Sunday, July 24, 2016

Crickets Chirping

Remember how I had thought maybe I could convince other bloggers to do a blog challenge with me and I could sew a clown costume for one of them as an incentive? Only one person has joined! My one joiner is a very nice blogger, who I have been following for years, and so I will be very happy to sew a costume for her. But my feelings are hurt by crickets chirping in this blog world.

(Sometimes I have to bribe the kids to get them to model costumes.
Sigh. This was one of those times) 

Mostly, it just feels indicative of this time in my life. By that I mean: the years I have spent at home with my kids (and blogging). Partially, it's fine because I never expected recognition from it and I never tried to make this blog monetary or to be widely-read. If anything, I've tried to do the opposite: to be a sort of well-kept secret blog. Being at home was never about a tangible or measurable outcome, nor was blogging. So, maybe, after a couple weeks of sulking, I'm fine that only one person entered my challenge. I'm also fine because I can see the end of this blogging SAHM part of life. And I'm (mostly) fine that I never grew more of a community or following here. Yes, I think I am. Life goes on.

Still. Time's a tickin'. I do believe this blog only has a life of about one year left. I would like to tell you how this part of the story ends, but you might have to put some extra effort into reading that ending. If you want to know, please read this blog in a reader. I intend to write multiple posts over the next few months that will not stay posted on the blog. They'll disappear. But you can read them in a reader whenever you want.

Oh yeah, and that blog challenge? It's still open! The challenge was 2 post per week for two months, for about 16 total posts in July and August. (It's also okay if you don't enter, my feelings are over being hurt.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Eight Square Inches Between Interruptions

I've reached the part of summer where I'm burnt out on summer.


It is always advisable to wear goggles while catching raindrops in your mouth.

Summer is a lot of togetherness for me. Togetherness with my kids, togetherness with friends, late nights, long days. And while I do love the ease of the togetherness, I can't figure out how to have an ease of solitude as well. I feel super-duper cramped.

This is my first summer with a smart phone. I'm on it all the time. Not because I'm trying to fill a void in my life, but because I'm trying to escape the craziness around me and have control over something, even if it is only the 8 square inches between interruptions.

It doesn't really work, by the way.

Last summer, we had two problems: 1) I under-scheduled the children and 2) summer was effectively three weeks longer because we took the kids out of school three weeks early to travel. I'm not beating myself up about last summer, because I did the best I could given the situation we were dealing with. But this summer, I promised myself to do a better job balancing boring days with camp. I think, by in large, it's working. The kids seem satisfied: we've got a relative good balance of do-nothing days and busy days, activities and down time. I even feel that I've reached some sort of sweet spot in finding perfect camps: the type of camps where the kids come home happy and tired, rather than in need of de-programming from children's taunts and bad manners.

Good Job, Ann. (Well, nobody else is going to congratulate me for this, so I find it necessary to talk this way to myself.)

The summer challenge now is really to factor in ME. How do I get a break from the kids (all three of them at the same time)? How do I get time to decompress? How much do I need, anyway? I contemplate numbers: Fritz works/commutes/exercises for about 52 hours a week. That means, on a regular schedule, I spend 52 hours a week alone with the kids in various combinations (1 kid, 2 kids, 3 kids). The last time I regularly had no kids was 2 years ago when I hired a babysitter for a scheduled 2 hours a week. That last for about 8 months. Two hours a week without kids was not much, but it helped.

This fall, Trixie will start preschool and then I will get 9 hours a week without kids. I haven't had 9 hours a week of time away from my kids since Mattias was born in 2010! So, this is huge. Will it be enough? Will I feel more refreshed and relaxed? Hopefully, it will offer some clues and guidance to scheduling for next summer.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Read, Write, Right

I use two different readers to read blogs. One is on my smart phone and one is on my computer.

The RSS reader (The Old Reader) on my computer is great, but not widely used. I thought I should try something else on my phone. I had already been unhappy with Feedly, so I tried Bloglovin' on my phone. 

Now I can tell you I dislike both Feedly and Bloglovin'. Both of these readers are more about marketing and reinforcing content that is already popular than exposure to new ideas. If you want diversity, you are not going to discover it by utilizing either of these readers.  I would say: Same old, same old.  But really it's more like: Same trend, same trend. Feedly and Bloglovin' remind me of living in Portland, Oregon, where everything was hip, but everything was hip in the same way


These days, all my RSS readers are very empty on the weekend. When something is posted on a weekend, I feel a bit of shock: What!? Someone is working on the weekend? 

Based on this, I've concluded the list of blogs I'm reading has become far too commercial. 

I decide it's time to weed. 


I can't be interested in Facebook at all the last few months. 


Noah hates to write. There's nothing wrong with his thinking or his imagination. I'm frequently impressed with how verbally coherent he can be. But when it comes to paper and pencil, he runs the opposite direction. I'd like to see him improve his writing and write more. 

Recently we had a conversation in which he asked me why everyone thinks writing is so important. I talked to him about how it allows us to communicate and share ideas at anytime and in any place without actually being present.  I talked about how it allows us to present our ideas very precisely.

But in the back of my head I was thinking about how we watch TED talks instead of reading papers and books. I was thinking about snapchat versus blogs. I was thinking about how Facebook purportedly has an algorithm ranking video higher than photos and higher than text. And I thought about how clicking on an article in an online newspaper can lead you to a video instead of an article. I thought about how Fritz always speaks his texts and emails instead instead of typing them. 

(Heck, Noah, maybe you're right. Writing may not be so important in our – your – future. But I'm not sure that's such a great thing, so, go get your pencil and write.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Yesterday, I successfully diagnosed and adjusted the timing on my (broken) sewing machine. And today I (quickly!) unjammed a chain on Noah's bicycle, so I'm feeling very mechanically inclined these days.

No, honestly, I owe the sewing machine success to the fact that there are so many sources online to offer advice. I know this has been possible for many decades now, but I still sometimes find it amazing that I can surf around the web and find the information that I need to do this stuff myself. Also, the information has become so good and thorough and tested!

Since I've been using my sewing machine a lot lately, I've become rather panicky about something happening to it. I only have one sewing machine. What if it breaks on the evening before I've promised to ship something to a customer?! My parents gave it to me for my birthday and Christmas some years ago. They don't sell this particular model anymore, but I think at the time it ran in the ballpark of $200-$300. A new, simpler, but sufficient, sewing machine could be purchased for about $80. Repairing the $200-$300 machine was going to be in the ballpark of $90, just to have someone look at it.

These are the type of numbers that really make you wonder: should you just endlessly purchase new cheap sewing machines when one breaks? (Icky disposable consumerism!) Should you pay even more money to repair the existing one and just hope it doesn't (ever) break again? Fixing it myself was definitely the best option but I was pretty nervous about it. I still remember my Dad swearing he would NEVER fix my mother's sewing machine after one bad attempt in my childhood.

I may have done this exact same dance when I fixed the sewing machine.
But, ah, Sweet Internet. You saved me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Also, there's something to be said for a piece of machinery that is simple enough that you CAN fix it without fancy, expensive tools to assist.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Car Tenting

We took the kids camping – no, tenting –  no, really, the best description is something like – car tenting – this past week. It's significant because this is the first time we've taken all three of them somewhere other than the neighborhood park to sleep overnight in a tent.

Fritz and I have always thought that we wanted to do outdoor things like this with the kids. However, with the arrival each successive kid, the idea of camping felt increasingly onerous. Take a child in diapers, who barely sleeps through the night, out of her familiar bed and put her in a tent with her two excited siblings and expect a good result? Hmmmm... But! BUT! This summer it started to feel like a possibility again. We are very hopeful that this trip was the beginning of many more to come. So instead of telling you it was a great success, let's just say it was a good start! We learned a lot! We made a big long list about how to improve our next trip. And, as is almost everything with kids, I think the more we do it, the more habitual it becomes, and the easier it is to continue doing.

Here's our very picturesque campsite.

It can be difficult to get a campsite within 90 minutes of the metropolitan area in the summer. Like most people with kids, we didn't want to spend all day in the car to get to our destination. Most of the campsites were booked months and months ago. We booked this 2 months in advance, for one mere night, but we still had to choose a night midweek to actually be able to reserve a site.

That meant we missed out on some things. Like getting firewood at the camping ground store. (It was closed. And we weren't willing to spend a lot of time driving the kids around in search of firewood for sale elsewhere.) Fortunately, there was the beautiful lake to compensate for the disappointment.

And the kids weren't deterred from making their own version of a campfire.

Fritz took a lot of initiative, from initially finding our camp site, to the driving, to the food, to the packing, to walking the three year-old back and forth from the bathroom one-hundred-and-twenty-six times. It was nice.

When we returned home and I was once again thrust into the position of making almost every decision and responding to almost every call, I thought maybe I didn't appreciate our 24 hour camping trip quite enough.

But nobody got very much sleep. We were glad to have the whole weekend to recover.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bamboo Update, Fifth Growing Season

Last year I did not update on our bamboo privacy screen. It was the second year of really dismal growth and I could not bring myself to write another sad post.

Bamboo plant screen, looking pretty good, after the 5th growing season.
This year, the bamboo is doing really well again. It is almost perfectly the green wall of foliage between our house and the neighbors that I hoped it would be: about 8-10' high and dense enough in most places that you can not see through it.

July 2016

So, here's a fifth season update as well as some speculation as to why seasons 3 and 4 were so bad. Links to a review of each growing season are at the end of this post.

  • 20 linear feet of bamboo planted in 4' wide x 24 inch deep planter.
  • Colorado USDA Zone 5B at an elevation of about 5200'
  • Four cold hardy, running bamboos: Rubro and Spectabilis varieties (purchased online from Lewis Bamboo) and Yellow Groove and Bissetii (from a local nursery).
Early June 2016. The leaves at the bottom are last year's growth.
The stalks or culms rising above are this year's new growth.
The culms will unfold into branches and leaves once the culms
have reached their final height. 

Lessons Learned during Seasons 3 and 4:
  1. Our cold hardy bamboo can survive temperatures of -20 Fahrenheit, but it has massive death of foliage above ground.
  2. If the temperatures stay above 0 degrees, the cold hardy bamboo keeps GREEN leaves all winter. (Below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the leaves turn brown and the culms/stalks begin to die from the top.)
  3. If hail or snow collects on the bamboo during the grow season (mid May-mid June), it can destroy much of the growth for that year.

February 2016. The main reason to have bamboo: it stays green in the winter
(unless the temperature falls below 0 degrees Fahrenheit).
The bamboo is so short because it was really damaged by hail
during the previous growing season. 

Our favorite varieties continue to be the Spectablis and Yellow Groove. The Bissetii is also doing fine. We contemplate removing the Rubio once in a while. In the very first photo above, the center area which is thinner and lower than the other areas, was originally planted with Rubio. The varieties haven't mixed with each other as much as we thought they would: they still tend to hangout predominantly in the 9 square feet in which they were planted. (No widely invasive running bamboo. Yet.)

This year, our bamboo did most of its growth over the month of June. I've covered the particular growing habits of the cold hardy bamboo in previous posts. I suggest the links below if you want to learn more about it.

July 2016. The bamboo leaves and branches have unfolded from the culms.
The bamboo will remain like this until next year,
barring extreme cold or hail.

We've decided that if we would like the bamboo to stay like this, we are going to need to protect it better from Colorado's (sometimes) extreme cold and (sometimes) hail. Some commenters pointed this out to us over the last few years. Now that we see the potential of the bamboo, we are planning to act on their advice!

Before the fall, the goal is to build a light (but strong and visually unobtrusive) wood framework over the bamboo that can be covered if the weather suddenly turns bad. If we get it done, fingers crossed, thumbs pressed, I will share it.

It's so much more inviting out there, I would also love to find some comfy outdoor seating. And a rug. That would be nice, too!

Links to Past Posts:
1st Growing Season (positive)
2nd Growing Season (positive)
3rd Growing Season (negative)
4th Growing Season (negative, no post)
5th Growing Season (hint: you're reading it!)
The Deck
The Bamboo Planter

Friday, July 1, 2016

June Wrap Up Segue

Our summer vacation started with the kids playing... I kid you! Because, I don't know, what else are you going to do at 8:00 in the morning when there's no longer a bus to catch? Apparently, it was pajama day for Trixie.

Then, Mattias spent several days in his pajamas because he had a tonsillectomy. Mattias also lost two adenoids and his two (loose) front teeth with the tonsils. I wonder if there's a discount for removing body parts in bulk during surgery? Six body parts – that's half a dozen!

(Who am I kidding? Knowing the medical industry, there's probably a surcharge.)

My brother flew into town for a surprise Feel Better Soon! visit. I got teary eyed when I opened the door and saw him standing there. Mathias's spirits were lifted by the idea that somebody came to see him.

We lifted Mattias up on this chair while tracking the growth of the bamboo this year. I should probably do a bamboo update. But for now, this is turning out to be SUCH A GOOD GROWING SEASON! Thank goodness, really, because if every year was like the last two years, I'd...I' discouraged from ever attempting to grow anything in our yard again. The kids have been very helpful in snacking harvesting from all of the edible landscaping we've painstakingly planted over the last 5 years.

We painstakingly attempted to feed this baby bird once he fell out of the nest. Sadly, he did not make it. But certainly squeezing mashed up meal worms through a syringe counts as a solid attempt. Maybe he would have preferred the strawberries?

In addition to the strawberries, this year we have a good number of currants (Johannisbeeren). Fritz was all set to make an Obstboden, which is a German cake with fruit on the top, until we went outside to start picking the currants. Then he declared that there weren't possibly enough currants for a cake, so we might as well leave the currants for the birds. (Oh, Fritz. He can't be bothered to make any sort of food unless it is in huge quantities.)

Finally, here's a photo of Not Enough. I thought this was a nice amount for Something.

Psst - Did you see my blog challenge? If not, check it out here.