, they climbed back up, and they fixed it. 

I remember the blizzard, and the blizzard, and the blizzard - yes, three of them - that hit in early 2010. And the three hairy fairies who helped me dig out. And the earthquake that hit last fall, when all of us on the block rushed outside, first for safety, then to check in and make sure everyone was safe. 

We've had more than our share of natural calamities of late. But it's those times that show you how good people really are. How they help when they can. The power of pulling together.

The power of the village.

I'm grateful to be a part of mine. And grateful, too, that my next-door neighbor and his son-in-law know so very much about roofs. 

May 18, 2012


My irises aren't blooming.

I have dozens upon dozens of irises in a great big patch in my front yard. I love irises, usually, though I'm not overly fond of these. They're brown, not purple.

Brown flowers. Really. I mean, who plants brown flowers?

But still. They're meant to bloom.

Not this year, though.

My little family has had a bit of a challenging year so far. My kids especially. It's a private kind of challenging, and one that demands a lot of my time. So I'm not blogging. I'm not doing much, honestly, outside of getting through each day as best I can, making the occasional grocery run, and doing everything I can to let my kids know I am absolutely, completely, 100% here for them.

Love 'em to bits.

My irises aren't blooming. I'm going to try a little TLC, and maybe move them from their shady spot into the sun. My friend Margaret tells me that irises love the sun.