Monday, July 28, 2014


We're entering the final stretch of summer vacation now. The boys have returned from their Rhode Island trip, camps are back in swing, AND... we have an exchange student visiting us for the next 3 weeks!

Quite a few of my friends, who know I'm feeling a little crazy lately, have asked me how this came to be. As in, um, really? Another person for you to keep track of? Is that a good idea? I really don't know. Fritz and I discovered (just last week) that we have different stories about how it came to be that we would host a 17 year old boy from Germany. In my version, Fritz was the instigator. In Fritz's version, I was the instigator. Hmmm.

We had an exchange student when Mattias was about 6 months old, four years ago. It was kind of refreshing, in the sense that she was at a really different stage of life. Having her around jolted me out of the baby world and gave me a chance to live (sort of) vicariously through her. I'm not sure that this experience will be the same. I'm at a different stage of life than I was 4 years ago. Also, it was a she and now it's a he. What's he going to do? How bored will he be? Didn't I just post about how hard it is keep kids with a SIX year spread happy? What about when the spread is SIXTEEN years?

I was trying to calm myself down this morning by thinking about how teenage boys can be helpful, right? I mean, BOYS ARE FINE. I have a husband! I have sons! I have brothers! Yes, right: I grew up in a house with boys! No big deal! Then it occurred to me that when my brothers were 17 years old, I wasn't living at home anymore. So maybe I don't know 17 year old boys, GULP.

I'm sure it will be fine. RIGHT?!

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Mattias came down with strep throat while he was visiting my parents in Rhode Island. Before we knew it was strep – but while it was looking kind of streppy – my mother called to get treatment information. I ran her through our pre-strep protocol. (Unfortunately, we have one. Fortunately, we haven't had to use it for several months.)

After I got off the phone, Fritz commented on how my language had changed while I talked to my mother. "I had no idea what you were talking about, " Fritz said. Most notably, I had used brand names rather than generic names to talk about medication. A similar conversation between Fritz and I would have used generic names.

It's interesting the way that language can change depending on the context. Our household is an extreme example, with two different languages (English and German) being spoken. But it doesn't take entirely different languages to constitute a change in the language we use. I think we all alter our language based on the context and the people. Fritz can become almost indecipherable to me (even though I speak German) when he is around his family and slips into their own set of dialectic preferences.

Recently there was this quiz in the New York Times that maps your own personal use of American English dialects (and accents, I'd say) graphically on a map of the US. (It's super cool, you should try it.) Both Fritz and I did the quiz. I really wondered where the map would place me, since I have lived all over the US. Fritz has also lived in vastly different parts of the US; and he's not a native speaker; AND he learned British English in school. In terms of places where we've ACTUALLY lived, both our dialect maps had strong strong similarities with Colorado even though neither of us are from Colorado and we have only lived here 5 years. Then I took the quiz several more times and discovered it changes depending on how you answer the questions AND that I could manipulate the outcome predictably if I tried.

We're language chameleons, I suppose.

I added stars to show where I've actually lived.
 The city names in the Mid Atlantic States are supposedly
the places to which my dialect is most similar (but I never lived in any of them).

It makes me wonder how much I am subconsciously changing my language (or dialect) in my daily interactions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


The Denver Public Library has a phone number for kids which you can call and listen to a story. They have stories for kids of different ages at different extensions. It changes weekly. There's something sweetly retro about it.

It actually reminds me of when I was Noah's age and I discovered the Time and Temperature Phone Number. I'm not sure if every town had one, but in my hometown, you could call a number and a machine told the exact time and temperature. I thought it was great. I must have called that number hundreds of times. I don't actually remember the temperature part so much. But I do remember this:

"At the sound of the beep, the time will be 8:01 am. BEEP."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Progress Report

Summer seems to be passing by in a half-okay, half-painful way. There's definitely some struggle inherent in the fact that the kids span 6 years. What is appropriate for the 7 year old doesn't work so well for the 1 year old. And this is really apparent when we are all together all the time.

[retired photo]

Below is an indicative photo. The background story is that Noah sprung nimbly across (and along) the creek. Can you see him WAY down at the bend? He's trying to find a log to ride while playing in the water. Fritz was helping Mattias scramble awkwardly after Noah. (You can barely make them out on the right side of the photo.) Trixie and I were stranded behind on the opposite bank. I can be adventurous. (Really! I promise!) But this water was a little fast and a little deep to carry squirmy Trixie through.

While the boys played in the creek, Trixie and I opted for playing in the dust. (Ha!)

[photo gone, sorry]

Oh, well, she plays in the dust at home, too. Despite my intentions to be more organized around the house this summer, it still feels like there's a lot of messiness. Nevermind dust. Look: we're not even going to attempt to tackle the dust for another year. Remember how I was all energized to instill my children with responsibilities to keep the house orderly this summer? I thought we would have scheduled clean up times twice a day. Hasn't happened. It's like our schedule isn't scheduled enough for this to really work.

[this photo removed, too]

I think in my head, things are always going to be planned and scheduled and organized like it belongs in a daily planner. But the way that it works in practice is much more strategic at the moment. If Noah wants to play with a friend, first I make him pick up all the legos in his room. If the boys tear all cushions off the sofa to make a fort, I ask them to put them back before we go the library. I suspect this methodology works better partially because 1) Noah's schedule does, in fact, vary greatly each week this summer with camps or not 2) Mattias' schedule is not scheduled 3) There's a ongoing influx of houseguests to change whatever schedule might be a schedule 4) There are playdates at varying times 5) Trixie is such a wild card in terms of her needs and when.

Let's pause right there. Oh, Trixie! I had hoped she would stick like glue to one nap a day. But, it's just not happening. Many things can upset the napping: teething (cursed molars!), wringing, beeping, buzzing noises, a car ride at the wrong time (oops! impromptu nap!), or some overly excited play ("Sorry, Mommy! I forgot! I'm sorry!" That's a lie: they're NOT apologetic. But let's pretend they are, because it makes me feel better.)

The last few days, we've been dealing with what we think is teething. Whatever IT is IT means Trixie is waking up all night long, cramming her fingers into her mouth, biting, not eating, with a snuffy nose, and a light fever. She refuses to take painkillers. She spits out fluids. She adamantly refuses anything crushed, coated or dissolved. Fritz dubbed her "Pointless Suffering" after she refused even this chocolate coated painkiller delivery attempt:

"I hope the next time you go through this you are mature enough to be reasoned with," Fritz told her.

The good news in all of this is that, the house isn't as messy as I thought it would be, even if our methodology isn't as planned as I thought it would be. I console myself with the fact that they ARE cleaning up (sometimes), but in a different manner than I thought. We are getting to do some fun things, even if the baby isn't sleeping as well as I would like. Lowered expectations are keeping me happier. Also: mental gymnastics (or a good spin) are key to sanity.

[another gone...]

Other ups: camps. Camps are a good thing for Noah, because I CAN NOT supply whatever it is that he needs to be sufficiently content. He's not an extreme extrovert, but relative to Mattias and I, Noah is not an introvert, either. Mattias and I need our space, our quiet, our repetitive time for creation. But Noah is completely frustrated by too much of these things. He just needs more – PEOPLE – for his sense of balance. Last summer, I didn't plan for the boys to go to any camps. It was a big mistake. I took it as a lesson. Over the course of the last year, I carefully set aside money each month so that they could go to camp this summer. I set aside an equal amount for each kid, but when it came time to pick camps, Mattias had less interest than Noah. Most of the money ended up paying for Noah to be in camp. And I felt a little guilty about this. But you know, in the end, it has worked out well. We are all much happier when Noah is content. (He controls a disproportionate amount of the household mood.) I do, however, want Noah to experience those things that come with a summer of free time: you know, like BOREDOM. I don't believe in scheduling him fully. SO: One week of camp, one week off seems to be the correct balance this summer.

[last one gone]

Also in The Ups category, Mattias and Noah are visiting grandma and grandpa in Rhode Island. Just the two of them. With two kids gone, and only Trixie at home, life feels Easy. Which, of course, means it is all relative, because 5 years ago, when it was just Noah and no other children, life did not feel easy AT ALL. Going on a trip, feeling independent of your parents: I believe these are good summer activities for self esteem building. Grandma and grandpa, with just two kids (instead of all three) are better poised to do more age-appropriate activities with Noah and Mattias.

That makes me a little sad, actually. But, you know, NEXT summer. NEXT summer Trixie might be a little more ready for romping in creeks.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bamboo 2014 Update, Third Season

I have not-good news to report on the bamboo this year. If you've been following along – anxiously awaiting my yearly update (haha!) – then you already know that the third season is supposed to be the season that bamboo reaches maturity. Maturity is defined as: as tall as it will ever get and the culms (stalks) are as big in diameter as they will ever get.

What makes this year disappointing is that the new bamboo is shorter than last year's and the culms are narrower than last year's. GULP. The bamboo has pretty much gone backwards in its development.

2014: bamboo is shorter with thinner culms, but there's more of it. Overall, it's denser than ever.

How is this possible? you ask. Oh, I ask myself that also! So, let's see, things that were different during the last year:

1) I failed to apply fertilizer during the second season. (Maybe it's catching up with me now? It didn't grow underground as much??)
2) The winter was the coldest we have had since planting the bamboo. Temperatures reached down to the -20 degrees Fahrenheit range at night and stayed at or near 0 during the day.
3) It was a relatively slow to get warm this spring.
4) We had a bad hail storm that took out ALL of the new growth towards the end of May.

There is not much I can do about unusually cold temperatures and hail storms. The lack of fertilizer can be blamed on The Year of the Newborn (2013). But there is one mistake I might have made, that I will be more cautious about in the future:

In the middle of May, when the existing bamboo began growing its new leaves, I started to thin/prune the bamboo. I cut out pieces that were clearly dead and had not made it through the winter. Seems to be there is some thinning every year. This year there was a lot of dead. The tallest bamboo seemed to most affected. I cut out, maybe, fifty percent? I had pretty much just finished thinning when the hail storm hit. It was a bad hail storm. To give you a measure, the hail storm was bad enough that the insurance is paying for a new roof and gutters on our house. As for the bamboo, it was stripped of all its new leaves. The fragile new culms were broken off at the ground. I wondered if it had been a mistake to thin the bamboo so early. The thicker, dead bamboo might have protected the new bamboo from the hail. I hoped I hadn't contributed to the death of the bamboo with my ambitious thinning. It seemed unlikely, but I was worried nonetheless.

And I wasn't sure what to expect for this season, especially since bamboo has such a crazy growth cycle. (You can read about that in my post from the first season, here.)

General information about plants after a hail storm suggested fertilizer, so I fertilized the bamboo while I was doing everything else in the yard.

About two weeks later, the bamboo re-sprouted leaves and more new culms emerged. It looks okay. I'm saying stuff to myself like, Setbacks are natural! Landscape growth is not a completely linear process! Such bad hail storms only happen to the same house every 10 years or so in the metro area.* But I'm hoping next year will be better. I'm hoping that the bamboo isn't regressing in development because of something permanent, like, say, the planter is simply too small. Or the roots get too cold in the planter.

I've been feeling pretty glum, even with all my pep talks. I whispered to Fritz that we may have to admit defeat and plant something else if it doesn't improve next year. But we're not admitting defeat yet.

You really just want to see the photos, right? Every year, I struggle to remember how exactly I photographed it in the past. And I don't do it quite the same. But you still get the idea. Let's compare three years:

I might email Lewis Bamboo and see if I can get some feedback from them on hailstorms and especially cold weather and how that affects bamboo. When I get a chance. It's pretty hectic around here with all the kids home.

Other posts related to this bamboo project:
1. The deck
2. The planter
3. The first season of bamboo growth
4. The second season of bamboo growth

5. The fourth season of bamboo growth (negative, no post)
6. The fifth season of bamboo growth.

*I have yet to determine whether or not that is actually a true statement, or just something made up for a problem in a math book being sold on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Street Lawn

Street lawn: strip of grass between sidewalk and street. Also sometimes known as the parking or hellstrip.

the First Summer

  • It must not be getting enough water. Ann 8/2011
  • Maybe it needs to be mowed more often. Ann 9/2011
  • I think it's a really sunny, hot, dry corner of the lawn. Ann 9/2011
  • Americans get their lawn obsession from the British. They are still subjects of the Queen at heart. We mowed our lawn twice a year when I was a kid in Germany. Fritz 9/2011

the Second Summer

  • It's not getting enough water. Ann 6/2012
  • I think you need some fertilizer. I have some left over. Want me to put it on? Neighbor 6/2012
  • The landscaper installed the sprinkler wrong. Fritz 7/2012
  • I think the fertilizer made the weeds grow more quickly. Ann 7/2012
  • I think it needs to be mowed more often. If we mowed more often, there wouldn't be so many weeds. Ann 8/2012
  • Americans get their lawn obsession from the British. I fixed the sprinkler head, it was shooting in the wrong direction. I put a rock under it and jammed it against the curb. Fritz 8/2012
  • The problem is the sod. Sod never, ever really takes root like the grass you plant from seed. You need to plant grass from seed. Aunt 8/2012
  • Maybe we should just take out the grass and do xeriscape plantings and mulch next year. But we'd still have to weed....Ann 8/2012
  • You need to aerate it. The water can't get into the soil unless you aerate it. Neighbor 8/2012
  • Americans are like British subjects when it comes to their lawns. I am not doing the "Dog Poop Treatment" (aeration) to our grass every year. I think plantings would look nice.  Fritz 9/2012
May 2013, Fritz says, "It kind of looks nice with all those flowers.
But the Queen would disapprove."

Dandelions are pretty from this angle, right?

the Third Summer

  • How are we going to get all these plantings done with a newborn in the house? And we will STILL have to weed it. Maybe we should just pull all the weeds in the existing grass, mow A LOT, and try to save whatever grass is still there. Ann 3/2013
  • Americans are still British subjects at heart. Fine. But I'm using weed killer. Fritz 5/2013
  • You have grubs. Ann's mom 5/2013
  • I'm using grub killer. Fritz 5/2013
  • You need grass from seed. Sod never really takes root. And water deeply. Aunt 6/2013
  • I'm putting on grass seed. I'm watering less often for longer. Fritz 6/2013
  • Did we mow this week? Ann 7/2013
  • Americans get their lawn obsession from the British. I'm pulling and killing weeds. Fritz 7/2013
  • Did we – can you watch the baby so that I can mow the lawn? Ann 8/2013
  • It's kind of looking okay. Ann 9/2013
  • I'm just doing one more round of weed killer before the winter. Fritz 9/2013

  • I'm giving you a new grass for the parking as a Christmas gift. Aunt 12/2013

  • (But we just finished pouring in enough toxic chemicals to make it look American/British. Should we refuse this gift?? Ann and Fritz 12/2013)

the Fourth Summer

Grass plugs at planting:

Grass plugs one month later:

Hmmm. This is the least weedy section. Honestly, I wish it was growing a little faster because we've got a lot of weeds returning to our lawn! Let's hope this African Dogtooth grass has an exponential kind of growth.

Planting the dogtooth grass plugs
The African dogtooth grass experiment begins in May
The African dogtooth grass at 4 months in August
The additional bulb flower experiment
Where the bulbs get eaten by the rabbits
Fifteen months after planting
Two years in when the Japanese Beetle Grub arrive