31 May 2008

A Signed Confession

Nothing makes a prosecutor's case easier than a signed confession from a suspect. And nothing makes me feel better about doling out punishment to the kids than knowing my hunch was correct.

We've had our share of food fights in this house. Don't picture Animal House . . it's not like that. What we have are arguments concerning what the kids will and will not eat. Mandi, being the alarmist that she is, feels that this will lead down a slippery slope to eating disorders, and has insisted that it be kept to a minimum. I don't buy her argument, mostly because I'm not concerned with how much the kids eat but rather that there's a balance between healthy and junk foods. Take yesterday, for instance. Avery wanted a Pop Tart for breakfast. I told her she could have it, but that she also had to eat a half of a banana. She agreed, and I was satisfied.

Fast forward ten minutes and I'm in the laundry room getting a load of whites into the washer when I hear a loud metallic thump come from the trash can. I look, and there's Ave with a guilty-as-sin look on her face, staring right at me. In my eyes, she'd waited for me to get out of sight and then tried to sneak the banana into the trash. I immediately told her she was grounded from her TV and computer for the weekend, and she started bawling. She insisted she wasn't trying to be sneaky, rather that she was just not hungry. I wasn't buying what she was selling, and I stuck to my guns. When she went upstairs crying, I was left with the slightest guilty feeling that I'd accused her of something she hadn't done, which honestly haunted me for the rest of the day. I don't want her to think I don't trust her. But I also don't want her to think she can pull the wool over my eyes on a regular basis and not get called out. We've got to establish that precedent now, before we start into the teenage years.

To top it all off, later in the afternoon I went upstairs to check on her after a few hours of not hearing from her, only to discover her staring wide-eyed at me in the doorway holding her remote control and whimpering "I forgot I was grounded!" Yeah, sure you did. I decided not to make a huge deal out of it, so I just left and let her stew. Apparently that was the point at which she decided to come clean, albeit in her own special way. When I came upstairs to get her for dinner about an hour later, she was on the bed writing diligently. My curiosity was peaked, so I snuck a peek at her work. What I found not only made me feel justified in handing down the punishment, but it also made me laugh hysterically at the inner-workings of an 8-year-old's mind. Here's the original, and I'll re-type it for your reading pleasure.

On a hot summer day I was kept in my room and could not come out. That's because I was grounded. All because of a banana. OK fine I'll tell you the story. This morning I was eating breakfast. I wanted pancakes so that ment I had to have a bannana with them. So I ate my waffels but I tried to sneak my banna in the trash can. So I woulden't have to eat it. But my dad caught me and grounded me. So thats why I'm doing laundry right now. I'll tell you the things I can't do: watch tv, play on computre, play outside, call friends. I was glad it was aredy five o'clock so my boring friday was almost over. Oh I forgot to tell you the worst part of it all! I'm grounded for the weekend. I begged my dad for it to be on a weekday but he said NO. I was geting lots of phone calls from my friends if I could play but I had to say no. Tonight I just straight went to bed at seven because I couldent do anything else to do so I went to bed. *flower* The next morning I woke up then I thought of something right when I woke up. I thought that since it had been a day that she could watch tv and her dad might not remember her being grounded so she flicked on her tv. She herd foodsteps in the hall it was her sister. Her sister was four years old. Her sister opened the door "Can I have barbie" her sister Lily asked? No. Then Lily started screaming tv! tv! tv! tv! . . . I covered Lily's mouth, dad came up. Oh, said dad. Dad swiped the TV. "No!", I cried.

Is that not priceless? I love how she changes some of the facts to protect the innocent (Lily was 4, not 3) and completely made up other parts of the story (the part about Barbie just isn't true). And was it pancakes or waffles she wanted? It was a Pop Tart. Lots of phone calls from her friends? The total was zero. Anyway, it was great for me to get what amounts to a signed confession in this deal. It's just a bonus that I got a good blog post out of it too.

30 May 2008

DIY - A Square Foot Garden

I took on a project this week, and I'm really glad I did. I'd talked for 3 years about my desire to have a vegetable garden in our yard, but there was always something that kept me from making it happen. Well this week I finally made it happen. Mandi had heard about these container-type gardens called Square Foot Gardens, and she spent some time researching it. She found numerous resources, but her favorite (for obvious reasons) was a site called Frugal Dad . I read through the instructions, we decided on a good spot in our yard, and the decision was made to make this happen. We figured that we were better off doing it now, because next year when we've got an infant to chase around we wouldn't make the time to get it started, but that we could much more easily maintain it if the basic framework was already in place.

One thing we decided to vary from the typical plan for a square foot garden was that we'd start the majority of our stuff from plants, rather than seeds. This added quite a bit of cost, but since seeds are not widely available at the major retailers this late in the season, it was the best option. The one package of seeds we were able to find was for peas, which will probably not tolerate the heat they're likely to encounter this summer, but they were high on the MWI index, so I planted them anyway. If you're not familiar with that particular behavioral indicator, it stands for Mandi Wants It. What Mandi wants, Mandi gets. Anyway, between the wood, twine, soil, seeds, and plants the cost of our 8'x4' garden was approximately $80. If we get a reasonable amount of production from it, it will pay for itself quickly. Plus, there's something to be said for the opportunity to show the girls what really goes in to producing the food we take for granted will just be there at the grocery store when we want it.

The first step was to build the enclosure for the garden. I purchased (3) 2"x6"x8' untreated pieces of lumber from Home Depot. I cut one of them in half and fastened them into an 4'x8' rectangle using 3" deck screws, 3 at each corner. I chose, for uniformity, to alternate inside and outside on the corners. It made the inside width dimension about 3" shy of a full 4', but that was neither here nor there. Then I screwed 1 1/2" deck screws into the top of the box at 1' intervals from each other around the entire circumference. I used basic twine strung between these screws to create the grid pattern for the garden, which give it its 'square foot' appearance.

Next, I selected a site that would get full sun exposure. It just happened to be that the best spot was against a section of the fence, which allowed me to save the expense of adding a trellis for the plants that will climb. Then, in what was easily the most difficult and time consuming step of the entire process, I removed all of the grass. It hurt me to do this, because this was some of the best grass in our yard. But I salvaged most of the good soil below it and used it to level the area. I believe that's Avery's right arm making a guest appearance in the bottom left corner of the photo.

Then I placed the framework of the garden in the spot and leveled it with the soil. I had to make sure to fill all the gaps along the fence with the harder clay to prevent excess erosion of the garden soil.

The next step was to line the ground with something to prevent weeds from infiltrating the garden. I could have gone with a weed-preventing cloth available at Home Depot stapled to the frame, but in the interest of saving cost I decided to go with newspaper. I'm not afraid to pull a few weeds (it's an inevitability, in my opinion), so cost won out over substance in this case.

Next came the addition of soil. My options were to create my own mixture or go with a pre-mixed Garden Soil product like the one made by MiracleGro. I, again in the interest of cost, chose to mix my own. I went with a combination of top soil, mushroom compost, and manure. Most resources I looked at recommended Vermiculite instead of the manure, but I couldn't find that at HD, so I went with the cow poo. My garden's dimensions required about 12-14 cubic feet of soil, so I went with 5 bags of top soil, 2 of manure, and 2 of compost. That amount gave me a good fill, and left 2 inches or so of space from the top of the frame.

At that point the most difficult work was done, and it was time to plant the seedlings. Again, I placed the climbing plants in the row closest to the fence to eliminate the need for a trellis. Those included peas, zucchini, straightneck yellow squash, and heirloom tomatoes.

The next row included cayenne, poblano, and green and red bell peppers, as well as cucumbers. I allowed some space to one side of the cucumber plant for it to creep, and then added one okra plant at the end.

The third row includes two watermelon plants at the ends and three cantaloupe in the middle. I'm really looking forward to eating homegrown melons. There's just something magical about picking a 2 pound melon off of the plant and taking it inside to enjoy it with my girls. The front row of the garden has 2 strawberry plants at one end, and the 6 other squares were left empty. This will allow the cantaloupe to take up more space than their allotted square foot.

I finished up by evenly watering all of the plants and seeds, as well as the empty soil. It was a fun project, and from start to finish (including the shopping), it took about 6 hours of work. 6 hours and $80, and the promise of a bountiful backyard harvest. It feels good to have finally put in the garden I've dreamed about for three years. You can count on updates and photos when I start to see my first results.

28 May 2008


This story will be short, yet sweet. Sometimes, little needs to be added.

Today when I picked Lily up from the ChildWatch she proudly displayed her artwork she'd done for me. It wasn't anything spectacular, just a mass of brightly colored scribbles with her name written on the bottom. I told her it was great of course, and then we headed out the door to the hallway. There, we were met by one of the employees, who very matter-of-factly greeted me by saying "Oh hi, Lily told me all about the meteor!"

Umm, what? Meteor? I didn't even know she knew what a meteor was?

"Lily", I said, "What's the story with the meteor?"

"Oh yeah Daddy, I draw a meteor!"

The quizzical look on my face as I turned away to follow Lily out the door must have spoken a thousand words, because the woman just laughed at me and went on about her business. I suppose this afternoon would be a good time to talk to Lily about meteors, being as she's already started drawing them and all. Perhaps I should monitor her TV time a little more closely.

25 May 2008

Sticks And Stones

It is not nice to call people names. While I know this is true, I still occasionally find myself calling Lily things like "Captain Obvious" and "heathen". If the shoe fits . .

Lily, on the other hand, does not make a habit of calling people names. She does a good job for her age of addressing people by their names, some even with appropriate salutations. Miss Lisa, King Daddy, etc. Yesterday, however, she slipped and called someone she doesn't even know a really funny name without realizing she was doing it.

Avery has a cousin named Abigail, and there's a picture of her on our refrigerator. Lily asked who it was yesterday and I told her. She responded, "Who's Abigail?" "Avery's cousin," I replied. Avery then chimed in with "I don't think you've ever met her Lily." "Actually," I said, "I think we met them at Cracker Barrel once when Lily was very young."

As Avery struggled to remember the details of the encounter, the wheels were turning feverishly in Lily's mind. She went potty, and as she was getting herself put back together she cocked her head to the side, put her hands on her hips and said "Daddy, who's Crappagail?"

You should have seen the look on my face. "What did you say?" I replied. "Who's Crappagail?" My mind raced through the last few minutes' conversations and I eventually figured out what she was doing. Somehow she'd amalgamated 'Abagail' and 'Cracker Barrel' into an entirely new, all encompassing nickname for the girl she'd seen on the fridge so many times. When I caught my breath from the hysterical laughter she'd elicited I enunciated the two names for her again, and explained again what they both were. Avery and I must have laughed for the next five minutes or so as we drove to the park.

In a related story, as we were driving to said park Avery complained about her body, specifically her arms, cramping. She had put in some extra time on the monkey bars earlier that afternoon and apparently she was sore. I'm quite sure what she had was not cramps, but rather just some localized soreness due to overuse of her skinny little arms. Later, as we were playing and laughing I was helping Lily across the monkey bars. About the third bar in, she looked down at me with an exasperated expression on her face and said "Daddy, my arms are crappy."

"They're what???"


"You mean they're cramping Lily?"

"Yeah Daddy, they're crappy!"

I didn't have the heart to correct her again, I just helped her make it all the way across and let her go on about her playing. Have a crappy . . I mean happy Memorial Day!