Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rally Juice

Our camping trip this last week was rather rough. It was hot, the kids were grumpy. I was grumpy, (although I was trying not to be). I secretly dubbed our camping grounds, The Puddle in a Frying Pan in Suburbia. After that unfortunate naming, it was sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy that I'd continuously feel a little edgy and parched. You'd think by this age I would have learned to control my thoughts a little better. Sheesh.

Like our skiing trips this winter, Fritz and I came home wondering whether we should just give up on the camping for another year or two. It's difficult to tease out the problems: is it just this particular trip? Are the kids too young?  Is there some particular thing we need to do better? Or are we just parenting failures? (Somebody has to be, right?) We certainly got a lot of things better on this camping trip: we were better prepared. We managed to have a campfire; even though it was charcoal, not wood. We were more careful about enforcing bedtime. We packed plenty of tissues and pillows.

We were still exhausted and rather frustrated by the time we got home.

I don't know. I'd like to do more camping. I'd like it to be fun. It just feels like it takes such a Herculean effort – for something terribly fragile and easily trampled. As childless adults, it was often clearer when to cut our losses and when to soldier on. As a parent, I find it a lot more difficult to make a call. It's hard to find the sweet spot between rallying a child on and respecting the kid's right to his or her feelings. And sometimes, I, as the parent, just don't have much more Rally Juice left in me. I think the age of the children and the number of children also accounts for a lot of our difficulty. Sometimes the 6 year age spread of the children means the youngest is not ready for what the oldest wants to do, and the oldest is not content to wait for the youngest. The way this plays out is often so dynamic and difficult to address because all three kids are moving in different directions. One kid wants to go home, one kid wants to go the playground, the third kid wants to go swimming. One kid is willing to compromise, two are not. Then, within 30 seconds, two kids have changed their minds and have new request, while the third is still adamant, and then you pick direction, and the other two revolt.... It's just relentless.

I don't want to complain about it. But I want it to go away. But finding the key to making it go away? I don't know. I've got nothing. <Sigh>

To conclude this post on a positive note, here is the best piece of the camping trip: the boys washing and drying dishes. Mattias LOVED it and exclaimed, "I love this chore! I would do it all the time! Every day!"

That is NOT a request that our dishwasher (at home) should now break. Please.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Grubs (Japanese Beetles!) and African Dogtooth/DogTuff Grass: A Partial Story

A few weeks ago, I noticed grub activity in our lawn. My mother taught me to recognize it a few years ago like this: 1) see brown spots 2) kick the grass on the brown spots 3) if grass breaks off at the roots, you have grubs. This is only the second time in 6 summers that I've seen grub activity in the yard. The first time, the lawn was turning brown and we were watering and watering and watering and nothing made a difference. Colorado locals aren't used to spotting grub activity. Some Colorado garden stores don't carry lawn care products specifically for grubs. The first time it took my mother, visiting from Rhode Island, to diagnose the problem.

The second time (this time) when I saw what looked like grub activity, I dug up a bit of lawn to be sure. Yes. Grubs.

Then, I pleasantly noted that the grub were eating our regular grass, but NOT our dogtooth grass, see?

Since planting the dogtooth grass, we've been slightly disappointed by the amount of regular grass that somehow managed to survive. We'd like the regular grass to go away, because it requires that we continue to mow. And the regular grass takes more water and more treatments to look good. Fritz and I treated the grubs, but thought, well, it's not the worst thing. Maybe the dogtooth will take over, and we'd much prefer that.

The dogtooth grass is thick like a sponge and loves to launch itself into new areas. Here, it's aggressively growing over my stepping stones:

But I digress.

Because the point is, a few days later, I was over at a neighbor's house and her son was showing me the "funny bugs" on their grape leaves. I saw a bug that I know from growing up in New England – and a bug I dislike: the Japanese beetle. Then it clicked. That grub activity wasn't just grub activity, it was JAPANESE BEETLES. Meaning the brown spots on lawns are just the beginning. The adult beetles will actually create more damage than the larvae.

I didn't take a photo, but you can google it. Most people from the Western US have never seen a Japanese Beetle before and aren't aware of how damaging they can be.

Japanese Beetles eat EVERYTHING! Linden trees, grape leaves, maple trees, strawberry leaves, tomato leaves, etc. They kill the grass as grubs, but then they defoliate plants and trees as adult beetles. The beetles have no natural predators in North America, so the best way to get them is when they are still grubs.

Around here, we are trying to use LESS insecticide, not more, so I'll be ordering some milky spores for our lawn today. The goal is to take them out while they are still grubs, before they become beetles. I hope my neighbors will do the same, because I'd be so sad to see our entire (fledgling) neighborhood landscaping gobbled up by Japanese Beetles.

Planting the dogtooth grass plugs
Why we planted the grass (a dialog)
The African dogtooth grass experiment begins in May
The African dogtooth grass at 4 months in August
Where the bulbs get eaten by the rabbits
Fifteen months after planting
Two years in, when the Japanese Beetle Grubs arrive (hint, you're reading it!)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Visitors, Schultueten, More Tenting

Last week my parents were here visiting for a few days. The kids were thrilled! Here's a photo of grandparents and grandchildren:

I generally stay off my phone and computer as much as possible when we have guests, so I've been a little absent online.

Also, I've had a few orders coming in for Schultüten, which is fun: I really like picking out fabrics to mix and match. Schultüte translates from German as school bag; traditionally, it is a cone shaped container that is filled with candy and given to children on their first day of school in first grade. I like to think the fabric makes a nicer (and reusable!) version of the cardboard ones I always encountered in Germany. The design has evolved with my own kids. Here is Noah with his. And here is Mattias with his from last year:

The kids have been circling the sewing machine as I work, asking if they can ALL have one this year. (Nope.)

We are going to try out another overnight tenting trip this week, so we're off to the store to stock up on some supplies. Fingers crossed, thumbs pressed, that we can have a fire this time! And that everyone sleeps.